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The images through my window belie this time of uncertainty. Last night, a bold, full moon brought near daylight through the panes of glass. This morning, a soft, golden sun chased the moonlight away and now colors the world in gentle tones of yellow and orange. Nature’s beautiful lighting – last night and this morning – along with the peaceful silence that fills my home contrast sharply to the noise that fills my social media feeds.

Yet, there is a reality beyond the perimeter of our homes we are facing. It’s not prudent to turn away. We need to be informed and we need to help others if we have the means. We also need to manage our own physical wellbeing so as not to become a burden to the healthcare system at this time. Emotional wellbeing is also critical right now. So, how do we navigate this experience for which there is no playbook? I started by looking at past strategies that worked for me during life-changing moments that thrust me into the unknown.

There are many tools and strategies I used to recreate my life after being widowed. However, learning how to choose my response to circumstances I couldn’t alter is most responsible for helping me to get through hard times. This process recognizes and acknowledges that terrible, difficult things happen. It doesn’t deny the fear or losses we experience from challenging times. But it empowers us to make conscious decisions about how we will cope with and move through those moments. To read more about this, check out Creating Moments of Choice.

So, here is my list of my top 5 (or so) strategies for coping – and we’ll add “during an outbreak” since that is top of mind for pretty much everyone right now:

  1. Focus on impact. There are many things I can’t control or change. Make a list of all the ways you can make a positive impact. Include these in your day in some way.
  2. Take preventative steps. We are seeing consistent recommendations on how to reduce the likelihood of transmission. Decide what makes the most sense for you and take those steps. Acknowledge you are taking preventative actions.
  3. Focus on facts. Do you research and check the source. When we are educated and work with substantiated facts, we can make informed, logical choices.
  4. Connect with others. Currently, many people worldwide are under quarantine and quite a few are self-selecting to minimize their face to face interactions for the time being. Use the wonders of technology to video chat with friends and colleagues to avoid feeling socially isolated.
  5. Get your rest. Now is not the time for all-nighters, if you can avoid them. Sleep is an important part of supporting your immune system. If worries and stress are hijacking your sleep, try an online sleep app or meditation.
  6. Reduce your stress. Whatever you normally do to keep your stress levels down, do it. Physical activity, meditation, listening to your favorite playlist, watching comedies. If you need to moderate it somehow such as working out at home instead of the gym, then do so.
  7. Observe and choose. Notice how your local, state, and federal governments and officials are handling this outbreak. How people act under pressure reveals a great deal about their leadership. What values do you see in them? Are they quickly providing effective strategies to help people get affordable care or stay in their homes if they’ve had an interruption in income due to this health crisis? Do they have a sustainable plan for now and future outbreaks and national health crises?
  8. Ask for help. Some people have access to more resources than others. While anyone can benefit from tips 1 through 7, the reality is if you are under threat of losing your home, having services shut off due to overdue bills, or are ill you may need to locate community resources and support. There are some times and some situations we simply cannot resolve on our own or through wellbeing strategies. For those who have more resources, review tip #1. Perhaps an impact you can have is to donate to a local food bank or other organization that supports people in need to make a difference.

What strategies are you using to get through this challenging time? What conscious choices can you make so you can be productive, find some joy in each day, and do what you can to stay well?

While fear is a normal response to the deluge of bad news headlines, and while it is important to be informed and educated, reacting with panic and stress about what-ifs that may not come to pass is simply not helpful. It doesn’t help your physical or emotional wellbeing. It’s not necessarily easy to keep a positive mindset when we’re being battered by numbers, charts, graphs, and maps with so much red. It’s important to acknowledge the severity of the situation. But it is just as important to remain calm and empowered during challenging times as best we can.

Please note: This post is intended for those who have the opportunity to shelter at home. We have vulnerable populations who are currently homeless without the option of doing so. There are millions of people on the front lines – all those in healthcare, cleaning crews, those providing public transportation, grocery and pharmacy workers – who risk exposure daily, most without the PPE gear they need to protect themselves. The crisis in hospitals is real. While some of my tips may be helpful for them, I recognize wellbeing strategies are not enough. The homeless and those suffering a loss of income need help. Our front line people need resources like protective gear and, in the case of hospitals, ventilators. There are two action steps you can take that would help reduce the incredible burden on those on the front lines:

  1. #StayAtHome – flattening the curve is, according to the CDC, our best option for slowing down the spread of COVID-19 and giving hospitals a chance to save lives.
  2. Contribute in some way to reducing the gap between what’s available and what’s needed re: PPE and ventilators.
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