Making Self-Care/Workplace-Care Part of Our COVID-19 Conversation & Survival Plan

Empower Missouri Advocacy Family,

Midday last Friday, Gov. Mike Parson declared a State of Emergency as the first cases of COVID-19 were diagnosed in Missouri. Life has significantly changed for most of us during the past eight days. Many are working from home, with the pleasure and challenges of having children home with us. Some have seen work hours explode as workplaces shift into emergency response – while others have been laid off. Anxiety is common, and my inner child would like a hug…..which I am afraid to accept because of the CDC recommendation to keep six feet between me and other people.

Whether the term “inner child” resonates with you or sounds like a bunch of touchy-feely schmaltz, I think we’ll agree that care for ourselves and those around us is essential at the present time. Many of us are experiencing (or will experience) trauma and toxic stress – personally or while offering support to others. For those of us who have experienced trauma before, we may find old symptoms re-emerging as we are triggered. If we are living with an addiction, conditions are ripe for us to relapse. (Sponsors always remind us: “Don’t get too hungry, angry, lonely or tired.”)

I started today’s post by invoking the term family, because it is truly important that we lean on each other right now in the healthiest ways that the term family can convey. I have turned to an American Red Cross/FEMA booklet on “Helping Children Cope with a Disaster” for advice on care for myself and those around me, and I share a few reflections on the points they make below:

Encourage your children to talk and listen to their concerns. The greatest gift I can give to myself and others just now is undivided attention. Am I taking time to identify my own needs? Meditation, journaling, and conversations with trusted friends and spiritual advisors help me identify what I am feeling and healthy ways to respond. I also can be loving ears as relatives, friends, and co-workers work through their fears, anxieties, and griefs, but self-care is essential so that I can have inner resources to give to others.

Calmly provide factual information about the disaster and plans for insuring their ongoing safety. Positive change that is lasting depends on facing reality; we need factual information about COVID-19 and how to protect ourselves and others, devoid of political spin or wishful thinking. We also need to make plans that balance our needs with the needs of those around us, refusing to hoard, for example.

Developing and implementing a workplace policy can be one way to increase a feeling of stability and safety. At Empower Missouri, we have urged all employees to work from home, doing all meetings by telephone or teleconference if that is their preference, and we have made it clear that time off should be taken if anyone is ill or caring for an ill loved one. We have expanded our sick leave policy to advance hours to any new employee who has not yet accumulated a reserve. To see a well-developed plan from our allies at KC Healthy Kids, go to this link, and we thank them for sharing their policy with us.

Involve your children by giving them specific tasks to let them know they can help restore family and community life.

When our minds get stuck in an endless loop of “what if?” disaster-forecasting, our anxiety level goes up and up. Switching from “what if?” to “what can I do?” is very calming. It’s equally important to stay in our own lane and trust that others will also carry out their specific tasks. None of us can do everything that is needed in an emergency. Boundary setting is essential for our own health and that of those around us.

Re-establish daily routines for work, school, play, meals, and rest. Most of us resent giving up our routines, because habit is simply a big part of how the human brain functions. Rest assured that our brains can help us set up new habits to carry us through this challenging time. Don’t depend on “willpower.” Find a positive new habit to substitute for the one you need to release just now. If the gym is not an option, what about a group exercise video online or a walk in solitude at a nearby park?

Advocacy family, we’ll be here for you. Our webinars, coalition virtual meetings, website and blogs will keep you posted on public policy developments and needed actions. Take following federal legislation off your list. Now that the Families First Coronavirus Response Act is law, the largest of the stimulus bills is being prepared. Together we can see that assistance is targeted to people with low and moderate incomes, and especially to the most vulnerable people – those incarcerated, homeless, living with health conditions already, etc. Business bailouts must have conditions that will help workers, not just line the pockets of CEO’s and stockholders. Now is the time for us each to practice those “specific tasks that restore family and community life.”

In solidarity,



Jeanette Mott Oxford

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