By: Lori Derr
March 23, 2020
The world certainly feels different now than it did just a few weeks ago. Most states are practicing social distancing and some areas are even under stay at home directives. I’ve already been practicing social distancing for about ten days, and for me, it feels like a much-needed break, a way to slow down a little bit and take stock of what is truly important. I know that not everyone will have this same reaction. In fact, as a mental health professional I am concerned for those who will feel isolated, who will be overwhelmed with the gravity of the situation, for those whose anxiety may increase, and for those who may not be able to access the mental health treatment they need.
Don’t get me wrong, I too, am worried about the situation. I’m worried for our healthcare workers that they don’t have the personal protective equipment they need to do their jobs safely. I’m worried for all those whose jobs require them to be present, those who cannot practice social distancing or isolation. I’m worried about my loved ones getting sick.
As a yogi I continue to learn and to practice letting things be what they are. Pema Chodron’s book, When Things Fall Apart, continues to remind me that situations always change, whether they are good or bad, they will not remain the same. The same is true with this virus, look how much has changed in just a few weeks. As human beings we want to feel like we have some control, and when we feel like we don’t, we suffer. Please remember that while you, personally, may not have control over this virus, we, collectively, are doing what we can to control it.
I know it may not feel like it is enough. I understand the feelings of helplessness and overwhelm that may be created. I want to offer a few ideas to help when things feel too much.
Connect– connect with others as much as you can. Video chat, call, write letters, there are still so many ways we can connect without being physically present with one another. As human beings we have an innate desire and need to connect with others, this is one reason that social distancing seems so difficult to do. In our fight or flight response, which is where many of us are right now, one reaction we have is to reach out to others for help. For some people, that may seem impossible right now. Find ways you can connect with friends, family, loved ones, and your yoga tribe. Yoga Junkie is offering so many opportunities for connecting online this week, please reach out, we’d love to see you!
Mind your thoughts- our thoughts have a way of taking over sometimes, especially when we are stressed and feeling alone. Pay attention to the thoughts you are having to see if they are helpful or if they are creating a sense of anxiety and overwhelm. In addition, pay attention to what information/thoughts you are surrounded by. Some people feel a sense of control by continuously watching the news or checking in on social media, while others may find the constant bombardment of information overwhelming and overstimulating. Do what works for you. Nobody is required to watch the news constantly or to know the latest updates about this situation. If you find it to be creating more anxiety in your life give yourself permission to let it go. You may even want to set up some boundaries by telling your family and friends that you do not want it to be the focus of every conversation.
Environment- I am a true believer in surrounding yourself with things that make you feel comfortable and comforted. I love finding things that bring me joy and adding them to my space. As most of us are adjusting to life at home more, we may find that our space isn’t conducive to our needs right now. It’s ok to make changes, maybe they’re temporary, maybe not. The changes you make can be simple things such as adding a lovely smelling candle or essential oil to your space. It might be a picture of loved ones or a favorite vacation spot. Whatever it is that makes you smile when you see it can make a huge difference in how you feel when you are there.
Routine- As human beings we love routine. It creates a sense of control, predictability, and safety. Many of us have had to adjust our normal routine to accommodate social distancing which, in turn, may lead to even more feelings of anxiety. This can be especially true for children because they become very comfortable in routine, it gives them a sense of control when they have none. Try to maintain your routine as much as possible, eat at your regular times, go to bed at your regular times, exercise, etc. This helps the body move out of the fight or flight response back into a more calm and relaxed state.
Remember friends that you are the only one who can control your thoughts and your actions. You get to decide how you respond in this situation. You are the one who can create your own sense of calm as we are all dealing with a situation that at this point, seems more than a bit chaotic. I wish you all good physical and mental health!
Lori Derr is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Registered Yoga Teacher-200 hr. She practices in person and online in Colorado, as well as, online in Florida. Her clinical practice has focused on trauma, parent-child relationships, attachment, parenting, anxiety, and depression. I work with individuals of all ages and especially enjoy working with children under age 10. To learn more, visit www.lotuschildandfamilytherapy.com