Positive Actions to Transform Pandemic Fears into Love
Can we embrace the difficult way into a new and loving world?
Grocery shopping was, once upon a pre-pandemic time, my daily delight. My fridge and fruit bowl were always just the way I liked it: almost-empty, leaving clear space for me to buy the freshest produce from my favorite places. I was at the farmer’s markets nearly every afternoon, knew the vendors at the fruit stalls around the East Village, was on first-name terms with the employees at the local organic store. It was a very care-free, intuitive lifestyle. Each trip was brief, took nearly no energy. Every meal plan was no-plan. I would pick up what looked best, then make the best of it.
That lifestyle feels very far in the past, though I hope it will return not too far into the future, because these days, grocery shopping is an absolutely terrible confluence of long lines, uncertainty over availability, fear of exposure and full immersion into an anxiety-laden environment. In Manhattan, fruit vendors are no longer on the streets, Whole Foods has a team of bouncers, whlie small shops have very limited hours and random closings due to distribution difficulties. Farmer’s markets close early and workers are often nervous to come from their beautiful farms into the city.
There are far more pressing concerns in the world, and yet — how we nourish our bodies is integral to physical resilience. And the shopping experience is tied to the way we bring food into our homes and bodies. We need to make grocery shopping a positive experience. This is not about how to “make the best of the situation”, but how to rise to the occasion.
Can we recognize that all of humanity is in this together? Each of us is concerned for our own health, and the health of loved ones, but let us not be bound by fear. Emotional health is just as integral as the absence of physical illness. Knowing the value of positive energy, and emotional resilience, we can be strong enough to smile.
Here are some ideas for how to make us feel safe enough to see through our fears:
Stores should create a positive shopping environment.
Moving the air within a closed space will decrease the likelihood of pathogens hanging around at mouth-nose height. Cross breezes can be created with already existing air-conditioning systems and enhanced with air purifying machines. At the very least, cashiers can have a small desk fan that keeps the air fresh and their hair looking Instagram-worthy wind-swept.
Take excellent care of employees
Wind machines for hair aside, employees need longer breaks as well as support for mental and emotional well-being. Mediation, yoga, and talk therapy are more important now than ever. Resources and support can be provided online or in break rooms.
Local Government should recognize that we not only need to take protective measures, but also encourage increased health for all those who are at home.
High quality food
This time of year, first harvest are just coming in and there is an overabundance of fresh food grown in local farms. Eating fresh food increases our energy levels and resilience
Instead of the current response of reducing greenmarket hours, we should increase the space markets take up (cordon off a couple of now-empty streets) so that there is no crowding.
Create new farmers markets in every neighborhood of the city, and bring back the fruit stalls. Allow farms and vendors more space, to reduce crowding, and encourage the pre-packed boxes of the week’s harvest, to simplify purchases.
Give out jump ropes! Give adults the chance to remember what it was like to be light on their feet, and teach tech-inundated kids how to play classic playground games. Double dutch and social distancing work well together.
Encourage Deep Breathing
Just as there are signs encouraging us to stay home, wear masks, and be safe, we need signs reminding us to breath deeply. Deep breathing alleviates anxiety and depression, giving us the focus on gratitude.
Yoga and meditative techniques for breath work can be taught online; government websites can easily point towards local studios that provide classes and resources for those who want to work breathing techniques from home. When we are centered in at-home practices, we will be stronger and more positive as we leave the house to do what needs to be done.
What each of us can do
You have lots of time. Get into your kitchen — all the cabinets and corners of the fridge. See what you have, what you use, what you need and what you don’t, so that when you do venture out to the stores, you’ll be efficient and economical.
Make the effort to connect with the bouncers and cashiers as you would with doormen, secretaries, front desk. Their work is challenging and you can help by showing real care. Ask, how are you. Smile from behind your mask. Thank them for their courage.
If you’re in the city, chances are there is another grocery store within five blocks. If your closest store has a long line, walk to the next. You’ll not only reduce the pressure of overwhelmed resources, you’ll have the opportunity to discover a new store, which is just about as thrilling as life can get these days.
And when you have time away from fear and stress, you can:
Cutting off our routines and habits is an invitation to awaken. How we feed ourselves is how we nourish our life energy. In a climate where we were moving towards increasingly less personal relationships with food and community, this is the time to reassess what is important.
The answer to our fears and anxieties is, always was, and always will be: love. Connect with the people you see, strengthen one another through positive support, and we will create a renewed world together.