12 Ways to Check-In with Yourself and Your Loved Ones Right Now

I miss the idiocy of St. Louis drivers at rush hour. I miss walking into local businesses and smelling all the smells and touching everything that is allowed. I miss spending time with my family, cooking with them and laughing. I miss being with friends in abundance. 


I miss being with my grandmother. I miss hugs. I miss being in rooms filled with people. Awkward smiles with acquaintances passed on the sidewalk. Tripping in public. Public speaking and sweating the whole time. Being in classes. Complaining about being in classes. Being at work. Complaining about work. Meeting strangers, bouncing ideas, and asking questions. Being in spaces and places with people. 


We’ve lost a lot recently. Everyone is losing different things at different times. Though no one experience is the same, we are sharing an immense amount of group pain right now with very few universal coping skills to respond to it. 


We’re going to be “bad” at this. Every responsibility we have now is foreign and marginally terrible. Learning from home is gross. Working from home is gross. Not having an income is incredibly terrifying and brutal. Not having access to friends and family is gross. Hearing that people in our communities and in communities so far away are sick is heartbreaking. Seeing headline after headline of death and mortality is a brutal experience many people haven’t known until now. 


We have accumulated this entire lexicon of public health language over the past few weeks. Self Isolation. Self-Quarantine. PPE. Unemployment. Stimulus. Mortality. So many of these words were foreign to us in the beginning of March and they are all grossly referring to lack of resources, health, and a lack of security. 


I am an undergraduate Public Health senior at Saint Louis University. I’ve spent four years talking about crises in classrooms with desks on wheels using words similar to the ones listed above. I’ve sat in circles and debated about how to respond to a group trauma. How to get health care and access to communities that we may not be in, and how to ensure that we are listening more than speaking. What does someone with Type 2 diabetes need while living in a food desert? What is health insurance, and who isn’t included in its policy? Why is the infant and maternal mortality rate in St. Louis astronomically high? What are the two types of treatment plans for HIV, and which is more accessible? What is a virus and how does it differ from a type of bacteria or parasite? 


Many public health issues impact specific populations based largely upon location, gender expression, sexuality, income, access to education and food, religion, ability, migration status, and race. COVID-19 is no different than many other diseases, illnesses, and health outcomes that encircle communities and individuals. Folks living close together are unable to socially distance. Folks without an education of how diseases work or their history will not understand the severity of the illness or what social distancing means. Folks unable to stop working (i.e. people who work in grocery stores and the healthcare industry) and without access to adequate cleaning supplies are more at risk to carry the disease and unwillingly transmit it. 


In public health, we discuss how health experiences can be worse depending on privilege and access to resources. Asthma rates are really high in North St. Louis City and County, communities who also experience low access to healthcare. Having an already compromised respiratory system puts one significantly more at risk of having worse outcomes from this virus. With more people more likely to have a worse outcome, it is clear that this virus will impact these communities more than those without this predisposed health risk. 


Asthma is just one example. Think of other ways in which a predisposed health experience would put someone at risk for a worse or better outcome. This mindset is a public health mindset, and acting on it for and with those around is a public health action.


Everyone is at risk of COVID-19. However, it is more likely that low-income groups will be impacted in entirely different ways. This is a public health issue that politicians and leaders must prioritize. We must act proactively to protect at-risk communities.


So, what does it mean to exist in cultural desolation? 


These weeks have been messy, chaotic and brutal. NPR front pages and every social media strain is filled with loss. We are losing so much, at the same time, seperated. We are so incredibly not used to this. Waking up is going to be hard. Being “productive” is going to be hard. Being present is going to be hard. 


My incredible, silly, loving grandmother is aging. For the past few months, my family has been consistently caring for her by preparing and feeding her meals, visiting her each hour she is awake, and ensuring that the medical and therapeutic care she is getting is as robust and comprehensive as possible. With a recent lockdown in her skilled nursing facility, none of her family members have had the blessing of being able to see her or hold her hand. This is a really hard experience for us to go through, and we are unable to go through it together. 


If we don’t know how to check-in with ourselves yet, maybe now is the time to self-teach via trial by fire. We are all going through a potentially traumatic experience right now, and we’re all processing it differently. Though we may assume that we know ourselves and our loved ones, the severity of this situation is beyond what we probably know about ourselves and each other. 


Here’s a call to action to expand your definitions of how to love yourself and others. 


Maybe there is a pro in our technologically-defined era. We’ve had years to get used to communicating and sharing through these formats. With social media platforms in excess, there are hundreds of ways in which our ideas and feelings can get across. 


I’m trawling for peace. I have the privilege of going on long walks when I need to escape. I am communicating my feelings and showing up to the non-school Zoom calls that bring peace and connection. 


So, Here’s a list of 12 ways in which people are finding some love:


 1. My editor, Lexi Kayser, shared her affirmations in a Facebook post including:


“I write into existence that I can find gentleness for myself, as the world is harsh enough, and kindness dolloped on my own heart is still kindness projected onto this earth.”


2. Julie Simonson, a resident of my parent’s neighborhood, started an action. She emailed the entire neighborhood and stressed the need for togetherness in any way possible. She recommended that each household able could put up white lights in front of their homes to spread some light to those outside or driving at night. Within a few days, many homes in the area had their old Christmas/winter lights beaming outside. 


3. SLU alum Tommi Poe said:


“My roommate and I have to work for home for the foreseeable future, so we applied around and have started fostering dogs to help free up some room in shelters. This has led to lots of different Zoom calls with friends so that they can meet him. He helps us feel less lonely and makes us have structure and purpose to our day.”


4. My boyfriend, Ryan Lawless, said: 


“I'm starting to do yoga in the morning to give myself to breathe and sort of just be... empty? A couple old groupchats with friends began being active again a few days ago and that’s been a really nice and casual way to socialize with friends and not feel so alone”


5. My best friend from home, Jenny Perkowski, said:


“I’ve started reading which I haven’t been able to do in a while and have found so much joy in it! I also have been playing my old Animal Crossing game which is a great form of healthy escapism :)”


6. My other best friend from home, Bekah Perman, said:


“Finding times to leave my apartment has been super important for me! With 5 of us living here it can get really crowded so going for a walk and listening to some tunes or a podcast has been great! ALSO I got rollerblades for Christmas and learning to use them WITH my roommates has been a great way to share a laugh and connect with each other!”


7. My cousin Melissa Vien and her husband Andy have intentionally moved forward in this year:


“Last year, my husband Andy and I began a new family tradition: choosing an intention for the year... a guiding principle for how you want to be, live and show up in the world. We keep our intention board in the kitchen so we see it every day. On January 1, 2020, we agreed our new intention of the year would be "Choose Hope." Not knowing what the year would bring, it now seems so fitting. When you choose hope, any outcome is possible. It's a glass half full - not empty - mentality. This morning in the drive through at St. Louis Bread Co the car in front of me "JOYed" me and unexpectedly paid for my coffees. So I JOYed the car behind me. Although there is a lot of pain and hurt in the world right now, there is even more kindness, goodness and compassion. You only have to look for it.”


8. And my cousin-in-law Andy shared some wisdom:


“Strife and challenge are unfortunately one of the best teachers in life. Perception is in the eye of the beholder, so I keep trying to view this situation from a lens that looks at ultimate positive impacts on society, which I think could be as follows: more appreciation for lower wage, essential workers, a call for a simplified and unified medical system for all, a call for improved pandemic response both nationally and internationally, continued rapid adoption of technologies that will streamline government, businesses, educational institutions, etc. and the hope that more resources will be allocated to developing a universal flu vaccine just to name a few. Additionally, all of this quarantined time has also given us the opportunity to really think and reflect about the things that really matter deep down from a family, friends, and spiritual perspective. Life will certainly still go on and it's amazing to see how resilient humans are during this time. Most humans are ultimately good at the end of the day. I look forward to see how we'll continue to innovate and make improvements to society for everyone after this is all said and done.”


9. My friend from home, Maria Zoll, said:


“Some friends and I did Pictionary happy hour on Zoom using a screen sharing plugin for Zoom!”


10. My good friend and SLU alum Tom Bergan said:


“As Caleigh (Horan) said, we’ve started sharing daily playlists amongst a small group of friends, which has been incredible for checking in on those folks on a daily basis. Outside of that circle, it’s been a lot of texts to friends just whenever the thought pops into my mind of “oh, we haven’t talked in a bit, let me reach out,” which is how a lot of friends have been checking in with me as well.


I’ve found a lot of peace through going on bike rides! Which is so wild because never before in my life have I been inclined to go on daily bike rides. I usually just put headphones in and ride through the neighborhoods in our town, and it’s been the only time that I’ve been able to truly feel like, for just a minute, that the world isn’t falling apart. Just yesterday I saw families biking and walking, people fishing, kids flying kites, and neighbors hanging out with one another on picnic blankets (a safe distance apart) in their yards. So just getting to observe all of that has been nothing short of restorative and life-giving in a lot of ways.”


11. SLU alum Claire Cunningham said:


“This is niche and a little absurd. But my boyfriend and I found a game of Trivial Pursuit from 1981 in the garage, and play a daily game. The answers are either hilariously outdated or so long ago no one could possibly be expected to know the answer. Regardless of my mood, I always end up laughing when the answer is “The Soviet Union.” It has brought a weird amount of joy.”


12. Lastly, an old friend of mine and SLU alum Caleigh Horan said: 


“For me, music is the main vehicle in which I’ve been interacting with people (surprise surprise). Every morning I sent out my playlist to my med school friends, my dad, and a couple others. This allows me to check what my mood is for the day in addition to checking in with others in the morning. I’ve been going on walks outside with my dad because I’m not currently staying at his house but I still like to check in, and it feels safe and healthy to take walks out in the open. FaceTime is another huge way I can keep in contact with people, even if it’s just a 5 minute conversation. I chime in on calls with my mom and my brothers who are staying in Iowa right now. In terms of me, I try to take an hour for myself before I go to bed just to decompress and watch TV and let my mind rest.”


No matter how many of those models you had the time or energy to read, there are so many ways in which we as individuals can foster some peace in this tumult. Not all days are going to be okay in any sense of the word, and that’s not “okay,” but it is probable. Be gentle above all else.


Thank you to everyone working absolutely brutal hours right now. We are so thankful for you.