With every risk factor or adversity we face, the best response is one based on protective factors - ways to buffer the storm. No question, the coronavirus and its implications are significant. But how do we support staying safe and connected when social distancing and other recommendations take us away from direct relationships? When the Community Resilience Initiative was created, it offered the benefits of protective factors to the risk factors identified as Adverse Childhood Experiences. We worked to create a community conversant in resilience to buffer ACEs. Today’s news headlines warn extensively of the risk of coronavirus, and rightfully so. But it is helpful to offer concrete strategies that can help us retain our sense of connection. As humans, we crave social engagement and reciprocal interaction to feel safe and connected. When we lose the "magic" sweet spot that enables social interaction, our sense of vulnerability is heightened, which often results in fight, flight or freeze responses.
We are asked to initiate hand washing and social distancing for everyone’s safety. So, stay safe with protocols, but also stay socially engaged by practicing “distance connecting”. Things like a phone call, Skype or Facetime permit us to connect and maintain valuable relationships. Keep schedules, if possible, and create new ones, because schedules create a sense of control and ownership. Pull out photo albums and revisit family vacations and reunions, start planning the next one. Find fun new ways of affirming sensory and tactile stimulation like preparing a special meal, lighting scented candles, creating art together, going outside for a quick nature walk around your house, listening to music, sharing your top ten with others. Exercise! Inquire about walking the pet of an elderly housebound neighbor. Write a thank you note to someone who recently helped you. These all offer sensory comfort to our brain via the nervous system. They can help soothe and reconnect that sense of “we are humans today, we are striving to stay connected.”
My personal experience with “distance connecting” is fresh on my mind from my daughter’s recent extensive illness spanning a solid month. The love and concern expressed via phone calls, texts, Facetime, letters and cards kept me energized and feeling supported when personal, face-to-face time was not an option. I firmly believe that this is what got us both through the long days and nights of the ordeal. “Love is a State” and we ARE Washington State! Love and fear cannot coexist. Find ways to stay in the love connection while doing everything necessary to stay safe.
We realize this is a difficult time for the more vulnerable. Empathy and compassion are superpowers vital to the health of our community during this time of uncertainty. Many are currently feeling the effects of the evolving restrictions. Let's be sure we support them however we can, be it buying take-out or gift cards from struggling local businesses, offering to volunteer or just being a virtual shoulder to lean on. Times like these are when our community comes together and shines brightest. We believe “Community is the Solution”.