Caring for Each Other…The CANS Can Help

By Ken McGill, Eds, LMFT, Rutgers University

The impact of the coronavirus, now labeled a pandemic, has been worldwide. If we take a moment, we will see that there has been a change in daily life; this is true for individuals, couples, families, agencies, institutions or any other entity throughout our planet.

I am sure that many of us are feeling overwhelmed, frightened, angry and unsure about what tomorrow has in store for us. As I am writing this blog entry I can honestly tell you that I am feeling all the above! There have been many things written on the internet, appearing on television and even in shared conversations with others about how we can stay safe and prevent the spreading of the virus. Although this is extremely important, I feel that there is something missing in all of this…that is how we can stay connected to others.

We are being told to abide by ‘social distancing’, which is an appropriate strategy to stay physically healthy. However, for many people on this planet social isolation has disconnected them from interacting socially with others. This aloneness can greatly affect someone emotionally, psychologically as well physiologically. Aloneness can lead to hopelessness and helplessness for those who may have already been disconnected from human interactions.

It is so important that we all stay connected and interact with each other daily-either face-to-face (with some social distancing of course), video-feed or even with a phone call…and yes I still have a ‘land-line’ where I have been making calls to friends and family. In fact, I mentioned to them that I am calling from my house phone, which usually starts great conversation. Usually the response goes something like this. ‘You still have one of those? Man you are getting old!’ along with some laughter.  

As I begin the process of shifting over to remote working I was listening to the radio and the song, from back in 1985, “We Are the World” came on. For those who were not even born at that time, it was song written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie to raise funds to support the continent of Africa during the famine. The words resonated in my head to the point that I felt I had to share with others. The lyrics include:

There comes a timeWhen we heed a certain call… When the world must come together as one…We are the world…We are the children…We are the ones who make a brighter day, so let’s start giving…There’s a choice we’re making…We’re saving our own lives…It’s true we’ll make a better day, just you and me.1

So what will a better day look like? I cannot recall ever completing a CANS on my family or myself. I did however use the concepts of CANS when I needed support after my both parents passed away within less than a month of each other eight years ago. At that point, I clearly identified many of my needs and outlined the strengths for which I needed to use or build for support.

This was one of those very stressful times. So it only made sense to me to complete the CANS-ANSA…I expected to see some needs, but when I saw how many actionable ratings of ‘2’ and ‘3’ were given in the various categories it truly surprised me: Life Domain (social functioning, recreational, sleep); Behavioral Health (Anxiety, Adjustment to Trauma); Strengths (social connectedness, optimism, community connection). 

Now that I have a better sense of my needs (strengths to build), I can begin action planning in moving closer to fully answering the question…What will a better day look like? This is the start to my step-by-step (or day-by-day) transformational plan that will not only positively affect me but others such as my family, friends and co-workers.

My enduring hope and reason for writing this was to get everyone to take time in reevaluating their lives, setting prioritizes and always remembering that we are all connected through our shared experiences…even when those experiences are not positive ones. What will your better day look like?

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