How does one stay emotionally and socially connected while being physically apart?

Social and emotional connection are important pieces of the puzzle in staying mentally healthy and managing the levels of one’s anxiety. Even a big home can seem small when you have been locked in together for more than week. It’s day five of the quarantine and so far I have managed to maintain my peace and my positivity. However, I am also fully aware that it may become a challenge as the days and weeks go by. I imagine what a tough period this must be for my extroverted friends. A true challenge indeed.

Now more than ever is the best time to practice self care. Remember, you need to put on your own oxygen mask first before you can help others. Here are some creative ways to practice self-care in the time COVID19.

Preserving one’s mental health begins with taking care of one’s physical health. Although it’s hard to exercise outdoors, it can be done as long as you practice social distancing. Go when there is hardly anyone on the road, very early in the morning or at dusk. You can also choose from a wide array of home exercise programs on YouTube — anything from Zumba for seniors to QiGong to yoga, to online dancing to Kpop. There’s no excuse not to keep fit! Regular exercise will also stave off depression and anxiety by releasing the much needed happy hormones. An added plus is the weight loss if you do this on a daily basis. Where else are you going to go anyway?

Meditate and pray. Make a conscious effort to start and end your day with meditation and prayer. Quiet time to quiet ones mind and spirit is essential to preserving one’s sanity during this challenging period. Calm.com and Insight Timer are excellent places to begin a meditation practice. Again, there are so many ways to pray or meditate at home. You can do it by yourself, you can try it with an app (I personally subscribe to the You Bible and choose a study plan to guide me, or the First 5 app by the Proverbs 31 Ministries) or pray together via FB live with a group or through Zoom.

If you are a reader, or even if you’re not, Scribd.com has opened up their library of books and magazines, absolutely free for 30 days! They’ve got an amazing collection so check them out. If you have many unread books on your shelf, and I’m completely guilty of this, now is the time to read, read, and read! Then, when all of this is over, you can donate those books you don’t feel like keeping, to someone who would appreciate receiving them.

You can also begin a small online book club if that’s your thing. You can do it through a group on Messenger or again via Zoom or GoToMeetings.

Then of course there is good old Netflix and it’s vast collection of films, tv series, educational shows, and documentaries to choose from. I recently discovered the joy of watching Korean dramas through the hit Crash Landing On You and I’m so glad I discovered it just when COVID19 hit our shores. It has got to be, for me at least, the best stress buster ever. So many friends of mine, recent converts as well, swear that watching K-Drama on a regular basis has helped alter their moods and doing so has brought so much joy and laughter into their lives. What to watch? There’s a whole slew of them on Netflix. Ask your K-drama specialist friend which ones they highly recommend and please, give it a try. You won’t regret it.

You can also start a digital Friday night dinner with your friends and/or extended family. Agree on a time and set the meals up then get everyone to log on trough a conference video call. Celebrating a birthday soon? You can still hold a celebration via livestream.

Be a fact-checker for fake news. There’s a huge proliferation of fake news now circulating on social media platforms and on Viber groups. If you have the means or the talent to get to the truth, then counter the fake news with the truth. That will be such a huge service to the community.

Reach out. You don’t need to go far to help. The village guards, the condominium cleaners and guards who keep your homes safe will appreciate an extra kindness during this time. If you have communities near where you live that could benefit from a soup kitchen or a regular feeding program, see how you can set that up with your friends or neighbours.

Limit your media consumption each day. Remember that “panic sells, and calm saves.” Continuing to (or trying to) practice a calm and helpful attitude during difficult times helps you and the people around you. Limit your information gathering to reputable sites such the WHO, CDC (if you are in the US) or the DOH (in the Philippines). Do this only once or twice a day. That is enough to keep updated. Tear yourself away from browsing if you begin to feel overwhelmed. Better yet, set a timer for yourself. I only now read updates from the WHO and from our own DOH in the morning, and at around 6PM each day.

If you are the parent of young children, remember that role modelling is very important. Be conscious about how much news you have on at home. Be aware of how you are talking to each other — what does your intonation and facial expression connote? Relay only age appropriate information from the WHO.

Lastly, if you are living with seniors, allow them to process the event by letting them tell stories. We have a lot to learn from their own experiences. In general, seniors have been through so much more than we have! Begin conversations about how they’ve remained resilient throughout their lives, how they lived through war, and how they’ve gotten to this point.

Remember that though this is a time of great uncertainty, this could also be our finest hour. It will all depend on how we respond to the things that we hear and see. When we respond with kindness, patience, and compassion for all, we let the best of our humanity shine and this virus for all the havoc it has brought upon the world, will never beat us.

Email me at storiesbykate@gmail.com.

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