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A few tips for coping during crisis

By Ann C. Wayne

For the Salisbury Post

COVID-19 has our attention. As the death toll rises, so do anxiety levels. “Social Distancing” and “Shelter in Place” have become the new norms across the globe.

The world survived the Smallpox Pandemic in the 1600s, the Spanish Flu in 1918, and the Asian Flu in 1957. We are never the same after enduring a worldwide breakout of disease.

How do you cope during such a crisis? Start with your mental and spiritual health as you navigate through the next weeks and months.

Spend time in prayer and reading God’s word. Reading scripture gives hope and peace that cannot be found anywhere else. Reading the Bible out loud may help you recall the words when you are anxious or need to encourage someone else.

Due to the nature of the virus, corporate worship has been suspended and gatherings limited to 10 people or less in most states. But worship is still available. Churches are hosting online services on Sundays and various Bible studies throughout the week. Check your church’s website to find out when they are broadcasting live on Facebook, You Tube, Vimeo or other social media outlets.

If you struggle with depression, anxiety, or fear, limit the time you spend watching the news. Take a quick look at the morning or evening news to get the latest updates on local ordinances. Resist watching at bedtime because that will be the last thing on your mind before going to sleep. Listening to negative news late at night may cause anxiety, insomnia, nightmares, or restless sleep.

Listen to praise music or other uplifting music. According to a study by the Gerontological Society of America in 2014, listening to religious music is associated with a decrease in anxiety and an increase in life satisfaction, self-esteem, and a sense of control over your life.

Choose to think about positive things. A well-known Bible verse in Philippians chapter 4, verses 6-9 reminds us to replace our anxious thoughts with prayer, thankfulness, and all things true and pure. We are promised that with this change of focus, the peace of God which passes all understanding will guard our hearts and minds.

Take a short drive to see the beautiful countryside. You don’t have to get out of your car to savor colorful spring flowers and lush green grass along the highway. Relax on your porch, patio, driveway, or back deck. Close your eyes and lose yourself in the songs of birds. Take a deep breath and inhale the scent of flowers or a neighbor’s grill. These activities can trigger positive emotions and help combat stress and anxiety.

Do something special for yourself that you have not had time for in the past.

Physical health

It’s a great time of year to be outside. Exercise improves productivity and focus. Walking, jogging, running, biking, hiking, and canoeing are examples of activities that can be enjoyed while maintaining social distance. Fresh air can have a variety of positive benefits on our health such as better digestion, improved blood pressure, strengthened immunity, and better respiration. Every deep breath that is inhaled and exhaled helps move toxins from our body, thereby relieving stress.

Outreach

Altruism is the act of promoting someone else’s welfare, even at a risk or cost to ourselves. Studies show and experience tells us that engaging in compassionate actions and reaching out to others creates positive feelings and can help relieve anxiety as well as improve one’s outlook. Now is the time to give back to our community. It is simply human goodness!

Philanthropy is charitable giving. Due to COVID-19, the needs in our community and across the nation are great. Charities.org maintains a list of organizations to donate to. Consider donating to local churches and non-profits as often they are hit the hardest with requests for assistance during a crisis. Their budgets are much tighter than corporate budgets, so be generous and give!

Pick up groceries for seniors or deliver care packages to those in need. Contact local non-profits to volunteer. They will provide a letter for essential workers and volunteers to be carried in your vehicle if you are stopped by law enforcement. One such non-profit is Elder Orphan Care (EOC), which reaches out to older adults who are  60 and older, homebound, alone, at-risk, and/or live at or below poverty level. EOC is currently partnering with Meals on Wheels in Cabarrus and Rowan counties to make comfort calls and deliver groceries to elders who would otherwise go hungry during this crisis. Contact tammy.blackburn@elderorphancare.com if you are interested in volunteering.

Sew a mask. Many seamstresses are sewing cloth masks for hospitals, nursing homes and other agencies that have a high demand and need for them. These masks are washable so they can be used many times.

Send a note of encouragement to someone you know is struggling during the pandemic. Visit someone who is isolated from the safety of their sidewalk or front yard. You never know how much it will lift their spirits. It is amazing how much it means to them just to see someone face-to-face and talk with volunteers during the social distancing.

Family activities

Schedule video chats with your extended family to stay in touch.  Seeing their faces and hearing their voices is better than simply texting or emailing. Grandparents can read to their grandchildren or even help them with their schoolwork via FaceTime, Zoom or other social media applications. This is a great way for them to connect during this crisis. If you can’t get everyone on board for a video chat, at least pick up the phone and call them. A call is much better for meaningful conversation.

Search the Internet for crafts or projects to participate in with your children. One fun idea is an outdoor or indoor scavenger hunt. Lists with photos can be found online so your preschoolers can participate too. Give a small prize to the winner to make it more exciting for older children.

Take on a project around your home and allow your children to participate. Plant a simple garden, repair something broken, paint a room, or create a storage space are a few ideas. This will teach them new skills and give them ownership and pride in what they accomplished. Plan meals together and teach little ones to cook or prepare simple foods. Plan a game or movie night.

Camping in the backyard can be an adventure. Set up a tent and pretend you are in the mountains with wild animals. Build a campfire in your fire pit and roast wieners or make s’mores. Your children will never forget this experience.

Adriana and Brian Bain of Concord shared some of their techniques for navigating the pandemic. They have a “work-hard, play-hard mentality.”

Adriana said, “We are enjoying the small moments. Sometimes they are unpredictable. One day we had breakfast together and had a conversation for over an hour. Our 16-year-old, our 14-year old and our 11-year old actually sat around and laughed together. Before, we would not have had the time to do this. We would have been rushing to the next thing. I find myself relishing in those moments.” 

Brian shared, “This pandemic has caused Adriana and I to come together more on a daily basis and how we can work together to achieve what the family needs. We are talking to each other more and planning our days better. We’re trying to teach our kids to put a little effort in early in the day so they will have free time to do what they want later in the day.”

Adriana shared these notes regarding how they are coping during the Pandemic in hopes that these tips will be helpful to your family too.

• Pray together and schedule weekly devotions. Challenge your children with scripture and have them memorize it.

• Find a good rhythm and encourage your children to complete their schoolwork during normal school hours.

• Don’t allow technology before schoolwork is finished.

• Keep your normal bedtime schedule. This will help everyone in the family to stay on track with their daily routine.

• Plan meals together. Allow the children to plan some of the meals and let them help cook and bake.

• Plan a family game night, movie night or other fun events such as a family talent show that can be accomplished at home. Put them on the calendar so everyone can look forward to them.

• Have a team mindset for chores and other activities.

• It’s a great time to work in the yard and teach your children the how-to and allow them to take part. This will be rewarding for parents and children.

Their oldest son Nolan helped till and plant a garden recently. Andrew, the middle child is raising two bunnies and learning how to take care of them. Mia, the youngest, has enjoyed having more reading time.

At the end of all this Adrianna says her family would prefer to go back to a new normal of less busyness. She said, “The busyness was not all essential. We plan to cut a few things and prioritize more after the Pandemic.”

Support Local Businesses

Local small businesses considered essential currently remain open. It is important to support them as much as possible. Restaurants are offering carry-out, delivery or curb-side service.  Gather your family, jump in the car and go through a drive-through just to get out of the house. These businesses are taking great care to protect you by wearing masks and gloves. Just remember to use hand sanitizer after exchanging money, a credit card or a bag of food.

Support local markets, gas stations and pharmacies. Need a repairman or construction worker? Find that local business near you to reach out to.

Don’t hoard when you buy groceries. There will be enough for everyone if we all purchase reasonable amounts at the grocery stores. Hoarding can cause a shortage for other families. Purchase groceries that will last a week or two so that others will have enough. Make healthy choices for your grocery list. Anxiety and high stress levels tend to drive us to eat comfort foods and junk food that may not be good for us.

Look for ways to reduce, reuse and recycle. Be frugal with paper products. Consider using cloth napkins instead of paper ones or paper towels. This will save money and keep the supply demand lower for paper products. It will also honor our eco system.

Front Line Workers & Volunteers

Support your local front-line workers. They are our heroes! Doctors, nurses, pharmacists, EMTs, firemen, and policemen are risking their lives to save lives. Encourage them by sending thank you notes via text, snail mail or posts on social media.

Contact local departments to find out how to deliver care packages to them show your appreciation.

What do we learn from a Pandemic? Life is precious. God is in control. Don’t take family and friends for granted. Reach out to others. Give of yourselves and your resources generously. We cannot reach out and touch somebody’s hand (reference from Diana Ross’s song), but we can reach out and encourage others and make this world a better place.

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