Well-Being

6 Tips for Maintaining Emotional Health During Social Distancing

These are challenging times. People the world over are under quarantinedistancing ourselves physically so we can help to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. This means spending most – if not all – of our time in our homes. While we are grateful not to be infected with the virus, we might not be so grateful for this type of existence.

Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl famously said, “everything can be taken from a [person] but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Keeping a positive attitude in difficult situations can take a lot of self-management. And there are techniques you can use and habits you can form that will help. I’ve done the research and here are six proven strategies that will help you through this difficult time:

1. Develop a Gratitude Practice: First, I highly recommend developing a daily gratitude practice. It might seem strange that I’m suggesting gratitude during a time when there seems to be less to be grateful for than normal, but that’s exactly why it is so important. Having a daily gratitude practice will serve you best on days when there is the very least to be grateful for. Gratitude helps us cull out the one bright spot in a day filled with darkness. Something you could try is keeping a gratitude journal by the side of your bed. Before you go to bed, challenge yourself to write down five things you were grateful for that day. Then, the next morning wake up and read them to start your day on an up note.

2. Keep a Daily Routine: The next thing I suggest – and I think this is especially helpful for those of us with kids at home – (but if you don’t have kids that doesn’t mean you should stop reading) is to create and keep a daily routine. Even if you are at home with nothing to do, it’s helpful to have a routine. Wake up every day at the same time. Get dressed. Eat breakfast. Exercise. If this time of staying at home stretches on for a while you will probably find that the days when you feel like adhering to your routine the least are the days when you need it the most. Routine gives your days structure and helps to keep you on track.

3. Create and Maintain a Sense of Purpose: It’s scientifically proven that having a sense of purpose helps people maintain good mental health. One thing I’ve seen suggested to help give us all a sense of purpose during this time is to make a list of all the people you care about and every day choose one person on your list to check on. You can call, text, or Skype, but the important thing is to make yourself useful. Be the shoulder someone else can cry on. Be the listening ear. Be the sounding board. I always say if you are having trouble finding a sense of purpose in life then go be of service to someone else. Even if all you are doing is listening, you are helping.

4. Practice Mindfulness: Mindfulness can vastly improve your attitude and sense of well-being. It can be spiritual in nature, or it can simply be pragmatic. One mindfulness practice that is simple but effective is to practice mindful eating. You might try it with one meal a day. Simply choose to put your full attention on your meal. Slow down. Focus on the smells, the flavors, the textures. Focus on the act of chewing and swallowing. When you practice mindfulness intentionally some of the time you will find that you are more in tune with your body, mind, and environment all of the time. You’ll find that you take more pleasure in the little pleasures, and maybe that the big pains don’t seem so big.

5. Develop a Spiritual Practice: Some people find that creating and maintaining a practice that is spiritual to them helps to maintain good mental health. Meditation to be a highly accessible and effective spiritual practice. Meditation can be as simple as sitting quietly and focusing upon your breathing. But if you’re having trouble getting started, you might try searching the app store with the term “meditation” (“Calm” is one app that gets high marks) or tracking down some guided meditation tracks on your favorite music app.

6. Practice RECK: Finally, if you are at home with other people, I highly recommend using this increased time together to practice your RECK. If you’re familiar with this site, then you might remember that RECK stands for respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness. The point of RECK is that it’s easy to remember, because it can take a surprisingly high amount of discipline to practice. If you doubt this, then take a moment to reflect upon the last time that you were either disrespectful, unempathetic, uncompassionate, or simply unkind to one or more of your housemates. You might not need to reflect back very far. The idea of RECK is to help us love one another properly.

Start from a place of respect. Do your best to be respectful of other people’s feelings. If you must fight, then fight fair – don’t say anything that you’ll wish you could take back later. Maybe hold back that real zinger you know you could use but shouldn’t.

Then, make an effort to be empathetic with the people you’re spending your time with. Are you making an effort to see things from their perspective? Keep in mind that this means going beyond mere sympathy which means to feel for others to making the effort to actually feel with them. That’s empathy – to feel what they are feeling; to feel with.

Next, keep your compassion switch in the “on” position. Don’t discount other people’s suffering… rather make an effort to try to relieve it. I find this especially effective with children – even if you are merely helping them learn to help themselves. Their suffering is real to them, and your compassion is real to them too.

Last, but certainly not least, in all things and at all times… be kind. It’s simple to comprehend, but hard do. It means not taking our feelings out on others. Sometimes, we might get irritated, but taking our irritation out on others is unkind – no matter now innocent or justified it might seem at the time. Being kind helps to maintain a positive environment for everyone.

There they are! Six proven strategies to help you stay positive and maintain good emotional health during these challenging times. Pick one or try all six and see how they go. Report back in the comments!

All the best,
Matthew Vasko
Founder, Century of Compassion

compassion, empathy, family, kindness, Love, RECK, respect

Stuck at Home with Family? Practice RECK!

These are unusual times. The novel Coronavirus has more and more states telling people to stay at home and requiring Physical Distancing if we must go out. This puts many of us in a situation where we are “Safer at Home” with the people we love… and getting on each other’s nerves!

Never fear! RECK is here! To save you having to click over to another page to discover what the heck RECK is, I’ll take a moment to explain it here. RECK is an acronym that stands for respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness. It is meant as a simple guide to help us treat others in the best way possible. And don’t we want to treat the people we love most in the whole world in the best way possible? Of course we do.

Think of it this way: all people need respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness in order to stay emotionally healthy. When you think about harm that has been done to people, in every instance, one or more of these four principles has been violated. In family situations, most typically the principle we forget to adhere to is to be kind to one another.

Here’s how to utilize RECK at home during this unusual time:

First, do your best to remain respectful towards your family members at all times. This can be a tough one, especially when we are feeling irritable. Disrespectful words are usually those words that we end up regretting later. When it comes to trying to create a harmonious home atmosphere, being disrespectful is a line we simply should not cross. Being respectful towards your family all the time will help you maintain a healthy self-respect. When you are respectful to others, you feel good about yourself.

Next, make an effort to be empathetic towards the feelings of others. This one can be especially challenging with young children. They tend to feel things strongly and are often unable to completely articulate or even understand their feelings. As adults, we have an important role to play in helping them identify their emotions and learn to understand and control them. Remember, empathy is deeper than sympathy. Sympathy is to feel for someone, while empathy requires us to go even further and feel with them. A good way to understand empathy is to remember the adage of walking a mile in someone else’s shoes.

Then, strive to always keep your compassion switch in the “on” position. This is a tall order. Compassion calls us to feel another person’s suffering with them and then work to relieve it. Compassion, however, is a game-changer for children. Kids feel so often misunderstood and like their suffering is ignored. As adults, we can sometimes wish children would simply “get over it.” But we need to remember that their feelings are very real to them and when we take them seriously and respond to them, children feel heard. Although perhaps more pronounced in children, this is true for all people. And during these stressful times, lots of people might be feeling strong emotions. We all would be well served to hear one another out, take each other’s feelings to heart, and make an effort to provide comfort whenever possible.

Finally, in all situations and at all times: Be kind. If you think this one is easy or trivial, then think back to the last time that you know you hurt someone else’s feelings whether they said so or not. You might not have to think back very far! Kindness is the grease that oils the gears of healthy family dynamics. Being unkind is like throwing a wrench in the works. How often has everything been going just fine at home and then someone did or said something unkind and all heck broke loose? Kindness is the key to unlocking family harmony.

If your family is struggling to get along right now, then make a big sign that says “RECK: Respect, Empathy, Compassion and Kindness” and put it up someplace everyone can see it. Then, make sure everyone knows what all of those words mean and make a promise to treat each other with RECK. You’ll be amazed by how much better everyone gets along.

All the best,

Matthew Vasko,

Founder, Century of Compassion

connection, empathy

Not Social Distancing: Physical Distancing

Image: David Ramos/Getty Images


 

Dear world, can we please stop calling it “Social Distancing?” As human beings, we all need social contact to maintain emotional health. This Coronavirus pandemic sucks and using the term Social Distancing repeatedly isn’t helping things any. In our house, we’ve taken to using the term “Physical Distancing” to both better describe what it is we are doing and to remind ourselves that even while physically apart from our friends and extended family we can remain socially close.

Personally, I am making an effort to reach out to all sorts of people in my social sphere to see how people are doing and provide emotional support where I can. I imagine that most people are doing something similar, as we should be. And as the weeks grind on and we spend more time isolated from many of the people with whom we usually spend time, I sure we’ll continue to think of creative ways to connect.

Already this week I’ve Skyped, FaceTimed, Zoomed, texted, messaged, and phoned all sorts of people from coworkers to family members to friends with whom I’d fallen out of touch. And I plan to keep it up. I’m also making an effort to set up Skype sessions between my kids and their friends as sort-of virtual play dates. All of this is important. Each interaction helps. And it’s all social.

Each day, my family is getting out for a morning walk and waving at neighbors and exchanging pleasantries from a safe distance. Again, physically we are separated, but socially we are close.

If anything, it feels like the whole world is drawn closer by our common shared experience with this pandemic. We see videos on social media of Italians singing from their balconies and medical professionals dancing in full protective gear. Commonality builds empathy, and before this is over, every single one of the nearly eight billion people on planet Earth will be able to empathize with what it was like to have battled this novel Coronavirus.

So, let’s all make an effort to remain socially close while we practice Physical Distancing. And – as has become my catch phrase: Stay safe. Stay healthy.

With Love,

Matt Vasko

Founder, Century of Compassion

(Postscript: My heart goes out to each and every person who has, is, or will suffer from COVID-19. Please know that you are in my thoughts. Much love to anyone the world over who has lost someone to this terrible disease.)