To say that this is an emotional time is an understatement. As humans, we naturally feel many different emotions over the course of a typical day. But, these days are certainly not typical and the weeks ahead will not be ordinary. The “new” daily parade of feelings that many of us are coping with—fear, restlessness, boredom, worry, frustration, sadness—may be crippling as we try to process round-the-clock accounts of an escalating health crisis and a crumbling economy. The barrage of news documenting those that are ill, out-of-work, and unprotected is undoubtedly stress-inducing and impacts our physical and mental well-being. And as we struggle to adapt to our new routines (or lack thereof) and accept our new confined realities, only a conscious and focused effort on our “whole-person health” will see us through.
We already know the road to physical health: eat well, get enough sleep, exercise. Today, we must, unfortunately, include prolonged “physical distancing” in that formula. However, when we look at physical distancing in a pandemic as a means to physical health and as an altruistic act, it can feel less lonely and becomes a filling (and fulfilling) drop in our emotional wellness buckets. Altruism, or devotion to the welfare of others, plays a huge role in the larger framework of overall health, which includes physical, emotional, and social well-being. We are sustained through acts of kindness, generosity, and courage that support the greater good while fueling our own quest for a purpose-led life.
Altruism is all around us. It motivates innovation, music and art, and above all, a desire to empower each other with hope and fellowship.
Let’s, for a moment, think about the other side of the news these last few weeks. We have seen wonderful video clips of surprise automobile birthday parades; Berklee College of Music students coming together as a virtual orchestra to perform “What the World Needs Now” (It’s worth a listen); people sewing masks at home; home-based 3D printers producing plastic face shields; large corporations quickly retooling factories to manufacture respirators; homemade hearts for healthcare workers displayed on front doors and windows; and parents becoming school teachers, teachers of many important lessons.
Our communities are empowered to act, to connect, to persevere.
Below is an affirmation that is posted on the South Shore Health intranet for our amazing medical professionals. We want to share with you, our supporters and friends, as we walk together, heart-to-heart, six-feet apart, into the upcoming weeks and months.
Please be empowered to practice self-care. It takes practice and discipline, but there is no better time to start than right now.
- Life is fragile
- You are working very hard
- We are all on the same team
- Say your patient’s [co-worker’s, customer’s] name and think of their family
- Care for yourself
- Take a walk
- Slow your breath…inhale…exhale…repeat
- May your hands and hearts be strengthened for what lies ahead
- This is holy work; May your strong compassion serve you well
About the Author: Dr. Barbara Green, Ph.D. is passionate about helping South Shore individuals, and the communities in which they live, benefit from well-researched and effective approaches to health psychology. Dr. Green completed her B.S., M.Ed. and Ph.D. at Pennsylvania State University. She serves as Medical Director for South Shore Health’s Youth Health Connection and on the South Shore Health Foundation’s Board of Trustees.
CDC: Emergency Preparedness and Response, Taking Care of Your Emotional Health
Mass.Gov: Maintaining Emotional Health and Well-Being During the COVID-19 Outbreak
South Shore Health Blog: How to Get a COVID-19 Test