Even when the world feels like it’s spinning out of control, there is hope.

“We’re all survivors,” the psychological first aid FEMA instructor states, reminding us that disasters usually have a geographical location. This pandemic effects everyone. Health and wealth are being attacked.

The hope is in how we respond. We can succumb to anger and depression or rise to meet the challenge. Carl Jung, the famous analyst, said, “I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.”

Mental health experts advise us to acknowledge, rather than deny, the pandemic’s effect. Being afraid our fellow humans will infect us, or we might unwittingly infect them is not normal. Normal is playing with the grandkids, shaking a neighbor’s hand, kissing your adult daughter’s cheek, being hugged by your grown son. Eating at a restaurant enjoying the hustle and bustle of community is normal. Being afraid to grocery shop is not. But, this is where we are right now. And it really stinks.

It’s what we do with the stress that makes the difference. Numbing out with food, alcohol and binging on TV is a short-term emotional band aid. The stress is real, whether it’s a steady drip or a deluge. One doesn’t have to get the COVID-19 virus to know this. A sign requiring us to maintain physical distancing reminds us the world has shifted.

“Of course, it’s making us look at our own death,” an octogenarian therapist recently remarked.

Motivational speaker, Brene’ Brown says,“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.”

It’s important to share our vulnerability, because when we make room for our own feelings, we allow others to have theirs. Ease off the self-criticism. Ask friends and family how they are managing. Really. Accept the emotions that arise in them and in ourselves. If we can sit with our own pain, without judgment, we become strong enough sit with others. The simple act of being wholly present for each other connects us. It heals us. It gives us hope.

Potentially helpful steps:

  • Choose how to stay informed, and then turn off the news;
  • Exercise, especially outdoors. Sunlight and fresh air help clear the mind. Go for a walk, wave to the neighbors, smile. A smile will lighten your heart and theirs;
  • Meditate or pray, especially for strength and wisdom. Suffering is, as we older people know full well, a part of life;
  • Keep a gratitude journal. Enjoy the simple things like having a warm bed and food to eat. Notice the flowers blooming. Be glad if you and your loves ones are well;
  • Check in with others on a regular basis. Don’t wait for them to call you;
  • and don’t be too proud to ask for help. Mental health visits could make a world of difference. Ask your doctor’s office for names of providers.

Age Friendly South Portland would like to make residents aware of the Community Support and Resources directory established by the city.

Dedicated resource assistance line: For those who require assistance with food pick-up and delivery, pharmacy services, transportation, childcare, and/or other needs as a result of the COVID-19 situation, the city has established a dedicated assistance telephone line at 207-347-4177 (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) and an online webpage at https://www.southportland.org/community.

Note: The webpage also includes links to important CDC information and videos regarding COVID-19 in a variety of languages, including Portuguese, Somali, Maay Maay, Kirundi, French and English.

Social check-in calls: For those who would like to receive routine phone calls from the city, sign up by calling 207-347-4177. Residents do not need to be a senior to qualify, and calls are not intended to serve as a wellness assessment or to give medical advice but rather as way to ask how people are doing and to make them aware of available supports and services.

General COVID-19 information: For those who would like to receive additional information about COVID-19 and learn more about available resources throughout the state, call 2-1-1 (or 1-866-811-5695), text their ZIP code to 898-211, or email [email protected]

Age Friendly South Portland hopes that our neighbors of all ages are safe, healthy, and stay connected during this difficult time. To stay informed on city news, we encourage residents to follow the city’s Facebook page and to tune in to South Portland Television, which can be accessed via basic cable on Spectrum channels 1301 and 1302.

Jennifer Morris is a retired physician assistant and registered nurse. She is a South Portland resident.

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