Thriving While Distancing
Although the COVID-19 situation has its challenges, it also presents tremendous opportunities. With compassion towards those who are ill or those who are grieving the illness of a loved one, we can choose to embrace the gift of time we have been given.
I was scheduled to attend a psychotherapy symposium with 4,000 mental health professionals in Washington, D.C. this past weekend. After the cancellation of the event, the organizers worked quickly to create a virtual symposium which 1,300 of us attended. Several of the presenters discussed the circumstances the world is facing, and suggested several ways in which we might embrace the situation.
Here are some of their suggestions, as well as some of my own ideas. I hope this list might spark something for you and enable you to make the most of this unusual time in our lives.
Above All: Stay Connected to People, even though you can’t be physically together. This is a time to stay connected in all the ways that are available to us. Reach out to people via technology, create group chats on your phone to stay in touch, hand write letters to loved ones, reconnect with someone you’ve been meaning to reach out to for a while. Talk. Connect. Relate.
Is there something you have been meaning to work on but haven’t had the time? Perhaps now is your opportunity.
Clean out and organize your closets, drawers, and cupboards. Gather things to donate to your favorite charity and have them ready for drop-off once life returns to the new normal.
Do you have elderly neighbors? Consider dropping off food at their door, or offering to run errands for them to help protect their health.
Take a course – check out Coursera.org and Udemy.com for free an low-cost courses of all kinds. There is a variety of courses including personal development, lifestyle, business, music, IT, finance, health & fitness, design, etc. Expand your horizons!
Look at the photos on your phone or camera and order some physical prints to enhance your space and add the faces of those you love to your surroundings.
Rejuvenate or start a hobby. Is there something you’ve wanted to try? Or some project you started but have yet to finish? You might have the time now to dive in and enjoy yourself. Make use of all the idea and technique resources and videos the internet has to offer.
Stay active. Many of us have access to internet exercise videos. Most of us can go out for a walk or bike ride. If you don’t have dumbbells, use soup cans or water bottles. There are many exercises you can do without weights or exercise equipment. If you have a treadmill or stationary bike, put it to good use.
Practice self-regulation: deep breathing; meditation; be creative; listen to music; play instruments; sing (this is a good one – you may have seen the videos of the people in Italy singing). This one is my favorite – Dance. If you start to feel distress, do something physical – move your body.
Read. Read for pleasure or read for education. Although most libraries are closed, there is access to the online lending library resources.
Write. Write anything. Journal about these times, journal about what you can’t wait to do once we are through these challenges, begin a gratitude journal, start a blog. An author spoke during the virtual symposium I attended this past week and she suggested that if you want to be a writer it’s important to, first of all, write. Second, write without being concerned about who will read what you write. Write honestly and “keep the audience out of the room.”
Deep clean your space.
Connect with your spirituality, if you are spiritual. Although gatherings are limited, many churches and organizations are providing on-line ways to connect and participate in weekly activities.
Nourish your mind and spirit with positive influences. Find positive TED Talks, podcasts, videos, books, etc. on the internet.
Stay in the present day. Don’t dwell on your past, and try not to worry about the future. It’s natural to be concerned. A bit of anxiety can be helpful but becoming overwhelmed or panicky is damaging. I recommend reading, “The Gift of Presence” by Caroline Welch. She writes about learning to live more in the present moment (mindfulness) while knowing that your mind is apt to wander into negative thinking. With compassion, we pull ourselves back from the negative and immerse ourselves in the present moment.
Focus your day. Dr. Dan Siegel suggests “Seven daily essential mental activities to optimize brain matter and create well-being.” He calls it the Healthy Mind Platter. Check them out at: https://www.drdansiegel.com/resources/healthy_mind_platter/
Laugh and play. Watch comedies, sit-coms, you-tube videos, etc. Laugh with friends and family. Laughter is good medicine. Play games, go for walks, do puzzles, work on crafts or hobbies. Have fun!
I hope you’ve found this helpful and that some ideas have sparked for you. Think about how you can make the most of this unusual time in our lives.