Del Rey Neighborhood Council wants to help residents stay healthy and happy

By Matt Wersinger

The author is president of the Del Rey Neighborhood Council, which is offering assistance to residents via and @DelReyNeighbor on Twitter.

Last Wednesday I packed a lunch for my daughter and dropped her off at school. My wife went to work as usual, racing to meetings on a television production. I went, as president of the Del Rey Neighborhood Council, to L.A. City Hall to attend a reception hosted by Mayor Garcetti to honor Del Rey as one of four recipients of a $500,000 Great Streets grant. It seemed like a normal day.

Just 48 hours later, everything about our daily routine had evaporated. Schools were closed, my wife’s job was in limbo, and all our future dreams for a reinvigorated Del Rey were put on hold.

This week we sit in the confines of our home, home-schooling our daughter while worrying about our personal health, the wellbeing of our relatives and neighbors, and prospects of future employment. The barrage of cancellation notices and headlines coming at us from news outlets has been relentless. And all reasonable prognoses are that it will be weeks or even months before our lives can begin to return to normal.

Doubtless many who live alongside my family are feeling the same anxiety and uncertainty. While to date our governor and mayor have been rightly focused on practical measures to contain the real dangers of COVID-19, and our City Council has been active in reinforcing our networks with our neighbors, I’ve begun thinking ahead to the toll weeks in relative isolation will take on our mental health.

As a lifelong freelance filmmaker, I’m somewhat used to having to construct my own schedule and adapt to time away from work. And while that can hardly prepare any of us for this unprecedented new reality or take away stresses about health and finance, it does offer a few insights on things that can help keep our minds and bodies balanced and replace our daily routines that have so suddenly vanished with new ones that maintain some semblance of normalcy.

Be a good neighbor – Take this time to turn to those around you, be they family or neighbors, and appreciate the time you now have to take care of and be near each other. Expand your circle, and let those most in need around you know there’s a network of people supporting them (albeit from a six-foot distance!). There will be virtual volunteer and other safe options to engage with your fellow Del Reyans coming soon from the city as well.

Stay active – Many of us are torn from our workout routines, and exercise is proven to give a boost to mental health. Free online yoga, bike rides and long walks in our beautiful parks and on our beaches are all simple and healthy activities you should explore every day. Speaking of health … while it’s nice to sit back and have a stiff drink, don’t indulge any more than you normally would. Alcohol is a depressant!

Manage your intake of TV news and the internet – Movie theaters are closed and sports seasons shut down and there’s a dearth of entertainment options, but that doesn’t mean your TV should be blaring news all day long. While it’s important to get information from the right sources, overloading can enhance depression, so manage your intake by muting alerts and checking in a couple times a day.

Be productive – This comes in a few forms, few of which cost anything. First, keep a schedule. My daughter’s teachers asked us to keep her regular bedtime, for example. Then, during the day when not working remotely or home-schooling, there are many things you can do. My wife has made time to bake, my daughter has a list of great crafts projects to tackle, and I’ve balanced helping our neighbors with diving into some unread books. We don’t have to sit idly by as the weeks pass!

There are immense challenges ahead. Some of us will have loved ones who are dangerously ill from the virus; our economy, both on a micro and macro level, will take months if not years to recover; life as we know it will be interrupted for longer than we can imagine.

But I’ve found a beauty in the anxiety in that now is a time to reconnect with those we love and step away from everything that keeps us so busy in normal times. And with some common sense and a touch of self discipline, I believe we can come out of this stronger both mentally and physically. And if we do so individually, we will do so together as a city, country and world.