This is an update to my original post. I was bothered by the fact I failed to include the most important part: HOPE. The original post began with two research findings.With the outbreak of COVID-19, here is an opportunity to practice intentional connectedness. Physical isolation from one another can lead to feelings of loneliness. Because we know that mental health affects our immune system I’d like to encourage anyone that may find themselves feeling lonely during this time.
The Journal of the American Heart Association recently tracked more than 1,600 people living with heart failure. They found that going without human contact for too long can literally break your heart.[i] Another group of researchers lead by psychological scientist Julia Rohrer revealed that people who come up with “well-being” strategies involving other people were more satisfied with their lives one year later. “In contrast, people who came up with strategies that did not explicitly involve others remained (the same),” said Rohrer.[ii]
I realized why this was troubling me.
Did you know one thing that separates us as a species from the rest of the animal kingdom is our capacity for social bonding? It’s not that elephants or monkeys do not bond with their elephant and monkey friends, but humans have the capacity for connection—with grandparents, family, and extended family. We develop relationships with our humans, verbally and non-verbally.
I have heard “we are in this together” and it is more than a cliché. While practicing the Golden Rule we can include looking out for and reaching out to one another. Listen to your gut. If you are thinking about someone, don’t hesitate calling them. “I sure don’t like it when I am on someone’s heart,” said no one ever. Feeling lonely for an extended time
can lead to depression. We can physically distance ourselves for the betterment of our communities, while remaining accessible. Having a game plan for self-care and being mindful about practicing intentional communication, will strengthen our immune system and our relationships.
I have learned after traveling through grief and, walking alongside countless families through the grief process, is that our most valuable asset is time. It is in this spirit that I offer hope. If we accept this season as a hall pass to slow down, with time being our greatest resource, then I conclude this stretch of weeks or months could be a gift. A chance to pause, reflect, grow, and most tangible of all? The opportunity to connect with loved ones and deepen new relationships. Connecting with others is how we will triumph through the difficult days ahead.
Not to downplay the sacrifices so many are doing to keep our communities functioning. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for those in the medical field, our First Responders, grocery store clerks, and innumerable others. Each one of us has the ability to make a difference. Never underestimate the power a compassionate, empathetic, and grateful voice will have on each person.
While looking out for our neighbor, consider the directive we are given when traveling on an airplane. If we have small children we are instructed to secure our oxygen mask first. Big people take care of little people. Incorporating the following self-care ideas—putting on the oxygen mask—we will be able to be our best selves for our loved ones.
SEVEN SELF-CARE TIPS THAT HAVE A POSITIVE IMPACT ON OTHERS DURING SOCIAL DISTANCING
1. Pray. Just like intentional communication with loved ones, God wants the specifics.
2. Reach Out. Technology is a tool most of us have access to. Picking up the phone and reaching out to family and friends, hearing their voices, can provide comfort and reduce anxiety. Facetime, Zoom, Skype, and Marco Polo are options. Marco Polo is an interactive app that combines the best of texting, social media, and video chats all in one. It differs from typical social media because it is private and eliminates likes or social comparisons. Texts, pictures or video messages can be sent in real time, offering tone and context.
3. Learn Something New with a Loved One. Have you wanted to learn a new language or hobby? Ask loved ones about their interests and if they have a desire to learn something new. Challenge each other to learn a new skill and see who can come up with the best results.
4. Create Structure to the Day. Have a set time for getting up and working each day at a designated location. Put shoes on as a mental cue that it is time to work. Get outside and exercise if at all possible. Exercising helps the body release chemicals called endorphins, sometimes referred to as the happy-hormone. These endorphins interact with receptors in the brain that reduce pain perception and can reduce stress. Go on a walk while talking on the phone with a friend. It will leave your body with a positive sense of well-being and also aid in sleep. Allow for methods of distraction at the end of the day such as Netflix or your favorite podcast.
5. Unleash Your Creative Spirit. Write a letter of recommendation on LinkedIn for a colleague or someone that you have seen go above and bey
ond. As a child I was “encouraged” to write a letter to my grandmother that lived out of state. Years later my aunt showed me the letters. She saved every one of them.
6. Connect with Non-Humans. Animals have a way of making us feel unconditional love. If you don’t have a pet perhaps there is an elderly neighbor that would love to have a dog walker.
7. Volunteer! Did you know that you can help someone without leaving your home? Volunteering is the best way to get out of your own head. I have an aunt with limited vision and wanted to try an app before suggesting it to her. Be My Eyes for iOS or Android, was developed to help blind and low-vision people lead more independent lives. Sighted volunteers lend their eyes to solve tasks big and small to those in need. Incoming calls are identified, if you are unable to answer the call it will simply re-route to an available volunteer.
This can be an opportunity to expand, get creative and practice compassion—for yourself and others.
Kristina Woodahl is a speaker, author, marketing consultant, and mental wellness advocate. Through her initiatives, Woodahl identifies and dispels myths and stigmas surrounding mental health by educating, empowering, and creating a culture which views mental health as important as physical health. www.kristinawoodahl.com