When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” Mr. Rogers
Before we begin I want to thank you for having me pop into your inbox today. I know there is a lot going on and a lot of information swirling so I appreciate you making space for me amongst all the other messages I am sure you are receiving. I apologize for being missing for the past 8 months, I had a baby and he came a little earlier than expected so I didn’t have the time to properly inform you that I would be off for a few months. I am now back to check in and see how you are holding up in this unfamiliar time and see what I can do to help.
As I sat down to write this the very first thing I did was take a deep breath. Even as a trained therapist I am not immune to the panic that is taking place all around us right now and the act of remembering to breathe is often one of the simplest but most useful tools we can implement. Do you think you could take a deep breath right now as you read this? The emotional climate right now is an uncertain and anxious one and for all the challenge that brings, if you look for it, you will also see there are a lot of helpers. My hope is that you will realize you are not alone, that now more than ever we need people and that there is support if you want it.
It feels like in the past week the world became an unfamiliar place. Things we once felt were safe or a given, have been challenged and the steps we were perhaps taking with great care can feel or look different right now than we expect or want. The stress of the unknowns from a health and economic perspective is leaving most people feeling anxious and fearful. For those in relationships, living in constant close quarters when these feelings are running high can often create conflict and not always bring out the best in either of you. For those who are single, social distancing can often leave you feeling even more lonely and disconnected. Having seen the effects of Covid-19 globally, I think we know this experience will be hard, and I also believe we have the capacity to get through it more connected to those we love and ourselves if we choose.
So how do we navigate connection in the time of Covid-19? The odd thing about right now is that we need community more than ever, while also having to physically distance ourselves from people as much as possible. What I want to remind you of is that social distancing doesn’t mean social isolation. The more you virtually connect with people right now the more you will have the emotional space to process all that you are going through – something that research shows has a tremendously positive effect on one’s immune system. Research has also shown that the greatest predictor of happiness is relationships so committing to connect to the people in your life that you love and that make you feel good is exceptionally important, now more than ever. I think one of the more important things you can do is reach out to the people in your life that you want a connection with and let them know the type of connection you are looking for. For example, do you want to have a regular videochat date? Do you find texting throughout the day to check in is important to your wellbeing? Are you someone who likes to receive funny memes over social media because it makes you laugh at a time when so much of life feels heavy? Whatever it is, listen to what you need and ask for it. People want to help so by offering up what connection looks like for you it makes it easier for other people to meet your needs and for you to do the same. Life can feel hard enough as is right now so let’s make it a little easier by clearly communicating what we need.
Finally, if there is anything that is needed more than ever right now it is kindness. Kindness to yourself, kindness to your family and friends, and kindness to your community. Be gentle with yourself. If there is any time to soften it is now. Drop your unrealistic expectations of yourself and others and replace them with messages of support and acknowledgment that it is okay to be feeling lots of different emotions in this experience. It is a time to seek out the kindness in others as you navigate not only life’s usual triggers and challenges but also these new ones. If there is anything I can do to provide some support right now reach out and, in the meantime, know that I am wishing you love, safety, and many moments of connection.