Many local municipalities and businesses are now requiring some sort of mask or covering these days as an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. It is not necessarily to protect the wearer of the mask, but rather the people they come in contact with. This is especially important as there are many people carrying the virus (and spreading it), who have no symptoms (called asymptomatic). When we wear a mask, it shows we are doing what we can to keep others safe- we care and want to protect people we come into contact with from anything that we might be unknowingly carrying. It’s a simple act of being part of the solution a simple way to be helpful, a simple way to be a superhero!
Throughout this time as we’ve been adjusting to the requirement to wear masks and face coverings, I’ve had some really great discussions with my clients about themes of communication, being ourselves without hiding behind a symbolic mask, boundaries, etc. I did a series of Facebook posts to share these themes and ideas to help support the community, and I decided to compile them here to share them here today.
Theme: Be yourself, express your unique self
I was at the grocery store the other day. The lady assisting with checkout lines recognized me as a regular customer as she looked more carefully at my sparkly stars mask. We both had a moment of normalcy as we said hello and smiled behind our masks. I told her I enjoyed the colorful masks as a way to spread some cheer. She thanked me, noting that we don’t get to see each other’s smiles these days.
When we are out in public, this is our opportunity to express ourselves and spread some cheer behind the mask. It’s also the time to celebrate the unique self behind the mask. As an element of personal growth and transformation, it’s time to heal self worth and self esteem starting with ourselves.
The more you remove the symbolic “mask,” (of escaping or distracting through alcohol, food, shopping, being too busy, etc), the more you’ll be able to be present, relaxed and confident. As you’re more present, relaxed and confident, you’ll find you’re more able to smile genuinely underneath the mask, and it will show in your eyes and demeanor, which will help others be more present, relaxed and confident. As you heal yourself, you’re able to help others, just by being your unique self!
This week’s theme is about writing our relationship rule book where it comes to social distancing and wearing masks. I was especially inspired to share these thoughts in memory of my dog Roxy-she had such an adorable black “mask” when she was a puppy!
I found it decently funny early on when we were given the guidelines about “6 feet of distance” between ourselves and others, as most cities have dog leash laws that require 6 foot maximum leash length. After 13 years of walking Roxy, I became pretty aware of what 6 feet of distance from me felt like. I also know what it feels like to be approached by off leash dogs. As the owners call out “don’t worry, they’re friendly,” I’d continually end up angrily yelling back that Roxy is friendly too- when approached properly! An off leash dog was definitely not the proper way! Roxy was pretty protective of her space. She was a great rule follower. She didn’t like it when others broke the rules- which made her act out, which made me act out! It didn’t feel fair when others broke the leash rule, especially when they didn’t even try or thought the rules didn’t apply to them.
As we continue to have more businesses open and more social gatherings, it’s going to be important for each of us to write our “social distance/mask wearing rulebook.” Businesses will be writing and enforcing their rules, and we’ll each decide to be patrons of the business (or not) depending on our agreement of the rules.
Within our relationships, it’s a trickier situation. First we need to assess our own risk and needs (the rules necessary for us to engage with others). Then we need to clearly express them with people we choose to spend time with so we can agree on the rules. Next, we need to be prepared to enforce the rules- including being prepared to walk away and re-engage another day (hopefully after healthy communication and re-clarifying the rules for the future).
In the end, it’s all about setting and maintaining boundaries. Regardless of masks and social distancing, when people respect our boundaries, we feel more safe. I hope these thoughts help you as you write your relationship rulebook so that you can feel safe physically and emotionally in your relationships!
Theme: Online Communication
A lot of us have found ways to stay connected with family and friends through the pandemic through zoom and FaceTime, as well as more frequent phone calls, texts and emails. Some of my clients have actually been more socially committed than ever before. There has been a great benefit to more frequent check ins with friends and family. I hope we keep this up as we find ways to re-engage physically!
Some interesting things to share about online communication in this new world we are building: Some of my clients have mentioned that they’ve felt more comfortable in these new formats of engaging with others. One mentioned that on a group zoom she was thankful that the group moderator gave everyone a turn to talk- she’d noticed that before she often missed her “turn” in physical group settings. She mentioned she was thankful for group zoom format because the one person in her group who usually spoke the most also had a “turn,” and was otherwise muted, giving others more opportunity to share. I had another mention they were thankful to have these new modes of communication to see people who are very far away- they increased the frequency by being a click away instead of a drive through traffic.
An additional benefit for the foreseeable future with online communication is that we can “remove our masks,” showing our full faces and being able to express ourselves physically, possibly creating more depth to our relationships! The clients I had these discussions with have historically had social anxiety issues, so by getting opportunities to feel more comfortable in these online groups settings, they felt more heard and more known than ever before. They were able to remove the figurative mask to be themselves!
I hope these thoughts help you navigate your relationships so that you can be yourself and engage in fulfilling social (online) relationships!
Theme: Self Expression
They say that the eyes are the windows to the soul. We also commonly say how much a smile can brighten another person’s day. When we wear face coverings/masks, we need to find ways to express that smile through the eyes, through vocal expression, and through the mask itself.
I’ve noticed it’s a little more tiring to do all of our usual tasks lately. It’s important when going out on errands or out in public to be in the best emotional mood you can be in as you start the day. It will help you maintain your own positive energy and will give you a bit to share so people you come into contact with can sense your “smile” through your eyes and body language.
Be aware of your vocal tone… do you know how to smile through your voice? I noticed this last week at the dentist. The hygienists always sound so cheerful and kind behind their masks, which definitely helps the patients be more relaxed.
Express yourself through your mask… I’ve seen lots of advertisements, from Harry Potter houses to Disney, to sports teams… have fun choosing mask designs that help you smile- and even help the people you come across smile too! As I was making masks for myself, I had fun with this fabric covered in hearts and stars!
Today’s theme is patience. Wearing face coverings requires us to slow down in our communication. To speak clearly and deliberately to be heard and understood. To listen carefully to the person speaking. To be present with our breath.
Patience is an important overall takeaway from the entire Covid 19 experience. We’ve had to slow down our social calendars. Businesses have needed extra time to clean, sanitize, and space out clients.
As we gradually re-engage in various parts of life, I hope you are able to have opportunities for self care. Take the time you need to go at your own pace. Slow down.￼ Be patient with yourself.