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Charging Up and Staying Connected

Rebecca Buell Emerson | Apr 20, 2020

Can you imagine driving a car without ever stopping for gas or, if electric, stopping to plug it in? No—any person who drives knows it would eventually leave us stranded on the side of the road. So, why would we do this to ourselves biologically or socially?

I’ve got to be honest, Friends—I’ve been in that spot. In last few days, there’s not been enough charge in my batteries.

Five weeks ago, I entered social distancing and shelter-in-place with a purpose. Like a typical goal-oriented person, I was going to win at social distancing, keeping me, my family, and my community safe. I would wash my hands, sing “Happy Birthday” two times while I scrubbed, maintain a 6’ distance from others (heck, let’s make it 8’!), and do my part to flatten the curve.

In the early days of sheltering-in-place, I organized my home, walked outside alone long distances, read books, and cooked homemade meals. In short, I was rocking this pandemic.

Then earlier this week, after a day of so many online meetings that my ears and eyes literally hurt from the exposure, my energy cells seemed empty. Weary of walking alone, I stopped walking. Recognizing the growing mass of leftovers in the fridge, I went on strike from cooking. And, after clocking 6-10 hours of work-related video meetings a day, I almost entirely cut off connecting with anyone afterhours. My internal physical and socioemotional batteries were drained, friends, and I unplugged.

In Harvard Medical School’s online Coronavirus Resource Center, researchers address and discuss not only the biomedical components of COVID-19, but the socioemotional ones as well. “There's reason for concern and it makes good sense to take the pandemic seriously,” they write. “But it's not good for your mind or your body to be on high alert all the time. Doing so will wear you down emotionally and physically.”

In her webinar on charging up and staying connected, Dr. Luana Marques from Harvard Medical School says anxiety and depression are on the rise among Americans. Dr. Marques relays the importance of limiting news media and giving oneself permission to check out in ways that recharge you physically and emotionally. Feelings of loss and sadness are to be expected; to counteract those feelings, Dr. Marques says tools like healthy eating, exercise, sleep hygiene and staying connected are vital.

At Our Community Listens, we’ve addressed the need for connection by instituting an optional “Care & Connection Coffee Chat.” This 20-minute virtual break three mornings a week gives our team across the country the chance to join as humans, not only sharing the pandemic experience but also getting to know one another more personally beyond our routine work-focused rhythm of interaction. This increased connection has deepened relationships while providing a place for our teammates to have a respite from newly forced learning-at-home situations, or even social isolation.

After a day or two of depletion, yesterday I logged into the Coffee Chat without any intention of turning on my microphone or camera—worn and weary, this was the one time I logged in with still-wet hair, no makeup and outside of my normal pep-in-the-step state of mind. But, during conversation and sharing, that 20-minutes recharged my internal batteries in a way that equipped me to redirect the remainder of my day. (I even pulled out some of my favorite snazzy office shoes that haven’t left the closet in a month, trading in flip flops for fashion heels in my home office for the day.)

This morning after a great night of screen time-free sleep, I woke with purpose and a plan, two things I need to keep my physical and socioemotional motor running. After reading last night our shelter-in-place orders in St. Louis and around the country are being extended, I think we’re all realizing this might be a longer haul than we first anticipated. Keep your batteries charged, friends. Take care of others around you by taking care of you.

On this journey alongside you,

Rebecca

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