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 government asking for them to emergency support to those more vulnerable and impacted like in Transformative Spaces' list of demands.
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.
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:
- Neighborhood Pod Guide from Mutual Aid Medford and Somerville (MAMAS)
- A Neighborly Invitation Regarding Coronavirus
- Community are and Mutual Aid Sign-Up Form
- Starting a Phone Tree from Mutual Aid NYC.
- Fact Sheets in different languages from California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance
- Coronavirus Resource Kit
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.
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:
- COVID-19 Mutual Aid Fund for LGBTQI+ BIPOC Folks
- Service Worker's Coalition
- Coronavirus Care Fund for home care workers, nannies and house cleaners with National Domestic Workers Alliance
- US Organizations Helping People Get Food And Medical 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.
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.
This article was originally published on Re-Becoming Human.