How can we stay SANE (strong, active, neighborly, and energetic) during this crisis? With love, careful planning, and care for others—and total lockdown.
The end of the tunnel may be a long way off, but if we treat it with the utmost seriousness, keep our social distance, wash our hands regularly, and look out for each other, we can stop the spread of the virus and reach the light at the end. When we emerge, huge numbers of people will hopefully want a more caring, cooperative approach to life, and a new kind of economy, based less on greed, selfishness and the destruction of Nature, and more on the economics of kindness.
First, realize just how serious this is.
Take five minutes to watch this video from Italy. “A catastrophic emergency that no-one before has experienced.” Total lockdown is the only way to lessen the chance of this happening everywhere. Keep yourself well-informed. Here’s the John Hopkins University COVID-19 page. The Worldometers page, and the Guardian coronavirus pages. In Canada, here’s the current situation. More Canadian data here.
Next, pay attention to the essentials.
Imagine you actually have the virus, and change your behavior so that you won’t transmit it to your friends and neighbors. This means taking seriously hand-washing, social distancing, and sanitizing surfaces, doorknobs and taps. No more partying—at least not in groups over 5-10 people. Here’s how to wash your hands the way a cardiac surgeon does. Here’s another. Watch it. Learn. It feels good, because it’s a hand massage. Become a Super-Preventer. Question, and learn. What does and doesn’t work?
Third, practice gratitude.
In Canada, be grateful that we have such an amazing public health service and health care workers who are working so hard to keep us safe. In the United States, be grateful for everyone who is campaigning so hard for single-payer Medicare for All. Be grateful for the utility workers who keep all our systems working. For the people who work in our stores. For the people who grow our food. To all our front-line workers: Thank you!
Fourth, try not be negative.
If the selfish imp of negativity, criticism and blame pushes its way into your heart, send it packing. If it persists, take time to ask what it really needs. Attention? Love? Many of us have an inner jerk—but don’t let it put other people’s lives at risk. Many of us also have an inner critic that likes to sabotages peaceful self-acceptance. Our inner jerks and inner critics often result from unresolved childhood experiences. They confuse us, so that we don’t know what our real feelings are. Sometimes our thoughts create our feelings, and we need to ask ourselves “Am I experiencing a reasonable level of fear, anxiety or loneliness, or am I increasing these feelings by the way I’m thinking?” If you have a friend who is a compassionate listener, ask for a time when you can talk about your negative thoughts and process your feelings.
And fifth, keep your anxiety in perspective.
It’s understandable, for there’s a lot to be anxious about. It’s a normal evolutionary response to danger or threat. But don’t let it flood your being so that it stops you from being rational and taking practical steps. The “50 Ways” will help—so let’s get to them!
50 Ways to Stay Strong, Active, Neighborly, and Energetic (SANE):
My suggestion is that you print them on a single sheet. Here is a pdf.
• The idea is that you look through the list each morning and score each item that appeals to you from 0-10. If you have a partner, he or she does the same. Then plan your day, focusing on your top scoring items.
• If you have young children, ask them what they liked or disliked about yesterday, and suggest ideas for today.
• If you have older children, share the list with them and help them plan their day.
1. Make a list of friends and family members you’d like to talk to, and decide whom you will call on Zoom, Skype, or FaceTime. Sign up for www.Zoom.us. This is a great opportunity to renew contact with old friends. Invite your friends to a Zoom dinner, with your laptops on your dining tables. Practice slow virtual hugging – it’s a real thing. Tell your friend that you are giving them a hug, putting your arms around them, cheek to cheek and sending love. Give, and receive.
2. If you are sick or in self-isolation, and you need help, use your phone or social media to ask for it. By far the majority of humans are kind, and want to help.
3. Grow food! Dig a garden bed where you can grow healthy organic food. Whatever happens, we all need to eat. When the countries we import our food from get the virus, food supply chains may run into trouble. There’s no need to dig up your lawn – search “lasagna gardening” on YouTube and create a vegetable bed on top of your lawn. If you have a spare gardening book, put it in your Tiny Library. If you have spare seeds, share them. If you know how to grow bedding plants, do so, so that others can grow food.
4. Pay attention politically to the rapidly changing responses to the crisis. Become involved. The New Economy Coalition has assembled an important list of resources. YES! Magazine is also providing good visionary responses.
5. Go for a stroll on your street and take time to stop and talk to your neighbours, while keeping a safe distance. Say hello. Introduce yourself, and ask how they are doing. Take time to chatter – there’s lots of time! As a rule of thumb, we should strive to know everyone on the street or in the apartment building where we live.
6. Learn how to use www.Zoom.us. It’s free for meetings of up to 40 minutes, or $20 a month for longer. Think through your friends, and invite some to create Circle of Friends who will meet daily at an agreed time. Take time to share and listen. Get creative about ways of supporting each other.
7. If you have a friend who struggles with OCD, anxiety, or mental illness, reach out give her or him special attention. Call, Skype, Zoom or FaceTime regularly, and encourage her or him to use these Fifty Ways. If you have a friend who is in prison, reach out. If you have Latino friends in America who are afraid that ICE agents will come and seize them while they are at home, reach out.
8. If you belong to any kind of a club, group or church, plan a Zoom meeting or webinar for your members, using the $20 a month membership. Zoom gives you all the support you need to figure out the system. The meetings allow for break-out groups, instant polls, access to shared documents, slide presentations, and chat. Membership is free for all K-12 school classes. Encourage your members to use the break-out groups to share and listen. We all need a kind compassionate listener at this time of worry.
9. Viral Kindness. You may have people on your street or in your apartment building who have to fully self-isolate because they have been in contact with someone who has the virus, or because they actually have the virus. A compassionate smart bunny in England has created these Viral Kindness postcards that you can print and distribute to your neighbours, offering to help.
10. Can you offer childcare for our healthcare workers? Post your offer on Facebook, or in a letter dropped off at your local healthcare centre if you can’t get through on the phone.
11. Search on Facebook for a local COVID-19 mutual aid or Caremongering group, and join it. See here for a great list of mutual aid initiatives. If there’s no local group, maybe you could start one. Check out what Beacon Buddies are doing for people on Vancouver Island who need to self-isolate. In the small town of Colyton, in Devon, UK, Colyton Link has a volunteer for every 10 neighbors who helps to coordinate transportation and other things for people who are in need. Here’s a big list of COVID-19 community mutual aid initiatives.
12. Keep your children’s bodies, hearts, minds and imaginations active. Read stories. Call your friends and arrange to exchange story-books. Scholastic is offering free online classes for Pre-K to Grades 6+ at www.tinyurl.com/Scholastic-Children. Here are 20 great home-schooling websites: www.tinyurl.com/20-Homeschooling. Today’s Parent has many resources, including rules for old-fashioned outdoor games. These 12 museums have free virtual tours. Fatherly has a page on indoor games that will give your kids exercise. Use Google Maps to choose a country, town or landscape and use the little yellow figure to explore it, street by street. Lhasa, Rio, Timbuktu, Venice. If you have Google Virtual Reality, so much the crazier. Start a storytelling circle using pass the story: “Once upon a time there was a bright purple hamster, who lived in a huge lonely castle. Your turn….”
13. The climate and ecological emergencies aren’t going away during the pandemic, so call a family meeting to discuss how your household could become 100% climate and nature-friendly by 2025. At my site The Practical Utopian, you’ll find a Climate Family Planning Chart to help you get started.
15. Start a daily meditation or mindfulness habit. It’s really just a matter of sitting still and watching your breath go in and out, training your mind to let go of every thought as soon as it arrives, and enjoying the stillness that lies within once the mental chatter has slowed, slowed, and finally halted. Don’t take it personally if you find it hard to quiet the mental chatter – it happens to all of us, except for a few 200-year-old Buddhists. Try Headspace or Calm or Hero Movement.
16. What are your personal goals? Carve out a chunk of time to determine what they are for the next six months. It’s a law of life that if you want to achieve something, you need to be able to visualize it, and then set your determination to achieving it. It’s how all the best athletes and entrepreneurs succeed. Here’s some support from Smart Goals, from Very Well Mind, and from Dan Silvestre.
17. Take a good long walk. Nature is open 24/7. Look at Google map and seek your local parks. Search on-line for local hikes and walks, and at AllTrails. Invite a friend to come with you, just be sensible about distance. Leave your cellphone in your pocket, take out your earbuds, and enjoy nature’s beauty. Smile at the people you meet. If you feel like it, carry a garbage bag, wear gloves and pick up litter.
18. Join an online choir and sing your heart out with thousands of others. If you are a member of a choir, use Zoom to practice and perform together. Or join The Sofa Singers.
19. Start a daily exercise habit to keep fit and build your immune system. First time joggers? Click here for advice. Gyms and rec centers may be closed, but your imagination is not. Follow a tai chi, zumba or yoga class on YouTube. Yoga International offers free classes. Find some good music and dance! Here’s a 15-minutes full-body workout you can do at home.
20. Stay well. Check that you have sufficient prescription drugs for the next two weeks. Here’s a doctor’s list of things you can do to stay healthy and strong.
21. Check that you have the medicines you’ll need if you get the COVID-19 virus: painkillers, fever-suppressors, cough syrup, products that can settle your stomach, tissues, vitamins, and fluids to replenish your body with electrolytes, hand sanitizer with 70% to 90% alcohol content, and a thermometer.
22. Check your finances, and the new emergency government programs. They are different for each country, so search for measures to provide regular payments, prevent evictions, delay mortgage payments, delay student debt payments, give businesses access to zero-interest credit, and so on. Full credit to the governments that are being pro-active on this one. If only they could also be proactive on the climate and ecological emergencies.
23. Develop a new skill, hobby, art or craft. For ideas, consult Wikipedia. A language, gardening, chess, guitar, piano, cooking, woodwork? List five favourites, then choose the one that has the most energy, and dig in. Skillshare has 1,000 free classes. Open Culture has loads of free on-line courses. Learn how to sew and repair your own clothing. Explore this video, this, and this.
24. Choose a topic you’d like to study, and decide on the best way to study it. Cooperative economics? Affordable housing solutions? Ancient Aztec history? The Green New Deal? Climate solutions? They are all just a few clicks away.
25. If you are an activist for any kind of positive change, set aside time to persist. Use the time to learn more about your focus of change, and talk with your fellow activists how you can continue working for change. When we come out of the crisis, there will hopefully be a desire to do things differently, and a hunger for positive solutions. People don’t want more reminders about how bad things are. We need to transform anger and frustration into positive visions about the kind of future we want when this is over. Here’s my vision of how Canada could tackle the climate and ecological emergencies, by way of example. YES! Magazine is also a good source of ideas and inspiration.
26. Do some serious studying to obtain credentials that will advance your career. Explore what’s possible at EdX, Coursera, Khan Academy, Open Culture, Udemy, Academic Earth, and a whole lot more. List courses that interest you, then choose the one that appeals the most.
27. Set time aside to deepen your chosen personal partnership. Try these 52 Questions that have been proven to create intimacy and closeness with loved ones and close friends. Make it a weekly ritual over dinner, or before you switch on the TV. If your relationship is rocky, maybe this advice can help.
28. Check your food and pet supplies – do you have enough for two weeks? Try adding foods that boost your gut microbiome such as unsweetened yoghurt, kefir (a sour milk drink), raw milk cheeses, sauerkraut, kimchi (a Korean dish made from garlic, cabbage and chilli) and soybean-based products such as miso, tempeh and natto.
29. Choose five books you’d like to read, and dig in. Fiction is good, but it’s also good to deepen our understanding of life, the economy, and the climate crisis. My selfish recommendation: Journey to the Future: A Better World is Possible, an ecotopian novel set in the year 2032.
30. Set up a tiny library where you and your neighbors can share books. Bookshops and libraries may be closed, but many of us have surplus books in our homes. Here are instructions for how to build an oh-so-proper tiny library, but it could be as simple as a plastic bin with a water-tight lid and a big label on the side. See also https://littlefreelibrary.org.
32. Order take-out from a local restaurant, to help them stay in business. While you’re at it, make a list of all your local take-outs and share it on a local Facebook group.
33. Plan a camping trip. Get out of the city and into the peace and quiet of nature. Book ahead – they may be full.
34. Explore the world of classical music, listening in a comfortable chair as if you were at a concert. Explore playlists for Chopin, Debussy, Rutter, Mozart, Rachmaninoff, Puccini, Bach, Gershwin, Arvo Pärt, Vaughan Williams, Elgar, Barber, Satie, Mahler’s Adagio.
35. Make a list of movies you want to watch, but maybe limit your viewing to X hours a day. If you love nature and food, watch Biggest Little Farm on Netflix. At Netflix Party (Chrome) you can watch a movie with friends, with synchronized playback and group chat.
36. Start assembling your family’s emergency preparedness kit. Here’s a good list from the Canadian government.
37. If you run a business, take time to consider turning your business into a Benefit Corporation – a new kind of business that balances purpose and profit, considering the impact of decisions on workers, customers, suppliers, community, and nature, and becoming part of a community of leaders who are driving a global movement to use business as a force for good. www.bcorporation.net
38. Limit your cellphone use to half an hour each morning and evening. It is teaching you distraction, when what you need is the opposite – undistracted attention.
39. Take time to find and share an uplifting story on social media that counters negativity, worry and fear. I don’t just mean cat videos. I mean positive stories about social change, human rights, environmental progress, and people who are making a positive difference in the world. There are millions of them: we need to share their stories. Explore Positive News, Sunny Skyz, Greater Good Berkeley and the Good News Network. And YES! Magazine.
40. Make a list of your favorite family puzzles and games and choose one to play today. Explore new games here and here. If you have set up a tiny library why not put some games in it, too? If you’re fed up with empathy and compassion, try Cards Against Humanity.
42. What about cuddling, and all that follows? Three medical experts offer their advice. If you and your partner are separated by distance, make the most of Zoom and Skype.
44. Make a list of procrastinated household jobs, then choose one and dig in. Cleaning, sorting, decluttering, downsizing, tidying, fixing, painting, repairing. Surely, you’ve got such a list?
45. Make a list of procrastinated garden and yard jobs, choose one and dig in. Weeding, trimming, cutting, fixing, servicing, tidying. Yup – you’ve got a list. If you don’t have a garden, does something around your building need a clean-up?
46. Watch a good massage video, and learn how to do it. Offer your partner a massage. If you’re nervous, start with a foot massage. If you and your partner are separated by distance, practice slow virtual massage over the phone – it’s more intimate and powerful than visual sharing.
47. Visit a local park. Nature is beautiful, and she is waiting to seduce you. Invite a friend to join you as you explore. Greet the people you meet with a smile. See if you can learn the names of the trees, then the wildflowers, then the birds.
48. Explore “Volunteers Wanted” in your local paper or community websites and ask if you can help – it could open up a whole new world of experience. Keep hand-washing, sanitizing and social distancing while you are volunteering.
49. Write your will. If you are getting up there in age, use the time to write your will, and start simplifying your belongings. Here’s support for Canada, the United States, and Britain. We’re all going to die one day, and the more we prepare, the less mess we will leave for our friend and relatives to sort out.
50. At 7:30 pm every night open your windows, sing your heart out and bang your pots and pans, to send a big thank you to all our front-line workers. Post your activity on social media with @RNAO and the hashtags #TogetherWeCanDoIt and #Cheer4HealthWorkers.
This article was originally published at the Practical Utopian.
Guy Dauncey is a speaker, organizer, and author of several books, including Journey to the Future: A Better World Is Possible. He is the founder of the British Columbia Sustainable Energy Association and co-founder and president of the Yellow Point Ecological Society.