Adapting to our new normal
A delayed second blog post for ya! Sorry about that, I got distracted and with the long weekend, completely forgot to upload this post. Happy belated Easter, I hope everyone got to connect with their loved ones in a safe way. Last week's topic was adapting to our new normal.
Here is the question I got last week:
1) What can I do when I feel trapped in the situation? It’s very triggering.
Essentially, how can we cope with what is going on right now?
For this tough question (and topic!) I looked to some outside experts for their excellent advice:
From podcast with Dr. Levine (Reference #1)
1) Responding to feelings with a mental exercise
Do you notice feelings come up? Notice the fear, a specific bodily sensation (twisting gut, strained neck). Then we have thoughts and tend to catastrophize thoughts. When you have that thought, preface with “I have the words that”. This allows you to separate a little bit from the thought, and know that the thought is not reality.
Be aware of sensations that underly the emotion and separate them out enough. No feeling is the endpoint. When we are able to be in touch with our feelings they will shift, change, and will end up being more positive and help us through tough times.
2) Responding to feelings with a physical exercise
Fear is something that physically happens in the body
To get past fear, we must engage our bodies: move (listen to music that moves you, dance, exercise, yoga, stretching, dancing, walking, etc).
What happens in the brain also happens in the body, so having new experiences in the body that contradict those of the fear and helplessness and the body is signaling to the brain that things are okay.
3) Working together
Right now, a lot of us have to rely on ourselves and the ability to self-regulate. Stress makes us more susceptible to the virus, and social engagement is a big part of it. Physically separated but socially connected (and in rhythm with the music!) Support each other: practice exercises together, when we’re guiding each other then we are able to have a little distance from what’s happening.
4) Keep a realistic perspective, connect with yourself
Dial it down and think “what can I do? How can I regulate myself while staying informed?”
This might be the opportunity to really connect without ourselves, when we normally try and hide from it with hyperactivity. Do things that are nourishing, sing, dance, cook together, etc. These are vitally important for our wellbeing. This is a time of potential great transformation!
From NBC's Stay Tuned “How to Stay Mentally Healthy in Quarantine” with Dr. Alexandra Hamlet (Child Mind Institute), Dr Michelle Craske (Psych prof UCLA), Kevin Love (NBA Player and mental health advocate)
- Keep a routine! – take showers, change clothes (even though it can be tempting to stay in pajamas all day), cook
- Schedule social time with friends (especially if you live alone)
- Get an appropriate amount of sleep
- Treat yourself (these are tough times! Maybe that’s a bath, lighting a candle, having a sweet snack, reading, etc)
- Those who are concerned about mental health: take care check in on yourself
- What are signs you may not doing well: Hygiene stops, no interest in socializing, too much or too little of one thing (sleep, bingeing TV shows)
- Body symptoms: tummy or head ache could = screen for too long?
- *change it up: have you been watch Netflix for a few hours? Get up, turn off the screen, stretch, move around.
- *grounding exercises: practice meditation, even 6 deep breaths. (5-4-3-2-1, 4 elements)
- *reach out: if you have a therapist, psychologist, or trusted others (family, friends, your support network)
- Focus on the positives: express gratitude, remember the purpose of social distancing: we are saving lives
- Check in on loved ones, check in on yourself, we are not alone
Start small, work your way up (It’s okay to take TIME to find a ‘new normal’):
· Waking up at the same time every day, going to sleep at the same time every day
· Following a normal work schedule (setting do not disturb for evenings and weekends)
· Getting ready in the morning (showering, makeup, whatever – I found that doing my makeup and hair like I would be going out helped me get into a working mindset and it was nice to get back to doing something not necessarily essential but part of a routine I enjoy)
Stay true to your routine! (Don’t work into the night):
· It can be hard to stick to a routine when we’re all at home. I’ve heard from others that it’s easy to forget what time it is! This is another reason having a routine is important, even if it is short and simple. Do your best to stick to a schedule, especially a sleep schedule. (Don’t work late into the night). If you have a set time for work/school/activity, then stick to that. Make sure that when you have time set aside for other things, talking to family/dinner/relaxation/reading, that is what that time is for! It’s absolutely necessary to recharge.
Find brief moments in your day to just experience something:
· I talk a lot about routines, but I don’t mean that every moment in your day has to be perfectly scheduled. Having an idea of time frames and when you want to do what is good enough!
· So what I mean by this is to just live in a moment that isn’t related to our crisis, work, etc.
As I was researching and preparing for this Live this morning, I felt myself getting stressed (is it going to be good? How should I reference/acknowledge the authors that I’m getting information from? Who’s going to be watching?).
I took a step back and told myself that I have plenty of time to prepare, post links to articles I use, etc. but I still felt that stress in my chest. I was listening to music as I was preparing, and my playlist happened upon a very relaxing and beautiful classical song that I like. I literally froze in the middle of what I was doing, and I just listened. I took that 3-4 minutes to listen to this gorgeous song and look out the window and stare at some trees.
That moment really allowed me to find what I’m grateful for (beautiful music, nature, pausing to enjoy both). Let yourself have these moments! They might creep up on you like mine did, but now I’m going to allow myself to be more open to that.
We are all experiencing COVID-19 differently. Some of the things I talk about or suggest may not work in your life right now, but I’m sure that some of them will. It’s important to think for ourselves; what is IN my control? “How we interpret and respond to the difficulties and challenges that we face (is in our control). And it is our attitude toward and response to the COVID-19 crisis that can either make or break our experience of it” (Dr. Taylor, reference #2).
This might be the opportunity to really connect without ourselves, when we normally try and hide from it with hyperactivity. From personal experience, I have been hearing from others I talk to that people are picking up old hobbies or activities that had been forgotten. Whether this is playing the guitar, setting up model trains, or (for me) drawing! I’m very rusty, but it’s nice not only to have a hobby that I love that I’m working on again, but seeing it as a challenge where I can improve my skills.
Remember the reason that we are physical distancing. We are all facing a massive upheaval in our lives, but all of us have been told to stay home and physically distance from each other (this is something we share). We are doing this to help SAVE PEOPLE’S LIVES. We are all taking action, making the world healthier, and are a part of how we can return to our normal lives in a safe and appropriate way.
We are physically separated but emotionally connected!