Trapped-at-Home Care Bundle

     Let's face it:  These are dark days.  Projections for the coming months by renowned epidemiologists and public health experts are somber at best.  I just realized I haven't even written the 'C-word' yet.  I don't believe I need to.  Since many of us are currently challenged to the core, I would like to offer a bundle of mental and emotional wellness-boosting tools and ideas, some of which (as it turns out) are immunity-boosting as well.
1) GET FRESH AIR AND SUNLIGHT:  If you're fairly certain you're not sick, see if you can get out for a 10-minute walk once per day, while maintaining appropriate social distancing (at least 6 feet from passers by).  It seems simple, but breaking your day up with little, simple retreats or walks can have a huge impact on your mood and on the overall quality of your day.  Although I am not qualified to give medical advice, I would like to include the finding of Georgetown Medical University that sunlight just so happens to energize infection-fighting T cells.
2) CALL SOMEONE: Humans are a deeply social species.  We always were.  We are like wolves or deer, except even more intense than that (as the result of our complex nervous system and complex emotional life).  Would you separate a wolf from its pack, or a deer from the herd, and tell it, Okay, you're just going to have to figure things out on your own now.  But don't worry-- the answers are all within you ?  I don't think you would.  I think you would consider that to be cruel.  Well, we do that all the time to our fellow humans, and most of us underestimate both our own intense need for connection, and the intense emotional and mental wellness boost that we get from connection and belonging.  You don't think it applies to you?  Funny thing, that loneliness pandemic going on out there . . . ;)
Try scheduling it, especially if you are currently sheltering in place in a studio alone.  At least one person per day.  Put it in the calendar.  A full hour of catching up and connection, every day, maybe over dinner, at the very least.
3) NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF A SCHEDULE: One of the weird things about being trapped at home is that all the different parts of your life seem to blend together into one overwhelming activity-soup.  Try this:  Write your ideal weekly schedule into a Google doc, or onto seven sheets of regular A4 computer paper, with one page for each day of the week.  Plug your ideal, scheduled activities into little bracketed chunks of the day, and do your best to stick to your schedule.  For the first week, write notes about what's not working, what you forgot to take into account, and what might need to be tweaked.  Then work those fixes into the Google doc, print it, and try it again the following week.  If this doesn't make you feel a tiny bit better, I'll be a darned sock.
4) RE-DECORATE, RE-ORGANIZE AND DE-CLUTTER: It's your home. You are stuck there.  You might as well beautify it.  According to the University of Minnesota, the environment can influence our behavior, our motivation to act, and our overall mood.  I'm sure you've noticed that and don't need research to convince you.  The COVID slowdown could be an opportunity to finally clear out some crap.  Researchers have shown that clutter, specifically, diminishes motivation and productivity.  I am including this in case time management and productivity are currently an issue for you during this crisis.  They may not be.  (Example:  You may be using this as an opportunity to question every part of your participation in capitalism, and to deeply contemplate what your busy-ness has really been about.)  There is no right or wrong here.
5) MEDITATE:  More research for you here.  According to Harvard Medical School, about 10 minutes of daily meditation in the morning seems to reduce anxiety and mental stress.  Since anxiety and panic have been almost palpable in the air lately, meditation seems like an invaluable tool to add to the bundle.  Oh!  And apparently it also boosts immunity, according to the New York Academy of Sciences, and other research institutes.
6) MAKE TEA AND KEEP COZY:  You may be drinking less, even if alcohol has been a substance of choice for you.  Tea is nonperishable, you can usually use the bags twice, and it's a great way to get the tiny little dopamine push of "treating" yourself throughout the day.  (You know, that same little dopamine push that you used to get from "treating" yourself with alcohol?)  As if that wasn't enough, research demonstrates that the aroma of some herbal teas, like chamomile and peppermint, may reduce feelings of frustration, anxiety and mental fatigue.  It's a good way to stay hydrated and keep your throat moist.  Let's face it.  That can't hurt.  (Again, I'm not a medical doctor.  Some teas, like ginger, can interact with some SSRIs, so please consult with your MD, whenever they have a moment, or your psychiatrist if you're concerned about how some blends might affect you.)  You may as well keep yourself as cozy as you like and pretend like it's a little winter vacation in the mountains.
7) GET HEALTHY, BUT BE FORGIVING, TOO:  Why not use this as an excuse to get healthier?  Again, I can't and don't intend to give medical or nutritional advice here, but I'm sure we're all aware that treating your body a little better (with adequate sleep and rest and adequate nutrition) enhances your immunity.  Check in with your own body about what it needs, and honor that.  Thank your wonderful body for giving you a chance to be here, and for weathering all the germ onslaughts that it already has.  I want to be sensitive to the fact that different readers may have different health statuses, so please take this as an invitation to care for, love, honor and bless your body.  And don't worry about getting it perfect.  If alcohol is your mistress, a couple drinks every couple weeks seems very, very reasonable.  We may be in this COVID winter for a few more months at least, and we want to keep alive (within reason) the things that help us to feel like life as we know it is continuing.
8) KNOW WHEN INFORMATION CROSSES THE 'HELPFUL' THRESHOLD:  It is wonderful to be informed.  Please be informed.  But know your limits, too.  Beyond reasonable updates on the unfolding health status of your community, state, country, and planet (so that you're not totally in the dark), and checking reputable sources (like the CDC or Red Cross) about ways to prevent your own infection and that of others, you really do not need to read every push notification, every grim headline.  Take care of your body, be respectful of others, and connect with others.  That is your business right now.  Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can change, and the wisdom to know the difference.  The serenity prayer is a helpful mantra for these times.  I also do not want to trivialize the fact that acceptance of a situation like this can be a profound spiritual discipline.
9) DEEPEN YOUR SPIRITUAL PRACTICE: To put it very bluntly, this situation is making each and every one of us look at our mortality and fragility much more squarely.  It is not fun.  An individual's unique spirituality does not have to map onto any specific tradition or institution too deeply.  What it can do, ideally, is to offer some solace and a way to make meaning of adversity and suffering.  Most of the time, the true spirituality of the individual is something very private, even secret, difficult to articulate, and is often held and known in the body or the heart.  If you're not sure, maybe you can borrow a leaf from Amma, Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, the Hugging Saint, who says, simply, Love is my religion.  Meditate on that.
10) SLOW DOWN: Take the current crisis as an invitation to slow down.  What was all that busy-ness about anyway?  Be honest.  It seems like the culture equates busy-ness with status, somehow.  If someone is very important, they must have lots of things to do, right?  Question that.  What if everyone is equally important?  What if the purpose of human life is not to be the busiest one of all, and the value of a human life is not derived from anything like that?  Contemplate that.  How might you live more wisely and intentionally as the result of this event?
11) FINALLY GET TO THOSE BOOKS AND PROJECTS:  You might as well.  Bill Gates takes reading vacations.  I think it's a brilliant idea.  The pace of modern life almost doesn't allow for reading anymore.  Use this time as an experiment to find out how you might develop yourself and use your time and your life if society was organized a little differently.  What would you read?  What would you make?  What's stopping you even now?
12) BECOME AN EMOTIONAL ATHLETE:  Over the course of you life, you are going to get to know anxiety and fear real well.  Maybe this is an opportunity to practice your skills at surfing the waves of emotion (to use a Jack Kornfield metaphor).  Anxiety experts contend that pushing against anxiety tends to make it stronger.  So we need to learn to say hello to it when it comes.  Emotions, even the most powerful ones, are always being held within a wider frame of awareness.  Let emotions know that they can burn you to the ground if they want to, and you'll still be here when they're done, breathing, in, out, in, out.  And that will be true until the final moment of your life.  Who knows?  It may continue to be true after that!  I really have no idea.
13) PRACTICE SELF-COMPASSION:  Self-compassion will allow you to use all your other tools more effectively.  'Nuf said.
11) BEGIN TO TELL A NEW STORY:  The odds are not terrible that the stories you've recently been playing on repeat within the private theater of your mind are horror stories and tragedies.  Let me just start by saying that fear, anxiety and sadness are all valid emotional reactions to what is happening.  However, there are many layers and dimensions to this event, as with any event of global import.  The scary and tragic parts of this event are absolutely real.  But there may be another dimension of the story, equally real, but not quite as outwardly obvious yet.  This is the dimension of ongoing influence, paradigm shift, awakening and revolution.  You can begin to tell the story now of how this event, as dreadful as it is, may be one of the big labor pangs of a new era, a new earth.  That doesn't mean it has to feel nice.  (Ooph!  Tell that to any woman who's ever given birth!)  And it doesn't mean that, if I was queen of the world, I would green light this and say it's wonderful.
This is more like what I'm talking about:  The prose poem by an American teacher, inspired by the Coronavirus pandemic, which has recently gone viral:
"And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently. And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal. And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed."
~Kitty O'Meara
How will you tell this story?  Schedule a call with me here  if you're needing support, or needing support with finding support.  I'm here for you.
Photo by JD Mason on Unsplash