So many of the usual ways of being kind have been flipped on their head. Hold a door open, say hello, smile—these common courtesies have overnight become taboo.
“Social distancing,” while it seems to be the best thing for our collective survival, is certainly taking a toll on almost everyone individually. We are an incredibly social species. Our young are born totally dependent, and it takes years and even decades before they live on their own. We are all part of humanKIND and are used to being with and relying on one another in countless ways.
While Covid-19 has robbed us of so many activities, it is remarkable how quickly we are adapting. Our brains love patterns and will default to using the same ones over and over unless we work hard to break them. Have you ever tried to brush your teeth with the opposite hand? I tried it for about a week then gave up. Right now, we have been forced to change so many of our habits in a flash. At first, it felt awful. But fearing for our lives, we were willing to put up with almost any amount of discomfort.
Now that we have been in quarantine for well over the 30 days required to change habits, many of us have found a “new normal.” Our brains, wired to crave routines, have created new ones. Many of these new habits are quite beneficial and we should try to maintain them as we go forward.
We must remain mindful as we reemerge. As fear decreases, we will be drawn back to our old patterns. Which ones can we still do safely? And which should still remain on hold? As they lift restrictions, it will be on each of us to look after ourselves and one another and make the best decisions possible.
One must always remember to engage in self-kindness. As they say, when the oxygen mask drops on the airplane, put it on yourself first so that you can then you can take care of others. We need a new skill set to keep ourselves safe as we venture back out. We will feel pulled to return to our old lives but we must remember sanctions are being lifted not because it is safe for anyone one of us. Sanctions are being lifted for us as a collective, not as individuals. Each of us must proceed wisely now as the messaging is already starting to change. Many businesses, politicians, and some friends and family will be urging us to get back out there and resume old habits.
These weeks of quarantine have forced us to find new ways to be kind to ourselves. No longer can we drop into our hair/nail salon, meet a friend at our favorite restaurant, or engage in retail therapy. Moreover, we have had to deal with many difficult emotions. Fear and loss have loomed large. Novelty, which most of us crave, requires effort. For many alone during quarantine, it has been particularly challenging.
- Optimize Sleep. It is heartwarming to see new ways of being kind to ourselves appear. The base of the wellness pyramid is sleep, and many of us have increased the number of hours we are sleeping…which is a very wise choice. Make sure you are getting the best sleep possible.
- Avoid Nighttime Stressors. Nightmares are common when fear is high, so turn off the news and avoid phone calls that might be upsetting after dark. If you haven’t started meditating, now is a great time. We need to quiet our minds and come into the present moment to reduce our fear about uncertainty in the future.
- Focus on the Essentials. We are in a pandemic. We need to survive. Everything else is gravy. We have relaxed our standards around our appearance and for many, this has been a welcome break. How else can you find freedom while in confinement?
- Be Curious and Open-Minded. Be curious about your emotions and don’t judge yourself negatively. We are all finding ourselves feeling sad, angry, and impatient in these challenging times. Acknowledge these feelings then work to shift them when you can to more pleasant emotions such as joy, gratitude, and love. As my wise friend said, we need to “look to the corners of the room.” These positive emotions may not be obvious if we look straight ahead. We must look in previously unnoticed spots. Small things matter. As I write this, one friend is sending pictures of the roses she is enjoying on her walk and another is sending the beautiful bagels her family baked.
- Embrace Family. We have rebounded as “families.” We are all becoming chefs.Creativity is thriving. We are playing games again. Humorwhich releases Oxytocin, nicknamed the love or cuddlehormone, is in high demand.
- Learn, Develop, and Grow:Many are spending more time playing music, singing, dancing, and learning new things. One friend started cello lessons and several enrolled in the college courses on happiness and wellbeing. Exercise routines have shifted but many have found more time to work out. As we must keep on our immune systems in optimal shape, we are inclined to eat better. Many of my patients stopped drinking alcohol as they found their moods were already so up and down. Let’s hope and work to ensure these new positive habits stick.
Once we feel a bit better, our natural instinct to care for those around us will reemerge and need an outlet. We can enjoy being kind to the ones we are quarantined with. As all our emotions are heightened and rapidly changing, relationships have been strengthened and challenged. Remember that we are all going through this together and just as we must be patient with ourselves, we must be patient with others. Make sure to participate in household chores, find time for fun, and use kind words. This too shall pass and many of us will miss the closeness that quarantine created.
We need to lend a helping hand to others as so many are in need and it is always a way of lifting ourselves. We are calling, Zooming, and FaceTiming one another in record numbers. We are showing our love and compassion using technology as never before.
Some are helping neighbors and others are helping beyond by donating services and money. It is hard to know how in this new era. Volunteer Match will give you options of how you can volunteer on line.
Here is a short list to help you start thinking of ways to be kind while social distancing.
- FaceTime or Zoom so you can see one another. Smiles are important.
- Direct, produce, and record a puppet show together with your child’s stuffed animals and send it to others.
- Try a new recipe but record your family making it as though they are famous chefs on the Food Network so others can try it at home.
- Have your friends make a video thanking essential workers and send it to someone who can share it with others.
- Have family theme nights: Pirate night, Aloha, Disco, etc. and zoom with friends and family.
- Make fabric masks for others.
- Make a PowerPoint or video collage for someone and surprise them if they are celebrating a special occasion.
- Create a hangout session for a group of friends or coworkers. Start a new virtual book club.
- Look at old photos and share them with family or friends.
- Share humor via texts and emails.
- Make someone a card, picture or poem and send it regular mail if you can access a mailbox safely.
- Send food to someone from a local restaurant, market, or online store.
- Cook something for a neighbor and drop it off especially if you have a neighbor on the frontlines.
- Send a friend a book or a puzzle that you enjoyed or swap with a neighbor.
- Reach out to a friend or family member you haven’t spoken to in years. Call an old boss, colleague, or classmate.
- Share workout time with friends via FaceTime or Zoom.
- Thank your school teacher with a note or gift.
- Use kind words and be patient as everyone is tense.
- Take or deliver food to fire stations and local hospitals.
- Send thank-you notes to a hospital.
- Place sign on your lawn or window to thank healthcare works, grocery clerks, and all in restaurants.
- Donate money to organizations fighting COVID or to help those suffering economically.
- Overtip anyone who helps you in your building or when using Instacart, Uber Eats, etc.
- Shelters are struggling so if you can adopt a pet, consider doing so.
- We have all given our planet a great break. Use this time to reflect on which activities you will resume when safe and which you can continue to scale back on. Reduce, reuse, recycle.