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 (email@example.com) 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.
If you want more resources check out my Workshops & Courses page!
I’m taking on a new role as an adjunct professor for Dr. John Townsend’s Townsend Institute for Leadership and Counseling at Concordia University, Irvine CA. Initially I was thrilled about the opportunity to teach for his Master’s and Certificate programs in Counseling, Organizational Leadership and Executive Coaching. I went through the hiring process, check. I navigated setting up my email and access to the online portal, check. Perused the Online Blackboard and froze in my tracks with fear! I unsuccessfully attempted to navigate this completely unknown program. I couldn’t find the information I needed to tell me how to make sense of everything in front of me. I was supposed to create my own practice-course to prepare for using the program but I couldn’t even figure out step one. That was a few weeks ago. I logged off the system and ignored it. I considered resigning before I had even begun.
Recently, a thought entered my mind: I could call one of my friends who has already been teaching and likely knows how to use Blackboard. I could call the man listed as my contact person for help. I relaxed some as I realized all is not lost. I don’t have to jump ship before weighing anchor. Yesterday I logged back on to the system. I accidentally ended up finding the learning modules but quickly got myself lost again and couldn’t find them. Panic ensued. “I’ll never be able to do this. What am I thinking? My brain is getting too old for learning new things.” Defeat began to settle in again. Then a small yet courageous voice starting making itself heard in my mind, “You CAN do this. Your brain is NOT too old. Stay with what you know is true right now. This is hard, yes. It is new, yes. Remember you have a few life lines–the help person and your friends. Oh yes, that’s right. I can at least give this a try.”
Before calling my life lines I searched one more time. Low and behold, I found the Instruction Modules. They call it The Sandbox. I think of a sandbox as a fun place to learn. Up to this point the sandbox hasn’t been any fun. I had to find the sandbox. I did it the hard way, on my own. I could have asked for help. I just wanted to see what I could find on my own first before I asked and heard, “The title you are clicking on is the one you will use when you are ready to create your own practice course. The one you need is just below it.”
I like that I figured it out on my own. It took a bit more time and included more frustration but I did it and that feels good. I like that I was freaked out by this unknown world. I don’t want to stay only with the known. I need to keep my 51 year old brain learning new information or I will get stuck. Fear can do that to us. It can keep us stuck. What do we gain if we stay stuck? Maybe ease in some way at the moment but not down the road. By regularly challenging ourselves and stepping into our fears we keep our brain active by creating new neural pathways, we grow in our confidence and we develop more compassion for others.
It was this new fear that helped me connect more deeply with my clients and those near me who are facing their own fears. I get the fear. I feel it regularly. And I welcome it! I’ve read in several different books to do something everyday that scares me. Something that is bigger than me, something new. Not to torture myself but to stretch and grow my abilities.
Come and join me in the sandbox. You might have to find it first but once you do, it will feel so good to be here.