It is a marathon, not a sprint!
When COVID-19 hit Canada in March many of us braced ourselves for a short period of inconvenience. Pushing into 9 months of the pandemic and lockdowns it’s clear this is not a sprint, but a marathon with uncertainties of where the finish line will be.
COVID-19 has also highlighted and affirmed what we at Building Resilient Neighbourhoods have been promoting for some time: We need to build resilience to long-term chronic stressors, not just acute shocks. And because we are not in the “recovery” stage yet, it’s essential to figure out how to navigate our way through this on-going pandemic, to stay connected with our neighbours, friends, and family while fostering and building our personal resilience.
We meet regularly with resident Champions of our Connect & Prepare program, and recently we’ve all been sharing ideas about surviving and thriving through the pandemic and lockdowns – ideas that we’d like to share with you!
Ways to Stay Connected and Resilient
1. Little Check-in Activities
2. Connect Through Meaningful Conversation
When we’re emotionally down or struggling, we often feel isolated, too, and it can lighten our spirits just to feel heard and understood by another person. Sometimes, nothing’s more emotionally healing than simple, caring human connection! But if we don’t know someone well already, we can be shy around starting conversations about some of our deeper emotions. That’s why we’re a fan of “Conversation Works” by Victoria-based Christopher Bowers.
This approach teaches lots of creative conversation-starting techniques that can be easily adapted to any situation. All we have to do is approach a conversation where we make it clear that we want to encourage each other to be open and that we’re genuinely interested in listening, connecting, and understanding. Here are some example questions that we can ask each other, inspired by Christopher’s “conversation cards.”
Try it where one person asks all the questions while simply listening to the other person’s answers, and then switch roles. You’ll be surprised by how much you share with each other!
Some suggested questions in relation to COVID-19 and the lockdowns:
3. Connect Through Art
Creatively expressing ourselves through art helps convey and honour the complex range of emotions we may be feeling right now from joy to loneliness, grief & loss and everything in between. This creating and sharing of art helps us tap into our deepest feelings and connect us, helping us realize we are not alone.
We encourage you to watch this moving, beautiful short animation called “How to Be at Home” that is illustrative of the layers of emotions being brought up by the pandemic and lockdowns.
It’s one of thirty creative films from the National Film Board of Canada exploring the pandemic and lockdown in different ways.
The District of Saanich has created a Hearts Together Community Art Project that invites the community to come together creatively while remaining apart. Children and members of the community have created unique clay and painted wooden hearts with messages of hope and gratitude. These art projects can be found all over Saanich in outdoor public places. This photo is from the display on the Rutledge Park tennis court fence in Saanich.
The Gage Art Gallery Collective in Oak Bay launched a Challenge Crisis with Creativity Project, aimed at inviting people to use art as a way of engaging their feelings and to express the unique and collective experiences the pandemic has created.
Toolkits & Resources for Staying Connected and Resilient:
As we all struggle to figure out what we can do to connect with our neighbours given all the restrictions, it is helpful to have some guidance.
1. Together, Apart: Ideas for Staying Connect in Times of Physical Distancing
Our partners Happy City, (who are also members of the provincial “Hey Neighbour Collective” we are part of) has come up with a “Together, Apart” toolkit (PDF) with a whole host of ideas for staying connected in times of physical distancing. These ideas help address some of the issues that are being highlighted or created by the pandemic.
While the toolkit (Together, Apart PDF) was written for operators of multi-unit housing, there are ideas that can work for everyone. Here are just some of the engagement ideas in their toolkit:
- Create a digital and physical bulletin job board featuring people who wish to share their skills or let others know about possible job openings
- Create and organize a communal food pantry containing stale food for most vulnerable residents
- Enable frequent neighbour check-ins, “a buddy system” to match neighbours for regular check-ins and support
- Build and organize an emotional baggage drop booth where residents can drop off problems and/or emotional burdens by talking to someone
- Create a friendly competition among residents as a way to promote self-expression while encouraging the use of balconies
2. Far Aparties Toolkit
While current public health guidelines may limit our social gatherings right now, these guidelines are evolving and changing. If you haven’t already seen Building Resilient Neighbourhoods “Far Aparties” toolkit, check it out for more ideas and inspiration when public health guidelines permit.