It's one habit l'll continue well beyond when quarantine is over.

Jessica Ball, M.S., R.D.
April 29, 2020
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Photo: Jessica Ball

These days, anything that helps you feel good should be a high priority. For me, to start my day I have been walking a lot to help center myself. Where I live, in Burlington, Vermont, there are signs all over the sidewalks similar to the one above with a simple but important message: wash your hands, call your grandma. One I had been doing regularly and diligently, one I had not.

My grandparents have been a consistent part of my life since I was a child. We vacationed together in the summers, shared holiday meals and spent time around the table (eating fish my grandpa caught from the lake, if we were lucky). Honestly, it was hard to tell they were aging. After moving across the county, my relationship with them turned to, "I'll see you when I see you," because I knew I would. That was, until recently when my grandma had some unforeseen health complications (unrelated to the COVID-19 pandemic). That, coupled with travel restrictions and social distancing, made things hit a little closer to home.

On my morning walk when I saw that message on the sidewalk (pictured above), I committed to start calling my grandparents every Friday. The calls were just to check in, catch up and take a more active step to showing them how much I care. (To be totally transparent, it has really been more like every other Friday—still a big improvement from before when I called on holidays and birthdays). Now that I'm several calls in, it's something I truly look forward to.

Not only does this help them feel connected and important to me, but also it has helped me gain an important perspective during this time. As a young, healthy person living in an area with a relatively low number of cases per population, it was easy to focus on all of the things I like to do that have been "taken away" from me. However, when I think of the community where my grandparents live, I hope and expect everyone to take public health recommendations seriously for their safety.

Additionally, my grandparents are also missing the things they loved to do with others. They are avid golfers, my grandma loves to swim at their local pool, and they often hosted dinners with friends and family (trust me, those were gatherings you wanted to be at). Calling them has helped me realize this pandemic has flipped everyone's life upside down, not just my own.

All this is to say everyone is missing things. Missing people, missing places, missing activities and missing "the normal" we used to have. In confusing times like these, it has been helpful to me to think of those, especially those I love, who may be more affected than I am. It is not ideal for anyone, but think about my grandparents, your grandparents, your parents or anyone who is considered high risk the next time you go out in public or feel burnt out by the ongoing restrictions.

Also, calling my family has helped me realize how important it is to stay close to those you love, these days and every day. Needless to say, this is a habit I wish I would've started earlier, and plan to continue well beyond this quarantine. Simply put: wash your hands, call your grandma.