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Long-Term Social Distancing May Be Traumatic. Here Is What To Expect And What To Do

Passover, Easter and Ramadan are occasions that typically bring families together to pray, reflect and celebrate – fellowship needed, perhaps, now more than ever – will look different this year as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

The loss of those traditions is added to a growing list of losses that North Americans are facing as they endure at least another month of social distancing and with it an extended departure from routines, habits, social circles and normalcy.

The protracted disruption to life as it was, mental health experts say, could bring feelings of anger, depression, anxiety and even grief.

“There is literal grief like losing loved ones,” said Dr. Vaile Wright, the American Psychology Association’s director of clinical research. “But there is a grief of experiences that we are losing right now. There can feel like there is a lot of loss right now, a loss of freedom, a lot of things we took for granted.”

The next few months may take a toll on the nation’s mental health, experts say, but it is possible to mitigate the stress.

North Americans’ collective trauma

Extended isolation and stress from the pandemic can affect everyone differently, said Dr. Dana Garfin, a health psychologist.

It could put strain on families, send children home to abusive situations, make those living alone feel isolated and threaten people’s sense of purpose by keeping them from work, Garfin said.

And those experiencing financial insecurity in the midst of the pandemic have an added stress that is difficult to resolve, said Dr. Baruch Fischhoff, a psychologist at Carnegie Mellon University.

Despite those differences, the experience of staying home together through a pandemic can be considered a collective trauma, said Garfin, who studies collective traumas such as hurricanes, terrorist attacks and earthquakes.

Collective traumas start at some point of impact and then ripple out to loved ones of the afflicted, witnesses to the devastation and people whose lives are disrupted.

In this case, many Americans fall into one or more of those categories. People in quarantine show signs of confusion, depression and anger, Garfin said.

“We necessarily run much of our lives by habit,” said Fischhoff. “We know what we have for breakfast, we know how to prepare the kids for school, and that enables us to get through the day reasonably well.”

But now that many North Americans aren’t waking up and going to school and work, it can be difficult to know how to restructure even the most rote daily habits that won’t be coming back for weeks yet.

What life might look like on the other side of coronavirus

How long the pandemic and the isolation continue will dictate how severe the effects are on people’s mental health, Garfin said.

Prolonged exposure to the traumas of coronavirus can activate the fight or flight response, which over time can cause cardiovascular problems, anxiety, depression and PTSD, Garfin said. And the extended isolation can contribute to fear, anxiety, headaches, muscle tension and difficulty concentrating, said Wright.

For some groups, like health care workers, those in the media and people in newly deemed “essential jobs,” the end result may be guilt, grief and PTSD, said Wright.

But, Wright and Garfin agreed, humans are resilient.

Some may forget everything they just went through and go back to their daily lives when it is all over, Wright said, but many can come out of this with stronger relationships and a better perspective on what is important.

How to get through it

The future is uncertain, but life will be different for at least the next month and that knowledge can be the first step to making this new, temporary reality as good as it can be.

Now that it is clear the change is for more than a couple of weeks, it is important to create a new routine – one that includes showering, getting dressed and maintaining family meals — not treating the time as an extended snow day or spring vacation, Wright said.

There is an opportunity for people to develop new habits around the disruption, which can relieve the stress of feeling like starting from scratch every day, Fischhoff said.

And all three say it is important to use social media to be social, not to feed the anxiety that conflicting coronavirus information on the platform stokes.

They also agree that this experience is difficult, and it is important to acknowledge that and not be too critical of what one could have done before or could be doing now.

“I think that we need to recognize that this is totally unprecedented, and we really are just doing the best we can – and that’s OK,” Wright said. And for people doing the best they can but struggling to work, study or care for their families, virtual mental health resources may be a crucial next step.

And for those who are lonely and isolated, Garfin suggests reframing for a feeling of community within that experience.

“We aren’t in our houses alone, we are doing something for each other for our community,” Garfin said. “It’s a shared effort, something that we are all a part of and something we are all contributing to.”
“It’s going to be difficult, but it’s not permanent.”

 

By Madeline Holcombe, CNN       Thu April 9, 2020
source: www.cnn.com
plan

Take A Breath:
How The Simple Act Of Meditative Breathing
Helps Us Cope

A global pandemic causes so much worry, concern and fear. There’s the pressure of suddenly being a homeschooling parent and trying to create structure around newfound chaos in your home.

A lot of us are adjusting to working from home, all while tending to worries about the state of the world. Maybe you fret over the health of aging parents or feel anxious over the ever-changing news cycle.

Psychological stress can damper your overall health, affecting your ability to remain resilient in the face of challenges. It can also thwart a strong immune system, which is needed to keep from getting sick.

“Living through a pandemic can be scary,” said CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta in the March 18 episode of CNN’s “Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction” podcast.

The good news: Meditation is one tool that can help our immune systems functioning optimally, according to a recent study.

One of the easiest ways to reduce stress is by simply focusing your attention on your breath, according to Harvard Medical School, since it’s a form of beginner level meditation that anyone can do.

Alternative medicine advocate Dr. Deepak Chopra, in Dr. Gupta’s podcast episode titled “Pandemic Panic,” walks us through how to do a breathing meditation to ease our stress, thus calming our minds.

Breathing through the stress of a pandemic

According to Harvard Medical School, breathing meditation requires either sitting comfortably, standing or walking in a setting with minimal distractions. Many people prefer to sit.

If you’re sitting, focus first on your posture: You should sit with your spine erect.

As you become aware of the space you’re in and sit comfortably, observe your breath without manipulating it for a few seconds, Chopra suggests.

Then, slow your breath down by inhaling deeply to the count of six.

Pause for two seconds.

Exhale to the count of four. Then repeat this six-two-four breathing method for two minutes.

“Then, when you’re done with that, bring your awareness into your body and wherever there seems to be any discomfort, just bring the awareness there without manipulating it,” Chopra said. “Awareness by itself heals. Awareness without conceptual intervention restores self-regulation.”

“The goal is really to breathe from your diaphragm,” as opposed to shallow breaths from your chest, said Vaile Wright, a psychologist and director of clinical research and quality at the American Psychological Association.

“And the way to know whether you’re doing that or not, or a trick at least, is to place your hand just below your ribs on your stomach.” When you inhale you should feel your body expanding, then contracting when you inhale.

If the initial peace is interrupted by your thoughts, the meditation isn’t a failure. Though breathing meditations are simple to begin with, they can take practice before you’re able to maintain focus for an extended period of time, Wright said. Just acknowledge the thought and try to let it go.

You don’t have to concentrate on any format, but some people find that adding some sort of mantra or visualization to it helps, Wright said.

“For example, when you’re breathing in, telling yourself [in your head that] you’re breathing in love. When you’re exhaling, telling yourself you’re exhaling anxiety. Or, breathing in positive energy, exhaling negative energy or visualizing negative energy coming out of your mouth and out of your body.”

Chopra starts his day with three or four intentions: “I’m going to maintain a joyful, energetic body today; a loving and compassionate heart today; a reflective and quiet and creative and centered mind today; and lightness of being and laughter today, whatever it takes.”

By doing these intentions, you can start to feel better, he said.

Modern technology offers up apps and smart watches that can help guide you through a meditation if you have trouble staying focused.

“Slow your breath, your thoughts will slow down as well,” Chopra said.

breathe
try this for 2 – 5 minutes

Benefits for your overall health

Breathing meditations can contribute to a state of mindfulness by bringing your focus to one thing and only thing only – your breath, Wright said.

“The goal of that is to draw your attention away from maybe worry thoughts you’re having or sort of the catastrophic thoughts or maybe depressing thoughts about feeling alone,” she added. When you’re focusing, those thoughts can be pushed aside, helping you to control your emotions.

Mindfulness has been found to influence two stress pathways in the brain, altering brain structure and activity in regions that regulate attention and emotion, according to the American Psychological Association.

In a 2015 review of studies on the effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), researchers found that people who received this therapy were less likely to respond to stressful situations with negative thoughts or unhelpful emotional reactions.

Those participants were also more likely to focus on the present moment and less likely to experience ruminating thoughts.

Breathing meditations can also reduce muscle tension and your heart rate, which are signs of stress, Wright said.

Carrying yourself through a hard time

Breathing meditations are another tool you can add to your coping toolkit, which may also include journaling, baking or virtually connecting with others.

“What’s great about breathing is you can do it anywhere,” Wright said. “If music is your way of relaxing, what happens when you don’t have access to it? You always have access to your breathing, so in that sense [breathing meditations] are really portable and very accessible. We really need a variety of different coping skills in order to get through particularly unprecedented situations like this one.”

Mindfulness may not make everything go away, Wright said, but it can bring you to a “calmer state so that you’re better able to deal with all the stress that’s going on.”

By Kristen Rogers, CNN      Fri March 27, 2020
source: www.cnn.com


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5 Strategic Ways To Build Your Self-Confidence (That Make You Stronger & More Resilient)

Grow your inner strength.

What is inner strength?
Having inner strength allows you pursue your dreams and goals and live your life to the fullest.
A person with inner strength:
  • Loves themselves (feels deeply their value, lovableness and loves their body, mind, and spirit).
  • Can bend with change and embrace it.
  • Can say ‘no’ when it feels right without regret second-guessing.
  • Knows who they are — what they like and what they don’t — and how they feel.
  • Can ask for help when they need it.
  • Is open to learning and is curious.

How do we get inner strength? The answer: Learning how to build our self-confidence.
Here are 5 ways to build self-confidence that can help you flourish:

1. Knowing what you feel.

This is primary — essential to knowing, loving yourself, and having a strong core. Pay attention to the area below your head! The information about how you feel is in your body. What sensations are in our chest and your belly? Are you tense, jittery, or nauseous? Ask yourself, “What sensation do I feel in my body?”
Then, try this exercise: Identify which feeling that physical sensation is connected to — are you mad, sad, glad, scared, or some derivative of one or more of those? Once you can identify a feeling, you find out if you accept or reject that feeling. (“I don’t like it that I’m still sad about my breakup. I should be over that by now! It’s been 5 years.”)

Having inner strength means embracing all your feelings as good because they’re part of you and you’re amazing! Feelings aren’t bad, they just are. Think of it this way: Little kids don’t stuff their feelings nor censor them. When they’re really sad, they cry. When they’re happy, they run around yelling with joy. They don’t worry what others think — and you shouldn’t judge your emotions, either!

2. Having boundaries.

So you can identify how you feel! Awesome! You start to know yourself and begin growing a strong core. Once you learn how you feel, you can create boundaries — saying ‘no’ when you don’t want to do something.
Some folks say “yes” to everything, partly because they think more people will like them and they’ll get some of that good-feeling-about-themselves aimed in their direction. They get stuck in “my value has to come from outside me”. They’re not loving who they are.

We all need outside affirmation as we’re growing up (we’re mammals — we’re relational). But if we get good enough parenting (not perfect, says the research), we grow a strong inner core that says we’re wonderful. We feel solid and happy with ourselves.

When you feel good about yourself, it’s not as hard to say “no” when something doesn’t feel right. Being able to set a good firm boundary comes from a strong inner core. You don’t worry about being rejected. You want to speak your truth.

3. Bend with challenges.

Life brings us challenges — sometimes unexpected, maybe painful. Can we bend with them, can we go with the flow and let ourselves move with, feel the feelings, and adapt to what’s happening without breaking?
These times are amazing opportunities for growth. We get stretched, maybe going beyond what we have imagined we can endure. But as we move through a challenge, even getting help along the way, we discover that we have an amazing resilience. We expand our capacities. We grow more inner strength.

4. Be open to learning and asking for help.

When someone is open to learning they are saying, “I’m not threatened that you know something I don’t, I’m curious. Tell me so I can discover that too and enrich my life. And while we’re at it, I will validate you by listening and absorbing what you know.”

When you’re stuck and don’t know how to make yourself feel better or create something in your life, can you ask for help?

Some folks feel that they need to do everything themselves. It’s a sign of weakness to ask for help. But if you are good with you, you won’t have a problem reaching out and finding that person or source who can add wonderful things to your life.

5. Answer this question: Do you love yourself?

Are you good loving friends with your body? Do you love your body as it is? Do you ask your body what food it wants to eat, what exercise feels good, and what rest does it needs? Or do you ignore what your body is telling you? Do you stay disconnected from the messages it speaks to you?

Life becomes so much more fun and easier when we have a loving relationship with our body. Look at how far your body has taken you up to now! And still truckin’! When we make friends with our body and appreciate it, our body responds in kind and we feel happier. This helps grow inner strength.

Do you love your mind? Or are you at war with your own thoughts? Do your thoughts race around in endless cycles of negativity? Do you hate it or can you calm your thoughts and find peace? Knowing how to relax your head, to accept that sometimes our mind needs tender loving care too, goes a long way to supporting your inner core.
And do you have a spiritual connection that feels awesome? Many people gain much strength from their relationship with the spirit or whatever it is that feels right to them. This is an amazing source of inner strength that helps create calm and loving and accepting you as you.

Having a strong inner core is possible!

Sometimes it takes a little work, but it’s completely doable. And that moment when you arrive and you realize that you’re amazing, you’re loving yourself, you’re at peace, you have the energy and passion to pursue your goals.
You can be on fire with loving life and be so glad you are here!

Ann Naimark an MFT who incorporates spirituality into her work. For 25 years, she has led groups, held workshops, and treated individuals and couples to help them focus and integrate their mind, body, emotions, and spirit so they can fully live with purpose, joy, balance, and peace.
Ann Naimark    April 18, 2018
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Building Confidence and Self-Esteem

17 simple suggestions for building confidence and self-esteem.

Low self-esteem can be deeply rooted, with origins in traumatic childhood experiences such as prolonged separation from parent figures, neglect, or emotional, physical, or sexual abuse. In later life, self-esteem can be undermined by ill health, negative life events such as losing a job or getting divorced, deficient or frustrating relationships, and a general sense of lack of control. This sense of lack of control may be especially marked in victims of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, or victims of discrimination on the grounds of religion, culture, race, sex, or sexual orientation.

The relationship between low self-esteem and mental disorder and mental distress is very complex. Low self-esteem predisposes to mental disorder, which in turn knocks self-esteem. In some cases, low self-esteem is in itself a cardinal feature of mental disorder, as, for example, in depression or borderline personality disorder.

People with low self-esteem tend to see the world as a hostile place and themselves as its victim. As a result, they are reluctant to express and assert themselves, miss out on experiences and opportunities, and feel powerless to change things. All this lowers their self-esteem still further, sucking them into a downward spiral.

If you feel that you suffer from poor self-esteem, there are a number of simple things that you can do to boost yourself and, hopefully, break out of the downward spiral. You may already be doing some of these things, and you certainly don’t need to be doing them all. Just do those that you feel most comfortable with.

1. Make two lists: one of your strengths and one of your achievements. Try to get a supportive friend or relative to help you with these lists, as people with low self-esteem are not usually in the most objective frame of mind. Keep the lists in a safe place and read through them every morning.

2. Think positively about yourself. Remind yourself that, despite your problems, you are a unique, special, and valuable person, and that you deserve to feel good about yourself. You are, after all, a miracle of consciousness, the consciousness of the universe. Identify and challenge any negative thoughts about yourself such as ‘I am loser’, ‘I never do anything right’, or ‘No one really likes me’.

3. Pay special attention to your personal hygiene: take a shower, brush your hair, trim your nails, and so on.

4. Wear clean clothes that make you feel good about yourself. All things being equal, wear an ironed shirt rather than a crumpled T-shirt, you get the idea.

5. Eat good food as part of a healthy, balanced diet. Make meals a special time, even if you are eating alone. Turn off the TV, set the table, light a candle, and make a moment to feel grateful.

6. Exercise regularly. Go for a brisk walk every day, even if it is cold or rainy, and take more vigorous exercise (exercise that makes you sweat) three times a week.

7. Ensure that you’re getting enough sleep.

8. Reduce your stress levels. If possible, agree with a friend or relative that you will take turns to massage each other on a regular basis. For other suggestions, see my article Managing Stress.

9. Make your living space clean, comfortable, and attractive. Whenever I clean my windows or just water my plants I seem to feel much better. Display items that remind you of your achievements and the special times and people in your life.

10. Do more of the things that you enjoy. Go ahead and spoil yourself. Do at least one thing that you enjoy every day.

11. Get artistic. Activities like painting, music, poetry, and dance enable you to express yourself, interact positively with others, and reduce your stress levels. You might even impress yourself! Find a class through your local adult education service or community centre.

12. Set yourself a challenge that you can realistically complete. For example, take up yoga, learn to sing, or throw a small dinner party for some friends. Just go for it!

13. Do some of the things that you have been putting off, such as filing the paperwork, repainting the kitchen, or clearing out the garden.

14. Be nice to people, and do nice things for them. For instance, strike up a conversation with the postman or shopkeeper, invite a neighbor round for tea, visit a friend who is sick, or get involved with a local charity. Putting a smile on someone’s face is bound to put one on yours.

15. Get others on board. Tell your friends and relatives what you are going through and ask for their advice and support. Perhaps they too have similar problems, in which case you might be able to band together and form a support group. Don’t be overly shy or reserved: most people do want to help!

16. Spend more time with those you hold near and dear. At the same time, try to enlarge your social circle by making an effort to meet and befriend people.

17. Avoid people and places that treat you badly or make you feel bad about yourself. This could mean being more assertive. If assertiveness is a problem for you, ask a health professional about assertiveness training.

Finally, remember those wise words of Lao Tzu:  

Health is the greatest possession.  

Contentment is the greatest treasure. 

Confidence is the greatest friend.

 

Neel Burton       May 30, 2012


Neel Burton is author of Hypersanity: Thinking Beyond Thinking, Hide and Seek: The Psychology of Self-Deception, Heaven and Hell: The Psychology of the Emotions, and other books.

About the Author
Neel Burton, M.D., is a psychiatrist, philosopher, and writer who lives and teaches in Oxford, England.
In Print: Hypersanity: Thinking Beyond Thinking
Online: neelburton.com


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15 Healthy Choices To Help You Be Your Best Self

How Many Of These Healthy Habits Have You Incorporated Into Your Lifestyle?

Take the Stairs
instead of the elevator
 
Find Something Active You Enjoy
and stay active
 
Read Labels
and be on guard for less than healthy ingredients
 
and add more fiber to your diet
 
Minimize Sugar
where possible
 
Minimize Salt
when you can
 
best
 
 
Minimize GMOS
as often as possible
 
Minimize Pesticides
that can be prevalant in many of our foods
 
that can cause problems in your body

Eat Mostly Plants & Fish
to maximize better health
 
Drink Plenty of Water
to stay hydrated

Spice Things Up
for greater health benefits

and not your own worst enemy
 

Get Enough Quality Sleep
for energy, clarity and to help your body heal
 
Cultivate Resiliency
and arm yourself for future challenges
     Pete Szekely


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Seven Steps Toward Building Resiliency

How do you define resiliency?

Many define resiliency as the ability to bounce back from a setback. Some refer to it as one’s ability to push through difficult times.

Following a keynote speech recently, this definition of resiliency was shared: Putting the pieces of a dropped vase back together as close to the original form as possible, knowing that sometimes it’s impossible to put things back exactly, which results in the creation of a new normal.

Awareness – While the above definitions provide some insight on resiliency, they don’t explain how a person develops it. A person who doesn’t bounce back quickly may be judged by some as being weak. As well, these kinds of definitions can imply that resiliency is something a person has or doesn’t have, which isn’t true. Resiliency is a trainable skill and, like all skills, requires practise for mastery and to maintain top performance.

I prefer to think of the term resiliency as a verb, which requires building up resiliency reserves so they can be drawn upon in difficult times. However, we all have a limit to our resiliency reserve levels, and asking for support to get through a difficult time is not a sign of weakness.

Accountability – Building resiliency reserve levels requires accepting that what we do daily influences them. We don’t get physically fit by thinking about it; it requires actions such as exercising, eating a healthy diet and getting at least seven to eight hours of sleep each night.

Action – One proactive approach for building resiliency is to adopt a daily resiliency hierarchy: actions that can have a positive impact on resiliency.

The following resiliency hierarchy is an example of seven things that, when done daily, can build resiliency. Although each action is helpful, it’s suggested that you start with one and work your way up to practising all seven each day.

resiliency-child-emotionally-strong

 

RESILIENCY HIERARCHY

Acknowledge others – None of us can get through life alone. Recognizing, acknowledging and thanking the people we interact with daily can help to build and maintain our relationships, as well as expand our social connections.

Gratitude – Take a moment each day to be grateful for three good things you have in your life. Life is challenging, and not everything may be the way we want it to be. Being grateful for all the things we have can remind us how fortunate we are.

Movement – We can improve our mental health and resiliency levels by increasing our movement, because of the mind-body connection. Movement includes walking, running, exercise, recreational activities and sports. Set daily goals and count your movement minutes or steps.

Self-acceptance – Self-acceptance is being aware of your strengths and weaknesses. None of us will or can be perfect. Learn to be okay with who you are and your weaknesses. Stop any negative or self-critical talk that only creates hurt and serves no real purpose.

Nutrition – What we put in our mouth feeds our brain, where our thoughts and feelings come from. Our lifestyle and nutritional choices matter for both our mental and physical health. They also affect our resiliency reserve levels. Making good choices one meal at a time doesn’t have to be hard. Cut out processed foods, and focus on eating meals high in fibre, healthy fats and good sources of protein.

Hope – Without a plan, there can be no hope. Having one or two clearly defined goals for what you want in life can give a positive focus and purpose for each day. Purpose can be a source of energy that pushes us toward the things we want in life.

Sleep – Perhaps one of the most important things we can do to build resiliency is to ensure we get at least seven to eight hours of sleep a day. Without proper sleep we put our physical safety and mental health at risk.

BILL HOWATT             MAY 28, 2019
Bill Howatt is the chief of research for work force productivity at the Conference Board of Canada and a co-creator of the Employee Recommended Workplace Award.