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Some non-tech thoughts on the crisis (from a total tech nerd)

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  • Roland Boyden
  • |
  • April 8, 2020
  • Roland has been at PhillyCAM as Access Facilitator since 2018 and has worked in public access in some form or other for the past 14 years.

As COVID-19 moved from epidemic abroad to global pandemic and PhillyCAM announced that we would be closing our downtown facilities until further notice, many of us on staff have rushed to prepare materials, tutorials and collections of resources to help members continue to create content during this time—knowing full well that throwing ourselves into our radio or TV shows is, for many of us, one of the best ways to preserve our mental health during the crisis. But as days turn into weeks, and weeks turn into months, it feels increasingly important as a PhillyCAM community to also focus on less technical strategies for keeping our spirits up. For many of us, the pandemic has left us in no place to create content of any kind right now. Whether it’s a lack of space and privacy at home, a short supply of emotional bandwidth, or financial pressures that demand all of our attention.

So what do we do? First off, let me say that I’m not an expert of any kind in this department. Where some of us identify as technophobes, I would identify as an emotion-phobe. But forced to social distance where, even packed in with our families and loved ones, we can’t help but spend more time in the recesses of our own minds… there’s nothing for it but to try and see what’s going on emotionally. So, when thoughts of the crisis reach their most backbreaking, what do we do?

 

JUST TAKE A FEW MINUTES
For me personally there’s been no more powerful tool in the tool belt of coping mechanisms than the simple knowledge that I won’t ever feel one exact way forever. In the most acute moments of sadness and anxiety, when I wake in the middle of the night sure that everyone I know and love is doomed, it’s often a matter of only ten or fifteen minutes before those most extreme feelings subside. They may be replaced with only slightly less dramatic concerns, but anything is progress when you’re gripped by paralyzing fear about the future. Every time I make myself wait out the ten minutes and I do indeed feel markedly better afterward, it's a more powerful reminder the next time I wake up in a cold sweat.

 

TALK TO PEOPLE…. OR DON’T
Making sure we all stay connected and reach out to the people we care about feels like a no brainer, but I’ve found it’s also important to be real with myself about when this is too much. So many people I’ve talked to recently have alluded to the fact that Zoom calls, even ones with friends, are really taxing in an unexpected way. Giving yourself space away from socializing seems counterintuitive in the middle of forced isolation, but I think it’s as critical now as ever.

For some of us, carving out time alone is easier than for others. If you’re in a full house often accepting chores like trips to the grocery store feels like the only way to get some space to yourself, and that comes with its own set of risks and stressers. If you have a car, now might be the only time a drive around Philly could actually be good for your mental health. The Shelter in Place order still permits trips outside for exercise provided you stay more than six feet from other individuals you encounter. Even a walk down the street can be restorative when you’re freaking out.

 

THE POWER OF POSITIVITY! …. HAS ITS LIMITS
There have been plenty of times lately where I’ve realized that I’m in a serious negativity spiral and have been able to successfully force myself to reset, but I’m also convinced that it’s important to recognize when our minds are rejecting an attitude transplant and just let it be. I often hear talk about giving ourselves room to experience our emotions without judgement (way easier said than done) and this feels like an extension of that—there are just going to be times when trying to push the reset button isn’t going to work… and that’s okay.

This is also an area where I feel like I’m having to grapple with the difference between gratitude and guilt. A lot of us have been trained since we were kids in the archaic art of the “someone else has it much worse than you” strategy of coping. And in a time where thousands of people are dying, hospitals are overflowing and millions of people just lost their employment and health insurance, this has never been truer for me. I have so very much to be thankful for. But there’s a difference between trying to guilt-trip myself out of a funk by playing the comparison game, and really trying to take time to catalog the good things that persist around me. I find the latter much more difficult to practice with any regularity, but also infinitely more sustainable.

 

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Okay, so that’s it for me for now. I’ll stick to tech tutorials where I actually have some remote idea of what I’m talking about, but I’m hoping we can keep the dialog on this side of the equation going here in our PhillyCAM community. How are you coping? What things have you learned during this crisis that are helpful? If you're logged in to phillycam.org you can add your own thoughts on the blog forum. In the meantime, stay as safe as you can out there.