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Facing the Re-opening of Chicago during the COVID-19 Pandemic with Self-Care Tips

By: Dr. Héctor Torres, Chief Program Officer at Center on Halsted

As the state restrictions start to ease, we may face uncertainty about the future and our ability to be as safe as possible. Not knowing when things will improve and not having much we can do to change the situation, can also make us feel hopeless. It is likely that during these times many of us will experience confusion, fear, anxiety and sadness. Factors like the scarcity of necessary medical resources, social isolation, loss of jobs, food insecurity, boredom, financial strain, the possibility of returning to a changed workplace, and the fear or grief of the loss of a life can increase the tow on our mental and physical health.

As a member of the LGBTQ community, we have myriad experience dealing with difficult situations such as societal stigma and oppression, and we have demonstrated strength and resilience. Nevertheless, it is essential we pay attention to our mental health and practice self-care.

Here we are sharing some recommendations that can be helpful during this time:

  • You may feel the need to keep up-to-date on what’s happening but, if this is stressful, limit your exposure to the media. Avoid continually watching or listening to the news as this will increase your anxiety and worry. Don’t forget that children are very sensitive to what they hear and see on television. Talk to them about it without hiding information, adapting it to their age and level of understanding.
  • On the other hand, you may have reached a point of saturation about the news but feel stressed about not staying updates. Schedule a limited time to seek or receive updates. That way you will stay informed about importance advances, but also avoid getting overwhelmed.
  • If searching for information about COVID-19 on the web, do not look indiscriminately on the internet. Only visit reliable sources of information, such as the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
  • If under medication or treatment, contact your medical provider as soon as possible to ensure continuity and delivery of your treatment.
  • Staying in touch with people you trust is the best way to reduce anxiety, depression, loneliness and boredom during quarantined social isolation. Call, send emails, and use other newer technologies that allow communication. For example, talk face-to-face via Skype, Zoom, or FaceTime. Creating regular meetings can help make a habit of this.
  • In the case that you may feel you had been overloaded with remote meetings, it is ok to take a break. Silence sometimes is necessary.
  • Moving your body or exercising at home can help you keep fit and decrease tension. Remember that the internet offers endless resources to learn and practice many of these strategies.
  • Try to do things that are usually fun for you, and find creative ways to share the experience with others that care about you, such as posting on social media or texting photos of your work.
  • Watch uplifting queer films or documentaries to celebrate and affirm your identity.
  • Maintain a routine, similar to the one you had prior to the stay home order. Work, eat, sleep and wake up at the same times you used to.
  • Engage in a task you are certain that you can do well. Doing something you are good at or can do successfully can help you gain a sense of control. It can be something simple as cleaning up your room or backpack. Even if the task is small, the sense of accomplishment can really boost your mood.
  • Acknowledge your feelings. Being sad, anxious, and concerned is within the expectations of this situation. Accept what you feel and acknowledge resources you possess to handle it.
  • Take time to remind yourself that although this is very scary and difficult, and we still don’t know when it will end, it is temporary and it will pass.
  • Finally, engage in diversion, social and cognitive coping, tension releasers, physical care, and spirituality and boundary-setting practices as listed below:

o Diversions: Write, draw, paint, photography; Play an instrument, sing, dance, act; Take a shower or a bath; Garden; Take a walk, or go for a drive; Watch television or a movie; Watch cute kitten videos on YouTube; Play a game; shopping; Clean or organize your environment; Read; Take a break.

o Social/Interpersonal Coping: Talk to someone you trust; Set boundaries and say “no”; Write a note to someone you care about; Be assertive; Use humor; Spend time with friends and/or family; Serve someone in need; Care for or play with a pet; Role-play challenging situations with others; Encourage others.

o Cognitive Coping: Write a note; Make a gratitude list; Brainstorm solutions; Lower your expectations of the situation; Keep an inspirational quote with you; Be flexible; Write a list of goals; Take a class; Act opposite of negative feelings; Write a list of pros and cons for decisions; Reward or pamper yourself when successful; Write a list of strengths; Accept a challenge with a positive attitude.

o Tension Releasers: Exercise or play sports; Engage in catharsis (yelling in the bathroom, punching a punching bag); Cry; Laugh.

o Physical Care: Get enough sleep; Eat healthy foods; Get into a good routine; Eat a little chocolate; Limit caffeine; Practice deep/slow breathing.

o Spiritual: Pray or meditate; Enjoy nature; Get involved in a worthy cause.

o Limit-Setting: Drop some involvement; Prioritize important tasks; Use assertive communication; Schedule time for yourself.

Join Héctor’s COVID-19 Coping Skills Facebook Group.

Center on Halsted is the Midwest’s largest community center dedicated to advancing the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Movement.

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