Category: Dealing With Current Events

Making Self-Care a Priority 

It is hard to believe 2021 is less than 90 days way. This year, with all of the many challenges, seems to be flying by. With the transition to working from home, many employees have found themselves even busier than when they were working in the office. Add to thatschool-aged and/or college-aged distance learnersand perhaps another adult or two also working from home, you can begin to feel like an afterthought in your own mind. The demands for your attention, your great ideas, your support, your space, your time…can feel endless. It is easy to get caught up in the next thing on your to do lists, help a colleague with the new account at work, volunteer for that special committee, or other ways you prioritize other people’s needs over your own.  

When you continue in these cycles of constant giving, without taking time to refuel or refill yourself back up, the quality of your giving can deteriorate without you realizing it. Your patience may run thin, your temper may shorten, and before long the “giving” that once gave you pleasure, now feels exhausting. Simple acts of self-care can keep you energized and strengthen to thrive even when it feels as though you are constantly giving. 

What is Self-Care?  

Self-care is intentionally being good to yourself; taking care of yourself in a way that is sustaining for youThis will look different from person to person, and that is okay. What I need can be different than what you need because we are different people. Self-care is not being selfish, particularly if there are many people around you that need you and rely on you. It does not have to be an expensive purchase or all-day adventure…although those could certainly qualify as self-careThink about the last time you boarded an airplane and found yourself waiting for the flight to take off. The flight attendants begin their safety presentation and give instructions on how to use the oxygen masks if they become available. The flight attendants instruct you to put on your own oxygen mask before helping anyone else with their oxygen mask. Why? Because to help others, you need to have already been helped yourself. Prioritizing your self-care is essential when there are demands on you to care for others around you. 

How do you do it?  

Start small. With the COVID-19 social distancing restrictions, there may not be very many options available outside of the home, so use what you have or what you can easily obtainIt may be easiest to incorporate self-care in activities you are already doing. Think about ways to enhance the things that you are already doing and be intentional about experiencing the pleasures in the moments. Perhaps use an aromatherapy body wash and inhale the relaxing or rejuvenating scent while showering. Or, take a few extra minutes and run a warm bath and add essential oils, bubble bath, or soothing bath salts. You need to bathe, so why not take a few moments to enhance the experience before going to bed or starting your day? When you have your morning coffee or afternoon tea, take a moment to walk outsidebreath in fresh air and enjoy the flavor of your warm (or iced) beverage. When you are out grocery shopping, pick up a new fresh herb to add to your pasta or saladgrab a new sauce for your protein, or grab that fruit or vegetable you have all ways wanted to try. These small actions can have lasting impact on you, your well-being, and the care your give to others. 

 

What are some ways you can begin to practice self-care? 

 

Written by Takisha Corbett, Ph.D. Dr. Corbett is a clinical psychologist at Pacific Neurobehavioral Clinic, PC.

 

 

The Impact of Sheltering in Place on Mental Health and Chronic Pain

Since shelter in place orders began to take effect in March, many of my own clients have seen increases in pain and mental health symptoms. While sheltering in place has placed many restrictions on people, as well as significantly changed how we all experience our day to day lives, there are two things that directly impact pain and mental health: social distancing and restricted, limited or no physical activity. Human connection and physical activity are important parts of managing chronic pain and mental health symptoms. Both are tools and behavioral changes I recommend to my clients in therapy.

First, it is worth noting that following shelter in place orders, including social distancing and mask wearing, is important to help slow the spread of COVID, until a solution can be found. The following are recommendations on how to try and compensate for these restrictions, not a call to avoid following the orders.

Having a support system, being able to have conversations, spending time with friends and loved ones, and connecting with co-workers are important to our overall well-being and help us cope with chronic pain and mental health symptoms, including anxiety, depression and stress. Being able to engage in social activities with others serves as a positive distraction from pain and difficult emotions, and it also helps create positive experiences that improve our mood and outlook, by helping to balance negative focus and thoughts. In addition, the benefits of being able to physically touch or be touched by others are many, and include stress reduction, increases in oxytocin and may even help improve the immune system.

The first question is: how do you cope with not being able to have as much human connection as before, particularly in-person contact?

If you have other members in your household whom you are sheltering in place with, you may have an easier time meeting this need than someone who lives alone. Make time to share quality time with your household members, that do not fall into the ordinary, daily routine. Backyard dates or picnics, movie nights, game nights, and cooking together are some ideas. When appropriate, engage in physical touch, like hugging.

If you live alone, make use of technology to try and stay connected to others. Engage in video or voice conversations, participate in virtual hangouts, game nights or dates, and maybe try virtually cooking new recipes with others. Massaging yourself may also be helpful for both emotional and physical well-being. Shelters across the United States reported a sharp increase in pet adoptions since the pandemic began, so if you have the desire, time and resources to care for a pet, this can also be a great option. Just keep in mind that caring for your pet will still be necessary once the shelter in place orders lift, and you should be willing and prepared to continue to love and care for your pet, even after this is all over.

The second question is: how do you balance sheltering in place and engaging in physical activity?

Many of us are unsure about what is and is not permitted under shelter in place, and this has led to a decrease in physical activity for many of us. The first tip is to work out inside your home, especially if you are having difficulty managing anxiety about leaving your home or are a high-risk individual for COVID. If you are having trouble getting motivated, think about virtually working out with someone. At this point, it is worth mentioning that getting some sun and fresh air does the mind and the body good. Which leads us to the second option: get outdoors. Though it is important to understand that as long as there is a pandemic, there will be risk associated with leaving our homes, it is also important to know that there are ways which decrease the risk of contracting COVID while engaging in outdoor physical activity. These include wearing a mask, avoiding crowded places, going out during ‘off hours’ (for example, avoiding the beach on the weekend) and staying physically distanced from other people. You can start with short walks around your neighborhood, during the times when there are less people out. Schedule these outings into your week to help you follow through. You can also engage in outdoor activity with others, as long as you practice social distancing and wear your masks.

The bottom line is- get creative and make the best of it. Try to find ways in which you can safely practice things that do you good, like socializing and activity. They may not be perfect, ideal, or exactly what you need, but something will be better than nothing, and keeping yourself and others safe during this pandemic is worth it. During shelter in place, it is beneficial to adopt an attitude of adaptation versus all or nothing. It is for your own good, and your mind and body will thank you!

Written by Taina Aceves, MA, LMFT. Taina is a therapist at Pacific Neurobehavioral Clinic, PC, in San Diego, CA.

The Pursuit of Justice: Understanding the Cause and Committing to Action 

The energy in the air has been heightened with tension over the past few months. Initially, this was due to the global pandemic of COVID-19. Now, the United States has become the epicenter of a polarizing movement surrounding race and justice. Video of the gruesome death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police officers is heart wrenching and disturbing to watch.

We have become inundated with a variety of charged images and messages from the media, on social media, and in our communities. With such a steady flow of information, it is easy to lose sight of the central message in the pursuit of justice and become distracted or overwhelmed.

The continuum of reactions to this movement is laden with intense emotions including anger, sadness, worry, confusion, ambivalence, and in some cases, indifference. The presence of these powerful emotions can lead one to feel paralyzed or powerless. It is important to know other people may feel the same way. To manage intense emotions, a common reaction may be to withdraw; however, redirecting your focus to the pursuit of justice can help alleviate some of the distressing experience. This pursuit of justice is to address routine police brutality that leads to the death of unarmed black men across this country. Together, we can make a change.  Many people may not know what to do to impact change in the pursuit of justice, or how to navigate difficult and uncomfortable conversations on race or justice. Here are a few tips to keep in mind.

  • Discussions about race can be uncomfortable, and that is okay. Knowing that the rights and freedoms of groups of people are violated daily is also discomforting; so, we can channel that discomfort into action.
  • We can achieve more together: the pursuit of justice for all takes all of us. Over the past several weeks retailers, websites, corporations, social media outlets, universities, and other establishments have posted anti-racism notices and actions plans. The next time you see one, click on it and read it to find out how others are committing to action.
  • Become aware of current opportunities to make change within your sphere of influence. This could be within your community, at your company, or in your city. Search the internet for upcoming events or activities sponsored by reputable local restaurants, businesses, non-profit organizations, universities, advocacy groups, etc. and try to join. Perhaps even invite a friend(s) to go along with you. There are also webinars you can watch, blogs and websites you can read, social media posts, or community activities, committees, or events you can attend or donate. Always practice due diligence and common sense safety practices.
  • Be open to self-reflection, personal growth, and change. We all have blind spots and carry biases. We can typically only see these aspects of ourselves when someone else points them out to us. Simply having blind spots or biases does not mean a person is bad or a racist. We can acknowledge these characteristics are present and be intentional to grow in those areas; to change.
  • Speak up when we witness an injustice. When we see something, we need to say something to bring attention to injustice. Silence creates a cloak for injustice to persist.
  • Remember, change takes time, and the pursuit of justice takes the community.

Written by Takisha Corbett, Ph.D. Dr. Corbett is a licensed psychologist currently open to new patients at Pacific Neurobehavioral Clinic, PC.