Support During Changing and Challenging Times

We are in a new world! I think we can all agree that the last several weeks have shown us that our lives can change in a moment. How can we take care of ourselves when the ground doesn’t feel sturdy, when many aspects of life that we took for granted no longer exist or exist in a very changed form? How can we take care of others when we are supposed to be apart? I want to offer some ways that you can take care of yourself and your loved ones during this very challenging time.

Settle In– Many people are under a shelter in place order. We’re supposed to stay home, go out only when absolutely necessary and just wait. Do you have enough food, necessary supplies, medication? Make sure the basics are covered so that you can feel some ease that you have what you need at home.

If you are working from home, make a space for your work day that feels practical and comfortable. If possible, create a space that you can separate from the rest of your home so that at the end of your work day you can put your office/work life aside and connect with others and enjoy your home.

Stay Connected– Reach out to friends and family, set up video chats and phone calls so that you don’t get isolated. That goes for people who live alone as well as those who are with a partner or family. We all need to continue cultivating our relationships during this time. We all need each other to weather this storm. It’s especially important to reach out to anyone who is alone. Make an effort to be inclusive!

Maintain Self Care Routines-Self care is so supportive when facing stressful times. Four important aspects of self care are:

  1. Healthy diet. Try to limit or eliminate sugar from your diet. There are so many reason for this,  but right now, I would encourage you to watch your sugar intake to support your immune system
  2. Exercise. Staying active is good for your spirits and getting outside is especially beneficial. Shelter in place does not mean you can’t go outside. Just stay 6 feet from others.
  3. Get good sleep. If you aren’t going to work, it’s easy to stay up to all hours watching Netflix. Try to practice good sleep hygiene by going to bed and getting up more or less at the same time everyday.
  4. Positive Social Contact. These days that may mean Skyping with a friend or having a virtual happy hour.

The idea here is to continue relying on your normal routines as a way to support yourself. If you want to read more about cultivating resilience, read this.

Be Creative- This crisis invites us to be creative in many ways. What does your creativity look like? Painting? Organizing? Writing? Cooking? How many things can you make with the dry beans in your pantry? What projects have you been putting off that you can attend to now? Is there something you have wanted to learn but haven’t had the time? Maybe now you do. Are you a gardener or want to be one? Now is a good time to plant the seeds that will turn into flowers or vegetables in the future. If you’re not working you may have time to do a lot of things that, normally, you don’t. There are so many resources online for exploring and learning.

Having said that…

Get Offline- Take this opportunity to spend as much time as possible offline. Try not to continuously watch the news. Unplug from social media. See if you can cultivate other resources that don’t activate you. Meditate, nap, cook, read a good book, write, talk with friends and family, play a game, sew something. See if you can have a thought and think it through from beginning to end without interruption.

Get Out In Nature- Nature is a wonderful balm for this challenging time. Take walks. You can even take walks or go for a hike with a friend—just stay six feet apart. Spring is in the air and there is a lot of beauty outside your door.

Laugh- Laughter is great medicine. Is there something you can read or watch that will make you laugh? Can you laugh with friends and family? Find ways to see the humor in otherwise difficult situations. 

Attend to Your Fear- Everyday we get new information about the coronavirus: how it might impact us, how it is spreading, what we can do to abate the spread. All this information can be overwhelming, and for many people, induce fear. I want to recommend this dharma talk from the San Francisco Zen Center that might help you attend to your fear in a different way. I highly recommend listening to it even if you have no interest in Buddhism. There is a lot of wisdom here and maybe some solace.

If you don’t have a chance to listen to the dharma talk, I would like to share this poem by Lynn Ungar that Susan O’Connell reads during the talk.


What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
Center down.

 And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch. 

Promise this world your love–
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.

 In closing, I urge you to take good care of yourselves and each other during this challenging and constantly changing time. Stay flexible, creative and cultivate resiliency. Be kind to yourself and those around you. Stay present!