It’s definitely time to ratchet up self-care now that we know COVID-19 is not going anywhere anytime soon. Sigh! As much as it breaks my heart to know we have to go through almost another year of seclusion, I’m grateful for the basic habits that keep us well. Let’s face it, it’s exhausting to not go out, see friends or even live without fear. It’s on us to give ourselves the care we need to thrive in isolation. Rituals are the anchors of life; they’re why so many of us don’t want to change, and why we’re hurting without them. People can’t even stop themselves from going to the gym, because of the social rewards of that ritual. But we don’t have go without the people and things we love!
One ritual I especially miss is going to the spa once a month. I’ve been doing this for years as a way of getting regular relaxation, fasting and a blessed massage–remember those? As I’m not able, nor do I want to go to a communal spa right now, it doesn’t mean I can live without that dedicated sacred time. I schedule time to have a weekly bath, do my hair, meditate and shave my legs. Recently, I found my Neti Pot in the back of drawer and was delighted to use it to clear my sinuses, which get clogged in winter; now the Neti Pot is back in rotation as part of my regular bath and spa ritual. Bath time is a precious gift of love for my family so I can bring my best, strongest and happiest self to our relationship. This ritual also sets a powerful example for friends and family to make self-care a priority.
Most of us function optimally when we’re in community—connected to friends who know and love us as we are. That’s the reason so many folks are having a difficult time adjusting to the loss of prayer and faith community. Here’s what I know: Even without church, you can make time for prayer individually and collectively. Hopefully by now, most churches have adapted to online presence or some outdoor community space. I schedule regular phone calls with my closest friends, many of whom live in distant places. Facetime calls and Zoom classes and groups keep my mirror neurons sharp. It’s really up to me to connect when I have the opportunity.
Emotional intelligence functions in many ways, not just during physical proximity. You can be a jerk over email, text, Facebook or Zoom as easily as you can be kind and generous in the same platforms. You choose how you show up.
What’s more, the gaps in connection owing to COVID19 means that even casual contact with strangers is highly risky behavior. And yet, I need to see my brother’s face to know that his distress over the January 6 Insurrection is a force I counter with my compassion and humor. I want to see his mirror neurons fire, and see his face brighten into a smile because he’s been heard and appreciated. Likewise, new virtual friends and teachers need physical and verbal affirmation to know that instruction is on point and the community is well. I understand that too much isolation only causes problems for everyone, and although I’m an introvert who can happily go long stretches without social contact, I show up on virtual platforms as a gift of my presence to my community. By showing up for quality contact that demonstrates lovingkindness, good will and generosity of spirit, I help make sure that many isolated people in my community can thrive. Anything less than that represents a scarcity of resources or lack of the necessary traits to give to others. I am able to give for those experiencing deficit because I have enough resources and emotional intelligence to give from my surplus reserves. If and when I withdraw, it’s an intentional act of self-preservation, like staying home to keep my immediate family members, including myself, safe from Covid19.
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