On Connecting To Strangers
The Sidewalk Talk Blog
The last seven days, anxiety crept up on me, by surprise. I was quite haughty, feeling pretty grounded and grateful for the first two weeks of this quarantine. I have space to move and our family life has settled into a collaborative routine/ non routine that seems to be working. And I was working from home long before this thing started.
Our family routine consists of the following:
We all agree to being dressed by 10am.
My boys must exercise for 30 minutes, contribute to the house for 30 minutes, and (while my sons are on Spring Break) read for 30 minutes. Then the rest of the day, while my husband and I work, the boys organize their time in a way that suits them. Yes, even if that means video games or tech devices.
But as time has carried on, I am checking the news more, and my sense of gratitude slips here and there into grief, despair and powerlessness. And the more I pretend I am not having those feelings, anxiety takes their place, whispering to me “Traci pay attention. Listen to me.”
Especially when I see the news in other parts of the world that are not faring as well as I am in Germany. The racial bias in treatment and death rates of non-white communities, folks locked in their homes with little kids and little healthcare, and the long term impacts to people’s livelihood create an existential grief hard to sit still with. When this takes over all of my grand “well what are the opportunities and great lessons from this?” fall by the wayside.
We know survivor guilt and stress of varying kinds is a thing in disasters like the one we are in. What is key is to focus on early intervention to cultivate resilience and to develop the tools for fostering recovery for those more adversely affected.
Here are two resources I highly recommend from the Institute for Disaster Mental Health.
Disaster Mental Health For Healthcare Workers
Disaster Mental Health Support For Personal Use
I am going to pull out a few salient points that I have seen popping up on people’s social media feeds in hopes it helps us support each other as a community.
Best to practice now – not after you already feel awful. Do all the things that work for you. We have varying degrees of stress depending on what we are dealing with. Listen to our podcast interview with Dr. Rick Hanson on how to cultivate resilience here.
The IDMH recommends the following suggestions to cope with COVID19:
Be Non-Judgmental With Yourself and Each Other:
Have you ever wanted to take up a practice of non-judgment? Well, now is your time to practice. Early when this epidemic started, I was curious about my own reactions to people’s strong fear. Good news, I didn’t judge myself nor act out my judgement. Instead I widened my embrace to the different ways we cope.
Some become hypervigilant about germs or germ rules. Others look for connection and community. Others look for someone to blame. And still others are the compassion and kindness police – policing everyone to be nice.
The kindest thing we can do is listen non-judgmentally to others (when we can), even when they are worked up and acting in ways we never would.
If we can hear with whole hearts we can be healing agents during this tough time. And don’t forget to include yourself in that listening.
Bottom line, some of us heeded warnings about Covid19 and others did not. And some of those who did not heed the early warnings are incurring incredible consequences and even death. Negative bystanders are those who finger-wag to seek punishing retribution. “You should have done x, y, z but you didn’t so you don’t deserve my empathy and kindness.”
I had a colleague share she was shamed by a doctor for showing up at the hospital with intense COVID19 symptoms because she was putting other patients at risk. This is someone who did a lot of research of where to go and had severe symptoms that needed medical attention. I know the doctor was scared too. Both were. So let this remind us all, soften, stretch as best you can.
To truly come together in community, we must be willing to support those who are grieving, no matter what choices they did or did not make when this whole thing started.
Cultural differences create very different views of this whole crisis and how to respond. You might believe this is karma, God’s will, mother nature sending a sign, a nice break, or just another natural occurrence we will have to get over. All responses will also differ and we will come out of this better if we can do our best to hear and make room for those differences. Some may feel it important to seek financial restitution. Others may find it important to get active and engage to support the local community. Others may want to go inward into a quiet prayerfulness. Still others may choose to call leaders into account.
To contribute to one another’s wellbeing, we will need to develop the sensitivity to the very personal norms that shape how different people and communities respond to this crisis.
For me, I have made a plan for myself on how to remain resilient and I have made a plan for my SOS moments. Here is an invite for you and your family – make your own plan for cultivating resilience and your SOS moments.
For cultivating resilience, I have kept it simple. I keep one promise to myself every day. I pick one: to meditate for twenty minutes, to run in the trees, or to cry. I have also built in regular connection every day. I just need it. For SOS moments I ask myself “in what ways is my thinking distorted?” and “What are 5 things I have control over in this present moment?”
I know myself and so many others would be so helped by your own sharing below. How do you maintain your resilience and handle your own SOS moments? Put them in the comments. And if you need connection, we have lots of online listening available to you here at Sidewalk Talk. Sign Up Here. And if you are a health worker in the front lines, there is low fee and no fee mental health support available to you here.
I am a woman, therapist, wife, mom, friend, listener, and founder/leader of Sidewalk Talk. You can subscribe to my couples therapy list here.