Sheltering in place:
A BeWell Coach’s perspective
We talked with BeWell Coach, Elizabeth Skolnik, CPCC, NBC-HWC, about how Stanford faculty and staff, and all of us in the Stanford community, can best cope with the challenges (and, as it turns out, opportunities) of sheltering in your place of residence — for as long as the COVID-19 pandemic lasts.
Manage your fear
Skolnik coaches each individual to “untangle your fear — tease it apart,” because it’s the fear of the unknown, the unchartered territory we’re all in, that grips us so frequently in this troubling time. Skolnik says it’s helpful to take 3 deep breaths and ask yourself, “Am I in danger? Do I lack food and hot water? Am I able to keep in touch with my relatives?” When you realize that the answer to these albeit basic questions is, “No, No, and Yes — I’m OK,” the fear becomes less palpable.
Structure your days
While sheltering in your place of residence, there are two different groups (and those that are in between the extremes): those who are very busy, especially with rising, remote work demands; and those who lack enough work and are bored and anxious. Skolnik is speaking daily with many Stanford staff in both categories and she stresses that your health — and the health of your family and community — “will ultimately suffer if you become overworked and approach the burnout stage.” She remarks that “it’s vital to structure your day, with a reasonable start time, an adequate number of breaks, a stopping work time.” Get dressed first thing in the morning, just as if you’re leaving the house to go to work in another building.
“Take advantage of the time you used to spend commuting” by doing more in that time that is not work. Rather, fill that extra time with those activities that are enriching, recreational, and healthy — such as exercise, cooking, or whatever tends to calm you or elevate your mood.
Reset your priorities
“This is a time to reset our priorities and ask ourselves what is most important right now, given this new reality; then, we can realign our priorities with what’s possible. Ask yourself, ‘What can I do with my free time that brings me calm and joy?’”
Don’t try to start every single new project you’ve always been meaning to get to … start with just one, at first — whether it’s writing in a gratitude journal or learning to meditate. If you don’t feel like being as ambitious as someone who is exercising more, or others you hear are taking up learning a new language, don’t let that get to you: “This is not a time for harsh self-judgement. Self-compassion, in fact, is vitally important right now.”
Keep up your social connections, even if just virtually
A Well for Life study1 concluded that social connections are the number one factor determining overall well-being. And Skolnik agrees: “So make it a point to call, Facetime, Zoom with relatives and friends — daily.”
If you’re interested in an online/app activity while talking with friends or relatives, or when with your children at home, see our list of virtual experiences.
Keep up with your work team, too
Skolnik advises us, at least once per day, to connect with your Stanford work team — “and try not to discuss work.” Keep the connection social or about personal well-being; try not to have an agenda, for at least this one 10-minute call per day.
Self-care is of vital importance. And sometimes it’s OK to just want to be alone. Take that long run, listen to music under your headphones, read a book in a room all by yourself, have a long bath — whatever best calms you. But save time for it, and even schedule it in daily.
Minimize exposure to the bad-news media deluge
Me-time, however, is best not spent heavily invested in 24-hour news cycles and social media. If possible, make Me-time “coronavirus-free” and “spent doing what used to calm you down or make you happy; it doesn’t need to be a new activity.” For some, it’s a walk around the block (keeping your social, six-foot minimum distance, of course); for others, it may be drawing a picture, looking though old photographs, or playing the piano.
March 25, 2020
By Lane McKenna
1 Chrisinger BW, Gustafson JA, King AC, Winter SJ. Understanding Where We Are Well: Neighborhood-Level Social and Environmental Correlates of Well-Being in the Stanford Well for life Study. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019 May 20;16(10). pii: E1786. doi: 10.3390/ijerph 16101786.
Guide to self-care: Coping with coronavirus (updated April 9, 2020)
Home caregivers: Meeting the COVID-19 challenges (April 9, 2020)
Helping those in need during COVID-19 (April 2020)
Tips for better home food management (May 2020)
Setting your biological clock: Reducing stress while sheltering in place (June 2020)