Breathe. Deeply. Often.

“May you live in interesting times” is an old (ironically) Chinese curse. We certainly are living in interesting times right now.

The difficulties and hardships of COVID-19 are obvious to all of us. We are experiencing everything from major inconvenience to downright tragedy and loss. Many are unable to work, which may be a nice respite for those who are financially secure, but a cause for serious concern for those living paycheck to paycheck or owning a business that has been temporarily shut down.

In the midst of all this, I notice some glimmers of sunshine. Even in our need to distance, we are all sharing a common experience. In the last few years, we’ve experienced such division and polarity. Now, we’re being reminded that we’re all in this together; we have more in common than we have differences. I notice a little more genuine eye contact, a little more kindness and sense of connection. Videos of people singing together on their separate balconies, expressing that we’re all in this together, are so beautiful. In some areas, wealthy people have created funds for less advantaged people who are out of work, the SBA is creating emergency loans for small businesses, the power company is saying they will not shut off power for lack of payment during this crisis, and we all got an extension on our taxes. We are trying to find ways to help each other. We are coming together in a time of crisis.

For myself, I’ve had to think about how I can continue to help people. Since it became clear we all needed to stay home if possible, I’ve been doing both individual and couple sessions by video. I’ve talked with colleagues who are experiencing the same challenges, and we’ve all been brainstorming and helping each other figure out both the technology and how to continue to do good work in this new medium. People need our support now more than ever. This situation is particularly hard on those who are struggling with anxiety, depression, or relationship problems. I’ve had several couples express how grateful they are that they started working on their relationship before this hit, as they are much stronger together to weather this storm.

We are all learning ways to adapt. We’re learning to do more business online or by phone. On a recent trip to Grass Roots, I noticed how busy they were. People are coming in asking about how to better take care of their health and their immune system. More people are thinking about how to eat better and take good care of their health, which is a great silver lining to this experience. Eating healthy, learning stress reduction techniques, meditating, focusing on gratitude, deep breathing, connecting with our loved ones; all of these things will help us pull through this, and hopefully come out stronger and better.

Social connection is so important, and we are finding ways to stay connected. It’s really more “physical distancing” than “social distancing”. For example, my book club couldn’t meet at someone’s house, as we normally do, so we all met on Zoom and had just as much fun. We’re fortunate here in Tahoe that we can still get out and hike, snowshoe, cross country ski, ride, etc. and maintain a safe distance while still together.

Some things to help us stay sane during this time include exercise, meditation, laughter (whether in your book club or by watching funny videos), learning something new, or tackling a project that’s been on your “to do” list forever. Also, seek ways to help others, whether by a heartfelt smile, a grocery drop off, or buying gift cards for businesses struggling to stay afloat. All of these things increase the “feel good” hormones and decrease cortisol, the stress hormone. For couples, put some music on and dance, do a project together, keep talking, and also give each other space and time alone as needed and as possible. And professional help is still available if you need it.

Dr. Catherine Aisner is a Psychologist in South Lake Tahoe, helping individuals and  couples improve the quality of their lives. She is a Certified Emotionally Focused  Couples Therapist. She can be reached at 530-416-6696 or at www.TahoeMarriage

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