Life as we have known it is most certainly over and this is clearly the most uncertain time in modern history. What has been most striking has been the polar opposites that I am witnessing. From people still believing that COVID-19 is primarily a hoax, or at least just a bad cold, all the way to people stockpiling doomsday quantities of everything they can get their hands on. There have also been some pretty split effects on people from mild inconveniences, to job loss, unemployment, and the fallout of such (homelessness, repossessions, credit destruction, and so on). Certainly, some professions are being devastated such as hospitality and personal services while others survive (education) or even thrive (food service, medical and cleaning supplies). Certainly the amount of unknowns, coupled with the minute to minute fluctuations of directives and updates layered on top of loss of structure, predictability, and sense of community is a recipe for disaster in terms of mental health. As I continue to work with people thus far into the infancy of this new era; a few things have become clearly key in faring well from a psychological standpoint:
1. Reducing and pacing exposure to media and information is crucial
2. Maintaining what you can from your "B.C." schedule, along with establishing a new structure and routine is essential
3. Giving yourself permission to be a little "off" or a bit "lazy" is ok for a bit as you transition to a new norm in the ever changing climate
4. Find your tribe. Seek others who are experiencing this crisis at your level and embrace that you are NOT alone.
5. Get outside!! On so many levels this is so powerful. Fresh air and clearing your mind is so important to reset. The sun with its Vitamin D is so helpful not only for mood, but for your immune system. Exercise similarly has positive effects on mood and immunity. Getting outside gets you out of those "same four walls" and helps shift to the larger perspective. It literally grounds you and helps reduce the sense of feeling out of control.
6. Consider getting support from a professional. Mental health is essential and if face to face visits are not possible or comfortable for you, telehealth is being offered by most therapists nationally and many of the previous barriers to accessing these means have been reduced or eliminated.
Traumatic events can include natural or man-made disasters; accidents- including motor vehicle or other machinery; crimes; assaults and violence; including combat; and medical events. Not only those directly involved, but those witnessing, or even learning about can be subject to post trauma.
Normal reactions to unexpected and frightening events can include: feeling angry; feeling sad; feeling anxious; feeling guilty; feeling unsafe or hypervigilant; being self-critical about your whereabouts or how you handled things; wanting to avoid reminders; re-playing scenarios; feeling numb; difficulty sleeping or becoming very tired. These are just some normal responses.
Some helpful things to do after after such an event are: Care for yourself by staying hydrated and eating healthy (avoid the temptation of alcohol and less healthy comfort foods); get rest; reach out to friends, family or other support; exercise, spend time with pets; reduce other obligations and stresses; talk with others about your experience; avoid exposure to excessive news coverage. Most people will be fine and these experiences will subside after some time; however, some people may have residual effects- especially if they have experienced prior trauma or underlying anxiety.
Here we are on January 29th, 2019...many of us are experiencing that "Wasn't it just January 2018??" phenomenon. The start of a new year can bring renewal,or it can bring a sense of pressure, discouragement, or futility. Do you often feel like you have bitten off more than you can chew; and have now created more stress. Or do you avoid making resolutions at all? Change is slow. And change is a never ending work in progress. Often, we set lofty goals and then beat ourselves up when we do not actualize those goals. Or when we don't actualize them to our own high standard. I have found, over the years, that while general broad sweeping goals are good beacons to have to give us a sense of where we want to be heading- the best way to actually build actionable steps and feel a sense of accomplishment (which by the way, then spurns more steps) is to pick very specific, even very small tasks to add in to your daily routine. For example, after reading a health article on how crucial it is for humans to sleep between 10 am and 2 am in order for physiological reparations to occur, I decided to begin setting my phone alarm for 8:30 pm to cue myself to begin the nightly routine of preparing for bed to ensure sleep somewhere between 9 and 10. And because expanding my use of meditation is another task I wish to build upon, I have downloaded an app to use as part of the falling asleep process- so that it is built in to an existing routine. Some other tips for setting change into action are:
*Make the action small and measurable
*Start with tasks you are more likely to take on, so that you can use that "Yeah, I've got this!" exhilaration to endeavor the harder things
*Pair it with something you already do (brush teeth, eat breakfast, etc)
*Use technology to remind you (your phone or an app can prompt a reminder, and also serve as a motivator as you see your actions adding up if you implement apps, trackers, journals, biometrics)
*Implement a buddy system (family, friend, online group, or even a therapist...these are referred to as "accountability partners" ;-)
*Do not allow a bad day to deter you- tomorrow is a fresh start
You've got this!
Dating.com compiles some good guidelines to follow whether you are new to online dating, or just want a reminder: www.datingadvice.com/online-dating/online-dating-rules