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“[T]hink of love as a state of grace: not the means to anything but the alpha and omega, an end in itself.”

Gabriel García Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera

As we hear more about the spread of coronavirus, many of us are experiencing high levels of anxiety and fear. We are concerned to protect ourselves and our loved ones — survival and protection instincts are kicking in.

While these are normal responses, perhaps it is also wise to remember that humans have been successful as a species because we learned how to co-operate, how to share our resources and how to care for each other.

We can put these evolutionary traits into action to ensure that we not only slow the spread and minimise the impact of the virus, but also make sure that our social bonds and connections are strengthened — rather than destroyed — during the pandemic.

Here are some practical ideas for you to consider:

· Taking control over what we can control can help us get through tough times. We can control how we behave and respond such as taking responsibility for protecting yourself and others by washing your hands often, sneezing into a tissue (or your elbow!), bowing or smiling instead of shaking hands, hugging or kissing. Turn these care strategies into games to help you and our kids learn new ways of keeping each other safe. Nonna’s advice is a good place to start!

· Social distancing, not social disconnection! Keeping 1.5 metres away from people is a good idea as is avoiding very large groups or enclosed gatherings. However, we need to make sure that we are still interacting and caring about each other, reaching out especially to those of us who are vulnerable or already more isolated.

· Be kind and caring to each other. Share your resources and time. Look for ways to connect and care. Call people to catch up or just check in. You can’t catch a virus over the phone or laptop — phone calls and positive connections over social media or email can help us all to feel cared about and remind us that we are still part of the wider community.

· Beware of fake news. Get up-to-date, reliable information from the World Health Organisation, the Australian Government, or the ABC Coronavirus daily updates rather than relying on Facebook snippets.

· Be careful with social media and news reports. Many news outlets highlight extreme stories which can result in people believing that the threat is worse than it is in reality. Children in particular may be affected by panic headlines or extreme language and may need help to navigate these stories. Being realistic and careful is more helpful than panic.

· It is normal to feel worry and stress in the face of a health crisis. But it is equally important to remember that fear and anxiety are just as contagious as a virus — acknowledging and managing our feelings can help to protect others as well as helping us cope better. Strategies might include regular exercise, like walking outdoors; meditation or mindfulness (there are plenty of apps available like Smiling MindStop, Breathe & Think10% HappierCalm and Meditation for Kids. Noticing when your thoughts are negative and deliberately shifting focus to your breath can also help. Seek support from a health professional like your GP or a counsellor if you feel overwhelmed or depressed.

· Where you can, keep doing the things you love. Watch footy on TV, participate in social media, study and learn as usual!

Over the coming days, Pivot will be releasing our response to COVID-19 with a range of supportive materials, resources and survey instruments. Get in touch with us at hello@pivotpl.com if we can help you and your learning community.

From Pivot’s Pencil: Karen McMillan, Organisational Psychologist.