FINDING A HEALTHY BALANCE DURING COVID-19 QUARANTINING AND BEYOND
There are different ways a person can interact with a negative experience.
Sometimes these interactions can be counterproductive; we can get flooded with unwanted thoughts and emotions and get sucked into a whirlpool of negativity when we get overwhelmed and stressed out.
How can I interact with negative experiences in a productive way?
1. Identify and acknowledge the situation for what it is.
2. Decide how to transcend this experience and relate to the situation as it is.
3. Come up with a strategy for the healthiest approach which would likely be some form of either action and/or acceptance.
What can I do to get myself into a better place?
Either describe the circumstances (to yourself) in a way that is honest but easier to accept, or come up with solutions and efforts to improve things.
How are you, as a therapist, supporting your clients at this time?
Many clients are triggered by what’s going on. Moms with young children, people who are medically fragile or infected, those who are affected by the economic ramifications or people with scarcity mentality are all finding this new reality challenging.
We are trying to work with these thoughts and feelings that people are having. Anxiety is the tendency to let the past or future cloud out the present. People who have anxiety about the future are worrying more and this kind of anxiety can make things worse.
Right now, most people are okay for the time being. Instead of worrying about the future, we need to help people shift the focus to the present.
The 3 ways we tend to deal with situations are either unproductive, neutral or helpful.
When you’re having a negative experience, see if you can translate how you’re feeling into a more productive version. Scarcity panic mode might sound like; "I'm afraid I won’t have enough food." Try to translate this into a practical question like; "Do I actually need to go buy more food?" Or "am I panicking irrationally? Let me assess what we have and figure out what I can do to have more food in the house". Get on top of the feeling that you’re having and do something about it. Likewise with physical symptoms. Be cautious but not hysterical.
What should I do if I begin to feel physical feelings of anxiety?
This is your body telling you what you’re feeling emotionally.
These feelings are generated by our thoughts which trickle into our nervous system and translate into our body. There are deep breathing exercises, yoga, guided meditation, and cardio which can help relax you. If someone is going to have a panic attack, they can try cardio to redirect the adrenaline to a healthy outlet. Watching something relaxing or funny on TV can be helpful to distract you.
It’s also healthy to drink a lot of water because most people don’t realize how dehydrated they are. Hydrating yourself reboots your system and helps you feel better.
How can I know what information is fake and what isn’t?
This whole situation is so uncertain and there’s no anguish like being uncertain. If there was a prediction that could tell us what would happen, people would feel so much more settled. Since everything is unknown, people get very scared. People are worried about working from home, about finances and about the medical crisis...
Try to stick with real sources of information from physicians and institutions who have been doing real evidence based research.
But we also have to try to get comfortable with being uncomfortable because we won’t know all of the information for a while.
There is a lot here that we can’t control and can’t know. Don’t believe all of the people spreading information because this isn’t helping anyone. Just try to be cautious and respectful.
How can I deal with the feeling of losing control?
It’s important to realize that we're never really in control. There is something spiritual about being able to say I am just one player in this huge field and I can’t always have control. If you are someone who likes to have control, look around your domain and find one thing you can do that will make you feel like you have regained some control over something. Even if that means cleaning your closet, exercising or cleaning for Pesach. Just do something that will make you feel better.
What can you say to someone who is generally very neat and is having a hard time with everyone at home?
If cleanliness is important to you, teach your children to clean up!
Tell them that they can clear up after themselves and put back their food. It’s good to let them establish this habit. Institute policies not to eat all over the house. What are the ways you can invest your energy to clean up without getting overwhelmed?
Acknowledge that things will likely be a little messier than usual.
How can I do self-care when the kids are at home? (Specifically addressing when kids are not old enough to be alone).
Self-care is very individualized.
Depending on how independent your kids are, if your spouse is around, ask him or her to watch the kids for a few minutes while you take some time for yourself.
Make a list of what is self-care means to you and see if any are possible while the kids are around. If not, it might have to happen once they are asleep. Check out Esther Goldstein's recent blog post for some self-care ideas to process anxiety, many of which can be done with kids.
Being mindful when you’re enjoying food and drink can be great self-care, or putting on some music. Both of these things are great because they can be done while the kids are around. Taking a walk in the morning can be a great way to start the day even in your backyard or on your porch.
How do I deal with my kid's schedules & routines? I'm pretty anxious about it.
If you have anxiety in general, you want to up your self-care game (see above).
Many people are putting pressure on themselves to create routines for their kids, but don’t do that to yourself if you’re getting very anxious. Keep yourself healthy and the other stuff will come. If you feel good about coming up with these schedules, then do it! Otherwise you need to cut yourself some slack.
What are some tips for homeschooling?
Being a relatable, empathetic teacher is something that you can do regardless of training and academic knowledge.
Don’t feel like you have to have clarity on everything you’re doing all at once. This is all a process. The most important thing you can do for your children is smile at them, try to stay calm yourself, attend to their general needs, and love them. Reading to your kids if they are little is a fantastic way to learn.
Many educational professionals and sites are making their materials free at this time. Another great resource is howtohomeschoolforfree.com and khanacademy.com.
There are great parsha stories on shabbat.com by Rabbi Juravel for kids.
Putting your kids in front of screens can offer some education as well. You can try to put on more educational shows for your kids. Right now these are unusual times and our children’s physical and mental health are more important than their academic performance. If what you need is to be able to put on a show for them so you can get work done, that’s okay and you can let yourself do that. If you want to put together a list of shows that are more educational and they are fine with that, then put those shows on.
If someone has claustrophobia, what advice do you have for them being stuck at home?
For some people, opening the windows or the shades helps.
Ordering big mirrors creates the illusion of having more space.
Deep breathing and meditation can help.
Walking up and down the stairs or walking in the hallway can provide some relief.
For someone who has clinical anxiety and claustrophobia with panic, this might be a good time to consider medication.
What should people with anxiety do if they are beginning to worry about Pesach now?
We need to calmly start thinking about making yontif. In a calm manner, start putting together lists of what you need to do. The meals can be simple this Pesach. We can only work with what we have, so there is no need to panic. If things go wrong in the Halachic realm or with things like matzah supplies, the Rabbis will help guide us as to how to handle those details.
For young adults who are now living with their parents in close proximity, how do I create boundaries with my parents without sounding disrespectful?
It depends on your relationship with your parents. You can explain to them that you may need some alone time and, once you have offered to be of help to the household and contributed appropriately, you could ask to have some personal space. Express your needs in a loving, respectful way. If you live in a community where you can still go outside, try to go out and get some air so that you don’t feel stuck.