COVID-19 SELF-CARE SUPPORT

Prioritizing your self-care is a way you can do your part in all of this.
Your health contributes to the global health, and we’re all in this together.

We’ve never gone through anything like this before.
Here’s how we’re going to get through this  –
one day at a time, one thing at time, and one moment at a time.

ARTICLES

Making Sense of Your Feelings and Emotions

My emotions have fluctuated so much over the past few weeks. One moment I’ll feel anxious and overwhelmed and then I’ll feel brave and strong, and then that turns into frustration, and the cycle keeps going. These ups and downs can be exhausting. So, I’m trying to be gentle and patient with myself as I try to make sense of how I’m experiencing life these days.

Here’s something we can try together to help us make sense of what we’re feeling.

Try these three steps with me right now:

1. Identify an uncomfortable feeling that you’ve been experiencing lately and allow it to be there. You might need to take a breath, be still for a few moments and check in with your heart and mind to see what’s there without judgment.

(In case you need some ideas, here are some words to explore: worried, disappointed, disconnected, afraid, frustrated, impatient, angry, resentful, jealous, hostile, confused, detached, numb, frozen, aloof, grief, unsettled, tired, exhausted, flustered, heartbroken, lonely, sad, depressed, tense, anxious, distressed, irritated, nervous, overwhelmed, sensitive, vulnerable)

2. Identify what the need is behind that feeling. It can help to ask yourself, “what is this feeling telling me about what I need right now?”

(Here are some examples of needs that we might have: connection, safety, affection, closeness, love, nurturing, soothing, respect, stability, support, to be heard, to be seen, to be understood, trust, rest, movement, touch, security, honesty, play, joy, ease, harmony, order, space, meaning, peace, relaxation, clarity, creativity, hope, mourning, purpose, structure, expression, steadiness, expression, release)

3. Do something to meet that need, even if it’s something small or a step you can take to get that need met in the near future.

(For example: texting a friend and telling them how you feel to build connection and to be heard, close your eyes and take a few breaths to feel more steady and in control, roll your shoulders band and drop them down to bring in a little ease, or put one hand over your heart and say something comforting to yourself that’s soothing and supportive, or doing something to release your emotions)

Our goal here is not to do this process perfectly and our goal is not to immediately change the uncomfortable feeling. The goal is to be with yourself in the process so that you are not abandoning or pushing away how you are experiencing life right now.

I’ve give you an example of what this process has looked like for me. A few days ago, I allowed myself to be still for a few moments and realized that underneath all the worry and uncertainty, I was really feeling sadness. I realized I was grieving lost opportunities, I was missing my family, and deeply longing for normalcy.

When I allowed the sadness to be there, I realized the sadness was telling me that what I needed that day was to cry and let it out. My need at that moment wasn’t to feel happy, my need was to stop thinking about coronavirus for a while and instead attend to mourning my losses and missing what I longed for. And once I did cry it out, even though I still felt sad, I felt lighter and had more clarity.

So practice this. If you get stuck at a certain step in this process, be patient with yourself and know that even doing just one of these steps can be useful.

I got these lists of feeling and needs from The Center for Non-Violent Communication’s feelings inventory and needs inventory. You can find more extensive lists at those links in case that might help you.

Also, it’s likely that you’ll be communicating with someone who dealing with an uncomfortable feeling. You can try this process to support them too by listening to them and having them tell you how they are feeling, encouraging them to identify what it is they really need, and supporting them in meeting that need.

Remember, we will get through this one day at a time, one thing at time, and one moment at a time.

Ami Kunimura
March 25, 2020

How to Stay Emotionally Connected to Others and Yourself

Emotional connection is essential right now as we cope with stress and uncertainty. Here are ways you can stay emotionally connected to others and yourself.

1. Staying emotionally connected to others –

Social distancing and staying home is absolutely necessary for everyone’s health. This requires physical separation, but you can still remain emotionally connected. Here are some suggestions for emotional connectedness:

  • Set up specific check-in times with family and friends that you can count on and look forward to. This can create a sense of security and routine.
  • Instead of texting, call someone and hear their voice. Or, you can FaceTime with them or set up an online meeting.
  • Tell people how you are feeling emotionally, not just physically. Physical symptoms are important to monitor, but stay in touch with your feelings too. Practice naming what you feel each day and sharing it with someone.
  • Be honest with what you feel. It can be hard to talk about our fears, but fear will have less power over us when it’s expressed and not kept inside.
  • Share the burden of this experience. You don’t have to be the strong one all the time and allow yourself to be in it with others rather than being the one fixing or solving the problem.
  • In your conversations with others, ask questions that are strengths-based.
    For example: How have we gotten through other hard times together? What were some times in our lives when we were brave? What is energizing you right now? How do you think we’ll feel when this is over? What do you want to learn in this situation?
  • Social interaction doesn’t always have to mean talking and conversing. Emotional connectedness can also be built by meditating, praying, playing music, being creative, or playing games together.

However, true emotional connectedness with others often requires boundaries. Here are some social boundaries that may be helpful:

  • If too many Zoom calls are making you tired or you’re feeling overwhelmed by text messages or the increased screen time with people, it’s okay to set limits or take a break. Allow yourself a learning curve for this type of communication. Even though it happens in real time, virtual conversations have a different rhythm than in-person conversations and this can take some getting used to.
  • If attempts for social connectedness are somehow making you feel more disconnected, try changing up your mode of communication, being more selective with who you communicate with, or adjusting the length of time of your interactions with others.
  • If you find yourself reaching a saturation point with talking about coronavirus, say so with compassion. Saying something like “hey, can we talk about something else for right now so we can get a break from all this?” or “I don’t feel like talking about coronavirus right now” and then changing the subject can give you a break. We don’t have to talk about coronavirus all of time.

2. Staying emotionally connected to yourself –

The emotions we’re feeling at this time are not easy ones to tolerate. However, staying emotionally connected to yourself is a necessary part of moving through this experience and learning from it. Here are some suggestions on how to stay emotionally connected to yourself:

  • If you are feeling anxious or worried, practice sitting with the feeling before pushing it away, trying to fix it, or distracting yourself from it. Don’t abandon yourself by abandoning your feelings.
  • Sit and ask yourself, “How am I doing today?” and allow your heart and body time to answer.
  • Honor feelings and emotions by naming what you are feeling and either writing it down or telling someone. Saying “I feel anxious” can discharge some of that anxiety and allow you to emotionally connect with yourself so that you can find a healthy way to self-soothe.
  • Cry if you need to cry, laugh if you need to laugh
  • Journal or write down what you are experiencing. You could also simply open up a blank document on your computer and keep an ongoing dialogue with yourself about what you are experiencing.
  • Listen to music, create art, or engage in creativity.
  • Meditation is one way you can practice sitting with yourself in a constructive way. I have two meditations below on this page for you to listen to for free. Listen to one of these today. If you are at home with someone (even your kids), have them listen with you. You can also listen to these on a break at work.

Practice sitting through the discomfort for short periods of time, and allow yourself to feel. And, practice enjoying the moments when you are feeling more comfortable feelings, allowing yourself to be fully present. The emotional connection you build with yourself is where you will find the answers on what to do next.

Even though there’s so much uncertainty right now, there is wisdom within yourself. Moments of stillness can allow you to go within and hear that wisdom. Listen to it. It’s there.

Ami Kunimura
March 18, 2020

What Can I Do to Protect Myself Besides Washing My Hands?

I received many heart-felt questions about burnout, self-care, and well-being over the past couple of weeks, and I encourage you to keep asking. Many questions centered around how to know when you should quit your job and how to balance a professional and social life. I’ll be addressing these in the future.

This question was the most relevant and important to answer this week:

I’m worried about the spread of the coronavirus. What can I do to protect myself from being exposed besides washing my hands?

Take a breath, and let’s explore this. Right now, there’s a big focus on external prevention and preparation. Washing your hands, using hand sanitizer, and social distancing are important actions to take and are your first safeguards from pathogens.

But, what else can we do?

Let’s talk about internal prevention and preparedness. By internal, I mean focusing on what’s going on inside of your body and supporting the strength of your immune system and your mental health.

Here are two suggestions:

1. Sleep

Research shows that sleep plays an essential role in the function of your immune system. A lack of sleep can cause inflammation in your body, which can impair your immune system. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours of sleep per night for optimal health (for adults).

Sleep also supports the response of T-cells (specialized cells in your immune system that recognize harmful pathogens and activate the body’s response to fight it) and supports the production of cytokines (proteins secreted by the immune system that help mediate immunity).

Sleep is one of your biggest defenses that’s within your control. We want to focus not only on getting enough sleep, but also on getting quality sleep. If in case you’re a new parent, you’re a shift worker, or for some reason getting a full night of sleep is difficult for you, taking naps can be helpful too.

Sleep can also support your mental health and cognition so you can make clearer decisions in the next few weeks as this situation develops.

2. Grounding

Grounding is a self-care practice that can be used to manage anxiety and stress. Some stress and anxiety is normal and okay. Coronavirus is impacting individuals, organizations, countries, and this is likely impacting your life, work, and the plans you had this month so it’s normal to feel stressed from this.

However, we do want to be careful of anxiety and stress turning into panic. If you start feeling extremely anxious or panicked use these feeling as signals that you need to take a moment to ground yourself or self-soothe (especially before consuming any more information). These states can be hard on your physical and mental health.

I also encourage you to be aware of how you’re responding to any anxiety you might feel. Anxiety can feel like having an elevated heart rate, difficulty focusing, feeling shaky or unsteady, irritability, restlessness, or repetitive behaviors such as constantly checking social media. Use these symptoms as signals that your body and mind need some self-soothing.

Here are some ways you can ground yourself or self-soothe when you’re feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or anxious:

  • Set a timer on your phone for 3-5 minutes and focus on your breathing. It can help to count your breaths. Slow down your breath and make your exhalations longer than your inhalations.
  • Sit or stand with both feet firmly on the ground, and focus on the connection of your feet to the floor.
  • Set a boundary with how you consume media. In times like these it can be easy to become stressed by all the information constantly coming in. It’s a good idea to stay aware and informed of what’s going on, but stay in control of how you take in information so you don’t get overwhelmed. An example of this is allowing yourself to check social media or the news at the top of each hour, or at specific times during the day.
  • If you feel confused or have a lot of questions running through your mind, get out a piece of paper and make a list of the questions that you’re thinking about. Then, go through your list and address each question one at a time, adding to the list as you need to.
  • I have a free 3-minute grounding meditation you can listen to below on this page.

It may also be beneficial to be proactive and sit down and make a plan of action regarding how you and your loved ones can quarantine while staying in contact, and make a plan regarding what to do should you or your loved ones develop symptoms. This can help you feel more in control. Write down the appropriate phone numbers to call for either medial or psychological support. You can also make a plan about what to do about your work, and discuss this with your supervisor or coworkers if necessary.

Self-care is critical right now and kindness is mandatory.

Prioritizing your self-care is a way you can do your part.

(Note: These are suggestions are not a replacement for medical advice. Reach out to your local professionals if you need medical or psychological support.)

Ami Kunimura
March 11, 2020

GUIDED MEDITATIONS

3-Minute Grounding Meditation

(CLICK THE VIDEO TO LISTEN NOW)

Grounding is a self-care technique to use when you’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed. Use this short meditation to soothe and center yourself.

7-Minute Relaxation Meditation

(CLICK THE VIDEO TO LISTEN NOW)

This 7-minute meditation uses imagery involving water and light for a relaxing experience. Sit back and take seven minutes to yourself.

OTHER RECOMMENDED RESOURCES

What other resources would be helpful for you right now?

What do you need support with?

We’re working on creating resources to provide self-care support regarding the impact of coronavirus. If you have any questions regarding self-care or stress management or have a request for a specific type of self-care support that would be helpful for you, let us know here:

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