Today’s Buzz is brought to you by Stephanie Taylor. You can find her on Twitter (frequently) or LinkedIn (rarely).
What I’m Reading: We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry. A book about a 1989 field hockey team in Massachusetts who may be harnessing the power of witches to beat their opponents? Yes, please. It is full of late eighties nostalgia and sharp wit.
What I’m Watching: The newest Little Women. Comfort cinema at its finest.
I had a topic all set up for this Buzz. It was going to be about redesigning our website and all the lessons that I learned throughout the almost yearlong project. But then last week happened and I have had a hard time focusing on anything not pandemic-related. (Feel free to visit our new website though! I am a little biased, but I really like it. www.carlislepa.org.)
Those of us working in local government have the additional pressure of not only worrying about our own friends and families, but also about the safety and well-being of our residents, visitors, community partners, and small business owners. It is a time of unprecedented uncertainty and we’re working hard to ensure our communities stay strong and resilient in the face of the unknown. In addition to these new concerns, regular local government still marches on. You’ve got to worry about infrastructure, budgets, and everyday operations. Congratulations if that doesn’t make you even a little bit anxious!
Throughout all of the emergency planning, coordinating, and working long hours, it is easy to lose sight of own mental health. While I am not a licensed professional, I do have extensive experience in the area of generalized anxiety disorder. I have been living with it since I was a kid. If worrying were an Olympic sport, I would have a gold medal in Catastrophizing. Give me a problem and I can jump to the worst possible outcome in 30 seconds or less!
Through the years, therapy and medication have managed to get a handle on it, but given recent events, it has become a little more difficult to reign it in on a daily basis. Even if you have never dealt with anxiety or other mental health issues, there is a good chance you are feeling anxious about COVID-19 and what it means for you, your community, and really, the whole world. You may think self-care is an overused idea, but it really can help. I’m going to share a few of my own quick tips that I use to calm my own brain down in times of stress.
Stay Informed, But Unplug When You Can
With the rapidly changing developments surrounding COVID-19, it can seem like the news never ends. Limiting the number of news notifications I get on my phone has helped tremendously. Limiting the length of time I watch cable news has helped as well. News can often hit a tipping point where there is no more useful information to be gleaned. Use those lulls between breaking news alerts to unplug. Chose your news sources carefully as well. Stick to the facts and stay away from conjecture.
Lose the Guilt
There is no need to feel guilty about using your downtime to decompress and do nothing. You are not being lazy; you are taking care of yourself so you don’t burn out. Take advantage of what social distancing time you can to relax your brain as well as your body. Sit on your couch and work on your night cheese. No one’s judging.
During times of stress, it is hard to find moments of peace. Meditation can be a great way to clear your mind, even in the middle of a busy day. There are plenty of resources and apps that can help you get started. I’m a big fan of the Headspace app. If I am having a particularly rough day, I will shut my office door and do one of the short guided meditations. It helps get me back on track.
Do Something Nice for Others
One positive I’ve seen come out of this pandemic is stories of kindness. Yes, there are the people that are hoarding toilet paper and getting into fights over the last bottle of hand sanitizer, but stories of kindness and empathy have surfaced as well. I have witnessed so many people stepping forward on Nextdoor and Facebook, offering to assist the elderly with grocery shopping, restaurants advertising free or reduced-price meals for school kids, and college students offering up their baby-sitting skills to parents stuck in a jam because of school closures. Help if you are able to. Doing good is good for the soul.
Talk to Someone
Make sure you make time to talk to people, especially if you live alone. Set up Face Time or Zoom happy hours with your friends so you can still socialize while social distancing. Consider talking to a therapist if you are having a hard time dealing with the stress of the situation. There are plenty of online therapy and telemedicine options you can take advantage of. None of us are alone in this world. The only way we’ll get through this is together.