In January 2019, The Daily began “Outsourced” — a column discussing health and relationships, featuring advice and resources from OU’s Gender + Equality Center, Goddard Health Center and more.
In light of the global COVID-19 pandemic, which has affected all communities in varying emotional, mental and physical ways, The Daily has decided to bring back "Outsourced" with advice from professionals and community leaders about staying safe and healthy while living in quarantine.
For this column, The Daily asked Amber May, a licensed clinical social worker and OU Advocates case manager for the Gender + Equality Center, to write about safety and self-care when home may not be safe:
Home isn’t safe for everyone. During this time of chaos and uncertainty, students may be returning to home bases that are unhealthy, toxic, or emotionally, mentally or physically abusive. The increased isolation while not in classes, work, extracurriculars and more can compound to violence and increased risk. Experiencing toxic environments or abuse, particularly while navigating a global pandemic, can feel really overwhelming. It may be more important than ever to build in self-care and wellness while staying safe.
Safety planning is defined by the National Domestic Violence Hotline as “a personalized, practical plan that includes ways to remain safe.” While it may not feel “safe” in any space of toxic or abusive homes, it is important to take as many measures as able.
Develop ways to increase connection with others, such as reaching out to a close friend, coworker or family member who can check in with you. Consider planning a “code word” to let them know if you are in trouble.
If possible, try to have a phone accessible and know what numbers to call for help.
Identify the safest room, ideally where there is a door or window to leave through and there are no weapons. Practice how to get out safely. If violence is unavoidable, make yourself a small target — dive into a corner, curl up into a ball and protect your face with your arms around each side of your head, fingers laced together.
Identify close friends or family you could stay with during a shelter-in-place order, or reach out to your local shelter if staying at home is no longer safe for you.
Remember that you are not alone, and many supports remain available during the pandemic. Some helpful numbers may be:
OU Advocates at 405-615-0013
Gender + Equality Center at 405-325-4929
Women’s Resource Center at 405-701-5540
National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233
RAINN at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)
Engage in self-care as possible
Self-care is so important to our overall health, and everyone deserves to be cared for, even if the caring is coming from within. Self-care is not about being selfish — it is about taking care of yourself in ways that feel natural to you, making your health and wellness a priority, and bringing comfort to yourself as able.
It starts with basic needs: sleep, regular eating and physical activity. Creating a routine can be so helpful — try making a list of reminders to meet at least one basic need each day. Setting alarms to drink water or eat lunch is a way to create a routine. Determining a specific time to "shut down" for the day is also helpful. Virtual fatigue is real!
Once you feel you have basic needs covered, try thinking about other activities that are enjoyable, peaceful and/or calming. This could include reading, drawing or painting, baking, praying or meditating, photography, journaling, stretching, exercising and more. Find something that works for you and will not cost you extra money or further jeopardize your safety, both in terms of the pandemic and your home environment.
Join online support groups, watch breathing exercises on YouTube or step away for a moment. Post sticky notes in your space with loving expressions, such as: “Your feelings are valid,” “It’s OK to feel sad,” and “You are worthy of love and respect.” In some home spaces, it may be important to remember to “tell yourself the opposite of whatever they say.”
If you are living in a toxic or abusive home, self-care may feel pointless or exhausting, and during this pandemic, those feelings may be compounded. This is completely normal and understandable. Start with taking small self-care steps and give yourself grace and compassion as you figure out how to care for yourself.
If you need help incorporating self-care into your life or safety planning while at home, OU Advocates is here for you — give us a call at 405-615-0013.
Editor’s note: This guest column was edited for clarity and style.