As our routines are upended by Covid-19, I would like to remind my fellow New Yorkers to guard their mental health as closely as they guard their physical health. Keeping your wits together and your sense of self strong bolsters your ability to fight this virus, especially as the facts swiftly change. We want you healthy enough to get out of bed in the morning and centered enough to care for yourselves and your loved ones.
Although the streets are quiet in every borough we are still a community of New Yorkers who need one another. And while the people of our city are among many around the world that have had their lives reshaped by COVID-19, social media is a game-changer when it comes to staying in touch. We can text, video chat, conference call, send photos. We can connect with whole groups of people anywhere, at any time. Reach out. Set up a schedule to keep in touch.
Feeling especially down? Many therapists now practice tele-psychiatry (with video chats) or conduct sessions via telephone. And anyone in New York can call, text or chat at 1-888-NYC-WELL, at #NYCWELL, 24/7 to talk to trained counselors. Chat online at nyc.gov/nycwell.
Need practical information? Visit http://nyc.gov/coronavirus or text COVID to 692-692, or COVIDESP for Spanish language updates.
We New Yorkers have shown our kindness and resilience time and again, through natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy or the terrorist attacks of 2001. That kindness and inclination to reach out will help get us through this as well.
Do you have neighbors who could use help getting groceries or walking the dog? Or just watching the kids for a couple of hours? Maybe someone older lives alone and would appreciate a quick note under the door with your telephone number, offering to pick up medication at the pharmacy?
And when you see your neighbors in passing, do not just pass them by. Ask: how are you? Wait for the answer – while practicing your social distancing, of course!
Not all the pain and fear is visible. Too many, particularly in our Asian-American communities, have been targets of hateful language because of the coronavirus. Let them know that they have your love and support. If you are the victim of a hate crime you, call 911. You can also call 311 and say “human rights” to report harassment or discrimination.
With our schools shut down and our older New Yorkers not able to socialize in senior centers, many of us have been thrust into more intense roles as caretakers for children or someone elderly. Please remember that it is just as important to take care of yourself as it is take care of your loved ones.
We all know the basics by now. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water. Avoid gatherings of 10 or more people. Cough into your elbow. No hand shaking. Work at home if you can.
To that I add – breathe slowly and deeply. Cobble together a new routine for yourself and family members. Steal some time to disappear into a novel, knit, play a game of chess, watch a film. Children thrive with puzzles and board games, painting, and taking breaks to jump rope and ride their bikes (keeping a distance of six feet from others).
Lots of New Yorkers live alone, and I know that there are no quick and easy solutions to the anxiety and uncertainty that can come with social distancing. We are social creatures, and it can feel strange and lonely to be cut off from others. Those feelings can be exacerbated for those with an anxiety disorder or depression. Please continue to take any prescribed medications, take advantage of NYC Well and do not be afraid to tell others if you feel isolated or afraid.
This crisis can also bring out the best in us —it can give us a deeper understanding of ourselves and our relationships. It is also a period of more time to talk about who we are and to reconnect with our partners, children, siblings, parents, friends, colleagues. Find time to teach your children a new skill, like playing Scrabble or preparing a favorite dish. If you live alone, after you have tired of reflecting on the beauty and challenges of solitude, checking in on others is a good excuse to reach out.
These are troubled times, but we can emerge from this pandemic with a new sense of ourselves and a new gratitude for the many things that we have all too often taken for granted. We miss the public life of our city establishments, but we are more than our bars and restaurants, our sports arenas, our schools, our cultural centers. We are all our beautiful selves, making our way through this mystery called life.