Linda Nguyen, MS, LMFT
Staying Connected Amidst a Pandemic
Ending our second year and going into a third year of Pandemic living is going to be rough. It seems like a science fiction book or movie but we have been living it. What do I mean by Pandemic living? It’s as if we are on the verge or cusp of being crippled but then we rebuild, we recondition, and then we launch forward. The uncertainty has been relentless. The disconnection and separation has been growing. The effects of the pandemic on our mental, emotional, physical, spiritual, and collective well-being has been monumental. We try our best to be in touch with what the “norm” is and then we continue as best we can. So, how do we continue the best way we can?
Through my individual and collective experience of Pandemic living and working in my practice to support our fellow people, I recommend the following practices in taking on our third year in a holistic way:
MENTAL CARE: We are inundated with news about the numbers and the politics of the pandemic on a daily basis. We have to find a balance between connecting and disconnecting ourselves to the media. It is important to stay informed but it is also important to find time to turn off external sources. Make sure you dedicate time every day to turn off the television and silence your phone. Practice moderation. It will help to ease anxious thoughts.
EMOTIONAL CARE: Reach out to others and stay connected to your safe circle of people. It is important to have support for yourself during this time and to be able to offer support to others. This is a time of great loss and connecting to these losses can be very difficult. Make sure you give yourself the time to connect to yourself and how you are doing emotionally. Tend to your feelings and emotions through mindfulness practices and connect with your trusted friends and family members. We are all in need of nurture and care. In connecting and sharing your experience, this helps to reduce depressive symptoms and lessen intrusive thoughts.
PHYSICAL CARE: The benefits of physical activity on our overall health are endless. Staying active is a great way to reap the benefits of natural endorphin release and stress reduction. Adjusting to all of what the Pandemic has brought has been increasingly stressful. Anxiety and depression have been on the rise. Staying active can reduce your risk of anxiety and depression and help you sleep better. You have to start at a level that is right for you. If that is walking, start with a short walk outside or an indoor mall if weather is not permissible. And if the gym is intimidating to you and/or not affordable, there are plenty of options to stay active in the comfort of your home or outside. Connecting to a physical fitness regimen from a place of overall health and well-being will help build intrinsic motivation. This will help to keep you consistent and balanced as opposed to focusing on weight loss or physical appearance. Keep hydrated and add some dark greens and colorful fruits to your diet. It is easy to forget about taking care of ourselves in this way when we are stuck in survival mode. Taking small steps of self-care can reduce stressors and pressures.
SPIRITUAL CARE: The mindful practice of staying in the present moment and tuning in to your inner being with kindness and compassion helps to reduce stress. In our current state of living, it is easy to fall back on regrets and let your mind take you forward into the future to create worry and fear. Focusing on the present moment can bring clarity, acceptance, gratitude, joy, and inner peace amidst the uncertainty and separation we are experiencing in our world today. There are many ways to bring mindfulness practice into your life. According to mindfulness teacher and peace activist, Thich Nhat Hanh, you can practice mindfulness while walking, eating, sitting, or just being. All you have to do is be still in a calm and quiet surrounding and pay attention to only what you are doing in that particular moment. Connect fully to find balance and peace. Bring nature into your life where you can. Breathing in fresh air and appreciating the surrounding greenery is a great way to bring yourself one step closer to feeling more grounded. Add some indoor plants to your home so you can enjoy nature conveniently.
COLLECTIVE CARE: How we exist individually affects how we exist collectively. What is happening in another country affects what is happening here in our country. What the Pandemic is teaching us is that we all have to work together to get through what affects us globally. Slow down and pay attention to how we are all affecting one another. First apply compassion and love to yourself with all the challenges you have faced and are facing at this moment. Only then can you do this for others. No one is untouched by what is happening in the world today. There has been so much loss and grief that needs to be acknowledged and healed. Be sure to connect with the people around you because we can only get through this together. Sharing your experience can help ease an experience of another.
Overall, the most important thing you can do is slow down when you can and take a moment for yourself. Breathe. Connect. Be present. Notice what comes up and tend to what that is. No one is unaffected by the current events. Give yourself permission to not be okay. Reach out to trusted support. Be open to counseling. Having a safe and comfortable space for you to share in your experience and truth is significant to your overall health and well-being. Through staying connected with ourselves, we can connect with each other.