Going out after COVID-19…Now what?

We have all been impacted by stay at home restrictions, social distancing practices, wearing face masks etc…

What do we do now? Well let me share a little about myself first. I have always tried to simplify things down to a digestible theme. In the case of this pandemic My team and I have adopted the following theme:

  • Choose: Faith over fear, peace over panic, and
  • Look for opportunities to be kind to others and to yourself.

In order to be successful in life, for years my family and I have lived by the theme:

By the power of God, we will

  1. Know myself
  2. Control myself
  3. Give of myself

I share this with you in hope of giving you some guiding principles to help you move forward from Isolation to greater engagement with those around us.

The first element: Know Yourself

We talked about pain in past posts: Pain is an unpleasant emotional reaction to actual or potential tissue damage.

Pain is always an emotional response. This is true for all of us. I have also learned in my 36 years of practicing physical therapy that the intensity of one’s pain is not always correlated with the severity of the problem.

Here is an example:

  1. If you go to the doctor and get an injection in to your arm for a Vitamin B-12 shot or a COVID-19 vaccine, you will have some local discomfort and some redness with minimal swelling at the site of needle entry.
  2. If on the other hand, as part of a discussion, I simply pull out a needle and without your knowledge or consent take the same hypodermic needle and jab it in to your arm at the same spot.

WOW! What a different experience. In the first case, you are receiving a routine shot and in the second case you have literally been assaulted. Your emotional experience and pain will be quite different. You will have more redness and swelling, greater intensity and longer duration of pain at the site of needle entry. This is despite the fact that, presumably, the same amount of tissue damage has occurred. In the second experience the emotional experience was quite different.

Now let me be clear, pain is not something to be dismissed or ignored. It can serve as a guide, in a well-reasoned plan to eliminate or mitigate the source.  In order to do this we need to have a basic understanding of our pain and respond appropriately, not simply react to it.

Why is understanding this of importance now?

First – feeling completely out of control will influence the fear that we experience.

Second – trying too hard to exert control, over that which we have none, will increase the amount of fear and anxiety we experience.

Fear and anxiety will influence how we respond to the experiences in our life, literally increasing the amount of physical and emotional pain we experience.

Being isolated from the world and having low levels of movement and engagement with others will contribute to the pain we experience.

Simply understanding these ideas can help to re-shape our perspective. In order to move forward it helps to know from where you start and have a plan for where you hope to go.

Three things to do:

  1. Identify what area or areas of your body, mind or heart that hurt.
  2. Look at what activities, situations, individuals and/or times of day that facilitate your pain. Limit these.
  3. Seek help
  4. Refrain from self-shame and condemnation
  5. Identify those things, situations and individuals that bring you joy and gratitude. Increase these

The second element: Control Yourself

As we move out into the world around us, our primary responsibility is to control our own behaviors.

  1. Hand hygiene practices, washing and disinfecting your hands on a regular basis
  2. Keep your hands off your face.
  3. Maintaining social distancing practices when appropriate.
  4. Stay away from those who are ill.
  5. If you are ill stay home.
  6. Where a mask when you are around those who are elderly, immune suppressed or other have risk factors, especially if you are caring for someone who is vulnerable.
  7. Eat well and exercise often, especially outdoors.
  8. Re-new your heart and mind spiritually and emotionally.
  9. Finally: Sunlight, fresh air and exercise is good for your body, mind and immune system. This fact has been well documented. Get outside with those who love you and move.

Breaking news 5/28/2020

World health organization statement on Masks:

When and how to wear medical masks to protect against coronavirus?

  • If you are healthy, you only need to wear a mask if you are taking care of a person with COVID-19.
  • Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
  • Masks are effective only when used in combination with frequent hand-cleaning with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
  • If you wear a mask, then you must know how to use it and dispose of it properly.

There has been mixed messages about mask wearing. The ultimate decision is yours. I believe we all have ultimate responsibility to take care of our own health. Please see the WHO web site and the CDC web site for more information.



The final element: Give of Yourself

During times of stress, one of the best strategies to get outside one’s pain is to look for opportunities to be kind to others. This does not have to be a grand act of kindness (though this works as well), but a kind word, a smile and a small act of sacrifice will change your brain chemistry.

Here are some easy examples:

  1. Let someone cut in front of you while in traffic or in line at the store
  2. Check on an elderly neighbor and wish them a good day
  3. Offer a specific kind word to the cashier or serving person
  4. Refrain from judging those around you who may not be behaving as you would.
  5. Hold a door for someone entering a building behind you.

Finally: There are many other ways to be kind to yourself and others. Please post your favorite in our comment section.

Our hope at Petersen physical Therapy is that you stay healthy and happy. Please contact us if we can help you in any way.

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