Well, we’ve been cooped up in our homes for a few weeks now. The pandemic is surging in Chicago. I’m sure people are feeling a lot of feelings or working very hard not to feel them. I wanted to connect with you all again to remind you that we are all here, thinking of all of you. I also wanted to share with you some tips for dealing with all of this by acknowledging some common feelings that we are all likely having. I know I’m having them.
1. Fear. Let’s face it. This stuff is scary. Whether it be legitimate health and safety concerns or financial concerns, there is a lot to fear right now. Fear is important. It has helped us humans stay alive and persist as a species. We can even be fearful of things that haven’t even happened yet, which is one of the advantages we have over a lot of other species. The downside is that if we spend all of our time in fear or we work really hard not to feel the fear, then this can take a big toll on our bodies and brains. Also, if you’ve ever been through any other type of trauma before, your fear detector (your amygdala – where emotional memories are stored) is likely working overtime to protect you.
Take some time today to sit with your fear. Name it. Make a list of all of the scenarios playing out in your head. Then, spend an equal amount of time (or as much time as you can muster), sitting with the knowledge that in this very moment you are probably pretty safe. Focus on your ability to breathe in and out. Do a scan of your body and notice your muscles, ask them to relax in this moment since you are safe. I like to have some help with mediating, so I recommend Insight Timer if you have an Apple device, over 20,000 free guided meditation. Headspace has a lot of free offerings, and there are a million or so free guided meditations on YouTube.
2. Depression. Are you feeling blue? I’m not suggesting that you ought to feel depressed, but our current circumstances have all the makings of a depression rich cocktail. One part social isolation, two parts monotony, a healthy dose of fear with a dash of physical inactivity, add in any alcohol and voila, depression cocktail!
Do what you can to shake this cocktail up, so you can shake it out! Move your body! It’s tough I know. If you can get outside safely, then walks a great! Wear a mask now. If you’re choosing to not do this any longer, which I can’t blame you, I’m staying inside a lot myself, then I recommend one of the million movement offerings on YouTube. My personal favorite during this quarantine is Debbie Allen’s Dance School on Instagram @therealdebbyallen. It’s fun, and totally doable. It stretches out my chest and shoulders, and I feel like I’m a Broadway dancer for a brief moment.
Call a friend. Please call a friend. I’m struggling with this too. Zoom is exhausting a lot of the time. Sometimes I’d rather just not talk to anyone because there is so much more effort involved, but it’s essential to keeping up your mood. If you don’t have anyone to call, schedule twice weekly sessions with your therapist (or get a therapist - call us at 855-264-9355 or book online). The days are long; the weeks are even longer. You may need more support – take it!
3. Grief. Maybe you’ve already lost someone to this pandemic or you’re grieving physical contact and seeing your friends or you’re grieving a job loss or your local Starbucks or anything normal. We have all lost so much already. And don’t minimize your grief by comparing it to someone else’s who you perceive has lost more than you. Your grief counts. It matters. It’s ok (and very useful) to feel grateful for what you haven’t lost, but also acknowledge and mourn the losses. I miss hugging my friends. I miss casually running to the store. I miss going to the office. I miss traveling. I miss hearing many of you outside my office door. I miss my yoga class. I miss restaurants. I especially miss babysitters!! I’m grieving. You are allowed to grieve as well.
4. Joy. Don’t forget that even in the midst of a global pandemic, it’s still ok to feel joy. Many of us get addicted to our foul moods. You don’t have to feel sad, scared or grief stricken all of the time, or even most of the time. Spend some time listing out the things you are grateful for. We can all find things to be grateful for. I’m grateful I’m not on a ventilator. I’m grateful for the sunshine I see outside my window. I’m grateful I can find joy on the internet.
Find yourself some joy today. I’m personally partial to John Krasinski’s SGN Channel. That stands for Some Good News. It’s a total delight! I want an episode every day! In the mean time I’ll watch old episodes of The Office to keep me occupied and laughing.
We are all thinking of you. We are here to support you. If someone in your family or a close friend is struggling, we still have capacity to take on new clients. If you value what we are providing you, please refer us to your friends and family
. Nobody has to go through this alone. We are all in this together.
Stay safe & stay well.
Sherrie All, PhD
Chicago Center for Cognitive Wellness