Honolulu Experts Offer Tips and Tales From Their Own Lives for Dealing with Togetherness and Tough Issues in “Life Interrupted: Home”
The final session in our free talk-story webinar explores ways we can improve our home well-being while helping to shape a healthier community for all.
Psychologist Allana Coffee works in private practice in Honolulu and—like most of us—was forced to quickly adapt to communicating remotely as the pandemic cut connections we’d relied on in the past.
At work, Coffee figured out how to use technology to reach patients via telehealth. At home, her twin sons stopped in-person college classes at UH Mānoa at spring break and her husbandʻs work with the homeless took him out of their home initially. “My husband is a first responder so for the first month of this thing, he actually quarantined away from our home.”
Social worker Kanoe Enos serves as systems innovation lead for the Lili‘uokalani Trust and is the proud father of two sons. Working from home with his two young sons taught him to be more self aware and why that was important to the overall harmony in their house. Handling all the juggling was made easier by taking a minute to ask: “What space am I in today and being honest with myself: Did I get enough sleep? Am I just right on the edge?”
Enos is quick to say he’s fortunate that his sons have a coparent who shares responsibilities and he’s able to work from home when so many in our community don’t have that opportunity.
Trisha Kajimura has worked for more than 20 years in social services in Hawai‘i, including serving as executive director of Mental Health America of Hawai‘i. Her career focuses on encouraging people to seek help and connect with mental wellness resources in the community.
But she got a turbulent start to the pandemic that included starting a new job two weeks before she was assigned to work from home. “I had to adjust to all the new things about both my new job and the situation working at home. And then my partner works in the tour industry and so he found himself with no work right away. As that kind of rippled out through friends and family—people losing their jobs or being put on furlough—there’s been a lot of anxiety and worry, but also the ability to look at different ways of communication and opening up those lines to connect with each other.”
Enos says a healthy home environment is one that accepts all the individuals in the room, acknowledges effort and shares tasks, the Native Hawaiian concept known as laulima. “Now that we have this time of quarantine, this might be a time we begin to listen a little more and make sure empathy is in the room at all times,” he says.
Kajimura says everyone in the home can help by communicating and being flexible about how what needs to happen gets done: “Flexibility in schedules, flexibility in expectations of each other, really just giving each other room to go through their own emotional experience.”
Coffee also reminds everyone to take care of your home nest and take care of your body: “Get outside and walk, make sure you’re eating good food, try to get some sleep.”
All three helping professionals say the upheaval of the pandemic also brought opportunities for our community to challenge previous ways of doing things, to assess what’s most important and examine how practices align with our Island values.
“We all have to make sure our voices are heard in order for positive change to happen down the road,” Kajimura says.
Enos says that while he’s joked that the pandemic feels like Mother Nature sent us all to our rooms for a timeout, this is a time to reflect on what works in our community now and what needs rethinking. “We’ve normalized two to three jobs, we’ve normalized really competitive marketplaces, we’ve not done a very good job at making the soil around us fertile for mental well-being,” Enos says.
He also sees this as a time for community leaders who have invested time in the visitor experience to shift focus. “Collectively, we need to come together and how do we work to put first and foremost the experience of the resident? And I’m not only speaking as a Native Hawaiian, but I am speaking of families that have been here a long time, that have intermarried, that have intermixed, that work collectively for a real genuinely healthy Hawai‘i.”
Kajimura agrees that our community is at a turning point: “If we just go back to pursuing growth, growth, growth; more tourists, more tourists, more tourists; it will be like we didn’t learn anything from this.”
Enos says some of the ways we’ve come together during the pandemic show the strength of those shared values in action: sharing food, helping neighbors, taking care of the land and sea; and connecting in daily tasks with fewer outside distractions. “There is an island mindset and a way to live that working together is the only way we get this. The more individualistic we become, the less chance we have of making this work.”
And Enos says being more engaged in the community can help lead to better mental health. “Go register to vote because it gives you some ownership, some power. “The more you feel that you have power, the less likely you are to ruminate on how powerless you are.”
Kajimura says she’s realized how important it is to connect, “that we’re not letting ourselves just kind of slip into a numb sort of state. We need to try to be present and experience what’s happening and acknowledge the people and important things in our lives.”
Coffee says people should recognize and acknowledge the strong feelings we’re having and get support. Outside of her practice, she says, “I think if I’m honest, I have a level of fear that’s just kind of humming there.”
While we can’t solve all our problems all at once, the three emphasized the importance of reaching out, talking about issues and taking small steps forward. Coffee summed it up: “No shame, we’re all in this one together.”
Watch the whole session:
It’s OK to feel anxious. Ask yourself, what am I grateful for?
Try positive coping strategies: garden, read, watch a movie, take deep breaths, go outside, move your body.
Take control of what you can control. Let go of those things you can’t control.
Stay updated on the news, but don’t overdo it.
Connect and check in with others by phone, text, video, group chats or texts.
Remember that we’re in this together, so let’s spread aloha.
Resources and hotline
NAMI Basics on Demand, nami.org
Mental Health America of Hawai‘i, mentalhealthhawaii.org
Domestic Violence Action Center O‘ahu, (808) 531-3771, or call toll-free 1-800-690-6200
National Domestic Violence Hotline, 1-800-799-SAFE(7233)
Child abuse reporting hotline O‘ahu, (808) 832-5300, or call toll-free 1-888-380-3088
Child trafficking reporting hotline, (808) 832-1999, or call toll-free 1-888-398-1188
Hawai‘i Psychology, hawaiipsychology.org
ACES Connection Hawai‘i, acesconnection.com