To have a healthy Internet, RIPE community members need to maintain healthy bodies and healthy minds. The additional stress of COVID-19 makes it even more important to take care of the Physical Layer of a network(er)!
Last week, in the initial article of this series, I’ve looked into personal and community resilience, specifically during COVID-19. In this article, I am inviting you to take care of your most basic physical and emotional needs. In the follow-up articles, I will focus on other aspects of wellbeing: safety, networking/belonging, all the way up to application layer and financial/political aspects of resilience.
Abstraction layers are a useful simplification that allow us to analyse complex phenomena, like networking or a living organism, by separating elements into discreet “levels”. Reality is much messier, and everything is interconnected and interdependent.
In the OSI model, the physical layer is a “fundamental layer underlying the higher level functions” that interacts with hardware. This corresponds to the basis of the “pyramid of needs”: physiological needs (human hardware!).
“To pursue intrinsic motivation higher up Maslow's hierarchy, physiological needs must be met first. This means that if a human is struggling to meet their physiological needs, then they are unlikely to intrinsically pursue [higher needs].”
Since health can be seen as a person’s condition with regard to their psychological and emotional wellbeing - just like the "physical layer" can be "material" (cables) or "ethereal" (WiFi) - I have further divided the chapters in this article to Physical Health and Mental Health.
However, I will start with the sharing my personal experiences, hoping that it's going to help you to escape stigma, and to move towards openness; to see vulnerability as a strength and not as something to be ashamed of; to invite empathy, honesty and genuineness - and lead to healing and co-liberation in togetherness and solidarity!
SPS in TLA
Short Personal Story (SPS) in Three Letter Acronyms (TLA)
Since Y2K I have had RSI, which came back during COVID-19; so I did EFT, CBD, MBSR, ASMR & yoga.
I’ve self-dx with C-PTSD in 2017; in the past I’ve done CBT and EFT, but what helped the most was NVC, EMDR and SSRI / SNRI (Zoloft)!
I have family members that are ADHD, BPD, LGBTQ* and OCD, and sometimes I am myself one or all of those labels too!
(check out the glossary at the end of this article)
As humans, engineers have the same physical needs as everyone else; what makes our community specific, and different from the “mainstream” population, are some of these aspects that cause additional stress:
- Since we work on maintaining "critical infrastructure” we might have a heightened sense of responsibility, accompanied with the fear of failure, since Internet shut-down can lead to public exposure of a "culprit"
- We are passionate about our work, making no difference between the job and hobbies which leads to long hours online, and not taking enough time to rest, "reset" and recover
- Having to be highly focused or paying attention to small details (e.g. coding)
- The technical community has a disproportionally high percentage of people on the autism spectrum (to be covered in Layer 5)
The good thing about our community is our openness to sharing (technical) vulnerabilities, so we might turn to the “mutual aid” to get help, rather than more traditional solutions.
If you experience serious problems, please ask for support of medical professionals!
For such smart people who run the Internet, it could be expected that we are also smart enough to keep our bodies healthy. And if not - the digital help is available, with the apps that can remind people to:
- drink water
- eat (at all, to gain muscle or to lose fat)
- sit still
- wake up
- calm down
- imagine / visualize
As an active participation practice, I invite you to mention a few of your favourite self-care apps or websites in the comments section.
If you prefer slightly less interaction, you can find some useful tips in these articles, to read at your leisure:
- COVID@Home A collaborative guide to COVID-19 care translated into six languages (March 2020)
- "Build Your Resilience in the Face of a Crisis" in Harvard Business Review (March 2020)
- "10 Rules for Life Crystallized by the Pandemic" in ADDitude Magazine (February 2021)
- "How Society Has Betrayed Mothers" (A.K.A. "This isn’t just another burnout") in NY Times (February 2021)
Staying SANE During a Pandemic
Even under "normal" conditions, mental health is a sensitive topic and during a year-long global epidemic, doubly so. I find it important to keep on learning, and principles of open knowledge are central to FLOSS and bottom-up Internet standards development. To be an efficient "sysadmin" of your own "system" and sharing of BCP is a must.
I am not a doctor, but I have collected lots of resources, which include COVID-19 related mental health resources and general info about emotional healing and mental health. Advice listed below are curated based on my personal preferences: YMMV.
Videos from Adjacent Communities
- At MozFest: “AI and Mental Health: Revolutionary Reboot or the Rise of the “Digital Asylum”? (16 March 2021)
- FOSDEM2021: "Mental Health & FLOSS" by Brendan Abolivier (February 2021)
- At INEX meeting (Irish IXP members), Dr Tim Green (Clinical Psychologist) presented "Resiliency in a Pandemic - Coping with the Stress of Covid-19" to outline the mechanics of how stress affects the body and mind (April 2020)
- DjangoCon US: "Healthy Minds in a Healthy Community" by Erik Romijn (August 2016)
- “How To Actually Effectively Cope With Your Covid-19 Anxiety" by Caitlin Johnstone (March 2020)
- “Pandemic Mental Health Safety Plan" by QueeringPsychology (April 2020)
- "Reimagining the Mental Health Paradigm for Our Collective Wellbeing" in Health and Human Rights Journal (June 2020)
- Geek Feminism and the health consequences (2014)
- Interesting blog about Mental Health from Systemic/Activist perspective
You can find many more by following #MentalHealthMatters on your favourite social media sites.
Below is a handy chart that shows how to recognise the signals that you are moving towards a less optimal state. It shows what to aim for when you are moving away from a crisis and towards thriving - and that there are phases in between too:
Call to Action: Take Care
Please take care of yourself: of your physical and emotional health!
And please take care of each other!
If you want to talk, you can reach me through email@example.com .
"We need to take care of all of us, or else we’re all at risk,
and that means building global public goods, like
healthcare, food, housing, water systems, [and Internet] for the first time in human history.
We really are in it together. "
— "The Upsides of a Pandemic", umair haque, March 2020
Glossary of acronyms
ADD: attention deficit disorder
ADHD: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
A.K.A.: Also Known As
ASMR: Autonomous sensory meridian response
BCP: Best Current Practices
BPD: Borderline Personality Disorder
CBT: Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
C-PTSD: Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
EFT: Emotional Freedom Technique ("tapping")
EFT: Emotionally focused therapy
EMDR: Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (therapy)
FLOSS: Free/Libre Open Source Software
INEX: Internet Neutral Exchange Association
LGBTQ*: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning/queer, "other"
MBSR: Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction
NVC: Non-Violent Communication
OCD: Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
OSI: Open Systems Interconnection
RIPE: Reseaux IP Europeens
RSI: Repetitive Strain Injury
SANE: System Administration and NEtworking
SNRI: serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake Inhibitor.
SSRI: selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor
Y2K: Year 2000
YMMV: Your Milage May Vary
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Eileen Gallagher •
Vesna, what a wonderfully generous and insightful article to share with the community of RIPE. Thank you for being so open and so supportive of the struggles that others may be going through.
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Michael Oghia •
I couldn't agree more. Vesna gives so much value to the community that wouldn't be here otherwise. I'm grateful for that!
Vesna Manojlovic •
There's an interesting webinar coming up, on 13th May: "Covid and Mental Health", organised by Universities of Cambridge, Oxford and Bristol https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_ZhLvJk1eRoi8FwqDKcW1SA