Four Ways You Can Take Caring Action Around Coronavirus – Even if You’re Overwhelmed

Yves here. This post, particularly the first section, is awfully touchy-feely for my taste. If you are really flattened by the impact of the coronavirus, like panicking about your financial situation or trying to get care for a partner or close friend, listening to uplifting stories seems Pollyannaish. Readers may have better ideas for coping with emotional overwhelm.

But for those who have some time and energy, the starter lists of how to help look sound and perhaps members of the commentariat could add to them. And a mundane way to help if you don’t have much personal bandwidth is to check in on highly social family members and friends who are under lockdown. They would find the isolation particularly trying, which might lead them to go out and about more than is good for them and everyone else. So making them feel less alone may help them stay put.

By Sandra Kim, the Founder and Training Director of Re-Becoming Human and Founder and President of Everyday Feminism. Originally published on Re-Becoming Human

In just a couple of weeks, the lives of people have been dramatically changed by the threat of coronavirus and the impact of social distancing and self-quarantining.

And we’re just getting started.

It’s already hitting so many of us, especially those already marginalized in our society.

Many of those who have the financial cushion and safety net to ride out this period are worried and scared of how it will impact so many other people’s lives.

Most people I’ve talked to want to do something to help each other get through this period – which is beautiful and necessary for our collective survival. But there’s a lot that’s getting in the way of people moving into caring action.

Some of us are:

  • Feeling too overwhelmed by fear, confusion, anger, or panic to know what to do
  • Scared to look at what’s going on and not doing anything – which can leaves us feeling guilty and ashamed or defensive and angry at those taking action.
  • Just throwing ourselves into doing something, anything – which may not be the best and can leave us feeling exhausted afterwards and still wondering if that was enough.

In moments of crisis, reactions like these are very understandable – and very human.

There’s no problem in you having those emotional reactions. Your feelings are neither right nor wrong, not good or bad.

They’re a natural reaction to an overwhelming situation.

The problems start if you don’t care for yourself while having those emotional reactions – and therefore aren’t able to ask for and give support as needed.

And if your reaction to that statement is “But I don’t know how to care for myself when I’m upset and overwhelmed!”, then that’s completely understandable too.

Most of us haven’t been taught or seen modeled how to ground ourselves when overwhelmed and how to care for our underlying pain and needs.

We’ve been unconsciously conditioned by patriarchy, white supremacy, and exploitative capitalism to repress our feelings and invalidate our needs.

That keeps us unconsciously operating in the system and perpetuating it and keeps us from feeling the deep damage its doing to our mind, body, and spirit.

Even if we know how to care for our feelings and needs and regularly do so, there’s always times when we reach our limit and can’t do the very things we know will help us.

That’s not your fault. You didn’t do anything wrong.

It just means that you’re human and that you need to be held and supported – like all human beings do.

So here’s some ways you can be held and supported – so you get grounded and resourced enough to show up for your community as your most powerfully supportive self.

1. Care for Yourself

First thing needed when you getting overwhelmed is to notice and name that you’re getting overwhelmed. Becoming mindful of your feelings without making yourself wrong for feeling it can help reduce how strongly you feel gripped by it.

To help you do that, you can make a list of red flags for when you’re to keep an eye out for. If you would like more guidance on how to think about this, check out Spring Up’s Safety and Self-Care Plan.

You can also take time to regularly check in with yourself and scan your body to sense if there’s any feelings you may have not noticed that need your care.

If you notice you’re feeling overwhelmed or want to proactively regularly care for yourself, here’s some guided practices that you can do:

  • Tea Time with Sandra: An online healing circle I lead that you can join live or watch the recorded sessions. You get personal stories of healing to inspire you, get guided through grounding and healing practices, and have opportunity to ask questions.
  • Metta for COVID19 with Jen Lemen: A short loving-kindness meditation where you can wish for yourself, others, and the world. Repeat as many times for as many people you want.
  • Yoga Nidra: These free guided visualizations for yoga nidra help your body to deeply relax while your mind stays inwardly alert so cares for you at the emotional, mental, and spiritual levels. It belongs to a different branch of yoga than the physical postures/asanas that people associate with yoga and is done by lying down and following the guided visualizations.
  • Coronavirus: Wisdom from a Social Justice Lens by Irresistible (fka Healing Justice Podcast)
  • Managing Anxiety About Coronavirus podcast episode by Therapy for Black Girls
  • Coping with Coronavirus Collective with Marisol Jiménez of Tepeyac Consulting, which will soon start offering webinars and resources
  • Cultural Somatics Drop-in with Tada Hozumi and Dare Sohei on March 28th will offer somatic practices and ritual working with how we adjust our lives to COVID19 and beyond
  • List of Self-Care Actions: Check out ones from Colorlines and Quartz.

2. Care for Your Loved Ones

The interesting thing about energy is that it’s contagious. If you’re feeling really excited, other people will often pick up on it and feel more excited too. But if someone walks in who’s super angry, you can quickly lose that excitement and either get scared or angry yourself.

If you begin developing the energy of groundedness and spaciousness by taking care of yourself, then that energy will become stronger in you – more clear and certain. The stronger your energy is, the easier it is for people around you to catch it and the less likely you catch their energy.

Once you feel emotionally able to approach your loved ones around how to care for each other during this period of social distancing, you can check in with yourself to see how grounded and spacious you feel since our feelings exist on a spectrum (or rather kaleidoscope) of intensity and often overlap

It’s important to remember that you don’t need to wait until you feel super grounded and spacious (though the more you are, the more effective your approach will probably be),

But you do need to have enough groundedness to notice and name what you’re feeling – even if it’s saying you’re anxious and scared – without making yourself wrong for feeling that way.

You also need to have enough spaciousness to believe that there is something you can do to care for each other – even if you don’t know exactly how right now.

If you don’t feel energetically ready to have this conversation, than go back to caring for yourself – either through the resources provided or by asking for support from a friend who’s feeling grounded enough to hold space for you.

If you do feel energetically ready, then you can make a list of people close to you who you’d like to be in a caring circle with (similar to podmapping.)

Reach out to them one-by-one and check in with how they’re doing and what they feel like they need and can offer right now. Some ways can be:

  • Emotional support like talking over the phone with someone who’s anxious
  • Making meals to drop off for those unable to cook themselves
  • Handling medical needs over the telephone like scheduling appointments and getting referrals
  • Running errands for essentials like groceries and medications
  • Tracking and sharing emergency support that’s becoming available in your local area
  • Coordinating virtual social activities like watching the same tv show while on the telephone or group text
  • Giving updates on important coronavirus news so other people can not anxiously check the news and still feel informed
  • Helping people know how to call their local and state governmentasking for them to emergency support to those more vulnerable and impacted like in Transformative Spaces’ list of demands.

You can check out other lists like this one and this one.

It’s important to remember that every single person doesn’t need to try to do everything. But every single person needs to do something and do it consistently.

It can be whatever that person is already doing and does well – and they can be freed up from worrying about doing things they’re not oriented toward because they trust someone else is doing it.

Also this circle or pod can be more formalized and structured or more casual and spontaneous. It depends on what works best for you and your loved ones, how high the need for mutual support is, and how much capacity there is.

Please also note that if you are going outside to do errands or drop off food, to take proper precautions and leave items outside the door. We are still learning about how coronavirus spreads and focusing on supporting just a few people consistently will help contain it.

3. Care for your Local Community

Depending on the need level for yourself and your loved ones, taking action to care for your local community may feel doable or unrealistic.

If you don’t feel like you have capacity after caring for yourself and loved ones, that’s totally understandable since it probably means that there’s some high need levels there.

If so, it’s important that you focus on caring for yourself and your loved ones – and know that it’s enough.

If you do have capacity though, then looking to engage in collective care in your local community is great.

It’s going to look somewhat similar to what you did with your loved ones – just on a bigger scale and with people you may not know.

First, check to see if something has already been started in your area. There’s a lot of great mutual aid work happening in different cities and states, like listed here, here, and here.

If you don’t see one listed anywhere, check out local organizations that work with specific communities you want to support at Idealist.org.They may be already organizing mutual aid work in those communities or know who is.

If you don’t see anything happening, you can check out these resources on how to get a mutual aid group started:

Please note that trying to think about how to do this on a larger scale can be overwhelming. So if you’re starting it up and it’s your first time doing something like this, you can focus on something more manageable – like your building, the floor of your building, your neighborhood, or your block.

The point is to reach out to each other and find ways of supporting each other in ways that allow you to engage in social distancing and connect with each other.

If getting involved in mutual aid work feels beyond your capacity, you can also think about people and places you’d normally spend money on but aren’t now because you’re at home.

That can mean buying gift cards, pre-paying for services, or donating to your favorite restaurants, dog walker, hair dresser, dry cleaners, and any other service you regularly enjoy. Just contact them and see what you can do to support them.

4. Care for those most impacted

There are whole groups of people who are being much more severely impacted by social distancing and self-quarantining, like people who can’t work from home, in the service and hospitality industry, elderly, with compromised health, homeless, incarcerated, undocumented,low-income immigrants, uninsured, etc.

Too often, those are people of color and/or LGBTQ people due to historical impacts and current-day reality of systemic oppression.

If you’re are being severely impacted by coronavirus in the US, please check to see if there’s a mutual aid fund in your local area here, here, and here.

Here’s some non-local US-based online mutual aid funds that you may qualify for and national nonprofits who may be able to help:

If you have ANY disposable income and wealth, I strongly encourage you to donate to either local mutual aid funds, online mutual aid funds, and/or nonprofits working on this.

However, we still need the government to offer emergency assistance, Many cities have already put a moratorium on evictions and utility shut offs.

Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and some other lenders are giving people who lost their income or jobs due to coronavirus the opportunity to have their mortgage payments reduced or suspended for up to year.

There’s some federal, states, and private emergency relief resources being offering businesses impacted.

All of which is great.

But we need that happening across the country and we need much more like what’s in this list of demands from grassroots organizers, found on Transformative Spaces.

Too many communities don’t have access to the level of support they need, like the uninsured, the homeless, the incarcerated – without government intervention.

You can advocate for these policy demands to your representatives at the local, county, state, and federal levels. You can also ask your loved ones in your circle or pod to also join in by giving them the contact information and some template language.

***

This is just an initial list that reflects some of the amazing work that is happening already. And I hope this article helps you re-imagine what is possible for you, your loved ones, and your broader community.

I want to also share that for many of us doing social justice work, we’ve known that this moment was coming.

It was only a matter of time before the exploitative and oppressive system we live under would be crushed by its own weight.

The broken bones and bleeding wounds of our society are being made even more visible to to mainstream society who could live in ignorance of them.

If we had a society that centered people over profits, then we would be having a very different response to coronavirus.

But we don’t live in that type of world right now.

And we can use this crisis to make another world possible. We can imagine things that would have been impossible just a few weeks ago.

I don’t know what that would be exactly.

But I do know if we remain present, grounded, and connected with ourselves, each other, and the world, we will move forward together.

And maybe that’s the main lesson we’re supposed to get from coronavirus.

T

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25 comments

  1. Ignacio

    At the very beginning of the epidemics in Madrid some of my friends that became infected were reluctant to say it publicly (in a whasapp group). When the first one said she was infected I asked her all kind of questions and gave her info on the known facts of the disease progress trying all time to keep her calm, focused and strong. She was grateful and anyone else in the group just payed attention to the conversation but giving their love and support for her. Emotional support is of course welcome and almost daily support had a good effect. Even when a she was hospitalized we kept contact and emotional support until her celebrated recovery. I can say the same about 3 other exampkes. Whasap has been a useful tool.

    Reply
  2. Amfortas the hippie

    aye. a little touchy/feely for my taste as well.
    among the things written in odd nooks around my environs:

    amor fati.-Nietszche, love of fate.

    Quplah-in Klingon—variously “let’s go!”, etc

    Usque ad Finem–“To the End!”—the motto of the House of Amfortas

    hard times don’t last. hard people do.-army ranger motto(so i was told)

    in anglo-saxon: “Mind must be the stronger, heart the bolder,
    courage must be the greater, as our might lessens.”
    (https://penelope.uchicago.edu/~grout/encyclopaedia_romana/britannia/anglo-saxon/maldon/maldontrans.html)

    “what the caterpillar regards as the end of the world, the Master sees as a butterfly”-

    “Thus I give up the spear…”-from the death of Ahab

    and a long term admonition responding to varying degrees of fatalism and complaining:” curse the dark, or light a candle”

    another, which engenders both a history lesson, and a longer philosophical conversation:
    “It is only for the sake of those without hope that hope is given to us.”-Walter Benjamin.

    these things appeared in their crannies over the years in order to make my sons, and their buddies, ask questions.
    and now it dawns on my boys(14 & 18) that they have been trained for this for their entire lives.

    Reply
    1. griffen

      I found the curse the dark or light a candle highly appropriate. Thinking this morning about those in my age cohort, nearer to 50 than 40, no one ever shipped me onto a boat to face the Germans.

      So perspective is helpful, for me. I’m trapped with indoor plumbing, a stack of CDs or books* to distract me, and stocked fridge with cold beer. Its not Boston in the revolution.

      *some were read, some unfinished and others untouched

      Reply
  3. sd

    I’m on NextDoor for my area. There’s a lot of cooperation and collaboration going on between people who have never met. Picking up extra groceries, walking a dog, dropping off needed supplies, offering up items or errands for neighbors, etc.

    Social isolation is bringing out new ways to socially engage while remaining at a distance. There’s something comforting about it.

    Reply
  4. Kurtismayfield

    I did not notice in this article something you can give back to the community.. blood donations! I contacted the local hospital (who has a blood donation center) and they were able to schedule an appointment. I know that this may not be everyone’s thing, but it something that they are in desperate need of or will be in desperate need of in the near future.

    Also talk to your neighbors! Help out the ones that you know are completely isolating themselves.. we have been going shopping for an older couple that we know, and leaving it on their front door. You can talk to them online or text without being in physical contact, and it helps them avoid situations they do not want to get into.

    Reply
  5. Skip Intro

    I went to my local (large chain) grocery story and gave thank you cards to the checkers working there. It is the thought that counts, but they each had a $20 bill too.

    Reply
    1. HotFlash

      Speakin’ of which, anybody know how to sanitize paper? I’d like to leave notes for my neighbours that I don’t have phone numbers for, but want to do it safely. Apparently microwaving is a bad idea (some prof tried it with exam papers, which burned, apparently not a prof in the sciences?) but I could maybe iron paper? If I can find my iron…

      Suggestions appreciated, knowledge revered.

      Reply
      1. Susan the other

        corona lives days longer on cardboard – so prolly on paper too. Sounds correct as corona is susceptible to humidity. So maybe use a thumb tack, a clorox-sterilized baggie and a felt tip instead?

        Reply
        1. pete

          I vote you just wash your hands before you write the notes. I don’t think you really need to sanitize the paper. If you really want to make sure they are clean just leave them in the sun for a few hours. Outside though.

          Reply
        2. polecat

          Supposedly Covid19 lives days on any number of ‘surfaces’ .. so take your pick as you enter the rabbit hole of germaphobic anxiety !
          Thinking of the logistical issues of ‘sanitizing’ the surfaces of the many grocery items alone, seems rather daunting to my mind.

          Reply
        3. Jeremy Grimm

          There was an article in “the Conversation” referenced by the Medical Express: “We know how long coronavirus survives on surfaces. Here’s what it means for handling money, food and more” [https://theconversation.com/we-know-how-long-coronavirus-survives-on-surfaces-heres-what-it-means-for-handling-money-food-and-more-134671]. After a quick scan –“Aerosol and Surface Stability of SARS-CoV-2 as Compared with SARS-CoV-1” [https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc2004973], a letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine — open access — appears to be the main primary source.

          Reply
        4. xkeyscored

          I thought it could live for days on plastic and stainless steel, but amounts recovered from cardboard were negligible quite quickly.

          Reply
          1. hemeantwell

            I think you’re right, but hours matter if the package is delivered by someone who may be contagious. UPS isn’t reassuring:

            The World Health Organization (WHO) and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have stated that the likelihood of novel Coronavirus contaminating cardboard or other shipping containers is low.

            I wonder how much the tone of the article reflects the political limbo we are in. She takes on an expectant, “waiting for something to happen” stance that’s a tad optimistic but very amorphous. It’s as though we are only left with the best residues of the Sanders campaign, even though he’s still active though, understandably, still finding his ground.

            And then there’s the question of the fate of outrage. We are not “all going to move forward together.” Otto Kirchheimer, when he was a leftie fan of Carl Schmitt, would be delighted at the way Trump is setting himself up as a legitimate Enemy. An effective mobilization along the lines of “Never Again” should have a clear place for hatred, and make it clear that what the French call “angelisme” is not a requirement. Back during Occupy, and the weird MoveOn erosion of it down here, it was sad to see people show up angry and ready to Do Something and then be given a smile and a tranquilizer.

            Reply
        1. HotFlash

          Thank you, but that is somewhat complicated for many sheets of paper. As I understand it, the 70°C is to protect the melt blown (or whatever) filter part of the masks. All I want to do is kill the CV. Does anyone have a clue what temp does that?

          Reply
  6. Socal Rhino

    Shopping for and delivering to a few of our high-risk friends, and talking to them by phone every couple of days. Social isolation isn’t that much of a change for fellow introverts but is tough on people like my friend who seems to know someone everywhere you go.

    Quite a few of our acquaintance working various angles to get PPE to our local hospital. Another friend is purchasing manager for hospital group and has been trying to get a million masks with little luck so far, every bit helps (cue the starfish on beach story).

    Reply
  7. db

    Great article Yves!
    May I add a few banal suggestions:
    1) Don’t trust any politician during this Covid-19 crisis.
    2) Don’t trust the media, and be wary with social media.
    3) And as your Mom always told you: wash your hands!

    Reply
  8. Anon- sorry I can't say

    Yves, Thank you so much for offering up this article even if it’s not exactly to your liking. I got a lot out of it and plan to use some of these suggestions.

    About a week ago I was lamenting that I didn’t feel that (due to pre-existing health conditions in the immediate family) there was much I was going to be able to do to help my neighbors or anyone else for that matter.

    Then, I started getting panicky sounding emails from my kid’s teachers and intervention specialists and I realized that they felt like they needed to justify their jobs (not a public school so no union protection for them).

    With this in mind, I started to look at all the ways my family can connect online with others in order for people we know to be able to help keep their paychecks coming.

    I’m having the kids do their homework and talk to their teachers and intervention specialist online (I even said “Start asking questions even if you already know the answer”).

    Piano and violin lessons via online are working just fine at my house.

    Laws have been relaxed so therapy sessions can be online or over the phone.

    Our doctors are taking phone appointments.

    I’ve been attending Sunday worship via youtube which is nice because it means no need to dress up for church (although my parents in their retirement center told me they are still dressing up to attend the church of their choice online but they are just that sort of people).

    The point is that it made me feel pretty good to think there are ways I can help people just by making relationships I already have work in a new and different way.

    Of course there are still lots of people who are not able to work this way, barbers, waitresses and hair stylists come to mind but maintaining working relationships one already has established seems to me to be a start anyway.

    Reply
  9. ChrisPacific

    The point the government here is making over and over again here is that the most important thing you can do to help is stay in your bubble. And that even if that’s the only thing you do, you are still helping and saving lives.

    There are others, but they all rank a long way behind that one. Some of them, like running errands for people, have the potential to break the bubble and open transmission vectors, so you need to be very careful about them, and preferably go through some kind of central coordinating authority to make sure you are following any necessary protocols.

    Reply
  10. Samuel Conner

    Not sure if this is in the wheel-house of the article, but I think it could be helpful, for those who have materials and space, to start large numbers of plants, mostly vegetables but also some decoratives, and generously share to neighbors.

    Get everyone thinking about local resilience and greater local-sufficiency. Gardening is also known to be good for mental health, and the produced food may be useful, too.

    Reply
    1. carl

      My mental health is much improved after a few hours in the garden. Deepening the connection to your food is also very satisfying. I had read for years about how difficult it was to grow your own food, and was pleasantly surprised with my first efforts. I’d estimate we get at least 60% of our veg from the backyard garden, and about 35-40% of our food overall. I’d encourage anyone with even a small space to give it a whirl.

      Reply
  11. HotFlash

    FWIW, I am trying to find a version of “Clap your hands!” since that is what I keep singing to myself, although I sing, “Wash your hands, wash your hands!” when in the appropriate setting. IIRC it was recorded a billion years ago by Pat Boone (why yes, I am that old, and I gotta tell you, Jesus, did *not* ride a dinosaur). It would have been late 50’s, early 60’s, so most likely a white cover of a black gospel song so, you know, it could be played on white radio. I have found a lot of versions of the “Happy and you know it” song, which I loathe — please, if you’re happy and you know it, keep it you yourself. *NOT* that one. Searches coming up nada so far, but many neat ones that are not the right onoe nor the bad one are turning up.

    NC Commentariat, your mission, if you should chose to accept it, is to
    1.) find the lost “Clap Your Hands”, Pat Boone fine, if the original black gospel that would be *AWESOME*.
    2.) Help me build a “Clap/wash your hands” playlist!!!

    Here are a few I found that are very cool.

    SIA: Clap Your Hands from May of 2010 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HLA0ofsu0Qg

    Whilk & Misky: Clap Your Hands (Solomun Remix) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_jIMB7Y6n8

    Leo Soul: Clap Your Hands https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H80RNiJ4cr4

    Reply
  12. HotFlash

    Good thought! I have a bunch of seeds from my local seed bank, some from previous years but all that means is that the germination rate isn’t so high. So I just plant more! I also have perennials, esp herbs, that propagate well. I am (ahem) self-sufficient in French tarragon, also sage, mint, and Greek thyme. I could pot up some divisions and hand them off to neighbours. I saved a bunch of pudding containers, never used them, but they’d be great pots for a starter plant, just need a hole punched in the bottom. I have two city-supplied composters, so lots of that for the pots.

    Cuttings, many of these propagate well, for self and for gifting on to neighbours. I have taken cuttings from my red currant, honeyberry, and quince, all successful so far. Rose of Sharon doesn’t need cuttings, it needs vigilance! but it, too, is edible. YMMV, but I prioritize protein and production over sweets, so pulses, lambsquarters, purslane, and such for me.

    Another source for seeds is stuff you already have for food. I have grown grocery story lentils, beans (I tossed some soup mix beans in a corner of the garden, got back — mixed soup beans!) and brown flax seeds, got (tiny) crops from my (tiny) yard. But still. And the little blue flowers are so cute! I know they can be used for textiles (ie, linen), but ?? Anyone?

    I have had better luck with seeds from store-bought produce — tomatoes, grapes, blueberries and (dried) peppers, eg anchos. Maybe we can grow poppyseed? sesame? dunno. But bottom line, don’t think you have to get Official Seeds in Official Packets to grow stuff.

    I have some early spring bulbs, snowdrops, that are blooming now in Toronto, they are very prolific and need to be thinned. I will plant the thinnings in the schoolyard, now deserted, and if the schools ever open again, the snowdrops will bloom for them next spring.

    Reply

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