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Every day brings a new question, a new worry, a new fear about the coronavirus pandemic. Its essential to pay attention to public health advice to practice social distancing and to stay home to limit contact and reduce the spread of infection. And it’s also essential to take care of yourself, particularly when it comes to stress.
For me, my regular meditation and mindfulness practices do not seem sufficient for these times, so I have added something new to my routine — a hand-washing and gratitude exercise.
Every time I wash my hands, I focus on my feelings of gratitude. I start with the doctors, nurses, ambulance and hospital workers on the front lines of the pandemic. I think about the countless numbers of hourly workers who are restocking grocery store shelves, working at pharmacies and staffing checkout counters. These people are coming face-to-face with hundreds of people each day, putting themselves at risk so the rest of us have food and necessities. I think about sanitation workers collecting our trash. I think about the young man who provides maintenance and cleaning to my building, while grandparents care for his 9-year-old and 1-year-old children.
A gratitude practice does not sound like much, but we know from research that a daily gratitude practice is good for us, helping us reduce stress, get better sleep and stay healthier. Thinking about the sacrifice of these people gives me a boost (and I also share my thanks in person when I check out at the grocery store).
We all need to mentally prepare for the fact that the pandemic — and the disruption that comes with it — is going to be with us for a long time. But my advice to you hasn’t changed: Stay informed, practice self-care and be kind.
The Well team will be here for you, continuing to provide accurate virus information, tips for staying well and advice for you and your family about living well every day. Watch our video about how to wash your hands (turns out we were all doing it wrong!). Dr. Judson Brewer offers a brain hack to quell pandemic anxiety. And since most of us are stuck at home, how about some guidance on losing weight and keeping it off, from Jane Brody?
Stay home if you can, and stay well.
— Tara Parker-Pope