Q&A: COVID-19 Emotional Wellness
It’s been several weeks since we first received shelter in place orders. As part of the country begins to relax these orders, other parts have extended them. Regardless of where you live, COVID-19 has likely had an impact on your life, much of which have implications for your emotional wellbeing.
I collaborated on an Instagram live Q&A and received many questions about emotional wellness during the pandemic. I decided to write this blog post as a follow up to that Q&A for anyone who missed it and to respond to questions that I did not get a chance to answer in that format. Happy reading and be well!
Stress Management and Wellness Tips
Q: What are some general wellness tips during shelter at home / the pandemic?
A: I recommend reading a blog I posted entitled, “staying sane during COVID-19” and watching an IG TV video I created where I expand on 8 Wellness Tips to PRACTICE during the pandemic. Below, I share a brief review of these wellness tips using the acronym PRACTICE:
Plan for safety.
Rest and relax.
Acknowledge your feelings and limitations (e.g., limit media).
Connect with people you live with (e.g., do activities together such as playing card games, watching TV) and use technology to connect with others outside your home.
Telework and telehealth can keep you healthy and productive at a distance.
Insight into your emotional, physical and spiritual needs. Engage in healthy habits (e.g., healthy eating, drink water, sleep, physical activity, yoga, meditation) to meet these needs.
Creativity can increase your sense of purpose and wellbeing but no pressure.
Establish a routine that brings balance and a sense of normalcy.
Q: How do folks manage the pressures to be productive while also attending to debilitating anxiety?
A: Do the best you can to be productive but have self-compassion. Acknowledge that this is a stressful time. Sometimes you may not be able to be as productive as you want during stressful moments and that is okay. Creating a schedule or routine and attending to your physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual needs (e.g., healthy habits, sleep, rest, tele-health) may help you feel better able to manage your productivity.
Q: How can we prepare for another pandemic? It’s so mentally stressful right now. You hear so many situations possibly again having shelter in place this coming fall.
A: There is a lot of uncertainty and many things are outside of our control. This can understandably spark fear and anxiety. In regards to the pandemic specifically, make a plan for how you might handle a second wave and additional shelter in place orders. Safety planning includes following the recommendations from health professionals, scientists, and trustworthy leaders (e.g., hand washing, physical distance, wearing mask/face covering in public). In addition, plan how you will maintain safety when you need to leave the home and what to do if you or someone in your home gets sick. Things to consider are knowing the symptoms and signs of COVID-19, where you can get testing (free COVID testing for LA county residents), who would you call (e.g., your doctor), how you may isolate in your home and get your essentials (e.g., food, social connection). Attending to your wellness can also help you manage the stress. Read these blog post on stress, stress management, anxiety, and anxiety management. Additionally, consider financial planning in case you are sick and cannot work (e.g., what's your sick time, other means of income, savings) and search for community resources and information that may be helpful to manage financial concerns that may come up as a result of the virus or shelter in place order. See the response to the next question for helpful resources on safety, housing, and community resources in Los Angeles County.
Q: There’s so much information out there. I get confused and feel overwhelmed. How do I find information and help?
A: Use reputable sources for information and access to resources. Here’s a start for LA County.
COVID-19 Keeping LA Safe: https://corona-virus.la
LA Housing Resources: https://hcidla2.lacity.org
LA County Public Health: http://publichealth.lacounty.gov
LA County Department of Mental Health Access Line (Phone: 1-800-854-7771; Website: https://dmh.lacounty.gov/our-services/disaster-services/access-hotline/)
National Crisis Counseling: 1-800-985-5990
Q: How can African - Americans maintain their sanity while being the largest percentage of CoVID-19 deaths?
A: I’ve heard the saying many times, “when America gets a cold, Black people catch the flu.” This resonates in so many ways during the current pandemic. Honor how scary and traumatic this is for you as a Black person and the harmful effects of racism on COVID’s impact on the Black community. Like many other stressful times, come together with other community members to discuss the impact, share resources, and provide social support. Find ways to advocate for your community. Check out some media conversations about this topic including Diddy’s Black America and Coronavirus Town Hall, BET Town Hall and Amanda Seales Small Doses Podcast episode "Side Effects of COVID-19 on the Black Community with Joy Reid."
Providing Support for Loved Ones
Q: How do I quell the anxiety of my pregnant friend who is emotional?
A: Provide her with emotional support at a distance. If she needs to cry be on the other line, allow her to vent and share her worries, sadness and disappointment. Problem solve with her when needed. Be thoughtful and creative about how you show up, support, and celebrate her. Ideas:
Phone calls and FaceTime as often as possible.
Identify pregnancy services that are being offered via telehealth and offer to log in with her.
Pregnancy yoga or meditation together on Facetime, zoom, or at a distance (e.g., front yard).
Mail care packages or drop them off at her doorstep.
Celebrate from afar. Examples:
o Zoom baby shower or gender reveal party.
o Mail gender reveal announcements.
o Make gender reveal videos to send to loved ones.
o Drive by baby shower.
o Have medical provider send gender to you so that you can surprise your friend with
a special gender reveal gift from afar (e.g., gender reveal book, mail
announcement, send a cake).
Q: How can I help my friend who is very stressed because she is on the frontline?
A: One of the most important ways to help a stressed friend is by showing compassion. Listen to him/her and provide a space for him/her to share their feelings. Encourage them to seek professional help if needed. Some agencies are offering free short term counseling or peer support to front-line workers. Encourage your friend to determine if his/her job offers any of these type of services. Find creative ways to show up for for your friend. Ideas:
Mail or drop off care package.
Do essential tasks for them such as grocery shopping or cooking (providing) meals.
Identify list of things frontline workers need and enlist neighbors, family and friends to help provide it to them.
Free access to Headspace Plus for healthcare workers
Encourage friend to engage in enjoyable and restful activities and do them with him/her (e.g., meditation apps together, yoga on Facetime together)
Q: My friend had her wedding canceled, what are some ways to help cheer her up?
A: It’s understandable for people to feel disappointed, saddened, and to experience a sense of grief and loss about cancelled weddings and other events (e.g., graduations, travel, baby showers, birthdays). Provide compassionate support to a friend in this situation. Encourage them to express their feelings. Let them know it’s okay to feel whatever they feel. Show up and celebrate with your friend at a distance. Ideas:
Help with rescheduling wedding or other events for later date.
Creative ways to celebrate during the shelter and place orders.
o Zoom parties.
o Hang up graduation photos in the house or lawn.
o Drive by graduations, birthday parties, baby showers.
o Call or facetime him/her on the day the event was scheduled to provide emotional
o Mail or drop off a care package or gift to celebrate.
o View wedding ceremony on zoom or other technology platform.
o Mail a special gift.
o Help to plan a special home party for your friend with the people s/he lives with.
Make plans and coordinate from afar. Mail or drop off items for celebration.
Managing Singleness and Solitude
Q: How to deal with singleness at this time?
A: Practice compassion for self and honor the loneliness you may be experiencing during this time. Share your feelings with trusted loved ones, practice general wellness tips, and connect with loved ones regularly (e.g., zoom parties, facetime, calls). Pursue online dating if it’s of interest. Find creative ways to date and get to know other people. For example, I have seen match making services pop up during this time that may be a fun way to get to know someone. Ideas:
Visit Instagram @heyolamide and her #SeeMeMatchMe match making service to support romantic connections during the pandemic
Q: How do you manage the stress of being away from family during this chaotic time (especially for those who are single professionals or grad students)?
A: Practice general wellness tips and be intentional about connecting with your family and other support system using technology (e.g., Netflix Party, Zoom parties where you plan games)
Q: Suggestions for those sheltered in place alone who are missing human touch (e.g., “I just want a hug!”). What substitutes are there?
A: Be intentional about connecting socially with others as much as possible, practice general wellness tips, and create a comfortable home environment. Snuggle in comfortable bed, couch, or floor, perhaps with a pillow or even stuffed animal (maybe fuzzy socks) if that physical sensation of something warm and cuddly is helpful.
Family, Couples, and Parenting
Q: What are some tips for couples living together during quarantine?
A: Craft time and space for yourself to do work and have personal time. Coordinate where in your home you and your partner may work and have personal time that is sperate, when needed. For example, one partner does work in the home office, the other in the living room. One takes personal time in the bedroom, the other in the backyard or on the balcony. Create time and space to do things together and engage in bonding activities (e.g., cook and clean together, games and movies together, lay and rest together, cuddle). Plan special date nights where each person switches off on planning something special for the other partner to keep the sparks alive. Share your thoughts and feelings with each other through intimate conversations. Ideas:
Answer 36 questions to fall in love
Read Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for a Life Time of Love book together
Q: How to juggle parenting while working (e.g., how to help parents manage their frustrations helping resistant kids do their homework)?
A: Have compassion for yourself and your children. This is a stressful time for everyone and all of your feelings, whatever they are, matter. Know that there is no perfect parenting, especially during this time. Everyone is doing their best to manage the stress, including you. And that’s okay. Create a routine, schedule and zones in your house (e.g., a place for eating, work, school, family time, personal time) for you and your family to help manage the house. Include children in decision making as much as possible and when appropriate (e.g., household cleaning, bonding activities, choosing meals). Create an activity jar with kids and when bored, pull a note and do the activity together. Create your own personal time and space for solitude and self-care. Learning and activity websites for kids:
Q: How do I explain COVID to kids?
A: Provide age appropriate information about the pandemic to. Share what it is (e.g., a virus sort of like cold or flu), some symptoms (e.g., difficult breathing, coughing), explain that some feelings such as fear or worry are typical. Give them a sense of safety, that they can rely on you to be safe, share tips for how to maintain safety (e.g., wash hands). Highlight how everyone is doing their part to keep each other safe (e.g., doctors, nurses and other medical professionals help those in the hospital, grocery store workers help us get food, and we do our part by staying home). Encourage them to share thought and feelings, validate them and be there for them. Help them find ways to cope with difficult emotions (e.g., deep breathing, coloring). This book may be helpful to read with children.
Q: How do you help your child process not being able to say goodbye to their friends since they will not be returning to school?
A: Demonstrate compassion and encourage children to share their thoughts and feelings about it. Find other ways for children to connect with friends and to say goodbye to friends (e.g., for those graduating or perhaps moving). Ideas:
Create a zoom party with friends.
Goodbye drive bye parties with signs (if possible).
Plan for meet up (when its allowed).
Create their own yearbook online.
Write letters or mail cards to friends.
Drop off goodbye care package to friends.
Plan a surprise distant party for your child with their friends (e.g., gift, card, or letter; drop off, drive by, online).
Shelter in Place Activities
Q: What exercises can (seniors) do during this time of shelter in place, other than walk?
A: Although you can’t go to your local gym or be around people, you can still be physically active, which can help you feel better and maintain your health. Ideas:
Take walks outside, at a distance (if it is safe).
See if your local gym offers online exercise classes.
Use YouTube, phone apps, and other online videos to guide physical activity and exercise.
Do physical activity and exercise in your home or yard.
Physical activity: yoga, meditation, stretching, pushups, dance.
Q: What home activities can you recommend during this home confinement?
A: My top social distance activities include:
Meditation Apps (e.g., LiveAwake)
Cooking new recipes and baking
Club Quarantine (Instagram live @dnice)
Card games (e.g., Cards of Humanity online for free)
Reading, writing, and creating
Spending time with loved ones in the home and on the phone (or Facetime)
Q: I’m using my phone a lot more. What are some tips for using it less?
A: Be intentional about not using your phone. Develop a routine and plan to engage in other activities without your phone. Create a specific plan to have phone free time. For example, give yourself an hour to do some other activity and put your phone in another room. Determine how often in a day or week you would like phone free time. Start small if needed (e.g., 20 minutes) and reward self when you complete the task without your phone. Build up to longer times without your phone.