Let’s step away from the constant developing news about coronavirus and focus on this moment in time. This period is key for three reasons – prevention, seeking connection, and caring for the community. Recognize that this time of social isolation can be a gift, a time to set or recalibrate intentions, take time for your healing, and take stock of the multitude of resources available.
Coronavirus Healing with Community
We are seeing very clearly with this virus that when we take time for our own healing, we are contributing to the healing of our communities and the public at large. The simple everyday choices we make to stay home and create new habits for healing have ripple effects on our loved ones and speak volumes to our collective ability to uphold our civic duty.
Despite mandates to stay at home or physically distance, creativity and human connection will be what sustains us and gets us through this time. The heightened stress and anxiety revolving around the pandemic are often related to an overwhelm of information, misinformation, or a sense of lacking control; all of which are urge us to be social – to seek support and feel connected.
Social Connection is Vital for Health
The act of connecting with friends and loved ones whether in person or now, even virtually increases release of the pleasure and bonding hormone oxytocin while decreasing the flood of stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Oxytocin motivates us to seek support instead of suppressing our stress. Studies conducted at Stanford are proving that social connection contributes to 50% increased longevity and people that feel more connected to others have lower levels of anxiety and depression (1).
Oxytocin is commonly described as being released by breastfeeding mothers as the “bonding hormone” or as a positive feedback loop in reinforcing friendships and romantic relationships – when we connect and share, show compassion and empathy toward others; we are motivated to do it again whether on the receiving or giving end.
While the coronavirus is inconvenient and its impacts overwhelming, society is preparing to confront what is to come. There are community networks and resources available to combat feelings of isolation in this time of distancing.
How to Stay Connected during Social Isolation
- Buy what you need, not what you don’t, so there is enough in the community to go around.
- Pick up supplies for a neighbor or friend who is unable to. Wear gloves to uphold hygienic practices for anyone you are supporting that may be immunocompromised.
- Check in or co-work with loved ones near and far through the various online platforms available: zoom, facetime, google hangout or Facebook chat. Reach out to elderly loved ones that may be living on their own.
- Call the 24-hour toll-free Friendship Line by the Institute on Aging – 1-800-971-0016. An accredited crisis line for people aged 60 years and older, and adults living with disabilities.
- Support local restaurants: purchase a gift card and include a tip for the staff that are still working.
- Support the Jade District and Local Asian Businesses (SE 82nd Ave) that have been experiencing a decline in customers due to displaced fear
- Get into nature: Consider a solo-run/walk/bike around the neighborhood or getting your hands in the dirt, planting for spring or repotting house plants.
- Learn from a loved one living with chronic illness – those who are constantly on high alert have a lot of lessons to share on being prepared at a moment’s notice, they can better put into perspective your relationship to any potential risk.
- Engage with kiddos in your life: remind them that they are safe and talk with them about their worries.
- Focus on change you can control: take this time to recommit to your wellness, set up a soothing home environment, clean your space, start a house project, and create a healing routine or ritual that is supportive to your nervous system. Be gentle with yourself.
- Many kiddos rely on school breakfast, lunch, and snacks for daily nutrition. Buy a restaurant or grocery store gift card and bring it into the admin or counselors at school – they will know who to get it to.
- Optionally, there are food pantries and food banks in most every community and most have stepped up efforts during this uncertain time.
This pandemic is temporary, while advocacy and building community resilience at this time can amount to fundamental change long-term. Including the betterment of sustainable health practices for ourselves and those around us.
Dr. Adrianne Sebastian (she/they/siya) is a Naturopathic Physician practicing at Heart Spring Health in SE Portland. She pulls from her experience in global health and community organizing to create genuine and culturally-relevant health plans that fit within your lifestyle. Dr. Adrianne guides her practice with deep roots, assuring a community-centric and actionable approach to growth. Learn more about Dr. Adrianne.
- Connectedness & Health: The Science of Social Connection – The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education. Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (2014)
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