A local mental health pro offers 10-ish hope-giving tips for dealing with normal seasonal gloom colliding with the existential anxiety of a once-in-a-century crisis.
This edition of the newsletter has a
companion podcast you can check out here
Ahhh, holiday season 2020.
People are reporting a sense of overwhelming dread — which is probably at least partly due to criminally underwhelming economic support from our government.
In Washington at least, big family Thanksgiving feasts are cancelled. Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa are going to be drastically different, too. It’s the right thing to do, but it still sucks.
So those of us who celebrate Festivus may want to set aside extra time for the airing of grievances.
Remember all those memes in April that were like “I’ve had it with 2020”? Well, there’s a problem with gazing longingly at New Years as though it were a finish line:
2021 isn’t looking like a picnic, either.
But all is not lost! We are resilient creatures!
So, as this pandemic enters its eighth month we spoke with Meg Curtin Rey-Bear, LMHC. Meg is a friend of RANGE and co-owner of Wellness Therapies Spokane.
We talked at length about the impacts this latest round of restrictions might have on people who are already exhausted from 8 months of pandemic during a time of year that is historically hard all by itself.
Listen to the episode here.
It’s really good.
Meg also wrote this helpful guide for building up the mental, social and even physical resiliency to get through 2020 and stand athwart 2021 like
Check it out below:
Ten-ish tips for thriving
through another tough season
Meg Curtin Rey-Bear
1 Check in with our expectations of ourselves and of others
What are our expectations of ourselves? What are our expectations of others? Getting through times like these is really hard work. We need reminding of that because — unlike in times where there are bombs going off, or rubble to sift through — pandemics are about prevention and prevention is invisible. Without external reminders of why we have to keep digging in and tolerating the tough stuff, we become uncomfortable and dis-regulated and we seek “normal.”
Regular reminders that this is hard ground us and help us to be more generous with ourselves and others.
2 Stay in the moment; focus on what you can control
Try to focus on the present and on noticing what you can control in the moment you are in. This isn’t always easy, but the practice of it encourages mindfulness and reduces the tendency to overthink about that which has not yet happened.
3 Get outside and move your body
We do not all need to come away from COVID in the best shape of our lives, but getting up and moving our bodies helps to release the chemicals inside our bodies that help us manage stress and anxiety.
Even if your schedule is tight, even if you can only mentally or physically handle 20 minutes, even when it is grey out — the UV light we are exposed to helps our mood significantly.
BONUS POINTS: for being active enough to get your heartrate up and break a little sweat.
4 Celebrate small stuff; celebrate more regularly
This doesn’t have to be huge. Pick a night each week to stay up late watching movies. Camp out in the living room. Celebrate 1/4 birthdays for the whole family. If we are alone, very intentionally set up dinner dates with friends over ZOOM. Get dressed up. Light some candles.
Experiences like these not only strengthen connections, they help us to stay in the moment, bringing us out of our heads. They are a fun way to be mindful and right now mindfulness (and fun) are key.
5 Practice small acts of kindness
No money required here. Bring in your neighbor’s garbage can. Rake their leaves. Leave sticky notes that remind someone you care on the bathroom mirror. This can include dropping off a batch of cookies on a friend’s porch, folding all of your partner’s laundry, or doing their share of the dishes.
Making someone smile feels good for both parties. Knowing that our actions created such a moment feels good as well.
6 Set intentional check-ins.
Caring for our mental health is really important right now. If you live with anyone besides yourself, create some sort of monthly check-in, where it is OK to talk about what is going well, but also what is not. If you live alone. Do this with a close friend or loved one.
Check ins help us remember we are not alone, and that our feelings — even the harder ones — are not bad.
7 If you go online, keep it active
Keep your time on social media as interactive as possible. This promotes a sense of connection. No doomscrolling!
8 Read Brene Brown’s “Braving the Wilderness”
Good for everyone, but especially important for employers, managers or anyone in complex community with other people to help the personal and interpersonal work that helps people become more resilient and present in times like these.
Buy it from Auntie’s or Wishing Tree and support a local business, for goodness sake.
While you’re waiting to pick your order up, watch Brown’s TED Talk on the power of vulnerability.
9 Squared breathing
This easy-to-practice technique helps to slow your body’s response to anxiety. It works directly with your central nervous system and what we know about the sympathetic process. Here’s a diagram:
10 Remember that it is OK not to be OK
Despite our best efforts. All of the above isn’t going to work perfectly all the time. And when things feel like they’re falling apart, that can compound negative feelings. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be OK. And, we worry that when we are not, something bigger must be wrong.
But sometimes we just need to have our feelings for a little bit — let ‘em out. And at the end, you’ll probably find that you’re OK again. Genuinely.
LASTLY Set attainable goals & be kind to yourself in the pursuit of them
Meg didn’t include this in her list of 10, but it came up in our conversation on the pod and it’s so good I wanted to make sure people see it:
If you’re trying to make a change in your life and you get mad at yourself for failing, you’re only increasing the likelihood of staying stuck where you are.
So set small (like very small), attainable goals to work your way up to whatever change you want to see. Whenever you have a setback, take a deep breath, spend a moment reflecting on what went wrong, and set an intention to do better tomorrow.
“What works to create behavior change,” Meg says in the episode, “is celebrating what we do well,” — so set yourself up for small wins, and then have one of those celebrations we talked about up in #4.