The Coronavirus Pandemic: Suggestions for Maintaining Health and Wellness

by The Bay Area Chapter of the Association of Black Psychologists

 In just a short period of time (about 6 months) the coronavirus has become a worldwide pandemic affecting almost every country on the globe. The speed with which the disease has spread and the lack of an appropriate vaccine for the virus is frightening. This virus has disrupted normal activities throughout the world.

All attention has been focused on steps to prevent/limit the spread of the virus. The community should follow the guidelines provided by public health officials to protect themselves from becoming infected – social distancing, washing hands, not touching eyes, nose and mouth, etc. Another aspect about this virus that is so different is that so many people may/can have it and be contagious and not knowing it because they have no symptoms, so these precautions require us to care about not spreading it to others in the community who may be vulnerable.These precautions can limit the possibility of people becoming infected with the virus and halt the spread of the virus.

The coronavirus has created uncertainty and anxiety around the world. As the virus continues to spread, one effect that is apparently going unnoticed is the mental health effects that this brings.The situation is in flux and changes with almost every passing hour. Given the potential spread of the virus over the coming weeks, we can anticipate additional impacts that may produce even greater stress. The government has recently released information about the National Distress Hotline that people can call. Please use this call-in number if necessary. Also, the six Bay Area Counties have issued a Shelter in Place order which becomes effective at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday and will be in place until at least April 7.

As healers, the health and wellbeing of society are our first priorities, and we have to do everything we can to support the community during these difficult times. While we love our family, it can become challenging spending lots of unexpected time together during this time of rapid changes and uncertainty.  In our African traditional beliefs, “love” is called “Zola,” in KiKongo.  “Zola” activates our self-healing capacity. During this worldwide health crises, and all the time, we should “Zola up” on our families, each other and everyone we cherish.  As Community Healers we readily embrace our duty to protect our community and to that end we want to offer the following steps to help alleviate the anxiety, sense of helplessness, and stress that the pandemic is creating.

  • With the closure of schools, parents have the added responsibility of caring for their children for the whole day. As parents we have to create additional at home activities for our children during the day. This will be an opportunity to engage with your children activities that could excite their desire to learn things that interest and inspire them. You can encourage your children with their school work, read to them, play games, make chores around the house fun with rewards for all, story-telling, true or made up with lessons to be learnt from them, etc. These activities can help to enhance the parent/child relationship and reduce the fixation on the stressful nature of the uncertainty and anxiety produced by being with them all day and night for three weeks.
  • With everyone in the house all day, we will see behaviors that we were sheltered from while we were at work or in school. It is important to tolerate these different behaviors as long as they are not harmful to others.
  • Respect that everyone in the home has a voice, listen gracefully and accept that we do not all think alike. We should not correct another person’s way of thinking if it is not harmful.
  • We must be kind and considerate to others.
  • We must not bully anyone into doing what we want them to do, unless it is to save a life.
  • It is not a good idea to criticize someone at home when you have to spend weeks together.
  • Adults have to create respite time for themselves and their children. Exercise, stretching, meditation, listening to music, dancing, drawing, painting and other arts and craft activities can all help in this situation.
  • Pray this will be over soon and life will return to normal situation.
  • Please do not get caught up in the hysteria and engage in panic buying. Panic buying and hoarding only serve to make the situation worse. We do have to buy extra food to feed the children who are now at home during the day; but we have to avoid the urge to hoard extra supplies. If you don’t already do so, consider adding foods that strengthen your immune systems like carrots, cabbage, collard greens and eggs, chicken, fish as well as garlic, ginger, turmeric, fruits and blueberries.
  • Be sure to wash your clothes regularly. If you go out in the public, wash your outer garments as soon as possible.
  • Have a dedicated space to open and read mail. This should not be on the dining table or kitchen counter. Once the mail is read, keep bills and other information in a separate location, and discard envelopes and other junk mail in the recyclable bin. Wash your hands after handling the mail.
  • We have to practice good mental health by focusing on the positives that can emerge from the crisis, like enhanced familial relations, and reduced concentration on the stress involved with the virus. Be sure to tell each other that you love them, that you care and enjoy their company.

In addition, the Ancient African principles of MAAT (truth, justice, order, harmony, balance, reciprocity and righteousness) can assist you in maintaining a healthy mental state.  Below is a list of suggested ways to apply these principles as you spend time in close quarters with your loved ones. 

Truth– This is the perfect environment for rumors to spread like wildfire.  Be especially mindful of this reality and diligently seek to ascertain the truth to avoid allowing reckless panic to drive your decisions. 

Justice– The reality is during times like this we as a people will collectively be negatively impacted.  Do not fall prey to participating in or encouraging behaviors that are unfair or unjust. Even if you have the power and authority.  Do not be a bully. Share your power, allow others to practice having a “voice”.

Order– Predictably the current chaos that some are experiencing can be worse. Remember to stay in control of the things that you can control.  Be intentional about maintaining order in your household.  Examples include creating and maintain a schedule for eating, sleeping, and playing.  Treating this like a vacation, can get old quickly as the shut-in time increases.

 Harmony– As time passes getting along with each other can become more challenging. Schedule intentional breaks from each other.  Call it mediation time, reading time, or journaling time.  Do it everyday and in spaces where you are all still physically present but in your “own space”.

Balance – This principle relates directly to the strategies noted above in Harmony. Balance being in your “own space” with being “together in the space”.  Balance also is important as it relates to EVERYTHING the family consumes during this time.  Information on the virus, the social media, the items purchased, etc.

Reciprocity– Make sure everyone has a role in helping the family during this time. Engage in activities that are mutually beneficial to everyone.  Do not blast music that only you like, do not hog shared spaces or items, etc.  Model volunteering to do things for others and the whole family. 

Righteousness– Engage in behaviors that demonstrate acts of kindness and consideration.  Do unto others as you would like them to do to you.  Practice this, even when it is not desired.  Heaping loving kindness on others keeps you in a positive state.

These practices would aid us feel at peace and sleep well as we wait out this forced shut-in together. As the reality of the virus unfolds we, The Bay Area Chapter of Black Psychologists, have to continue to do the critical work of healing our community as well as all people by assisting in reducing stress and maintaining well-being during this current crisis.

The Bay Area Chapter of the Association of Black Psychologists (ABPsi-Bay Area) is committed to providing the Post Newspaper readership with monthly discussions about critical issues in Black Mental Health. The ABPsi-Bay Area Chapter is a healing resource. We can be contacted at (bayareaabpsi@gmail.com) and readers are welcome to join us at our monthly chapter meetings, every third Saturday at the West Oakland Youth Center from 10a.m. to 12p.m. when gatherings are allowed..

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