Recovery: Bridging Today’s Isolation Gap
Hazelden Betty Ford top official touts the saving grace of technology
by Kathy Grey
There’s a marvelous thing about people battling addiction, we learned from William Moyers, Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation’s vice president of public affairs at its Minnesota headquarters. Those on the road to recovery seek — and require — openness, honesty and community.
Those admirable yearnings can be hampered when something like a global pandemic forces social distancing.
And the anticipatory anxiety surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic has overwhelmingly obscured opportunities to meet, to commune and to be up front with those you trust most.
“People who are in recovery might deliberately, or otherwise, start using again,” Moyers says.
It’s in times like these that people in recovery must be most vigilant, despite the reality that a global pandemic might offer an excuse not to do what they’ve been doing.
“Addicts live in isolation, secrecy and shame,” Moyers explains. “Addiction is an issue of isolation. The antidote is community … being with our fellow travelers. Isolation is the opposite of what we need.”
That involves remaining aware of the changing situation via mass media and social media. But, Moyers adds, “Like everything, in moderation, please. We know that social media can carry misinformation. Stick with reputable information: sources you can trust and who have a track record of accuracy and fairness.”
For some, though, the path of recovery might become increasingly precarious.
“We find ourselves in a challenging situation as we are — rightly so — told by our officials to distance ourselves from each other, to keep the virus from reaching vulnerable populations,” Moyers says.
But that distancing can spark feelings that stem from anxiety.
“We know that addiction loves to latch onto our emotions: highs and lows. The key is to know that we can be particularly vulnerable,” Moyers says.
“The temptation is there, of course. But I urge people in recovery to ‘think the buzz through’ before taking that drink or drug. Because you can go ahead and get drunk or stoned, but when the buzz is gone, the pandemic will still be there. And then what?”
If those in recovery choose to use, they slip even further into isolation with their drug(s) of choice.
“This is a difficult time for people in recovery and everyone: people with mental illness, our grandparents, parents and children ... It is a tough time,” he says, a time that might stretch into “the foreseeable future.”
As bleak as that might sound, those feeling isolated can find comfort in the wonders of technology, whose developments facilitate meetings and gatherings of all kinds the world over.
“Just because there’s no yoga, recovery meeting or social gatherings doesn’t mean this day and age of technology can’t help us. We may not be able to hold hands in a circle as we say the Serenity Prayer, but we can still reach out and make an old-fashioned phone call. We can still meditate …
“People in recovery are really pliable,” Moyers says. “It’s a changing world, and everyone’s adapting.”
It’s easy to find help online, Moyers stresses. You can still reach out to your mentors and influencers or your sponsors in AA.
“We are not disconnected from each other! This remarkable technology is a wonderful safety net to all of us.”
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be nervous about your recovery, he cautions.
“The first step is to acknowledge your vulnerability.
“Yes, it’s an unprecedented, scary time in our country. But it’s not the end of the world.” A point for all of us to remember as we traverse this experience.
William C. Moyers is the vice president of public affairs and community relations for Hazelden Betty Ford, based in Minnesota, with a facility in Naples. As the organization’s public advocate since 1996, Moyers carries the messages about addiction, treatment and recovery to audiences across the nation.
To read more from Moyers on this subject, visit OcRegister.com/2020/03/13/sobriety-in-the-time-of-coronavirus-stay-connected-even-if-remotely.
Fostering Mental Resilience During the Pandemic
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From handwashing to social distancing, we’ve learned ways to stay physically safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. But with more people working from home and losing the comfort or interpersonal interaction — how do we ensure our mental health?
Consider using these tips compiled from a variety of experts on how to do just that.
Shifting Fear-Based Thinking
Many are looking to the Centers for Disease Control for updates on the virus daily. While there, why not visit the CDC’s page on managing stress and anxiety (CDC.gov/Coronavirus/2019-ncov/Prepare/Managing-Stress-Anxiety.html).
Here are some of the CDC’s tips:
Take breaks from watching, reading or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep and avoid alcohol and drugs.
Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.
Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.
Visit the CDC’s website CDC.gov/Coronavirus/2019-ncov/Prepare/ Managing-Stress-Anxiety.html) for tips specific to managing anxiety and stress for providers, parents, first responders and people who have been released from quarantine.
Breathe, Just Breathe
Shifting the focus to your breath in times of intense stress is an effective relaxation technique. One of the simplest and most effective breathing techniques was developed by Dr. Andrew Weil. The 4-7-8 breathing technique is simple and can help people feel calmer quickly, easily and anywhere. It can also help people fall asleep sooner.
The technique: Breath in for a count of four. Hold the breath for seven. Expel the air for eight.
Dr. Weil has referred to this as a “natural tranquilizer.” To learn more about this and other techniques for relaxation, visit Healthline.com.
Burnout expert and award-winning lifestyle coach, Neha O’Rourke, shares tips on how to manage your energy during coronavirus chaos:
Choose empowering thoughts. It’s easy to get caught up in fear during these situations, and that’s not always a bad thing. (Fear helps you buy soap or cleaning products, for example.) Evaluate if your fears are constructive and empowering or if they are merely draining your energy. If your thoughts are draining, try to reframe them to be more empowering. (For instance, “This is hard” can be turned into “This is a challenge that I will overcome.”)
Control what’s in your control and let go of the rest. You can’t control what’s going on around you, but you can control your thoughts, actions and choices. (Keep up your hygiene, choose where you interact, take preventative measures, etc.) From there, recognize that other things are out of your hands and that worrying will only cause stress, which negatively impacts immunity.
Get perspective and be mindful of your impact on others. Some of us are lucky enough to work jobs that allow us to stay home or in a safe environment. There are many who do not have that luxury. Additionally, remind yourself that although you may not be in the highest risk category, your choices can affect someone’s parent, grandparent, sibling or other loved one. Make choices with your impact in mind.
Kay Hutchison, author of “My Life in Thirty-Seven Therapies,” shared pointers she learned from her own mental health journey, which she finds particularly poignant in times of strife or isolation.
Practicing therapies at home, remotely or by video link is important for maintaining mental health without leaving the house, she says. Here are her suggestions:
Counseling/Psychotherapy — Just because you’re social isolating, does not mean it’s a good time to stop speaking with your counselor or therapist. Thankfully, most qualified counselors offer phone sessions, and you can ask to have video as well as audio if you need the closer interaction and connection. If seeking a new counselor during this time, check out the credentials and qualifications of the therapists you contact. You can do this by asking for their license information or researching them on a third-party search like one provided by Psychology Today.
For quick online therapy programs, MDLive.com and TalkSpace.com are good places to start.
Yoga — Yoga provides more than exercise, which alone can be a great tool for mitigating “cabin fever.” Yoga is a deeply therapeutic practice, too.
There are many classes online and a plethora of videos currently available on YouTube. Try out different teachers and styles to find the ones for you. If you need a place to start, LuluLemon’s official page has multiple yoga tutorials for beginners and experts.
There’s also a growing number of classes now being live streamed straight into people’s homes. Yogaia.com is one such livestreaming service. It offers a free one-week trial, followed by a paid subscription. This allocates for two-way interaction if you switch on your video, allowing the instructor to provide individual feedback on your position or breathing, for example.
Guided meditation — Group meditation, like those of spiritual teacher and author, Eckhart Tolle, are increasingly being streamed live to audiences all over the world via video link. Large groups engaging in meditation is a very powerful therapy, especially beneficial when you are having to socially isolate from others. Subscribe for free on his website for video teachings and livestreamed events. EckhartTolle.com
Creative writing therapy — Get your ideas, your fears and your experiences down on paper. It’s therapeutic, and it helps bring some order to the chaos outside. Or, create your own visualization board of images for your future when this difficult time is over.
How to ‘WFH’ (work from home)
Since many people are working from home, the CDC also offers tips on how to get the most from working from home:
Maintain regular hours. Set a schedule and stick to it.
Create a morning routine.
Set ground rules with the people in your space.
Schedule breaks and take them in their entirety.
Keep a dedicated office space.
‘Find Sunlight on the Other Side’
Nurse, life coach and author Mary Odgers lost her home and a lifetime of memories to a 2008 California wildfire. She offers these tips for staying calm and grounded right now:
Maintain a routine: The disruption of routines can make anybody irritable. Maintain the comfort of routines by seeking new ways to keep your usual things going or create new routines altogether.
Limit screen time: We are all hungry for information. But there’s so much out there. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and confused, then feel disempowered. Set clear limits and stick to them.
Exercise: Physical activity helps burn the extra energy that comes with transition and dealing with crisis and loss. If the gym is closed, get creative in your home or outdoors.
Share: What talents of yours can bring people joy right now? Can you teach those online yoga classes? Lead a video writing workshop or book club? Now’s the time to open up, connect and share your gifts.
Help others: It will ease your mind and give you strength.
Accept grief and uncertainty. If you’re experiencing grief, anger and anxiety, don’t resist. Accept it for what it is and let it run its course.
Nobody knows when this crisis will pass, but do remember: Eventually, it will. Building strength and serenity today will help create more beauty in the moment, and the future.
And if You’re Like Us…
Make an èBella collage! If you’ve been with us for a while (maybe even since our inception), chances are you have èBella magazines in your home. Why not make an empowering collage or vision board? Send us a photo of it and we’ll share it on our page as a simple way to relax and spread joy.
Stay tuned for developing coverage as we continue to gather information from local experts on how to keep you, your family and your community safe.
in this issue
Fostering Mental Resilience During the Pandemic
Tips to keep your mental health in check, even in isolation
Recovery: Bridging Today’s Isolation Gap
Hazelden Betty Ford top official touts the saving grace of technology
of Children During
“It’s up to us adults to do the right thing: to be good stewards of our resources, to take care of one another, to all take care of our kids.” ~ Dr. Paul Simeone
Boston and Bronx: A ‘Tail’ of Two Kitties
How fostering ‘quarantine kitties’ gave me the good kind of stress
Supporting Your Mental Health
during this Pandemic
Embracing a New Era
èBella continues to connect and empower the community with Extra content
upside down. As with any snow globe, the glitter swirled around and I could no longer make out the message inside: “Girl Power!”
It occurred to me that’s how this experience feels — as if we are in a snow globe that has been turned upside down and shaken vigorously. The snow is still swirling with unprecedented uncertainty. How long will this crisis last, and how will we weather the storm? What’s most unsettling is the fact that each one of us is impacted.
Challenging times are not new to èBella. We started publishing in 2007, just in time for the worst economic recession of our lives, when all other news was dismal. Back then, I worried that our timing was bad. But it turned out people needed our inspiring and empowering content then more than ever — just like they need it now.
èBella Goes Digital for All
We intend to be a source of inspiration and empowerment for readers during this crisis too. Due to uncertainty around business closings and the ability to produce a printed magazine, we have decided to bring those messages to you in digital format for the next three issues: May, June/July and August/September.
We are also dropping the pay wall on the digital issue to make èBella’s information available to anyone who will benefit from it. For this, we only require your email address so we can send each month’s digital issue to you as it is released.
And that’s not all!
Issues Between Issues
Inside our charter to inspire, empower and connect the community, we are launching a supplement to èBella’s monthly magazine. èBella Extra: Engaging in Issues Between Issues enables us to offer timely information to benefit your life between our regular issues.
This is our very first èBella Extra and we’d love to hear your thoughts about what else you’d like to see.
Sharon Hood - Founder & Publisher
I hope this communication finds you safe and well. If you’re like most people, things around you are very unsettled.
As I was contemplating how èBella will continue to make a difference for readers and our advertising partners, I picked up a glitter globe — a Christmas gift from a dear friend — and turned it
for the Vulnerable
èBella Extra addresses mental health issues in troubling times
Our community isn’t about to sit
idly by as others suffer. With philanthropy at the region’s core, many are wondering how the COVID-19 pandemic will impact children, people vulnerable to mental, emotional and behavioral health issues and those with substance use disorders.
Aiming to answer the question, “What can be done?” we reached out to local experts to provide support as the pandemic infiltrates our close-knit community — oftentimes more cerebrally than physically.
Read on for tips on social distancing without emotionally isolating; adopting healthy coping mechanisms; and supporting children’s mental health while navigating uncharted territory.
Taking Care of Children During COVID-19
“It’s up to us adults to do the right thing: to be good stewards of our resources,
to take care of one another, to all take care of our kids.” ~ Dr. Paul Simeone
by Julia Browning
Children look to adults for answers. During the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic, with so much panic-inducing uncertainty, it’s easy to feel like there are no answers. But hope is not lost for adults who want to protect their children and those of this community.
What Can We Do?
Psychologist Paul Simeone, PhD., Lee Health’s vice president of mental and behavioral health, says the first thing parents, guardians and all adults should do to calm children is to be calm, themselves.
“Children take their cues from us,” Simeone elaborates. “To the extent that parents are rattled, their kids are going to pick that up. Kids are very perceptive.”
One of the first major disruptions during a catastrophic event, Simeone explains, is a disruption in routine, which we’re seeing now, especially with kids being dismissed from school. By establishing routines and giving children a sense of normalcy, adults can combat a child’s stress.
Guardians should also be particularly aware of what information children and teens are taking in and how it is affecting their mental stability. Asking what they’ve heard about COVID-19 and correcting any false information — especially anything catastrophic — is vital, Simeone says, suggesting the CDC, SAMHSA, WHO and LeeHealth.org as quality resources.
“Kids are going to ask a lot of questions about what is going on. The fine line to walk is to answer those questions but not provide too much information,” he says.
On that note, Simeone suggests limiting news exposure, as the constant onslaught of negative news can be a stressor for kids and adults. Instead, make time for safe family events. Going out into nature by visiting a park, while being sure to observe social distancing recommendations by staying at least 6 feet away from people, is a good way to do that, he says.
Finally, Simeone suggests reassuring children that they’re going to be okay. Get down to a child’s level
and tell them, “We’re doing everything we can. We will take care of you.”
As the Pandemic Lingers
With predictions ranging from 3 to 6 months to over a year, the only certain thing about the pandemic is the uncertainty. Simeone stresses that families need to accept that they’re in this situation for the long haul and to prepare for the challenges of that.
“As this grinds on, the level of stress and irritability is likely to cause more conflict within families,” he says. “I expect there to be more domestic violence, exacerbated health conditions of both parents and kids and, finally, an uptick of use of alcohol and drugs, which of course doesn’t help anything.”
That’s why it’s more important than ever for adults to model good self-care by adopting positive coping mechanisms such as exercise, eating healthy and adopting a mindfulness practice. (Simeone suggests downloading “Headspace,” a meditation app.)
As loneliness is already an epidemic in our culture, Simeone shares concerns that social distancing could lead to emotional isolation.
“Whatever people can do to remain connected to one another, even if it’s through technology, that’s a lot better than being on your own,” he says.
Looking to the Future
As issues surrounding the pandemic continue, financial challenges will further increase anxiety and stress, Simeone says.
“All of these self-care concerns are going to become paramount,” he says. “As a country, we’re going to have to do a lot to take care of people, meet their basic needs like food security, with financial subsidies that go toward rent and extended unemployment compensation.”
Simeone recalls national crises of years past, like the September 11 terrorist attack that left the country grief stricken. In the wake of horror came a sense of camaraderie.
“I think we’re there again. I think to the extent that we can all take care of one another, that’s what needs to happen. If we take care of one another, parents and grandparents will do a better job taking care of their kids. Everyone needs support,” he says.
Centers for Disease Control: CDC.gov
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: SAMHSA.gov
World Health Organization: WHO.int
Lee Health: LeeHealth.org
Experts Weigh In
David Lawrence Center shares tips on keeping up mental health in light of a crisis
Clinicians from Collier County’s mental health and addiction recovery treatment nonprofit, David Lawrence Center, share their expert tips on staying mentally well during the pandemic.
Karen Buckner, clinical director of children’s community services and Maggie Baldwin, clinical director of Crossroads addiction recovery services, collaborated to share this report.
èB: This COVID-19 issue is having great impact on the public psyche. How can our neighbors quell their fears?
Being exposed to large amounts of negative information can increase feelings of anxiety and distress for many people. While it is important to stay informed, it may be helpful to limit your access to media if it is upsetting to you or your family. These strategies can be helpful in finding a healthy balance related to media coverage.
Remind yourself that medical, scientific and public experts around the world are working hard to contain the virus, treat those affected and develop a vaccine as quickly as possible.
Remain Calm and Adopt a Practical Approach
Do your best to stay calm and follow official advice, particularly around good hygiene habits and social distancing.
When you feel that you are missing information, you may become more anxious or stressed. Watch, listen to, or read the news for updates from officials. Be aware that there may be rumors circulating during a crisis, especially on social media. Always check your sources and turn to reliable sources of information like your local government authorities.
Avoid Too Much Exposure to News
Take breaks from watching, reading or listening to news stories including social media. It can be upsetting to hear about the crisis and see images repeatedly.
èB: As an advocate for people in need of support as this pandemic infiltrates our community, what is your best, most often shared advice?
It is natural to experience feelings of anxiety, distress or other concerns in relation to the Coronavirus. Everyone reacts differently, and your own feelings may change over time. Taking care of your emotional health during the Covid-19 state of emergency will help you think clearly and be able to respond to your needs and the needs of your family.
Self-care is important in supporting your physical and mental well-being. Following some simple self-care strategies can help support your long-term well-being.
• Separate what is in your control and what is not. There are things you can do, and it is helpful to focus on things within your control. Challenge yourself to stay in the present moment. Notice and accept how you feel without dwelling in these feelings. If you find yourself worrying about something that hasn’t happened, gently bring your attention back to the present moment. Notice the sights, sounds, and other sensory experiences in your immediate moment and name them out loud. Engaging in mindfulness is one way to stay grounded when things feel beyond our control.
• Maintaining routines as best as possible can lead to feeling of normalcy. Keep regular wake and sleep routines, eat healthy foods and try to engage in physical activities. Avoid alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.
If you are completing school or work from home, try to maintain a healthy balance by designating specific school or work hours. Establish a dedicated school or workspace. Take regular breaks to unwind and do things that you enjoy.
• Engage in self-care. Participate in healthy activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. Take deep breaths, stretch, meditate, journal or draw, read or do other activities you enjoy.
• Get outside in nature. Take a walk in your neighborhood. Do some yardwork. Exercise supports both your physical and mental health.
• Seek support and stay connected with friends and family online or by phone. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.
If you are feeling particularly anxious, or if you are struggling with your mental health, reach out to a mental health professional for support. You don’t have to be alone with your worry, and it can be comforting
to share what you are experiencing with those trained to help.
èB: How is DLC continuing to serve clients in all stages of recovery outside of group counseling or other programs in which people gather for support?
DLC has developed a comprehensive Coronavirus/
COVID-19 Prevention Program. To prevent exposure to the COVID-19 virus, all clients, visitors and guests of the Center must follow the guidelines and protocols set forth by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Department of Health (DOH).
DLC is now offering tele-health, smartphone-based service appointments in several programs, including outpatient therapy, group therapy and medical services appointments. DLC’s community-based therapy and case management services continue to provide treatment services and support to individuals.
To maintain social distancing in lobbies for new clients, DLC has enabled online access to screening tools. They can be found on our website at davidlawrencecenter.org/ get-help-now/client-resources-forms/.
Whenever possible, follow-up and routine appointments will then be scheduled via tele-health services until further notice.
DLC continues to offer emergency services and crisis support 24 hours a day; seven days a week by calling 239-455-8500 or visiting the Crisis Unit at 6075 Bathey Lane, Building B-3, Naples, where all universal precautions are being used.
Changes to visitation and/or other program policies will continue to be reevaluated regularly as needed and posted on DavidLawrenceCenter.org/covid-19.
èB: It is easy to “relapse” during stressful times. What are some of the techniques DLC advocates for people in treatment to stay on track?
The key to staying on track is to stay in contact with others even during this time of social distancing. Fortunately, individuals in recovery can still participate in group therapy and counseling online. In addition, some 12-step meetings are available online through AA-Intergroup, the “neveraloneclub” or YouTube and Podcasts. Another way is communicating with sober supports and sponsors via telephone or even with apps such as Zoom.
Locally, some of the 12-steps meetings have moved outside and are hosting meetings in parking lots or have continued to hold 12-step meetings more frequently and limiting the group size to 10.
Stress, in general, can lead to relapse, so we encourage clients to practice coping skills such as mindfulness techniques and cognitive behavioral techniques to cope with the fear and anxiety provoking thoughts that are part of this unprecedented epidemic.
The Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) is a comprehensive prevention and wellness process that anyone can use to decrease unwanted or troubling feelings, increase positive personal choices and improve quality of life. This is a free online tool available to individuals.
èB: Is there a message for people on medication to ensure they have enough to cover them as the pandemic wears on?
Medication adherence is extremely important for mental health patients. Quitting without consulting a doctor can be life-threatening. Going off your medications abruptly can lead to suicidal thinking, trigger withdrawal symptoms and a relapse of your symptoms.
David Lawrence Center is fully operational for medication management and refill appointments. As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, DLC has mobilized virtual appointments — using Zoom, Skype or telephone — for existing patients and new clients in need of medications.
Additional Resources from DLC:
• If you are feeling overwhelmed with emotions such as sadness, depression, anxiety, or feel like you want to harm yourself or someone else, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255)
• Taking care of your behavioral health:
• Coping with stress during infectious disease outbreaks:
Boston and Bronx: A ‘Tail’ of Two Kitties
How fostering ‘quarantine kitties’ gave me the good kind of stress
by Julia Browning
I finally did something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, and all it took was a worldwide pandemic to convince me. I became a feline foster mom.
I’d long weighed the pros and cons of fostering.
Pro: I’m a total cat lady at heart, one who is easily moved to tears by a heartfelt adoption story.
Con: I can hardly keep a plant alive. Was I ready to hold the emotional weight of caring for a living creature?
But the scales were tipped as I watched the world around me start to crumble emotionally. A few weeks into COVID-19 hitting the U.S., I vacillated between obsessing over the bad news rolling in and catastrophizing about everything that could go wrong.
That’s when I saw announcements from local shelters begging for people to foster. If a statewide quarantine goes into effect, the notices read, no one would be able to care for the animals. More than ever, pets needed loving homes.
So, with newfound determination, my sister, Hannah, and I took a short break from our social distancing routine (watching Netflix on the couch, six feet apart) and drove to a nearby cat shelter.
When we entered, there was a palpable sense of tension in the air. Or maybe it was my anxiety as a first-time foster filling the room. The shelter was clean, and the workers were kind, but like any group serving an at-risk population during a crisis, we felt a sensation of overwhelm.
The room was teeming with cats, with at least one feline on every possible surface. Employees and volunteers seemed to be working double time, as the threat of the virus loomed overhead.
The cats went about life as usual, completely unaware of the mounting insecurity. A plump tabby and playful orange cat wrestled over a toy mouse. Older cats observed the organized chaos on top of cupboards. Cats with medical conditions snoozed away inside their cages.
Each cat gladly accepted affection from a stranger or volunteer, all working not to trip over them as they went about their duties.
While filling out the paperwork, a tiny black cat became fixated on us. His blue laminated collar looked like a hospital band. On it read the name, “Boston.” He demanded to be patted, rubbing his face along my knuckles as I signed my name on the dotted line.
Hannah and I looked at each other.
“I think we’ll be taking this one,” my sister told a volunteer. She raised her eyebrows and smiled.
“Oh, that is so special!” the volunteer said. “He has a brother, and we would really like them to stay together.”
Although we had only planned to house one, we couldn’t say no. Who were we to split up a pair of bonded siblings? Plus, two cats — twice as nice. We would be doubling our good deed.
Later, under mounting pressure to find the boys a forever home, I would realize that two juvenile black cats that must be adopted together wasn’t going to be the easiest sell. Perhaps due to superstition, black cats are two-thirds less likely to be adopted than white cats, and only half as likely to be adopted as tabby cats. That’s according to the organization, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals).
The workers rounded up his brother, “Bronx,” which was no easy feat. We learned right away that Bronx specializes in hiding — and escaping. He broke out of the cat carrier before the brothers were safely locked inside.
It seemed we had successfully traumatized them as we loaded our new “quarantine kitties” into the car. On our way home, they panted and let out high-pitched meows. Any effort to calm them was useless.
My worries were tripling, but I kept remembering that the volunteers had told me. “Be patient, keep them in a contained space and check to see that they’re using the litter box. That way, you’ll know they’re alive.”
I panicked about the statement about knowing they’re alive, something that morphed into a red flag.
As the shelter workers predicted, the boys were slow to warm up. We transformed our guest bathroom into a kitty holding station, equipped with food, water and a litter box.
Boston, the smaller, braver and more social of the two, came out of the carrier for occasional pats, but any sudden movement or noise sent him ducking for cover. Bronx came out only once, in search of a superior hiding spot. He made a new home for himself under the shower curtain.
We resolved to give them their space and shut them in for the night.
Then I obsessively researched tips for foster pet care until I fell asleep.
The next morning, we faced the outside world and headed to the pet store. About $70 poorer, I returned home, armed with calming treats, a plug-in for the wall that supposedly emits a calming aroma (fingers crossed that it also works for humans), and other cat essentials we hadn’t thought of, including “immune kitty” green juice and an industrial-sized case of litter we could barely carry up the stairs.
As we carefully moved Boston and Bronx into a larger space, and the calming goods appeared to work their magic, I realized that fostering is about small victories. Everything they do, every small gesture toward acclimating, becomes a cause for celebration.
Though they still preferred their “hidey holes” — spaces where they crawl up inside my box spring through tears in the fabric I didn’t know existed — they eventually emerged for some cautious exploration.
When they finally ate and drank from their makeshift cat bowls, I almost cried.
After nearly 24 hours of worry, I thought, “They’re going to be OK.” And I had to admit to myself that worrying about them was a nice break from worrying about the state of the world.
A calm settled over me as the brothers began to compete for the space in my lap, purring and looking to me with trust in their eyes.
I didn’t realize how much I had been craving that reassurance since the corona virus had taken over the world’s collective consciousness. I let the relief spread through the corners of my stressed-out mind.
“They’re going to be OK,” I thought with a momentary and much-needed respite.
“I’m going to be OK, and the world is going to be OK.”
Ancient Buddhist and Hindu mandala tradition aids in relaxation
With social distancing being the No. 1 way to curb the spread of the COVID-19, many people are staying at home. But the question remains: How do we best occupy our time during this self-imposed quarantine?
Kathryn Costa of Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health suggests the use of mandalas for keeping busy and managing anxiety. Mandalas are circular geometric patterns, often printed on craft paper for coloring. It’s a form of meditation. While focusing on creating the repeating pattern, the mind can be at ease.
Originating in Buddhist and Hindu tradition, mandalas have always had a way of helping us reduce stress with what she calls “mindful grace.”
Here are Costa’s top five reasons to start a mandala practice:
1. Relaxation of the body and mind. Given the recent progression of self-quarantining and social distancing, it is necessary for us to find ways to mitigate stress and keep anxiety levels at bay during stressful periods. Focusing on filling the repeating shapes with color gives our minds a break, eases stress and anxiety and helps regulate sleep cycles.
2. Activation of creativity. This practice requires no artistic background. We use the same lines and shapes — vertical, horizontal, curved, diagonal — that are used in the alphabet. The practice allows creativity to be activated, bringing creativity to other areas of your life.
3. Improvement and enhancement of focus and clarity. Drawing mandalas requires a dedication of focus. Your mind is unable to think of anything else. When you reach the coloring stage, your attention can shift to your thoughts and feelings. The process of mandala making
allows mind space for self-reflection, acknowledgement, appreciation and intent, among other things.
4. Centering and connectivity. The outer circle of a mandala offers a safe container to focus your thoughts, feelings and ideas. Traditionally, the shapes within the circle radiate from the center. However, a more contemporary design permits freeform and abstraction. Either way, patterns emerge that may reflect the centeredness and connections found within ourselves.
5. It’s fun and empowering. Joy is perhaps the biggest reason to begin. Witnessing art emerging from your own hands is fun and empowering.
The Kripalu Mandala Coloring Book offers some designs to get you started. Visit kripalu.org/sites/default/