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As you may have noticed, a tidal wave of change has washed over us all these past few months and has shifted every normalcy we have. From crowds of anguished protesters in the streets, to fears of contracting a deadly disease – it’s overwhelming and at times can feel practically apocalyptic. Perhaps you’re feeling a bit like Smeagol, squinting and pale, creeping out from the shadows of quarantine into an unfamiliar landscape. What the HECK just happened? Why is this going on? What do I do? Where’s precious?

You may feel paralyzed by a culmination of emotional responses both of your own variety and those reverberating off others around you. Fear of the unknown, is real. As is isolation in quarantine, grief for those suffering, and anger over injustices all carry a psychological ripple effect, shifting our lives and consciousness like tectonic plates. These emotions have the power to change the way we think, and they have. A metaphorical earthquake of change struck unpredictably, fortunately, the initial jolt is over. As the dust is settling now, we can begin to assess ourselves and our peers, and rebuild understanding. Hey, look at that – a bright side!

Start with you

The partially cliché adage that you cannot pour from an empty cup is more relevant now than ever. If you don’t tend to yourself and your own needs, you risk being consumed by the challenges you face. Being unprepared emotionally, psychologically, or even physically leaves you wrung dry of empathy, energy, and emotions. You’re depleted to the point of numbness and physiological reactions like headaches, insomnia and depression take over. These symptoms are known as compassion fatigue.

If you’re crying in the bathtub, eating ice cream three times a day, and struggling to sleep, you are not creating a safe space for yourself. The most recent Downtown Works Coffee Huddle features Carlos Isaziga, touches on mental health and the value its practice can bring. Here are a few quick questions for a self-check in:

  • – Am I managing the basics? The basics are hygiene, physical exercise, eating and sleeping well. Try to spend extra time in any areas of lacking, to build the consistency of a healthy routine and keep up serotonin levels.
  • – Am I refueling? Make a list of de-stressors to go to at any time. From massages, to gardening, watching a favorite movie, meditating, reading, or swimming! Any accessible variety of relaxing activities to refill your emotional and psychological tank. If you’re unsure where to start, try tracking simple joys that make you smile, pass time easily and feel energized after.
  • – Am I draining or conserving? Are you giving more effort than you’re saving for yourself? Revisit the balance and adjust as needed. Maybe don’t volunteer for an extra project at work and delegate it instead. Shaking off some obligations can help you conserve your energy for you.

Speaking of work…

Curating a safe space is not just about the dedicated maintenance of mental health. No thanks to the current pandemic, it’s physical too. Which means it’s no longer just up to the individual, but employers and business owners alike. We all must put forth conscious effort, toward physical and psychological safety to keep everyone healthy.

With the rolling out of new norms in the workplace, we discover more ways to be conscious of each other. Wearing face masks is a quick way to show respect for your peers in your shared space. Although you yourself might be confident in your immunity, you must consider that coworkers might live with an elderly parent, have a newborn baby, or have a compromised immune system.

Constant hand washing, the use of hand sanitizer, preventing unnecessary cross contamination points, and maintaining social distancing – odd as it may feel – has become one way to support each other. It also gives ourselves peace of mind. The use of plexiglass dividers, spacing seating, or implementing temperature checks assist in monitoring the wellbeing of the community, as Downtown Works has done.

Seeing the active participation of your peers in protecting one another, can allow a degree of easement for all of us mentally. These new norms are creating new habits and forming any new habit can be challenging, and takes time. Within these physically and mentally safe spaces we can encourage each other to stick with it.

To successfully adapt to changes, challenges, and difficulties we must continue to build safe spaces for ourselves and each other. They must be carefully crafted and nurtured with the intention of being a constant in our daily lives, and we must commit to maintaining our own, and the community space, together.

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