During COVID, I’ve witnessed a lot that has reminded me of difficult situations from my past. Despite this, it has been easy for me to let my mental health fall by the wayside. Sometimes, this happens because I’m needing to just get through my day. In other cases, this is due to a belief that what I’m experiencing isn’t traumatic enough to warrant a serious look at it. In other cases, still, I may just not realize that there’s something going on at all.
I’ve heard from friends and family that they are experiencing something similar. Perhaps others in the Resident Action Project have too? All those reactions are real and valid. But what we’re all experiencing is traumatic, individually and collectively, and it’s important to take care ourselves. If you have time, please read this article from Psychology Today that discusses what’s happening to us psychologically during this period of collective trauma. If you don’t have the time, just know that you’re cared about.
The fact that we are experiencing trauma means we’re currently all experiencing a trauma response. Laura van Dernoot Lipsky from the Trauma Stewardship Institute says that this can look like “feeling helpless and hopeless, a sense that one can never do enough, hypervigilance, diminished creativity, inability to embrace complexity, minimizing, chronic exhaustion, inability to listen, dissociative moments, sense of persecution, guilt, fear, anger, cynicism, numbing, addictions, and also grandiosity.” It doesn’t mean that all of these have to be your experience, and it doesn’t mean you can’t be experiencing other reactions. Rather, it’s to show that if you are feeling anything in the above list, you aren’t alone.
Self-care has become a sort of buzz word that seems to be more accessible to folks in stable homes and with a certain degree of privilege. The truth is everyone does self-care already and being intentional about finding self-care techniques that work with you, your wants, and your needs is all that matters. While self-care looks different depending on who you are and your interests, some self-care strategies you might consider trying includes the following.
- Breathing exercises. These have been shown to help with anxiety and will help maintain mental health during this time. Here’s an example of a breathing exercising from University of Michigan health, but do what works best for you!
- Minimizing your exposure to news. It’s important to stay informed, but sometimes staying informed can tip over into being harmful to your mental health. This is going to look different from person to person, but figuring out a strategy to be more mindful about your exposure to news can help to some degree.
- Get creative (Content warning: this link discusses abuse. If you would like to skip that part, scroll to the header that starts with “Running away meant I could explore.”) This also will look different for different people. If you can access a pen and paper, or writing device, then let your creativity run wild. Journal about what you’re experiencing, draw something that brings you joy, write a short story, etc. If you or someone you know doesn’t have access to that, then sing a song, share oral stories (from 6 feet away), or anything that works for you. Creativity is a proven resiliency factor that helps people get through tough times, including time of global panic and uncertainty.
- Reach out to us at RAP. Down in the resources section I’ve included several resources to help connect with us and other RAP members. We’re all experiencing something different, and I know I would love to hear from folks!
- Engage, genuinely, in anything that brings a smile to your face. Perhaps a pretty flower (so many are blooming right now!), or maybe watching a rainstorm, or drawing a picture and putting it in your window. Anything to remind you that COVID isn’t normal. If you want to see a picture of my dog, I’m ALWAYS willing to share.
- Sign up to be a part of the RAP Buddy phone tree! We’re a community here, and even if it’s virtual, we’re here for you.
- Resident Action Project Facebook page: A lot of great links and discussions being posted. If you’re looking for resources or community, it’s got it!
- 7 Cups of Tea: Free online service where people can connect with trained listeners and remain anonymous. They offer paid therapy services, but those aren’t required in order to use the service.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) resource page
- Mental health crisis and recovery lines in Washington State
- National suicide prevention helpline