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8 steps for keeping important relationships healthy during COVID-19 crisis

What can we do to thrive rather than just survive during this international time out? Local experts have the answers.

We can approach our collective quarantine in a Jean-Paul Sartre “No Exit” kind of way — “Hell is other people” — or we can embrace a more John Donne “No Man is an Island” philosophy. Most of us will probably do a little of both.

Hell, at times, can be other people, especially when you’re trying to work and certain daughters are nostalgia watching an old video in which kids march around 1970s-era Disneyland singing. And singing and singing. (Granted, it’s a very low level of hell, like a starter level for beginners. But still.) At the same time, we need others and thrive as part of a community.

So, what can we do to thrive rather than just survive during this international time out? We consulted with some local experts for answers.

Develop a media plan

“I’m a public radio junkie and usually listen to it all day long but I’m rationing myself to 30 minutes of news a day. Otherwise it’s crazy making,” says Sarah Baker, an LA-based life coach at Serenity Healing Arts. “If there’s a major change in in LA, I’m going to get a text alert.”

“We’ve really upped the ante with how much news we’re consuming and it feeds that monster of feeling and powerless,” says Elizabeth Pearson, a Laguna Niguel-based executive career and mindset coach for women. Consider outsourcing the job of monitoring the news to someone else. “It doesn’t affect my husband like it does me, so told my husband, ‘I need to you to keep a handle on the news and let me know if there’s something I need to know.’”

Communicate with others

The ways that people in the family are going to use the common space will vary. Work calls, Zoom meetings and deadline crunches requires more quiet than usual, while someone practicing their beginning tuba lessons requires everyone else to take a long walk or find some other way to deal.

“Our quarantine family group text thread has been amazing. It’s a way to be able to just drop in and say ‘This is what I need during this time,’ so we’re not getting in each other’s space,” says Sara Schulting-Kranz, Hermosa Beach-based life coach, certified wilderness guide and author of “Walk Through This: Harness the Healing Power of Nature and Travel the Road to Forgiveness.”

Connect with nature

Even though beaches and parks are closing, neighborhoods are still open and you’re free (six feet away free, at least) to wander and look up to behold the trees and the sky. When that’s not an option, take the time to microdose a little nature.

“There are simple things you can do and just five minutes outside can shift your brain and bring you back to center,” says Schulting-Kranz. “I go out into my backyard and take a few minutes to sit in the sun. When I take my dog to the park, I take my shoes off and sit down for a few minutes and just let myself be home with the Earth.”

In this moment, it’s OK

“I’m a coach — I feel like I’m pretty mentally strong. I have a lot of tools in the toolbox. But by last night, I just felt totally broken,” said Pearson, who after a bathtub crying moment remembered Eckhart Tolle’s teachings on staying in the present.

“I took it as a sign that I needed to really try to remain in the present moment. I think that this fear that everybody’s feeling is a projection of what could happen in the future. One good thing we can do is acknowledge those moments when we’ve gone into projecting into the future and just bring it back to ‘Is everything okay right now?’” Answer: Yeah. Pretty much.

Look for the helpers

“This reminds me of 9/11 where there was so much uncertainty in the world and you saw a lot of ugliness. But you also saw a lot of beauty and coming together,” Baker says. “Try focusing on that versus focusing on the guy taking all the berries at Trader Joe’s. I can’t do anything about him, but I can support my neighbor who’s at home sewing masks for local hospitals.”

She scores an emotional twofer by delivering the masks and getting alone time on her motorcycle.

Other options? Call a friend. Contact older neighbors and offer to shop for them. Donate blood.

“We got chalk and we went down to this jogging path in front of our house and wrote messages like ‘You’re awesome,’ ‘You’re doing great,’ ‘You’re loved.’ I felt like it made a shift in our whole family, like ‘We’re going to be positive and put some positive energy out there,’” Pearson says.

Learn to speak love languages

We all prefer to give and receive love in one or a combination of five ways, according to Gary Chapman. They are words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time and physical touch.

In my family, we’ve used this widsom to better comfort each other. My oldest daughter offers hugs when someone’s distressed (physical touch). Her sister is not into being touched — at all — but wants to hang out (quality time).

It’s a kind of Gift of the Magi situation because the oldest daughter needs a lot of alone time, and lots of quality time is like a nightmare to her. This all dawned on us the other night and they’re working it out. They realized both like acts of service, so they’ll draw each other foot baths or bake a batch of cookies to show the other one love.

Try G.R.A.C.E.

If you’re having a bathtub crying moment — been there — re-focus with the G.R.A.C.E. mnemonic, developed by psychotherapist Leah MacPherson.

  • Gratitude: Count your blessings, literally. Find three things to be grateful for daily.
  • Routine: A routine can be comforting in times of uncertainty. Keep a regular sleep schedule and plan a consistent routine with times for work and pleasure.
  • Activity: Get your rear end off that chair. It’ll help keep you fit and boost your mood.
  • Creativity: Paint, sing, dance, build. Feed your soul.
  • Engagement: Stay connected with friends and family and reach out to others who may feel isolated.

Try the Serenity Prayer

The serenity prayer used in 12-step programs is: Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

“It’s about realizing where to draw that line and trying to relinquish the control,” says Baker. “We’ve got six rolls of the toilet paper left because I didn’t go out and hoard it a month ago. But you know what? It’ll show up. And if not, I’ve got T-shirts, bleach and a washing machine. It’s fine.”