Re-opening gives us a chance to reconnect and reaffirm our faith in each other.
How we liking 2021 so far? It’s spring, time to mix things up. Instead of talking politics as usual, let’s just… talk. Remember communication? It’s been a long year in quarantine, speaking to screens and having the same conversations again and again with the same few people in our little bubbles. Now with the warm weather, we’re all ready to bust out.
A word of caution. We’ve all been in a sort of solitary confinement – on top of the pandemic we were also snowed-in for weeks this winter. Isolation erodes social skills, and btw so does fear of someone coughing on you. We’re primed to feel anxious and awkward in public after all these months secluded in quarantine. We’ll likely need some practice reading faces, body language and other social cues again.
Even if you’re not personally feeling it, as a mental health expert I can assure you that others will so let’s cut us all some slack as we’re readapting to being in each other’s space again. While I specialize in clients on the Autism spectrum, my toolbox includes a lot of techniques that anyone can use to help adjust to our hyper, noisy, crowded post-COVID world again.
5 Tips for Social Un-Distancing
- Breathe. When we’re tense, we tend to take short breaths which can send panic signals to our brains that we’re short on oxygen; unchecked, this could lead to a full-on freak-out. Deep breathing stops this momentum in its tracks. Practice inhaling slowly, filling the lungs completely before expelling gradually with control. In and out. Nice and easy.
- Buddy System. We all feel more relaxed and secure with a trusted companion by our side. So bring a partner, a friend, your kids — hell, your dog – whenever you could use extra support. When inviting others to hang out, let them bring whoever they want if you’ve got the room.
- Raise Your Awareness. Look around where you are. Note the different sights and sounds as you process your surroundings. If you feel at all overwhelmed, a good trick is to try to find something red you can name – this simple act helps focus and calm the mind. Party planners, maybe consider creating “quiet spaces” away from food/music/activities for guests who might appreciate the chance to chill out.
- Think Positive. Sure things may be a little weird for awhile but it’s not the end of the world. Trust that you’ll bounce back soon. Forgive yourself (and others) for social missteps in the meantime. Laugh things off whenever possible. Savor and celebrate every restaurant meal, every shopping trip, every opportunity to be out and about in our beautiful city.
- Don’t Force It. We’ve been through a pandemic. The readjustment period may be stressful but it’s only temporary and we’re all in the same boat. Remember: you can always turn around and walk straight out of any situation at any time, if you need to. (You could probably just say “Covid” and everyone would understand.)
We are told these are desperate, divided times but I see in my community people giving of themselves, and taking care of those in need. People of all faiths and colors, across all ages and professions. Sharing food, clothes, supplies, resources. Building networks to meet incredible needs. Uniting against forces that seek to silence our many voices, and threaten the very democracy we rely on for our essential Human Rights.
As our world opens back up, let’s make every effort to be kind and gentle with each other in the process. Because we need to get through this together. We’re going to need to trust and value each other implicitly, if we’re going to make it out of the 2022 elections alive.
Strength and peace.
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April is National Autism Acceptance month, which kicks off April 2nd with World Autism Day, designated by the United Nations in 2007. You’ll probably see “Light it up blue” memes reminding us literally to be kind to people with autism – because I guess they’re just that annoying to be around? GTFO! Autistic people are not broken, they don’t need our “awareness” that they exist. It’s our loss, when we fail to recognize their unique abilities.
In 2016, the UN announced support for “Neurodiversity,” a movement towards more equal treatment and widespread acceptance for those on the spectrum, and with disabilities in general. Rather than trying to bend someone with autism into a definition of “normal” behaviors, Neurodiversity proponents ask society to make room for different ways people learn, problem solve, and interact. Learn more at autisticadvocacy.org.
PS: think twice before you donate to Autism Speaks, a corporate organization that uses most of its budget for preventative research and “awareness” campaigns that promote largely negative stereotypes.