An Artwork a Day Keeps the Pandemic Away: How to Practice Emotional Hygiene during Crises
Self-quarantine. Shelter in place. Social distancing.
These are all phrases that are new to our collective vocabulary with the Coronavirus pandemic.
And it’s scary! Many of us are dealing with complete disruption to our normal routines. It’s not easy to cope physically, emotionally or financially.
It doesn’t help that authorities don’t really know (or agree on) how to handle all this. We’re often getting inconclusive data and conflicting advice from news channels which just fuels the flames of fear and panic.
But this is what life is now. Most of us were not prepared. Unless you’re one of those people who is totally into post-apocalyptic survival scenarios and has been preparing for years for this sort of thing. Kudos to you!
For the rest of us, strengthening our emotional intelligence (EQ) is our best bet to cope with this pandemic and the next crisis that life throws our way.
I know this seems odd. Emotional intelligence is going to keep us healthy?! This is a contagious VIRUS. Physical safety and good hygiene is key!
Absolutely! But it’s not the only key factor here. You might stay physically healthy but lose your mind in the process. I’m pretty sure that a nervous breakdown isn’t good for your immune system. In fact, scientific research suggests that there is a mind-body connection. Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences found that stress, depression and other mental states can alter organ function. (source) Neuroscientist Wendy Suzuki champions physical exercise to improve brain function and even slow dementia. (Watch her TED talk)
So taking care of your health — physical, mental and emotional — during an international pandemic is the best antidote we have so far. Let’s use the Museumable Method’s five C’s to work through this mess together.
CLARITY is the first step. This means cultivating awareness about what’s happening in the world and how you’re responding to it. Here are a few good questions to ask yourself:
Where can I find the most accurate information about Coronavirus?
(International: who.int; National: cdc.gov; and local: governor’s office)
Who is most susceptible? Are any of these people in my life? How can I support them?
(Family members, friends, colleagues, etc; call/text them, order meal delivery for them, etc.)
How can I stay healthy and help prevent the spread of Coronavirus?
(Follow CDC guidelines and local authority recommendations.)
What has changed in my routine and how do I feel about it? Be honest.
(Work life, social life, parenthood, hobbies or habits)
Do I need any support? Ask for it.
(Don’t suffer in silence! This is hard for all of us.)
CONTROL is the second step. Now that you’re aware of the situation, both in the world and in your world, it’s time to take stock of what you have control over. This is challenging! And it’s where most people fall short. We like to have control — or at least the illusion of it — in all aspects of our lives. It’s human nature. It’s also unrealistic and stress-inducing.
Coronavirus is a perfect example. We can’t control it. And that’s terrifying! In other words, the virus itself is not going to respond to reason, force or authority. Unfortunately, we can’t just say, “Hey! Stop that. Don’t infect or kill anyone else!” and expect the virus to listen.
Lots of things in life fall into this uncontrollable category: job layoffs, kid tantrums, chronic disease. The list goes on. Accepting that $h!t happens and focusing on what precious little control you may have in any given situation is a much more productive outlook.
Remember, it’s not all gloom and doom! Let’s focus on what we can control in response to the unrelenting evil that is Coronavirus:
- Choose the amount and source of news that you take in.
- Stay home (work from home) and practice social distancing.
- Wash your hands regularly with soap and water.
- Check in on friends, family, neighbors, coworkers over the phone.
- Adjust your expectations to reflect current limitations.
COMMUNICATION is the third step. Without face-to-face interaction, this one is really useful. The best way to improve communication is to listen. What? Yes. Active listening (not just waiting to respond) is how we feel heard and understood. So, listen carefully and mirror back what you hear. News flash: what was said might not be exactly what was heard!
Here are some mirroring phrases to test your listening skills:
“So what you’re saying is…”
“If I understood correctly…”
“It sounds like you want/need…”
And don’t forget the ever-useful confirmation: “Did I get that right?”
Once you’ve listened carefully and understood what someone is saying, then it’s time to respond. Be as clear and kind as possible. Imagine that you’re a journalist including the who, what, when, where (why and how, if appropriate) in each email you send. Don’t be vague! We have enough ambiguity with a worldwide pandemic. Being concrete and explicit in your communication is quite refreshing nowadays!
For sensitive topics or conversations, which are more frequent in uncertain times like these, I’m a fan of nonviolent communication and keeping it short and sweet. Here’s what that might look like, with key phrases underlined:
“When I hear that I might lose my job with the government-mandated closures due to Coronavirus, I feel unsafe financially. I value the health and safety of my community but I also need to provide for my family. Would it be possible for me to work an alternative schedule or work from home?”
Lastly, if you find yourself using the phrase, “this goes without saying…” it probably needs to be said! It means you assume whatever is intuitive to you is also intuitive to someone else. This is rarely true! It comes across as condescending, even if that’s not your intent. Do yourself a favor: erase this expression from your vocabulary altogether.
CONNECTION is the fourth step. Another big challenge while practicing social distancing and self-quarantine. But not impossible! Humans crave connection. Being a part of something greater than ourselves is important. So how can we get this connection when we literally can’t go within six feet of another human?
Technology saves the day! Almost everyone has a smartphone and/or a computer at home. There are so many free video chat services that allow almost any social activity to turn into a virtual one. Don’t believe me? Google it. Book clubs, happy hour, dance parties, workout classes, talk show interviews — and my personal favorite — museum tours. They all happen online.
Sure, it’s not the same as hugging loved ones or hosting dinner parties, but it’s better than complete isolation. So join a virtual group if you’re missing human contact. We’ve seen some people get really creative with online platforms and bring all our favorite activities straight to our homes.
CURIOSITY is the fifth step. Being curious fosters tolerance, compassion and learning. If you’ve been spending way more time with kids lately, you’ll know that they are extremely curious and constantly asking “Why?” It gets annoying but that sense of wonder is valuable. We should learn to ask ourselves “why?” more, especially when conspiracy starts masquerading as fact.
Maybe you’ve heard the Coronavirus called the “Chinese virus.” WHY?
Let’s get curious:
Does a virus have a nationality? (No.)
Did the virus actually originate in China? (Inconclusive. The first reported outbreaks were in China, but that doesn’t mean the virus started there.)
Can we catch it from Chinese people or products shipped from China? (Nope. Not unless you hugged someone who tested positive or licked the package immediately upon receipt.)
Be curious. Be thoughtful. Be smart. Don’t take anything you read or hear online at face value. Fact-check it with trusted news outlets (like the World Health Organization, not your favorite celebrity’s twitter feed). Recognize that we all have biases and fear of the unknown. But don’t allow these biases and fears take over. Instead, get curious! Maybe learn about other pandemics through science and geography if you have free time on your hands.
Fun fact: Did you know that the COVID-19 is not the only but the latest Coronavirus strain? Turns out that Coronavirus is an umbrella term for respiratory infections, ranging from the common cold to more severe strains like SARS or MERS. (See! I learned this from WHO.int)
There you have it! The Museumable method uses the five C’s to explore art in order to practice emotional intelligence. What our workshops really aim to do is to make these skills applicable to real-life situations. Like this crazy pandemic we’re all just trying to survive right now.
Normally, we go into the art museum to complete interactive activities, but museums are temporarily closed to prevent the further spread of Coronavirus. So, we’ll be increasing our online resources in the coming weeks to bring you the same EQ tools and techniques online.
In the meantime, stay safe and be well!
We’ll see you online for a virtual museum tour soon…