Here on Charlotte on the Cheap, I usually write about free and cheap things to do. During normal times, I write about concerts, festivals, sports events, and kids’ activities. These days I’m writing about virtual events, things to do at home, and ways to get groceries and wine.
I keep it practical. (And at the end of this article I’ll include a big list of practical resources.)
But I’d like to ask you to indulge me this one time, as I share some thoughts I have on getting through this strange and terrible time. I’m not a mental health professional. I’m just a person who is struggling, like you might be, to get through each day. If you want to skip this and come back when I’m able to list outdoor concerts and beer festivals, I totally understand!
But, if you’re still with me…
How are you doing? No, really. How are you doing? This has been a long road, and the road ahead is even longer. If you’re staying at home, even if things are as good as they can possibly be—if you have a safe home, with people you get along with, with ample food, with paying work you can do remotely, with a backyard—it’s still hard.
If you’re living by yourself, the loneliness can be suffocating. If you’re living with people who you don’t always get along with, it can feel like there’s never any peace. If you’ve been laid off, you’re worried about paying your bills. If you still have to go to work, especially if you’re facing the public every day, it can be terrifying. If you’re sick, or if someone you love is, it’s even scarier.
I’ve found that asking myself certain questions every day helps me to keep anxiety in check, and helps me find pleasure every (well, almost every) day. Most of all, these questions help me to focus on making today better.
What is one thing I’m looking forward to today?
I find that it helps me to think of this question when I wake up. Or, before I go to bed, I ask this question about the next day. These don’t have to be big things, or unusual things. It could be watching a live stream from a musician. Maybe it’s enjoying your morning coffee on the porch. Maybe it’s making popcorn and watching a movie. We’ve been having remote game nights with people we can’t be with.
What is one way I’m being indulgent to myself today?
This question is similar to the first one, but goes a step further. For some people, this isn’t the best time to be 100% strict about a diet. For others, reading a novel can be a wonderful indulgence. What would you normally not allow yourself to do that, in moderation, could bring you pleasure? Obviously, this doesn’t imply giving yourself permission to indulge in behaviors that are dangerous to yourself or others. But maybe that brownie would be okay during a pandemic?
What is one thing I’m doing today for my physical health?
Now that you’ve had the brownie…what is something you can do for your health? We need to be strong in order to get through this. There are still safe places to walk. There are a lot of free fitness apps and videos. But doing something for your physical health isn’t just about exercise. Maybe it’s following up by phone with your doctor about an issue you’ve procrastinated dealing with. Maybe it’s arranging delivery of your prescription. Maybe it’s doing a really good job flossing your teeth. I’m serious! You probably won’t be going to the dentist for your regular cleaning any time soon.
Doing something for your health can help you feel a little bit of control during this time, when so many things are out of your control.
At the very least, do this for your physical health: avoid going into public, and when you have to, wear a face covering and stay at least 6 feet away from other people. Wash your hands.
What is one thing I can do for someone else today?
There may not have been a time in recent history when more people have needed help, all at once. Maybe if you’re getting groceries you can ask if a neighbor needs anything, and drop it off at their door. Did you accidentally get too many bananas in your grocery delivery? I promise that you have a friend who wants bananas. Lots of people are doing home improvement projects. Maybe you have a tool that you can share, after sanitizing it. Or just help out a family member with a chore.
Helping people makes us feel better too.
If your income hasn’t been affected, think about helping people financially. Order a meal for takeout or delivery from your favorite restaurant. Buy merchandise from a local band. Order a book from a local bookstore.
Here are some other ways to help:
COVID-19 Response Fund: United Way of Central Carolinas and Foundation for the Carolinas have partnered to create this fund to support a range of nonprofits assisting the people most affected by the pandemic.
Mecklenburg Creatives Resiliency Fund: The Mecklenburg Creatives Resiliency Fund helps creative practitioners in Mecklenburg County recover from personal emergencies by helping pay an unanticipated, emergency expense or by augmenting lost income due to the cancellation of a specific, scheduled gig or opportunity (i.e. commissions, performances, contracts) due to Coronavirus/COVID-19 precautionary measures. ASC will provide flat $500 awards to applicants meeting the fund criteria as long as funding is available.
Second Harvest of Metrolina: The organization is putting together food boxes for families whose children are missing school, seniors who have to stay in their homes, and employees who have had their work hours decreased.
Tip a Service Industry Worker: Tip a randomly selected local service industry worker whose income has been affected.
What help have I asked of (or accepted from) another person today?
It can feel good to help. Give that gift to someone else by letting them help you. We each have days when we feel stronger or weaker. On one of your weaker days, let someone who is feeling stronger help you.
This includes professional help too. Here are some resources:
Promise Resource Network has a 24-hour warm line for confidential, non-crisis peer support. Call 833-390-7728.
Cardinal Innovations provides a number for people in a mental health or behavioral health emergency to call: 800-939-5911.
North Carolina DHHS has two new mental health resources to support North Carolinians throughout the crisis:
- The Hope4NC Helpline connects North Carolinians to additional mental health and resilience supports that help them cope and build resilience during times of crisis. It’s available 24 hours a day. 855-587-3463.
- Hope4Healers Helpline provides mental health and resilience supports for health care professionals, emergency medical specialists, first responders, other staff who work in health care settings, and their families throughout the state, who are experiencing stress from being on the front lines of the state’s COVID-19 response. Hope4Healers is also available 24 hours per day, seven days a week for people to reach out for support; they will be contacted quickly by a licensed mental health professional for follow-up. 919-226-2002
What is one way that I’m cutting myself some slack today?
Meaning, what am I NOT doing? If you want to learn a foreign language, or learn 10 ways to bake bread, and that makes you feel good, then you should do it. For many people, working toward a new goal offers a sense of purpose, and helps mentally and emotionally.
But this doesn’t have to be a time for reaching new goals. In fact, it can be a time when it’s okay to let some stuff slip a little bit. Just living through a pandemic is an achievement. Living through a pandemic with your relationships intact, while keeping your sense of humor, is a huge achievement.
What is one thing that gives me hope?
There’s promising research going on. Some of the smartest people in the world are working harder than they ever have, developing treatments, better tests, and vaccines. That gives me hope.
My kids—and your kids—give me hope. Watching them graciously deal with milestones like graduations painfully taken away, while still working toward the future, is inspiring. Watching young kids adjust to this new way of being, while still being joyous and loving, gives me hope.
Working on a garden and watching it grow, or planting a tree, can inspire hope.
As much as I try to just focus on today, it also helps to think of something that gives me hope for days to come.
What is one thing I’m grateful for today?
It might seem cliché to say “what are you grateful for?” but gratitude is a powerful practice. The harder it is to think of one thing to be grateful for, the more important it is to do it.
Who is one person that I should check in with today?
Text, Facebook message, Skype, or just call them on the phone. Just get in touch. Somebody out there needs to hear from you today.
Practical Links for Coping
As promised, here are some practical resources on Charlotte on the Cheap to help with our current reality.
Getting food and drink
- Side by side comparison of grocery delivery services
- Having trouble getting grocery store delivery? Here are some other ways to get groceries
- Wine delivery in Charlotte
- Beer delivery in Charlotte
- Senior shopping hours
- Huge list of restaurants offering takeout and delivery
- Virtual Events Calendar
- Remote game night with Jackbox Games
- Netflix Party
- Free online resources from Charlotte Mecklenburg Library
- 12 free streaming services for movies and TV
- 10 free online cooking classes
- Fun ways to paint at home, with options from local studios, every Bob Ross episode, and more
For the Kids
- Virtual Events Calendar for kids
- 89 screen-free activities for cooped up kids
- Fun, educational, and free websites for kids
- Huge list of animal webcams
- Invite “live” 3D animals into your house
- Subscribing to Charlotte on the Cheap’s email list
- Freebies and discounts for healthcare workers
- When will I get my federal stimulus check and for much?
- Getting started with Zoom and Google Hangouts
- 13 free fitness apps and online workouts