Like many of you, I am staying close to home these days. I go on daily walks around the neighborhood; I juggle work and homeschooling my kids and share an office with my husband. When the quarantine measures took effect, I focused on the positive. An empty calendar and endless time with my kids and husband. That first week was sunny and warm. I saw more families out walking and playing basketball, riding bikes and gardening together than ever before. I heard from family, friends, and clients that this was a blessing. They were enjoying this extra time at home with their kids.
Yesterday I made a trip to Costco to restock our grocery supply as the quarantine measures are extending for at least 30 more days. As I stepped from my car, I noticed there was a dead look of trauma in many of the eyes I passed. A mix of fear and anxiety as older couples huddled together walking into the store trying not to make eye contact as if a mere glance could transmit this virus. I realized yesterday that the world is being traumatized by the uncertainty and the constant message that our lives are in danger if we leave home.
The public health concern is genuine, and there are wise medical professionals making these tough decisions. My concern is about the mental health of a world population living in fear. The natural human response in times of stress is to congregate and share. We can’t do that right now. Our stress response is being triggered, and without powerful resiliency skills, our bodies and minds will process this as trauma. As these days and weeks continue to drag on, the risk to even the most resilient among us grows.
So I invite you all to protect your mental health at the same time as your physical health. Turn off the news, step away from the daily case, and death counts. You know you will be under a stay home stay safe order until at least April 30th, until then this is our current normal. Embrace this new experience, our bodies crave normalcy, and they crave routine. Map out a typical day under quarantine and ask your family what works well and what they would like to change. Stay away from discussing COVID-19 on social media, share your life as you used to; kids being funny, what you made for dinner, a beautiful flower arrangement. When you call your friends to check in, lead with something you experienced today that made you smile, talk about your joys, ideas, opinions, needs, desires, etc. Start a mindfulness practice. The research behind mindfulness and resiliency is strong, and right now we need to build our resilience to adverse experiences.
What is mindfulness? There are examples of mindfulness in all cultures and religions, mindfulness is the practice of bringing your awareness to your current experience. I will post videos and audio of guided meditations and mindfulness exercises that you can visit throughout the week. You can also find a daily self-care checklist that you can print out and use. Focus on the beauty, goodness, and blessings present during this time. In life suffering is a given and we can learn how to be resilient and use our suffering as a tool for growth.