Staying Mentally Healthy During Quarantine

**This is not my first time living under Stay At Home orders thanks to our former life in West Africa! There is some great advice in here. – Mindy **

Helpful advice from a psychologist (who wished to remain anonymous) regarding mental health during the pandemic. There are 25 tips – start with 1-2 and work the others in as best you can!

“After having thirty-one sessions this week with patients where the singular focus was COVID-19 and how to cope, I decided to consolidate my advice and make a list that I hope is helpful to all.  I can’t control a lot of what is going on right now, but I can contribute this.  Edit: I am surprised and heartened that this has been shared so widely!  People have asked me to credential myself, so to that end, I am a doctoral level Psychologist in NYS with a Psy.D. in the specialities of School and Clinical Psychology.”

MENTAL HEALTH WELLNESS TIPS FOR QUARANTINE

1. Stick to a routine.  Go to sleep and wake up at a reasonable time, write a schedule that is varied and includes time for work as well as self-care.

2. Dress for the social life you want, not the social life you have.  Get showered and dressed in comfortable clothes, wash your face, brush your teeth.  Take the time to do a bath or a facial.  Put on some bright colors.  It is amazing how our dress can impact our mood.

3. Get out at least once a day, for at least thirty minutes.  If you are concerned of contact, try first thing in the morning, or later in the evening, and try less traveled streets and avenues.  If you are high risk or living with those who are high risk, open the windows and blast the fan.  It is amazing how much fresh air can do for spirits.

4. Find some time to move each day, again daily for at least thirty minutes.  If you don’t feel comfortable going outside, there are many YouTube videos that offer free movement classes, and if all else fails, turn on the music and have a dance party!

5. Reach out to others, you guessed it, at least once daily for thirty minutes.  Try to do FaceTime, Skype, phone calls, texting—connect with other people to seek and provide support.  Don’t forget to do this for your children as well.  Set up virtual playdates with friends daily via FaceTime, Facebook Messenger Kids, Zoom, etc—your kids miss their friends, too!

6. Stay hydrated and eat well.   This one may seem obvious, but stress and eating often don’t mix well, and we find ourselves over-indulging, forgetting to eat, and avoiding food.  Drink plenty of water, eat some good and nutritious foods, and challenge yourself to learn how to cook something new!

7. Develop a self-care toolkit.  This can look different for everyone.  A lot of successful self-care strategies involve a sensory component (seven senses: touch, taste, sight, hearing, smell, vestibular (movement) and proprioceptive (comforting pressure).  An idea for each: a soft blanket or stuffed animal, a hot chocolate, photos of vacations, comforting music, lavender or eucalyptus oil, a small swing or rocking chair, a weighted blanket.  A journal, an inspirational book, or a mandala coloring book is wonderful, bubbles to blow or blowing watercolor on paper through a straw are visually appealing as well as work on controlled breath.  Mint gum, Listerine strips, ginger ale, frozen Starburst, ice packs, and cold are also good for anxiety regulation. For children, it is great to help them create a self-regulation comfort box (often a shoe-box or bin they can decorate) that they can use on the ready for first-aid when overwhelmed.  

8. Spend extra time playing with children.  Children will rarely communicate how they are feeling, but will often make a bid for attention and communication through play.  Don’t be surprised to see therapeutic themes of illness, doctor visits, and isolation play through.  Understand that play is cathartic and helpful for children—it is how they process their world and problem solve, and there’s a lot they are seeing and experiencing in the now.

9. Give everyone the benefit of the doubt, and a wide berth.  A lot of cooped up time can bring out the worst in everyone.  Each person will have moments when they will not be at their best.  It is important to move with grace through blowups, to not show up to every argument you are invited to, and to not hold grudges and continue disagreements.  Everyone is doing the best they can to make it through this.

10. Everyone find their own retreat space.  Space is at a premium, particularly with city living.  It is important that people think through their own separate space for work and for relaxation.  For children, help them identify a place where they can go to retreat when stressed.  You can make this place cozy by using blankets, pillows, cushions, scarves, beanbags, tents, and “forts”.  It is good to know that even when we are on top of each other, we have our own special place to go to be alone.

11. Expect behavioral issues in children, and respond gently.   We are all struggling with disruption in routine, none more than children, who rely on routines constructed by others to make them feel safe and to know what comes next.  Expect increased anxiety, worries and fears, nightmares, difficulty separating or sleeping, testing limits, and meltdowns.  Do not introduce major behavioral plans or consequences at this time—hold stable and focus on emotional connection.

12. Focus on safety and attachment.  We are going to be living for a bit with the unprecedented demand of meeting all work deadlines, homeschooling children, running a sterile household, and making a whole lot of entertainment in confinement.  We can get wrapped up in meeting expectations in all domains, but we must remember that these are scary and unpredictable times for children.  Focus on strengthening the connection through time spent following their lead, through physical touch, through play, through therapeutic books, and via verbal reassurances that you will be there for them in this time.

13. Lower expectations and practice radical self-acceptance.  This idea is connected with #12.  We are doing too many things in this moment, under fear and stress.  This does not make a formula for excellence.  Instead, give yourself what psychologists call “radical self acceptance”: accepting everything about yourself, your current situation, and your life without question, blame, or pushback.  You cannot fail at this—there is no roadmap, no precedent for this, and we are all truly doing the best we can in an impossible situation.  

14. Limit social media and COVID conversation, especially around children.  One can find tons of information on COVID-19 to consume, and it changes minute to minute.  The information is often sensationalized, negatively skewed, and alarmist.  Find a few trusted sources that you can check in with consistently, limit it to a few times a day, and set a time limit for yourself on how much you consume (again 30 minutes tops, 2-3 times daily).  Keep news and alarming conversations out of earshot from children—they see and hear everything, and can become very frightened by what they hear.

15. Notice the good in the world, the helpers.  There is a lot of scary, negative, and overwhelming information to take in regarding this pandemic.  There are also a ton of stories of people sacrificing, donating, and supporting one another in miraculous ways.  It is important to counter-balance the heavy information with the hopeful information.  

16. Help others.  Find ways, big and small, to give back to others.  Support restaurants, offer to grocery shop, check in with elderly neighbors, write psychological wellness tips for others—helping others gives us a sense of agency when things seem out of control.  

17. Find something you can control, and control the heck out of it.  In moments of big uncertainty and overwhelm, control your little corner of the world.  Organize your bookshelf, purge your closet, put together that furniture, group your toys.  It helps to anchor and ground us when the bigger things are chaotic.

18. Find a long-term project to dive into.  Now is the time to learn how to play the keyboard, put together a huge jigsaw puzzle, start a 15 hour game of Risk, paint a picture, read the Harry Potter series, binge watch an 8-season show, crochet a blanket, solve a Rubix cube, or develop a new town in Animal Crossing.  Find something that will keep you busy, distracted, and engaged to take breaks from what is going on in the outside world.

19. Engage in repetitive movements and left-right movements.  Research has shown that repetitive movement (knitting, coloring, painting, clay sculpting, jump roping etc) especially left-right movement (running, drumming, skating, hopping) can be effective at self-soothing and maintaining self-regulation in moments of distress.

20. Find an expressive art and go for it.  Our emotional brain is very receptive to the creative arts, and it is a direct portal for release of feeling.  Find something that is creative (sculpting, drawing, dancing, music, singing, playing) and give it your all.  See how relieved you can feel.  It is a very effective way of helping kids to emote and communicate as well!

21. Find lightness and humor in each day.  There is a lot to be worried about, and with good reason.  Counterbalance this heaviness with something funny each day: cat videos on YouTube, a stand-up show on Netflix, a funny movie—we all need a little comedic relief in our day, every day.

22. Reach out for help—your team is there for you.  If you have a therapist or psychiatrist, they are available to you, even at a distance.  Keep up your medications and your therapy sessions the best you can.  If you are having difficulty coping, seek out help for the first time.  There are mental health people on the ready to help you through this crisis.  Your children’s teachers and related service providers will do anything within their power to help, especially for those parents tasked with the difficult task of being a whole treatment team to their child with special challenges.  Seek support groups of fellow home-schoolers, parents, and neighbors to feel connected.  There is help and support out there, any time of the day—although we are physically distant, we can always connect virtually.

23. “Chunk” your quarantine, take it moment by moment.  We have no road map for this.  We don’t know what this will look like in 1 day, 1 week, or 1 month from now.  Often, when I work with patients who have anxiety around overwhelming issues, I suggest that they engage in a strategy called “chunking”—focusing on whatever bite-sized piece of a challenge that feels manageable.  Whether that be 5 minutes, a day, or a week at a time—find what feels doable for you, and set a time stamp for how far ahead in the future you will let yourself worry.  Take each chunk one at a time, and move through stress in pieces.

24. Remind yourself daily that this is temporary.  It seems in the midst of this quarantine that it will never end.  It is terrifying to think of the road stretching ahead of us.  Please take time to remind yourself that although this is very scary and difficult, and will go on for an undetermined amount of time, it is a season of life and it will pass.  We will return to feeing free, safe, busy, and connected in the days ahead.

25. Find the lesson.  This whole crisis can seem sad, senseless, and at times, avoidable.  When psychologists work with trauma, a key feature to helping someone work through said trauma is to help them find their agency, the potential positive outcomes they can effect, the meaning and construction that can come out of destruction.  What can each of us learn here, in big and small ways, from this crisis?  What needs to change in ourselves, our homes, our communities, our nation, and our world?

The Fishless Fisherman

There was a group called Fishermen’s Fellowship. They were surrounded by streams and lakes full of hungry fish. They met regularly to discuss the call to fish, the abundance of fish and the thrill of catching fish. They got excited about fishing.

Someone suggested they needed a philosophy of fishing. So they carefully defined and redefined fishing and the purpose of fishing. They developed fishing strategies and tactics.

Then they realized they had been going at it backwards. They had approached fishing from the point of view of the fisherman and not from the point of view of the fish. How do fish view the world? How does the fisherman appear to the fish? What do fish eat and when? These are all good things to know.

So they began research studies and attended conferences on fishing. Some traveled to faraway places to study different kinds of fish with different habits. Some got PH.D.’s in Fishiology.

But no one had yet gone fishing.

So a committee was formed to send out fishermen. As prospective fishing places outnumbered the fishermen, the committee needed to determine priorities. A priority list of fishing places was posted on bulletin boards in all the Fellowship halls.

Still no one was fishing.

A survey was launched to find out why. Most did not answer the questionnaire but from those who did respond, it was discovered that some felt called to study fish, a few to furnish fishing equipment and several to go around encouraging fishermen. What with meetings, conferences and seminars, others simply didn’t have time to fish.

Jake was a newcomer to the Fishermen’s Fellowship. After one stirring meeting of the Fellowship, Jake went fishing. He tried a few things, got the hang of it and caught a choice fish. At the next meeting he told his story, was honored for his catch and was then scheduled to speak at all the Fellowship chapters and tell how he did it.

Now because of all the speaking and his election to the Board of Directors of the Fishermen’s Fellowship, Jake no longer had time to go fishing.

Soon he began to feel restless and empty. He longed to feel the tug on the line once again. He cut the speaking, resigned from the Board and said to a friend, “Let’s go fishing.” They did – just the two of them – and they caught fish.

The members of the Fishermen’s Fellowship were many, the fish were plentiful, but the fishers were few.

Lorne Sanny, Navigator Associate (thank you Cecil Bean for posting this!)

Summer and Escaping the Prowling Lion

Summer is here and our Bible study group is on vacation!  Now, this is a good thing because everyone, including ministries, needs a “sabbath” in order to stay refreshed, focused and energized. Additionally, we need time to plan and prepare for the new session, which starts in September.

But hear this word from my friend Susie Walther —

The bad thing about summer is that too many women choose to fall off their spiritual wagons during the breaks.. Le me ask you this:

Do you know what happens to the gazelle who separates lion-and-antefrom the pack on the African plain? She gets eaten by the lions! Satan is described in the Bible as a prowling lion. Don’t ever forget that. When we stay linked and connected to each other, we can protect, encourage, and spur each other on, but if we begin separating from the “pack” and isolating from Christians who are running hard after Christ, we become easy pickings for the hungry lions.

I want to encourage you to fight hard for a few things during the break. Fight hard for your time with Jesus – reading His Word, journaling your God-thoughts, memorizing some Scripture, and talking to God in prayer. Fight hard to stay with the “pack” by going to coffee or lunch with other women. Some of us go to the same church, so why not sit and worship together and then invite women to join you for the next session of your Bible study group? Stay connected through your ministry’s Facebook page.  Then look around and see if you see any stragglers. If you do – grab them before they become the Devil’s chow! Don’t slow down and for Jesus’ sake, don’t stop or quit!

Why become a spiritual carcass when you could have been spiritually alive and well instead? 

The Point of Holy Week

crossThis week is Holy Week. That means a lot to some and absolutely nothing to others, unfortunately. This is the week leading up to the holiest day in all Christendom – the day Jesus Christ defeated sin, hell and the grave through one miraculous act of resurrection, making it possible for death to work backwards in our lives.

Now, what should be clear beyond a shadow of any doubt is that Jesus didn’t come to earth on Christmas Day, die a brutal death on Good Friday and raise from the dead on Easter Sunday so we could go to church once a week to sing songs and listen to a message.

What should be equally clear is that He didn’t teach for 3 years in a teeny country in the Middle East so we could sit around and read books and do Bible studies on the things He taught.

YET you’d almost think from the way we live and approach the Word of God that Christ’s life, death and resurrection were so we could go to church and join a small group. But it’s just got to sink in that neither of those is the point. Church and Bible study are good and they can be a means to the point, but they are not the point itself.

The point really is Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. God is calling us to participate in Jesus’ life, which is meant to define our character and ministry to others. God is calling us to participate in Jesus’ death, which is meant to define our expectations and sacrifice here. God is calling us to participate in Jesus’ resurrection, which defines our existence as new creations. As new creations, we are the light of this world. The ministers of Christ. The ambassadors of Christ. The witnesses of Christ. The martyrs of Christ. Our lives are not our own. They belong to the One who lived and died and rose again and told us to go into the world and make disciples of it.

So, go to church, friend. Go to Bible study. Join a small group. But if that’s mostly all you do, then I’m afraid you’ve missed the point.  

Yours, Susie Walther

Are You Wearing Borrowed Clothes?

“So he took them off.” I Samuel 17:39

This past weekend our church hosted Hope For The Heart, a AllisonAllenone day women’s conference with Allison Allen as a guest speaker.  Allison shared many great things with us, and here is a thought I’d like to pass on to you:

You know the story of David and Goliath in I Samuel 17?  Remember when King Saul dresses David up in his armor, helmet, and sword?  And David “… tried walking around because he was not used to them.  “I cannot go in these,” he said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” So he took them off.”

David going to battle in someone else’s clothes would have been a disaster.  David needed to be himself… the young man who knew God, who travelled lightly with only stones, a slingshot, and a history of being delivered by God.

Whose clothes are you wearing these days?  Are you clunking around town, trying to do your job and wage battles in the clothing of another?  How’s all the dressing up and masquerading going for you?

Would you consider taking off the mask you’re wearing?  Would you consider being authentic, real, and known as you really are?  Has it occurred to you that God doesn’t want you dressed up and pretending to be someone else, something other than yourself?

He knows you.  He loves you.  And He has a plan for you, a purpose in life.  But first, you have to take off the mask.