Love in the time of COVID19: Self Care Guidance from The Transformational Women’s Circus

Love in the time of COVID19:

Self Care Guidance from The Transformational Women’s Circus

We are between worlds. We are somewhere in the middle of the world we once knew and the world that is waiting for us, trying mightily as we can to hold on to any sense of normalcy. Many of us find this nearly impossible- whatever was once normal to us is now gone. Our routines, our schedules, and our sense of regularity and predictability are absent. Structures we relied on to hold us up have crumbled and we are grieving the loss of those structures. A traumatic experience is any event that threatens our safety and exceeds our ability to cope, and this- COVID19, does both. Our safety is threatened on many levels, from our physical safety to our financial security, and there is no known coping manual for this event. It is unprecedented. We are all being traumatized by the same experience, in real time, together. And now, more than ever, we need each other.

In the Transformational Women’s Circus (TWC), SANCA’s Creative Arts Therapy program for women, we intentionally navigate in-between spaces. We confront past traumatic experiences and transform them into art in order to facilitate personal change. Though we have never before encountered something like COVID19, in TWC we are in the business of caring for ourselves in times of distress. Traumatic events have a unique ability to either break us down and leave us fractured, or help us rebuild ourselves into new people. The key ingredient that differentiates those two potential paths is support and increased coping measures. Like a muscle repairing after physical exertion, nurturing is required to facilitate repair. If care, rest, and proper support are available, the muscle grows stronger than it was before. If not, the muscle can become injured. Similarly, providing support to ourselves and to one another during this time is crucial, both for daily and long-term health and wellbeing. In TWC, we focus on 4 areas in which to direct support when we are healing- Our body, our mood, our relationships, and our mind. Each of these areas is affected by stress, overwhelm, and traumatic experiences. The following describes how each area can become dysregulated, and actions we can take to regulate those areas and find increased comfort and wellness.


You may find that you are feeling extra tired, you are having a hard time focusing, and you cannot easily access ideas and thoughts that are usually accessible to you. Inversely, you may find yourself feeling antsy, irritable, jumpy, anxious, or overwhelmed. This is called nervous system dysregulation. Many know this as moving into fight or flight mode. Our nervous systems normally move along a spectrum- out of our window of tolerance and into hypo-arousal (flight) to hyper-arousal (fight), all day long. During times of increased stress, however, we move between those opposites more frequently and more problematically. And, sometimes, we get stuck on one end of the spectrum for a long time. Prolonged hypo-arousal is, essentially, a state of depression, and prolonged hyper-arousal is a constant state of anxiety. During this time of COVID19, you likely are moving between those states in a very noticeable way, which might be confusing or distressing. If you are noticing these symptoms, you will likely benefit from activities that regulate your body.

Ways you can regulate your body

  • Create a daily routine
  • Wake up at a predictable time 4-5 days a week, sleep in on other days as a treat
  • Connect with nature in a socially distanced way 
  • Play with sensory toys (even if you’re a grown up!)
  • Get your heart rate up in some kind of way, for at least 30 minutes, a few days a week
  • Respect your body’s need for naps and rest 
  • Drink lots of water
  • Eat well and consistently and be kind to yourself when you cannot
  • Walk or engage in other kinds of bilateral movement 
  • Tend to your environment- move furniture, re-decorate, fill your space with pleasing smells, sounds, and textures 


Similar to the way in which your nervous system is constantly shifting, our moods shift throughout the day under regular circumstances. Right now, your mood may be shifting all over the place, as these are far from normal circumstances. You may notice sudden emotional distress, anxiety, anger, sadness, confusion, happiness, or fear. All are normal, and also, feeling as though you cannot have a say in how you feel is difficult. In many ways, COVID19 is a grief process, as we have lost so much since the beginning of this pandemic, and we continue to experience loss every day in big and in small ways. Our moods are especially tidal these days. Self expression is a very effective way to ride the waves of our emotions. Self expressive activities allow us to see ourselves, make sense of our reality, and create new stories. 

Ways you can regulate your Mood

  • Make art of ANY kind- draw, paint, sculpt, decorate, collage. 
  • In art making, give yourself a directive: How do I feel today? How do I want to feel?
  • Write poems, stories, or journal about how you are feeling and what you are experiencing 
  • Give yourself permission to cry 
  • Connect with a friend who makes you laugh 
  • Spend time quietly reflecting 
  • Read a story or watch a movie with a message that is affirming to you
  • Move! Dance! Fill your body with endorphins from increased activity
  • Put your phone on airplane mode or turn it off completely 
  • PLAY! In any kid of way, in every kind of way


Our relationships with others, as well as our relationship with ourselves, are impacted by difficult experiences. Some of us crave distance during times of stress, some want nothing more than to be close to the ones we love. Many of us are somewhere in between. Some are in isolation with others, some of us are isolated alone. Either way, isolation is difficult- when we are cooped up with others, we may desire solitude. If we are alone in our isolation we may be mourning the loss of being able to access our friends and family. Human beings are, by nature, relational. We are hardwired for connection. No matter what your style of relating may be, COVID19 is re-shaping how we relate, day to day. 

Ways you can regulate your relating 

  • Journal for self reflection every day- where are you at today? Do you need more space? Do you need closeness?
  • Take some time to research your attachment style 
  • Be aware of the way you are relating to yourself- are you being hard on yourself in some kind of way? Are you telling yourself you aren’t making the most of time in quarantine? 
  • Remind yourself daily that you are doing the best you can, you do not have to perform wellness for anyone, including yourself.
  • Express your feelings to someone you trust 
  • If you are quarantined with others, consider how you can get some alone time
  • Practice asking for help- this is hard for everyone, it takes practice 
  • Set up online hangouts with friends weekly, or as often as you need


When it comes to our thinking and cognition, we are, likely, coming in and out of focus all day long while we sit in quarantine. Some moments our thoughts may feel sharp and clear, other moments it may feel like our brain doesn’t work at all. We are well accustomed to our brains being distracted by work, activities, relationships, and others obligations and responsibilities, but now, everything has changed. Our brains do not know what to do with this uncomfortable reality.  Our brains love stories and meaning making, in fact, that is part of our survival as a species. We need stories to be well, whole, and to regulate our distress. COVID19 is a new story we do not understand; a story whose ending is unclear and unknown to us. Our brains loath the lack of clarity and will make up a story to fill in the gaps. This is an attempt to keep us safe and create a sense of wellbeing. 

Ways you can regulate your thinking  

  • Consider what content you are taking-in online- how much news? How much social media? How is that impacting the story you tell yourself about what is happening in the world?
  • Give your brain a chance to rest by moving your body or doing something creative 
  • Direct awareness to your automatic negative thoughts and consider why they may be coming up- is your brain trying to protect you?
  • Combat the brain’s natural negativity bias by writing a daily gratitude list
  • Steer clear of messages that enforce Toxic Positivity, you do not have to be 100% positive during a pandemic 
  • Externalize your thoughts as often as you can 

No matter who you are or how you are coping, be kind to yourself. If you read this post and think, “Nothing here would work for me”, then great! Reflect on what would work for you instead. You are a unique person living in a unique time. Self care is not a one-size fits all kind of thing. Self care is highly individual, and our ability to practice self care waxes and wanes. Some days, we are high functioning in our self care, other days we cannot take care of ourselves at all. Now, more than ever, that is understandable and expected. We are all doing the best we can with the resources and support we have available to us. As we go forward, please know that the SANCA community, and those of us who lead it, are here for you. You do not have to be strong alone. We can be strong together, and in doing so, create a collective strength that will guide us into the future. 

With love, 

The Transformational Women’s Circus