Why grief, why now?
Our lives have changed on many levels: changes in routine, schedule, roles, responsibilities, etc. Our self and world views on safety, relationships and survival have been altered and are still in a state of flux.
Because of ALL of the factors that are within us and in our environment, we are experiencing grief to varying degrees each and every day, and it will continue for some time.
What is important now is to consider taking a brief moment each day to recognize your thoughts and feelings, and how some of them are grief related.
For us now, grief and loss can feel constant. So, what to do:
- Remind yourself that your grieving process is unique to you.
- Pay attention to the emotional pain you are experiencing. Avoid letting it build up. Talk about it. Encourage kids to talk about what they are feeling and experiencing.
- Make sure you regularly reach out and seek support from trusted people and/or professionals.
- Get stronger by taking care of your mind and body.
- Pay attention to the differences between grief and depression.
PPE for the Brain
At this point, most people who are nearing the peak or are in the peak of COVID-19, are experiencing many, many high emotions. While this is normal given the circumstances, just knowing that may not provide immediate relief.
Many people are trying to manage a new version of a routine. It is perfectly acceptable to call this time period ‘weird’, ‘scary’, ‘uncertain’, ‘longest snow storm ever’, etc.
For many, especially: caregivers, educators, clergy, medical professionals, and first responders, they continue to be inundated with multiple roles, confusion over information, new tasks and extraordinarily long hours.
ALL of these factors I just described begin to take a toll on the body.
- The immune system is impacted (and we need this more than ever right now)
- The lack of quality sleep in significantly decreased
- The brain’s ability to appropriately problem solve and critically think is diminished. This often allows for the worry based thoughts and the negative thoughts to enter and take control. If you find yourself feeling at a 10:10 on the worry, exhausted or negative thinking scale, it’s time you consider some PPE for your brain. Good news….there is an endless supply and mostly FREE.
The PPE includes:
- Brain Breaks: scheduled brain breaks (minutes to hours away from C-19 news/discussions).
- Mitigate Sensory Overload: a quick review of which senses are overloaded (ie: think back to kindergarten: visual, sound, touch, taste and smell). Once you figure out which sense is overloaded, you can then look at how to mitigate it (ex: if it’s noise, do you need no noise or a different noise for a period of time, etc.). This will allow you to take a targeted PPE approach when you prepare for the next shift, conversation, etc.
- Nutritional Support: hydrate, hydrate, hydrate (with water/electrolyte balance is preferred) and consider more nutritionally balanced meals/snacks.
- Routine: routine is essential to humans…..look at what parts of your old routine you can still keep and incorporate into your new routine.
- Breathe: there are specific ways to slow yourself down mentally and phsiologically that are backed by neuroscience. Much of this relates to particular ways to breathe. Examples include: 4x4x4 (box breathing), 4x7x8, belly breathing. Sometimes this takes a few rounds to notice a difference. There are many examples on the web. To walk you through it.
- Cognitive Management: Notice and address the thoughts: ignoring your thoughts don’t really make them go away. Notice them, decide if the thoughts are helpful and good for you right NOW. If they are not, consider other thoughts that could be more helpful to you in that moment (ie: what am I going to do?…..alternative thought: what do I have control over right now/any ‘what if’ thought…..alternative thought: how many of these ‘what if’ thoughts do I need in my head right now). Much of this is CBT/mindfulness based and can be found through books, apps. and the web.
- Emotional Regulation: this is a super power PPE for your brain! This is your ability to respond to ongoing stressors. Right now, MANY people can be found responding in a reactive manner. You can learn to control your response using various tools that allows you to feel more in control and emotionally balanced.
- When you begin to notice that you feel like more of your thoughts are high emotion based rather than rational, it’s time to take a step back and recalibrate!
- STEP 1: Notice the thoughts and the emotions you are having NOW.
- STEP 2: Hitting the ‘pause button’ and evaluating your emotional state. If you’re a 10:10 on any emotion, think about how you can better regulate yourself and respond in a less emotionally heightened manner.
- STEP 3: Think about a response that will leave you feeling more emotionally balanced.
There are many apps., books and links via the web to talk you through this valuable skill.
Free webinar on Maintaining Mental Health During COVID-19, at this time geared more to parents/teachers. More to follow.
3.17.20 Stress Tactic
No matter if you thrive in this environment, no matter if you’re scared…….you are experiencing new and varying levels of stress right now.
As you experience the shifts from adrenaline rush to fatigue to panic to loss of routine to anger (in any order), take note of these experiences and look for opportunities to engage in a way that is more meaningful and helpful to you. This is a simple survival tactic that you must begin practicing today.
- Consider which of your senses is on overload right now.
- Consider what would help you. For example: if you are struggling to detach from a screen, and the noise is causing you to feel negative….take a sensory break from that stimulation. Yes, it can be that simple.
- Don’t be fooled into thinking “I can’t”.
- Don’t be fooled into thinking, “I’m fine, I can handle it.”
- I challenge you to notice and begin spending 5 minutes decompressing. Increase those minutes as you notice the increase in disruption and increase the minutes before bed.
3.15.20 Information Fatigue
What is it?
Do I have it?
- Feeling overwhelmed and exhausted by data from people and screens?
- Having more extreme thoughts related to all of the information (ie: why is everyone worrying, what’s the big deal, I wish everyone would just stop…, what if….).
- Maybe your level of sarcasm is beyond the norm for you.
- Pay attention to what your body is telling you (irritability, tense, unfocused, etc). You may be experiencing information (both info. that is true and false) fatigue.
DO: figure out how to separate yourself, at times throughout the day. EVERY MINUTE IS IMPORTANT. Yes, it is! Take minutes if you are unable to take hours.
DO: consider keeping other parts of your daily routine. When feeling stressed, we often feel distracted and unfocused. This is a time when we feel like screens are a helpful distraction. They are NOT.
DO: engage in activities or with people that do NOT include conversations related to your current stressors (for many right now it’s COVID-19).
DO: separate yourself from stressful information at least 30 minutes before bed…60 is preferred.
DO: check in with yourself throughout the day to see how much data you are taking in and how it’s affecting you.
3.14.20 Managing Fear….taking control of the worry
The concept of sitting with your own fears can be a strange concept to most people. It’s uncomfortable and it can seemingly create more worry thoughts. Some level of fear is being felt by many people of ALL ages around the globe right now…..AND that is NORMAL.
Why? This is an abnormal event. Let me say that again and louder: THIS IS AN ABNORMAL EVENT. It can, and for most, will disrupt our everyday routine, our usual thinking patterns, and how we behave to name a few. We as humans, are wired to respond to one of our basic emotions….fear. It is a part of our body’s way to get us to respond in some manner, preferably to protect ourselves (fight, flight, freeze).
This state of hyper arousal can be experienced in many different ways and to varying degrees within each individual. This can include, but not be limited to:
- overwhelming thoughts at once or persistently throughout the day
- feeling irritable or restless
- a lack of focus in work, with conversations or even during down time
- disruption in sleep
- general feeling of fatigue
If you feel like some of this is familiar within yourself, it is important to take inventory. Take a brief moment to notice what thoughts you have.
In that moment, ask yourself:
“what category do my thoughts fall into: rational or emotional?”
“how balanced are my thoughts right now?”
When you are able to do this, you begin the process of taking back control over your worry-based thoughts. This is a process and 100% relief may not be felt immediately (I’m pinging the perfectionistic side of you right now), but you may begin to slowly notice how you are able to slightly shift your thoughts to make them more manageable. This is the goal….managing ‘all of this’.
Here are a few steps you can take to manage:
- Take time in your day to check in with yourself and notice what you are thinking and how are you feeling. Realistically, this can happen over a few moments. Ideally, it would happen in a quiet space, but let’s be real and this may need to happen while you’re at a stop light or walking about to your next destination, taking a shower or eating a meal.
- Take the moments you can give for this to check in and ask yourself:
“how balanced are my thoughts right now?”
“are they more emotional?”
“do I have any rational thoughts?”
If you find that your thoughts are unbalanced go further
“what are some rational thoughts I can have to create more balance?”
example emotional thought: “I’m worried I may get this!”
example rational thought: “How can I plan and prepare if I do get this?”
Balancing your thoughts is NOT intended to erase the emotional thoughts…balancing allows for both and balance allows for you to have the ability to take back control of the worry-based thoughts instead of them controlling you.
What are triggers?
Being self aware takes practice and once you begin to work towards training your brain to meet that goal, you will begin to notice that because you live life, there will be many sensory triggers that can cause both negative and positive thoughts and feelings. It is important to become aware of what some of our own personal triggers are, both helpful and unhelpful.
Triggers are sensory, meaning that memories both good and bad have triggers that are rooted in: sounds, smells, visuals, tastes, textures and temperatures.
They can be positive and soothing for you, ie: fresh baked goods, fresh air, etc. They can also be negative, ie: voices yelling, harsh lights, loud noises, etc. Triggers tend to remind you of an experience.
These triggers can add to your daily dose of stress and impact your ability to function. Once you begin training your brain, you will be better at noticing them and developing strategies to minimize the impact they have on your life.
Why is life stress a big deal?
Life stress impacts us all, whether it’s good or bad stress. Either way, when stress is perceived our body physiologically responds by releasing stress chemicals. This release is automatic. It’s part of the ‘fight v. flight’ response. It is innate and vital to our survival. Where it can become a problem is when this release of stress chemicals does not stop, overtime, our bodies get worn down and begin to let you know it can no longer handle the amount of stress.
This can happen in 2 simulations ways: psychologically and physiologically.
Psychological symptoms include: inability to concentrate, irritability, restlessness, decreased critical thinking skills, short term memory impairment, inability to ‘wind down’ or relax, etc.
Physiological symptoms include: poor sleep, poor eating habits, increase in stomach acid production, increase in production of insulin, damage to cells, decrease in immune system, triggering or exacerbation of current medical problems or conditions, etc.
All of these put you at risk for:
1.) making poor decisions at a critical time
2.) increased risk taking behaviors
3.) increase in physical discomfort, need to see a physician, etc.
- enhance your cognitive functioning
- keep you functioning at your highest potential
- empower your personal life needs to achieve your goals
- improve your work environment
- increase productivity and quality of life in your and your staff
END GOAL: TO KEEP YOU AWARE AND WELL