Finding Calm in the Storm
With all major events cancelled, children home from school, and some not working- we all have a little more time on our hands. When we feel Stress, Anxiety, Fear, & Uncertainty it is HARDER to have more time on our hands. This is because we feel our emotions more when we have more time.
Lets focus on how this can help…
How we perceive things is an unconscious filter that is always on and it impacts how we feel, how we think, and how we react. It is the meaning we give everything around us. For example, if someone does not answer the phone when we call. We can perceive it as "they are busy" or "they are avoiding me." Read each thought- you can feel a difference between them. If you thought "they are avoiding me" you may feel hurt, mad, or lonely. Those feelings can lead to more thoughts "They must not care, I must have done something wrong, I am not a good person...." The thoughts get more heavy, negative, and extreme- but they feel so true! You may not have those exact thoughts, but we all can get stuck in that pattern.
Taking that into context, how we perceive this virus and our change in lifestyle will impact how we think, feel, and react to it. Thoughts like the ones below will lead to feelings such as fear, anger, and despair. These thoughts can feed darker thoughts and heavier emotion. Then those thoughts and emotions can lead to reactions that feed the fear, and feed more negative thoughts- creating a cycle that only feeds on itself.
1) "I can't beleive this!"
2) "This is not fair."
3) "Why are we being punished?"
4) "It is ______ persons fault!"
5) "We won't survive this!"
Below are thoughts that can be helpful. Start saying them to yourself any time you feel the fear growing, or you notice having a negative thought (like the ones listed above.) Stop what you are doing, take a deep breath, and say one of the thoughts below to yourself. Repeate until you believe it.
1) "I am strong."
2) "This is hard but I can do it."
3) "I don't know why this happened, but I do know we will rise to the occasion"
4) "We are in a tough situation, what is the next best thing I can do?"
With our go-go busy pace of life in America, becoming numb to our feelings is more common than not. While we sprint in our daily schedule with no time to breathe, it is hardly a surprise. This virus is impacting our society by forcing us to slow down and re-examine our habits. Whether that is how often do we wash our hands or what we do with time and space when we have it. This is the perfect time to break the old "stay busy" habit and create new habits that allow us to feel more grounded, in touch, and have more inner peace. Yes, I said it. A virus that shuts the whole nation down can give us the opportunity to find more inner peace… if you choose to use it that way. Here are some habits you can break and you can start. Then, when we go back to our normal pace of life, you can have less stress and more joy.
Habits You Can Break:
1) Staying busy all day to "get it done."
It is important to schedule breaks throughout the day. Intentially find time within the day to meditate or journal. (To learn how to start journaling, click here). Make down time a priority. This can be one of the hardest habits to break especially with a lot going on. Create a schedule, make a phone reminder, or simply give yourself permission to walk away for a minute. You may find that you get MORE done if you take breaks.
2) Eating while working.
This one feels like you are getting more done at one time, when we feel overwhelmed with to-dos it can feel good to knock it out. What you are actually doing is increasing your stress and overwhelmed feelings by not taking the break. Downtime while eating, mindfully eating each bite, nurturing your body with healthy food can decrease stress hormones and increase stress reduction hormones. When you have a calm motivated drive you get so much more done compared to when you have a gittery anxiousy energy to get it done.
3) Criticizing yourself, having unrealistic expectations of what you can get done.
A lot of us wake up with expectations of all that you want to get done that day, and lay down to bed with disappointment of everything we didn't do. You have heard this before- but that is because it really works. Make a list of what you hope to accomplish. Order them in priority. Work on the first one until complete. If that is all you accomplish- GREAT! One less thing for tomorrow! Give yourself kudos for that as you lay down to sleep. The list will always be long, because life will keep adding more on. Focusing on what you accomplished can improve your sleep and give you more calm motivation in the morning to get started again!
4) Listening to your many rationalizations to put off your hobbies and friends.
We have worked with parents who struggle when their children 'launch.' They promise themselves- "I will _____ when they move out." The reality is, if you are not making time now to enjoy your hobbies, nurture your interests, and have friendships, you won't later. Finding balance between "you time" and meeting the needs of others (family, children, work) is a choice you are actively making everyday. To find space for you, schedule it. Make it apart of your daily, weekly, or monthly routine. Put it in your google calendar, and do not let anything schedule over it! You will have to force it at first. Overtime, the habit will start to feel more natural.
5) Taking a quick shower.
Parents of new borns become the master of the speed shower. However, sometimes we don't stop when the children are old enough for us to walk away for moment. Standing under the water, or sitting in the bath, focus on the warmth of the water on your skin, take a deep breath of the steam, smell your shampoo as you lather, play soothing music. This is a easy place to take a few extra minutes for you. Enjoy this time, you will notice a difference in your day!
6) Noticing what is not going right, focusing on what is stressing you
We have heard it before- "I have to think about it to solve it." Yes, that is true. However, thinking about it all 16 hours of your awake day, (and some at night when it wakes you up) will not get you closer to a solution. Try this, notice your thoughts for a day. Pay attention. Write down what you notice, what you think about, what is on your mind the majority of the day. What percentage of that is negative/positive. Is it a suprise that you feel overwhelmed, stressed, or down? Make it a daily practice to identify three things you are grateful for- and each day identify different things. If that is hard, that says something. Paying attention to what we have increases joy and decreases stress. Give it a try!
Journaling, meditating, mindful eating, gratitude, self-care, giving yourself credit for something all can decrease stress and increase joy. Be kind to yourself, don't take on all these habits at once. Notice one that you could change, and take a week to work on it. Then move to another, one step at a time. Times like these can help you grow like nothing else can... if you choose to let it.
If you are having a hard time managing the stress, your own emotion, or want help implementing these techniques, set up a time to talk online with Lindsey Richards. Lindsey is one of our counselors and specializes in helping her clients find their inner calm and inner joy. She sees clients online who live in GA or FL. You can get started now!
Click here to see Lindsey’s Bio
Written by Erica Gregory, LMFT
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
Owner and Clinical Director of JCAC