A Full Value Response to COVID 19
A Full Value Response to COVID 19
Full Value is not just for the easy times, the good times, the normal times. And these are certainly not normal times. So, I’ve put together some thoughts regarding the social emotional impact of COVID 19 on our lives and how the Full Value Behavioral Norms can be helpful in successfully navigating this crisis.
Being in either a voluntary or mandated quarantine can wear thin very quickly. Normal routines are disrupted, the pace of life changes. First, it is important to realize how time itself is different. Home is not compressed into breakfast then out the door, or returning in the afternoon and evening, time with kids, partner, spouse, dinner, etc. Time now stretches out and it’s not the weekend. This can lead to boredom, rumination, stress, depression, and anxiety.
If you have children, they are missing school. This may be hard to believe when you see their reaction to a snow day, but snow days are a novelty and this novelty has already worn thin.
You are stressed, and you should accept this as a given. Stress may involve loss of income, worries about other family members and friends, concern about obtaining basic supplies, and being with a partner or spouse 24/7. If you are on your own, particularly if you are a social person, loneliness can quickly set in.
And then there is the fear of becoming ill.
Amidst all of these negatives are opportunities for a deeper connection with family and friends, and for finding time to become more aware of and responsive to your own needs.
How Full Value can help
For those of you who are not familiar with the six Full Value Behavioral Norms their meaning will become apparent as you read through each of the following sections.
More often than not, we are not here. What I mean is that we are distracted. We are sidetracked by our own thoughts. We contemplate what may be, as opposed to what is. We hear but often don’t listen. And, we are often unaware of any of this. Here is a small exercise to bring your attention to bear. If you have a chime or a bell, ring it and raise your hand when the sound is completely gone (you can also get a chime sound for your smart phone). What happens to all of the other stimuli around and within you when listening to the bell? You will notice, upon reflection, that they are gone.
Getting to and staying in this focused place is not easy but it is important, particularly under our current circumstances. We need to be carefully listening to our internal voice in terms of needs, wants, fears, goals, etc. We need to be carefully listening to what our partner or spouse is saying or not saying with their words and actions. We need to be listening to our children to make sure we are clear on their needs. We need to be present with ourselves and with our friends and loved ones.
To Be Here, particularly in a time that feels like a slow-motion catastrophe promotes the anticipation of needs, improves communication, reduces misunderstanding, and conveys to those around us that they matter. So, work on Be Here!
COVID 19 has affected our feelings about physical and emotional safety. We are maintaining social distance, disinfecting like mad, and literally self-quarantining if at all possible. It feels different when we are out among people. There is a quiet tension in the air, as well as anger and fear when people appear to be unconcerned about their potential for infecting others.
Maintaining our physical safety can range from complex to simple depending on circumstance. If we are providing an essential service the risks are higher, particularly when the resources that ought to be provided by the federal government are not available. To Be Safe physically and, therefore, emotionally requires being direct with others who may be violating your boundaries and being meticulous around hand washing and sanitizing.
But what about emotional safety related to contracting the virus? Emotional safety concerns might include loss of employment, you or a family member getting sick, or as mentioned in the introduction the inability to meet basic needs. Maintaining emotional safety first involves turning off the 24-hour news cycle. If you don’t you will be assaulted with “breaking news” alerts, experts expressing sometimes completely divergent opinions, and fretting newscasters. Checking once per day or subscribing to CDC and local state government email updates is more than sufficient and will reduce emotional safety concerns. It is probably best to think about the effects of COVID 19 falling somewhere between the common cold and the end of the world, but not at either extreme. Other Full Value Norms will support mitigating the feelings of being unsafe due to the virus.
You may begin to realize that the Full Value Behavioral Norms do not exist in isolation. They are also not hierarchical. So, let’s look at how this behavioral norm supports an adaptive response to COVID 19 while also maintaining connections to Be Here and Be Safe. A lack of honesty between us builds tension. Sitting on feelings in order to maintain harmony ultimately creates disharmony. Little concerns become magnified as time goes by. There are a number of basic Be Honest issues related to this virus. With a family, being safe (remember the norms are all connected) involves taking responsibility by practicing good hygiene. If a family or group member is shirking their responsibility, this needs to be confronted. If a family member feels the need to go out and hang with friends, this needs to be confronted. If you are feeling aggravated about circumstances (loss of work, isolation, fear of infection) it is crucial to share this with your partner, and with children in a way that is not alarmist. If you walk around pretending you are OK, others will know that it is not true and the lid will ultimately blow off. Children should also be encouraged to express their frustrations and their fears. Children as young as eight or nine have sufficient conceptual reasoning skills to discuss how the profound social changes are affecting them. Again, it is important to be gently honest, to not feed into their fears while at the same time providing information about how things are at least temporarily not the same. Providing kids with information and being responsive to their questions and concerns is empowering, offering them some control over what is happening in their lives. They also need to know that with proper care and attention the odds are very good that the family will successfully weather the storm.
We are involved in a continual process of setting immediate, and short and long term goals. This process is often prescribed by other people. In schools, for example, the curriculum and standards steer student goals. Sometimes the methods for accomplishing these goals are shared by students and teachers. Now we find ourselves at home with lots of unstructured time. How do we fill it? Some of us with hobbies and other interests see this time as an opportunity. My partner, for example, is a quilter and she has brought an intense focus to bear on completing a very complex quilt. Some people are binge watching television, some are catching up on their reading, and many kids are trying to maintain their connection to each other on social media. There are also people who feel adrift, as work, school, and outside social connections provide purpose to their lives.
It seems to me that it would be helpful for families to circle up (around the kitchen table), or for students to circle up online, to talk about how they want to spend their time and what supports they might need. Here is a goal setting method we use at Full Value Communities as a way of organizing our thoughts.
Once a goal has been set families and friends can work on it together, either virtually or at home with each other. There is something about working through the details and co-creating the goal that makes the whole thing more likely to happen. This same form can be used for sharing chores around the house, supporting a family member’s need for privacy, participating in a project; whatever activity that would be helped by reducing it to a definable and measurable roadmap.
LET GO & MOVE ON
Let’s be honest! As noted in the introduction, most families are not used to being around each other 24/7. Undercurrents that exist between people become magnified. There are far fewer opportunities to access physical exercise (a great tension reliever). Adding to the stress is that the world as we know it has suddenly changed and we have little to no control over how the current crisis is being managed. What we do have control over is how we treat each other, and how we manage our family and personal space. Let Go & Move On teaches us to release the toxic feelings associated with conflicts that arise when everyone is living under the same roof. It acknowledges that there are disagreements, arguments, and fights, but to hold onto them serves no purpose other than to exaggerate the tension we feel from things we can’t control. In a future blog post we will be diving more deeply into all of the Full Value norms and how to operationalize them. But for now, it is important to work on communicating about differences of opinion using compassionate honesty and empathy; to keep in mind that winning the argument may lead to a reduced capacity for giving and receiving mutual support and affirmation. And mutual support is what will sustain us through this crisis.
The other thing to let go of is the frustration around things no longer being the way they were. No, we can’t go out to eat, hang out with friends, go bowling (bowling?), hug neighbors, or attend concerts. Important activities such as weddings, attending a house of worship, or being close to an infected friend simply cannot happen. However, people are using their creativity to work around some of these new realities. It is also critical to remind ourselves that things will get back to normal. It will just take some time. We may need to let go of the present, but not of the future.
CARE FOR SELF AND OTHERS
The COVID 19 pandemic has changed how we interact with each other. We are used to physical connections; shaking hands, hugs, and pats on the back. Much of our intimacy and love is expressed through touch. When families are in self quarantine and no one is symptomatic, physical expressions of affection continue. But what about the neighbor who for some unacceptable reason can’t keep his or her distance? What about the person behind us in the checkout line at the grocery who doesn’t understand what six feet means? These intrusions into our physical space must be addressed directly as a threat to caring for self. Self-care allows for care for others. The thoughtless behavior of another person must be confronted, nicely but firmly. Caring for self also involves repetitive handwashing, sanitizing surfaces as per The Center for Disease Control recommendations, and strictly adhering to procedures that critical services such as grocery stores, the post office, and pharmacies have put into place.
Caring for self may mean taking time to be alone without guilt, calling loved ones and friends to hear them, as much for you as for them. Take a nap in the middle of the day. Pay more attention to your pets. They are hugely entertaining! Accept some degree of powerlessness. Caring for self may mean doing nothing, reading a book, binge watching a show that everyone else in the family hates. All of these “selfish” acts actually recharge your batteries, building your resources and capacity to care for others.
Conversely, caring for others requires patience, compassion, and empathy in the face of reasonable or even irrational thinking. It may mean calling an elderly neighbor, checking in with your kids if they are living outside the home, arranging for and participating in online social gatherings. It may mean listening for loneliness and fear and being present with people; not minimizing or rejecting their concerns.
Using the Full Value Behavioral Norms is a way of checking in and organizing your internal process and your response to those loved ones around you. It can help to provide a path for successfully weathering this current crisis.
McSpannen, K. (2015, May). You Now Have a Shorter Attention Span Than a Goldfish. Time Magazine.