There are dozens of actions individuals can do daily to show people how they care about others — while safely social distancing — as every community deals with COVID-19, says Ball State University’s Lawrence H. Gerstein.

Gerstein, director of the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies in Ball State’s College of Sciences and Humanities, and the organization’s advisory board generated a list of peaceful ways of expression as individuals seek to help others in this time of extraordinary and unpredictable crisis.

Dr. Lawrence Gerstein

Dr. Lawrence Gerstein

“Vulnerability and risk are heightened right now worldwide, resulting in increasing levels of stress, uncertainty, and conflict. Along with engaging in healthy physical behaviors, to effectively prevent and resolve stress, uncertainty, and conflict, it is essential we nurture and be kind to ourselves, and promote and model peaceful behaviors with others.”

The list also includes a few tips on how individuals can self-manage:

  1. Greet everyone with a smile, a wave, and/or a positive comment while maintaining appropriate physical distance.
  2. Respect, understand, and support your family.
  3. Respect, understand, and support people you live with.
  4. Be kind to, and nurture, yourself and others.
  5. Continue regular routines for showers, medications, consistent sleep times, hydration, etc.
  6. Clean, straighten, and declutter.
  7. Tend to something growing – plants, flowers, vegetable garden, child, pets, etc.
  8. Be mindfully present to sounds, songs, sensory feelings, visual stimuli, tactile stimuli, spiritual practice, etc.
  9. Exercise to raise your heart rate.
  10. Do something you’ll be glad you did later.
  11. Share an uplifting song, poem, story, image, etc. with others.
  12. Create a list of positive, simple strategies you have used and can use if you become stressed.
  13. Create a list of positive, simple strategies you have used and can use to prevent or resolve conflict.
  14. Communicate (e.g., phone, mail, email, social media, Skype, Zoom) with friends, colleagues, and neighbors to tell them you are concerned and here to listen.
  15. Listen and communicate with your own family members near and far who are undergoing stress and have concerns about the future.
  16. Listen and communicate to people you know if they are expressing concerns, especially hateful or violent thoughts about others.
  17. Communicate with your neighbors, especially if they are older adults, have illnesses, and/or have restricted mobility.
  18. Offer, if you are able, to pick up something at the store for your neighbors, especially if they are older adults, have illnesses, and/or have restricted mobility.
  19. Think about friends you haven’t been in touch with lately. Check your contact list or holiday list to identify these individuals. Call or send them a message.
  20. Show your support for leaders and members of health care organizations, law enforcement, fire departments, the military, faith groups, and community organizations whose resources are limited because of physical distancing.
  21. Thank doctors, nurses, and others in the medical field that you meet or know for the great job they are doing.
  22. Thank emergency medical personnel, police, firefighters, and military personnel for their hard work and for serving and protecting our communities at this time.
  23. Thank grocery and food service workers as well as other essential workers for their hard work and willingness to serve us at this time.
  24. Surprise others (e.g., family, friends, colleagues, first responders, health care professionals, food and grocery workers) with gifts, cards, or other items that they would appreciate.
  25. Be especially attuned to comments that express anxiety, fear and/or hopelessness.
  26. Generate a list of ways you might respond with empathy, support, compassion, and hope when you hear comments that express anxiety, fear, hopelessness, and/or helplessness.
  27. Prepare and have ready a list of community resources for colleagues, relatives, friends, and co-workers expressing anxiety, fear, hopelessness, helplessness, pain, and/or suffering.
  28. If there is a potential danger of violence in a family, organization, or neighborhood, do you or others you know have conflict resolution skills that could reduce tensions?
  29. In your communications with others be alert to any comments that might suggest domestic abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, child abuse, elder abuse, or any other type of abuse. Know whom to talk with if you become aware of abuse.
  30. In this time to rush to return to “normal,” use this time to consider which parts of normal are worth rushing back to.


Gerstein urges people to share this list with others and expand it with their own ideas.

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