By Amanda Yarbro-Dill
EDITOR: The COVID-19 pandemic is a rapidly unfolding calamity with daily changes. We have endeavored to make information that follows as current as possible, BUT please consult with the Centers for Disease Control and state and local authorities for the latest guideline, recommendations, and mandates before embarking on any action that may put yourself or anyone else at risk.
In recent days, it’s become obvious that a great uncertainty is facing all of us regarding the coronavirus. As a parent and a resident of Cooper-Young, I wanted to put together some tips that make sense about how best to deal with these challenging new times in our city.
Connecting with Neighbors: As we’ve all been made aware, coronavirus impacts the elderly and those with underlying illnesses more than healthy adults. This would be a good time to reach out to your older neighbors to make sure they’re okay. Some may feel uncomfortable about going out to buy groceries, so asking if you can get them anything would be helpful. If they feel uncomfortable letting anyone in their home, groceries can always be left on their porch. People already feeling relatively isolated will no doubt have that feeling compounded in the next weeks, so just reaching out to say hi is a good idea.
Maintaining Community: Many of us are going to be limiting time spent with anyone other than immediate family members, and this can leave us feeling socially isolated. People living alone will feel this even more. I’m already making an effort to reach out and check in with friends via text and telephone to say “Hi, how are you feeling. We’re in this together.” It’s a small thing to do, but for me, someone who values my community of friends and “chosen family” in Memphis very much, it’s essential for my mental health. We all have to do what’s best for us, but at this point I plan to still meet up with friends for walks and other types of social interactions.
Going Outside: How long has it been since you went for a walk in the Old Forest? This is a great time to get outside, which has been scientifically shown to improve one’s mood and mental health. A 2018 article from Harvard Health Publishing states there is “a strong connection between time spent in nature and reduced stress, anxiety, and depression.” Whether that’s a walk around the neighborhood, Overton Park, or a quick trip to a state park, in my experience you’re sure to be rewarded with a boost in mood, as well as the positive effect one gets from simply getting in some steps. As a parent with two elementary school aged children, I well know the feeling of having the walls close in on you at home, and one of my 2020 resolutions was to get them out for hikes semi-frequently this year. If you’re down to drive short distances, Meeman-Shelby Forest, T.O Fuller, Stanky Creek, and Village Creek State Park are all parks or recreation areas offering trails within an hour of Midtown. AllTrails is a great app to use to discover trails near you.
Where to Donate: When Shelby County Schools announced that they would be closing for an additional week, I know that a lot of us immediately thought about how this would impact the many families who are food insecure. Luckily, the Mid-South Food Bank went into action with a plan to assemble food boxes with non-perishables to be distributed to families in need. They need both donations and volunteers; you can find out more at https://www.midsouthfoodbank.org/coronavirus-reponse.
Chalkbeat has also published an article with other organizations who are taking donations for school children (https://chalkbeat.org/posts/tn/2020/03/12/memphis-schools-are-closing-for-two-weeks-here-are-food-resources-to-fill-in-the-gap/).
Another way to consider giving is by donating blood. The Red Cross is strongly urging healthy individuals to donate blood to avoid possible shortages. Chris Hrouda, president Red Cross Blood Services, says, “As fears of the coronavirus rise, low donor participation could harm blood availability at hospitals, and the last thing a patient should worry about is whether lifesaving blood will be on the shelf when they need it most.”
Informing Yourself with the Right Sources: Finally, make sure you’re keeping informed with accurate sources. Avoid Facebook posts touting claims that can’t be verified through reputable news or public health services. Encourage family members and friends to do the same. Also, try to meter your consumption of media if you find it’s becoming overwhelming and feeding your anxiety. We all want to be informed, sure, but in the 24 hour news cycle, it’s easy to get caught in an endless stream of articles that allow your mind to spiral out of control (this has definitely happened to me in the last week, and I’ve had to make a conscious effort to put my phone away for periods of the night and day to avoid getting totally overwhelmed).
This is just an article from a person concerned about what’s going on in the world, and in our city right now. I’m obviously not an epidemiologist and I think everyone should follow their gut and live with caution in these unprecedented times. I do believe that leaning into our community right now is essential to our well-being, and I wish everyone the best.