The Ring Theory of Venting suggests that a person experiencing trauma or hard times should vent to and lean on their immediate supporters or caregivers, and those supports then vent to their own, less affected support team. Comfort inward, dumping outward — except if every person in the world is experiencing the same crisis in the COVID-19 pandemic, who can we turn to?

Right now we are pretty much universally stressed, anxious, and unable to go about daily life in safety. There’s sort of a murky unease hanging overhead, perpetual exhaustion, and the creeping worry that everyone else is somehow handling this frightening season much better than I am. All of these feelings are natural; we are hurting and afraid as a whole human race. We’re way down Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and right now there’s nothing we can do about it, except see to our own needs and the needs of others, as best we can.

Aside from the fundamentals of hand hygiene and staying home, wellness in the time of Shelter In Place / Quarantine / Essential Working might look like this…

Go easy on yourself. No, easier than that. There’s pressure, for those quarantined, to come out the other side with a tidied living space, a new skill, art accomplished, cooking refined. If you can do some of that, that’s fantastic, but it’s not mandatory and those things are hard enough to achieve when we’re not experiencing global trauma and community hardship. If you’re working during a crisis, chances are you’re not going to be able to be as productive or focused as you would be without the crisis.

Don’t deny yourself rest or play. We all need those things as absolute prerequisites to happiness. It’s okay to relax and play if you have the opportunity, and you don’t have to hold yourself tense because you think you should be doing something else or haven’t earned it. Playing games can be a mind-healing process.

Get outside a little during daylight hours. Michigan’s Shelter In Place rules allow for exercise like walking or riding a bike, but even soaking up a little bit of Vitamin D on the front step will probably help. 

Be intentional about what you consume: from news, to food, to alcohol or other substances, try to choose the things you are taking in. If the news is stressing you, take breaks, or schedule a once-a-day check. If you forget to eat, schedule that too.

Reach out to your loved ones and community. It’s hard to retrain our values away from “meeting up with friends and visiting family is good” to “we don’t meet up or visit so nobody dies.” That’s wildly difficult and it’s going to feel wrong, so reach out in other ways with calls, notes, video chat, or remote gifts. Contact with people who accept and affirm us is simply crucial, especially among the LGBTQ+ community.

Ask for help. It’s another thing that might feel wrong, as though asking for or using someone else’s resources might harm them or show ourselves as not enough somehow. But to me, the opportunity to do something helpful for someone else can be a gift, something that makes me feel like I have purpose, and it can bring us closer together, too. Metaphorically.

We should lean on and support each other, even though we’re all going through it. If you’re in need of resources, social contact, or even just a quick check-in, please have a look at what the Grand Rapids Pride Center is offering in our Virtual Queer Services. Every opportunity to support our community members is a gift.

— Leslie Boker, Proud To Be Healthy Coordinator