In December of 2017 I wrote a post with the same title. At that time, my daughter Anna had discovered she had both acute and chronic rejection of her transplanted lungs. Chronic rejection led to her need for new lungs this past fall…again! So much of my life in the last six and a half years has been affected by Anna’s declining health, transplants, hospitalizations and unknowns. Today, I’m kind of tired of the unknowns as I sit in this added unknown of COVID 19. I don’t know about you, but right in this moment, I’m over it. Can we just be done? Oh! That’s right, NO! We don’t get to decide that.
I kind of want to have a temper tantrum. I feel two years old and part of me wants to kick and scream on the floor until I get my way. Just a part of me wants to do that. I’m not totally down. In fact, my day started out really well. I was productive. I had a meeting with a client and then I participated in a planning group for an organization I volunteer with. Activities that fill me. But then I sat down and thought about what I wanted to write for this blog post and this is what’s coming out.
I’m thinking this is how a lot of you are feeling, too. Some moments are fine, some are great and some suck! Yes? The stay-in-place extension may be taking its toll. We sometimes cling to a number. “I can do this until April 12.” But when April 12 comes and goes and we are still confined to our homes it can feel depressing. Are you feeling that, too?
There’s no magic. There’s no healthy formula to not feel depressed or sad or mad. In fact, I believe ignoring our emotions will take its toll at some point during our lives. It’s best to honor your emotion. Let the tears roll down your cheeks or have a safe temper tantrum on your bed. Tell a friend or family member how you are feeling. Then, find something you can do that feels good to you. I have a cleaning project I’d like to tackle (not the most fun but it will feel good to get it done).
We can do this. We can take it breath by breath, emotion by emotion. I hear Dory from Finding Nemo sweetly reminding us, “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming…” So that’s what we will do.
From certain angles the pandemic and its effects are just too much to deal with. It seems you have no choice but to succumb to the despair. That’s one view. What we know about humans is we have the ability to look at the exact same situation and see a variety of realities all occurring at the same time. With this ability comes choice and hope.
What can you do to get out of despair or protect yourself from falling down that slippery slope?
Enlist your ability to choose and have power over your circumstances:
You get to decide the view you want. You can look at the circumstances around you and see all the bad or you can look for the good. Maybe you have COVID-19, feel miserable and are quarantined. The good here is if you are reading this it tells me you have internet access and a device to stay connected to others. You likely have shelter, too. What else can you come up with that is positive?
You can choose the attitude you want to have. You can be grouchy or kind. This doesn’t mean ignore your true emotional experience. If you feel mad, sad or angry, give yourself space to feel the emotion. Go through the emotion processing technique I wrote about last week. Then decide if you want to move toward a more peaceful state.
Engage in activities that elicit joy or at the very least busy your mind so you don’t swirl in the negative. This can be simple like going outside and listening to the birds or more complex like cleaning out your closet. Finding a way to volunteer or help others can also do a lot to move you to sense of purpose which helps with feeling more peace within.
One of my favorite reads related to choice is Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. He found purpose and choice as a prisoner in Nazi concentration camps during World War II. If he mustered up the ability to choose in those dire circumstances, we can, too!
If gaining Power Over Circumstances is a challenge for you, join me for an interactive online workshop this Monday April 6 7-8:30p MDT for $20. Enrollment limited to 20 people. Click here to sign up.
By now, everyone is being affected one way or another by this pandemic. What is it like for you? Many are feeling all kinds of big emotions from fear to sadness. And many don’t know what to do with all the emotion. Here are a few quick tips:
- Name the emotions you are feeling. If you are at a loss, feelings generally fall into categories of fear, sadness, anger and joy.
- Understand the thoughts that are driving the emotion. Are the thoughts true and real? Do you know this for sure or are you projecting/speculating? Throw away untrue thoughts.
- Give space for the feelings based in truth. There’s real stuff that’s bad right now. Honor that for yourself. Feel it for a bit, then do something to change your focus: look at nature, call a friend, do an art project, go for a walk, turn on fun music and dance…
There’s so much more to say and I’m saying it every day on Facebook. I post short (a few minutes) videos each morning (Colorado, USA morning) with a quick tip of something you can do right then or during that day to help you relax and get through this pandemic. I also have 4 (tomorrow I will add my fifth) Facebook Live to Thrive videos with more detailed ways to be as healthy as you can during this time. I have also posted the Live to Thrive series on YouTube titled Thrive in the Unpredictable.
We have choices during times of trial: shrink, stagnate or grow. I recognize this is an intense time. It seems now, more than any other time that I have been alive for, we need help. We need reminders to take care of ourselves, to have healthy outlets, to be as emotionally cared for as possible. That’s something I can help with.
- For starters I have over 250 posts on this blog primarily written to help readers grow in their emotional care and resilience.
- I am posting live on my Facebook page daily. For now, they have been short videos of something simple you can do to care for yourself.
- I will be offering Live Facebook Groups for about 30 minutes to equip you with more detailed ways to help you thrive during this pandemic. All of the live recordings will be posted on my Facebook page so you don’t have to see them live, you can check them out anytime.
- I am creating a downloadable workbook specific to the pandemic including one for kids. I’ll post when these are done.
- I have moved my counseling practice online using Zoom. If you are in need of counseling, please don’t hesitate to contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or another mental health professional to set up a session.
- If you are experiencing emotional distress or having thoughts about suicide please call the National Suicide Hotline 800-273-8255
I’m with you! We can grow through this and end up better on the other end. It is possible to Journey Forward! 🙂
There’s lots to worry about right now and if we aren’t careful those worries will swallow us up. The run on toilet paper got me thinking about humans’ thinking process. I have toilet paper. Not a stockpile, the leftovers from my last purchase several weeks ago. But now, I WANT toilet paper. I feel the fear settling in, “Oh my gosh there’s no toilet paper! Will we run out?” and I want more toilet paper. I want to be sure I don’t end up without it. If I let this scarcity/panic side of my brain take over I will become animalistic in my search for toilet paper. I really don’t want to sink to that level. I have paid far too much money for therapy to literally flush it down the toilet. So what do we do? For starters, recognize your thoughts and walk yourself through the following thought and emotion processing technique:
- What are you thinking?
- What are the accompanying emotions?
- Identify your thoughts that are based in reality and those that are based on a created story.
- Throw out anything that isn’t beyond-a-shadow-of-reasonable-doubt true.
- Now what do you feel? Acknowledge the emotion for a few minutes.
- Take a few deep breath cycles, look at nature, and let the emotion go or just know it’s there but not let it capture all of your attention.
- Regarding the situation, where do you have control that is healthy, legal and wise?
- Do what you can.
- Get in some good, healthy, legal and wise self-care.
For my toilet paper scenario, here’s what I did (and am doing as it tends to crop up now and then…this isn’t a once and done practice, it’s a rinse and repeat practice):
- I’m thinking I don’t have enough toilet paper because there’s none on the store shelves and everyone is talking about a toilet paper shortage.
- I feel anxiety about not having enough toilet paper and confusion about why this is happening…where did all the toilet paper go?
- The true and real thoughts are: There’s no toilet paper at the stores I have been to or online. Even the horrible but eco-friendly Who Gives A Crap toilet paper is gone. (I bought a case of that awhile ago. I’m so sorry. I really want to be good to the environment but that is the worst toilet paper ever!). The made up, not true, future-tripping, created story thoughts are: I’m going to run out of toilet paper. I don’t really know this will happen. It could happen but hasn’t and likely won’t for a few weeks. If it does happen we can figure something out.
- I don’t need to focus on the coulds because they aren’t in the present and it’s not going to help me at all to focus on this particular could. I’m throwing those thoughts away – figuratively of course!
- Now I feel a little nervous about toilet paper but not panicky.
- I’m breathing in “It’s going to be ok” and breathing out “Let it go” (the toilet-paper-fear that is)!
- My healthy, legal and wise control is to use our toilet paper responsibly, let go of the toilet paper panic, don’t get caught in the herd mentality, stay aware of my thoughts and keep shushing the crazy-making toilet paper voice.
- I’m doing it right now, #7 that is.
- I’m going for my daily walk as soon as I finish this post.
For more help on getting control of your thoughts and emotions go to my website 🙂
The stock marketing is taking a dive and COVID-19 is spreading. It’s easy to get caught in the panic. Panic has never made anything better. It doesn’t feel good internally, it doesn’t help us think clearly, and it doesn’t have the power to change anything. When you find your thoughts ruminating on one topic that sends you into anxiety, it’s important to take control.
There’s another approach when bad things are happening and that’s to ignore them completely. I like to think of this as sticking your head in the sand and pretending everything’s fine. You are completely disconnecting from reality and it’s not a healthy response either.
We have panic on one end and ignoring on the other. The best place to be is somewhere in the middle. You are aware of what’s happening but not owned by it. You prepare as you can without going overboard. Don’t spend all day watching the news or reading everything you can get your hands on. Check on things now and then, but spend most of your day doing what you used to do like work, study, be with friends and family, read something enjoyable, go for a walk, prepare and eat meals, clean, shower, sleep. In general, take care of yourself and don’t get swept up in the panic.
Have you heard the phrase “Running around like a chicken with its head cut off”? When I was young I had friends who lived on a farm. One time when I was there they butchered a chicken for dinner. They chopped its head off and it ran around for awhile without any direction what so ever. It’s a visual of panic. We’re running around in a frenzy but the rational part of our brain is not engaged. We are controlled purely by the emotional part.
Put your head back on. It’s really hard and sometimes impossible to do on your own when you reach full panic mode. It’s best not to let yourself get there. Start practicing now. When it comes to things that are not completely within your power to stop, find out what you can do that is healthy, legal and wise. Take time periodically throughout your day to breathe deeply a few times. With each exhale feel the tension in your muscles loosen. This will allow more oxygen to get to your brain so you can think more clearly and stay away from panic.