With the current coronavirus pandemic going on around the world there have been many changes and disruptions in nearly every aspect of daily life. For many, change is difficult and with the added stresses of the economy, whether you have a job or not, are able to put food on the table and preventing you/others from getting sick, you may be feeling overwhelmed with anxiety and stress. The thought of the unknown and what’s going to happen next can affect your mental health as well.
One way in which we can combat the unknown is to show empathy towards others. There are many benefits to empathizing with others which may help you feel less alone and more connected with your loved ones and your community. Im times of uncertainty, empathy allows us to reach out and help others that need it most.
Empathy allows us to:
- Boost our social connectedness in our communities so that we may increase helping behaviors.
- Improve our ability to regulate our emotions during times of stress.
- Better manage our anxieties and stress without feeling overwhelmed.
Some people are naturally empathetic in nature, but many need a little help to remember what empathy means and how they can cultivate their own empathy skills. The good news is this emotional skill can be learned – here are some ways to build empathy:
- Listening to others.
- Engage in acts of service.
- Put yourself in another person’s shoes.
Tips for Practicing Empathy in Your Community
Staying connected – one of the best ways to fight feelings of isolation is to reach out to others. Showing empathy and engaging in helpful actions can increase your feelings of social connectedness. While practicing social distancing, self-isolation and quarantine, you may consider writing a note to a special friend or family member you haven’t spoken to in a while. You may also use your skills such as sewing for example, to help make masks for those in need. Maybe you can reach out to your neighbors, friends or family members that are unable to go out and buy groceries and offer to buy them and place them on their doorstep.
Be aware – how has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your life? Are your kids now being home schooled? Do you have food and other necessities to sustain healthy living during this uncertain time? How do you think your friends, family, neighbors or complete strangers would answer these questions? It is important to remember that while you may be doing okay, others are not. Many have lost their jobs, cannot feed their families and are unable to make healthy lifestyle choices. Some can’t afford childcare so they can continue to work and many are suffering from anxiety and depression due to their situation and circumstances.
“Empathy and the willingness to understand are a critical part of compassion which leads to action. Think of others and look for ways you can help in your community.”
Be kind – It’s okay if your routine is ever changing and what your ‘normal’ was is no longer possible. If your kids are watching too much television or are playing video games longer than you’d like, that’s okay. Everyone, all ages, are trying to cope with the unknown. This is a lot to deal with and everyone copes with fear, stress and anxiety differently. Focus on being kind to one another. Seek the positives in your new ‘normal’ and practice self-compassion by becoming emotionally flexible, navigate through your emotions and give yourself and your family a break.
Be considerate – sometimes we are quick to criticize others without knowing their circumstances or understand their situation that may impact their choices. Some people may feel overwhelmed with an overload of conflicting information from various outlets. While you cannot control how others behave, you can control your own actions by sharing only the facts by reliable sources. You can also gently remind others to kindly wash their hands, practice social distancing and stay home if they show any symptoms of COVID-19.
Help others – when the world feels unpredictable, find tangible ways to do good and make things better for others. This may provide comfort and a sense of control and empowerment.
Some ways to practice empathy:
- If you are financially stable, look for ways you can support others who may be struggling.
- Support your local businesses by buying food or gift cards from them and encouraging others to do the same.
- Only buy what you need for the week, don’t overbuy.
- Make care packages for healthcare workers, elderly neighbors or those who may have lost their jobs.
- STAY HOME – follow the guidelines outlined by the CDC. Practice social distancing.
At NOAH, we practice empathy for our patients, staff and community daily. This is especially important during a public health crisis. Practicing empathy during COVID-19 not only opens your mind to what others are experiencing, but it also reminds us that we are in this together. Our behavioral health consulting and traditional outpatient counseling behavioral health staff work alongside our medical and dental teams to assess, diagnose and effectively treat the core-symptoms of our patients.