I bet there are many blogs out there as people are trying to make sense of the unprecedented times we are living in. I felt compelled to begin blogging by reflecting from a psychological and pastoral perspective to bring awareness to things we may already know, but might not be paying attention to during a season of anxiety as we face critical events. I will name realities which if we are aware of, can lead us successfully through this season. This week I reflect on life under “shelter in place” orders coupled with suggestions that can help us be proactive and thrive in the midst of corona virus.
Top 10 Reflections of doing life in the midst of Corona Virus
1. Eat Healthy to help build your immune system: “Stay at home” and “shelter in place” orders heighten the incidence of binge eating. Proximity to the kitchen, fridge, snacks can all be temptations to eat mindlessly and indulgingly, which more often than not turns to eating more and endanger our health.
• Have specific eating times,
• Organize meals ahead of time
• Keep healthy choices handy.
2. Baby booming round 2: – Greater proximity of couples bound by walls of our homes without much creativity can easily become a baby booming era like the return of soldiers after the war.
• Just be vigilant!
• Be responsibly intentional
3. Differentiate to allow healthy relationships: Where 2 or three are gathered, there is increased probability for conflict. Work outside of home usually offers space and distance so that coming home after work is something we usually look forward to. Work at home and Stay home orders however, means shacked together for long hours every day. The likelihood to see more faults with each other and more conflict is heightened. Same case when the relationships are with kids or even housemates.
Give permission to create self-space and possibilities for differentiation.
• Establish a concern box and scheduled family meetings that you as a family can use to discuss concerns.
• Free family meal times from any important discussions so as to enjoy one another’s presence at the table.
4. Financial Stability: What bills will be prioritized and what will fall in the wayside? What about potential loss of job or side income brought about by the restrictions? How will the family stretch their dollars in the face of an unknown future? All these are questions running in many people’s minds today and causing undue stress.
• Be very practical with your finances by shedding unnecessary spending.
• Ensure you have some savings, however little for the unknown future.
• If you are still holding a job, think creatively of how to adapt it to new ways for sustenance.
• If you will or have lost your job, begin to think of alternative means of income that you can begin to engage in and that are not curtailed by the imposed restrictions.
5. Find some sense of control- It helps!- Well, most sense of control in critical situations are false, but the truth is, it helps! If it can become a coping resource to help you feel that you still have some control then go for it, as long as it is not destructive to you or your family or the other. May be this is what the whole phenomena of hoarding toilet paper, sanitizing products, cleaning products and food is all about. I am as guilty as any of you out there in hoarding what I could get. I found myself buying more and more staple foods, convincing myself that I was taking care of my family. I looked at my pantry and said out loud, “Great, I now feel my family will be okay for the next several weeks.” As soon as I said it loud, I realized what a false sense of relief that was! I knew that I could not protect my family from this virus, and I cannot make everyone sanitize and wash their hands every minute, or keep the novel 6 feet away. At that moment, I realized that stocking up food was just my way of assuring me that I had some sense of control! I wonder if the craze for hoarding toilet paper is just another way of holding onto a sense of something we can control? In other words, when all other aspects of our lives right now like traveling, going to the movies or games, shopping, etc., are beyond our control, it becomes scary. Too many moving parts like change of rules, change of orders and uncertainties become so fluid, we lose a sense of control. We can fight fear and anxiety by latching onto that which we can control.
• What in all that is happening can you control? Do it. It will keep you from insanity!
6. Feed into your strengths: you can only do so by knowing thyself. We must be proactive and not just reactive or defensive.
– List out your strengths – both the practical and emotional.
• Then star those that can feasibly be done from home.
– Last, prioritize them by starring those which you enjoy most.
• Ensure you have the finalist list of 2-3 so as to balance your time amongst these. This is a sure way of guarding against feeding into your weakness like binge watching, binge drinking, etc. that can easily land you in a different location than intended.
7. Quality time with Loved ones. Reality is that we are shacked at home by the Corona Virus and for good reasons. How can we take advantage of this and make it an opportunity to strengthen our quality time with family? Some families enjoy playing board games, others cooking together, or others can now worship together at home. One of my highlight times was last Sunday when we gathered at the family room, some in pajamas and others dressed up for Sunday: we sung together familiar hymns and worship songs and then listened to my husband’s online preaching.
• Find your niche and build on it. One of the good things that may grow from all this is the intentional building of authentic relationships with family and friends.
8. Keep connected: The reality of isolation especially brings to mind single people and elderly people living on their own. Many of them have for years depended on visits from families, social gatherings like worship or hanging out with friends. The connections are their lifelines but have now been curtailed. How do you intentionally help keep them connected?
• if you have a loved one whom you can no longer visit, and who now may feel isolated, set them up with simple technology like facetime, zoom, skype or phone. The visual face to face or hearing voice of their loved one can go long ways in keeping them connected.
• Set a regular time to connect so that they have something to look forward to.
• Set up your elderly folks with a simple chrome book or any other gadget that they can livestream worship services from their faith communities.
• Check on friends and family regularly.
9. Coping with fear and Anxiety: Almost every breaking news article now is Corona Virus related. It is dreary to watch it throughout. The number of cases and deaths are multiplying almost hourly. The number of executive orders, grim pictures of empty streets, empty grocery store shelves, unemployment statistics, downward market trends, etc., are all dreary and can easily get under our skin to create anxiety. The closer it gets home the closer our risk for being caught in high anxiety. It is not a wonder that fear and anxiety is beginning to get the better of us. Well, the statistic and realities being broadcast are real. But no one will do themselves any good by wallowing in it all day, every day! Once engulfed by fear, one becomes incapacitated to act responsively. Fear and anxiety can very quickly move one from dealing with critical incident to a place of crisis (this will be the topic of my near future blog).
• keep plugged with important information but draw clear boundaries so as not to let it take control of your days and senses.
• Take hold of what you can control and do it.
• Seek facts and not myths.
• Engage your coping resources that are healthy and life giving whenever you feel that you are slipping into fear. For many, coping resources can be : exercise, running, walking, listening to music, conversing with friends, watching a relaxing movie, writing, etc.
10. Keep HOPE – is the greatest of all these! We cannot afford to lose hope. Hope is what fuels our day and zest for life – even before Covid 19! Hope says there is a tomorrow – a future that can keep me dreaming and planning! Without hope today’s activities and life lacks meaning. The best place to find that hope is in seeking our creator – the Emmanuel who is with us in the midst of this mire we call Corona Virus.
• Balance your conversations and research of facts with those of hope.
• Seek scriptures in your traditions that speak hope and speak life.
• Find songs that are hope filled and indulge in them
• Surround yourself with positive people.
• Find God moments in the midst of this chaos and give praise.