Stay On Schedule

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Every day there is a new article or news report about the most important thing we can do during this virus crisis. From distancing to mask wearing and everything in between. However, there is one thing that is being overlooked and which I think is extremely important.

STAY ON SCHEDULE

All of us, from children to adults, are used to a schedule of some kind. Whether the schedule is for work or school or even the schedule you had if you were already staying at home before this crisis happened. Most everyone has some kind of schedule.

In having this schedule, your brain and body become used to doing things at a certain time. They become accustomed to responding to the need to work, eat, play, sleep at regular intervals. They become conditioned to this is the time and at this time this is what we are supposed to do.

Keeping a schedule when everything you kept a schedule for has been turned upside down is very difficult. It is very easy to slip into pushing the conditioned schedule responses away.

We stay up later watching movies or playing video games. We sleep in later as we realize there is really no where we need be in the mornings. We skip meals or start “grazing” or eating in passing of whatever is available. We stay in our pajamas and routine hygiene can become less and less.

This all may seem quite liberating at first. No demands or pressures to get up at 6am or be in class or at work by 8am. We can choose Netflix or Hulu and lie in bed all day long. Sounds like what we may have longed for all those days we were bound to the schedule.

Very soon after, however, our brains and bodies start to react to the lack of schedule and routine. The brain becomes sluggish. As if it’s not really awake. The body starts to feel tired even if we are sleeping more. We have body aches and pains from all this new laying about for hours. We start to feel sad and then possibly irritated or both. And we long for our past schedule and the activities that go with it.

It is especially true for younger people and children. Their need for structure, routine, and schedule is even more pronounced. Without it, they fall into boredom, sadness, irritation and are less able to self-regulate their emotions, which leads to outbursts of anger or tears.

When you add on possible fears of getting sick or having someone in your life who is sick and then add on possible job losses and financial issues, this can increase the body and brain’s response to lack of schedule.

So, how do we manage this at this time in our lives? We must make every attempt to stick as close as possible to the schedule we had before this event started. The brain and body need it. We need it. Yes there can be some leeway or stray from the 6am alarm time, but it should not be more than a couple of hours at most and the same for bedtime. Eating should be monitored so as not to stress eat or eat poorly. Hydration should be kept up. Getting outside should be scheduled in.

You can make a new schedule with different activities due to the way things must be managed during this time, but you can make a schedule and stick to it.

Believe me, your brain and body will thank you for it. You will feel better and your emotions will feel better. And it is not too late to start if you haven’t been doing it thus far. Today is a new day and your schedule can begin again.

Until next time,
Deborah

Get Some Sun

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Social distancing does not prevent us from going outside. It just helps us not to congregate together. Going outside is essential to physical and mental health and even more so during this time.

Most of us are spending a lot of time at home right now. We are finding it difficult to keep on a schedule. We are consuming a lot of streaming shows and videos. We just are not getting out much in some cases.

Our bodies and minds need the outside and they need the sunshine and vitamin D. During this time of staying at home, it does not mean we cannot go outside and get some sun. There are many ways to do it and the benefits are invaluable.

In northern climates, it is even more important to get out and get some sun due to the fact that there is less exposure during the winter months. Increasing your intake of vitamin D can also be helpful, but being in the sun is still necessary.

Recently in Montana, we had some snow for a couple of days. It was cold and the sun wasn’t out and many people I talked to felt very down during those days. The sun is out now and it is beautiful outside, and we need to be outside too.

Even if it is just to go out into your own yard or on to your own porch for an hour or two. Going on walks on paths and trails or bike rides in the sunshine. Walking around the block of you neighborhood a few times. Or just getting a lawn chair and sitting in your driveway in the sun.

It does not matter how you get out and get sun just that you do. Your mind and body will feel so much better and brighter just like the sun itself. Even a few minutes can make a big difference.

Remember to keep your distance with others when you are out, but go outside. Staying in the house all the time during this crisis is not helpful. Social distancing does not mean complete isolation. We need to still be social in the ways that we can and we need to be outside as much as possible when the sun is out.

Go outside today. Get your family outside. Soak in some vitamin D and be mindful of the beauty of the coming spring and change of season.

Go outside and get some sun. Your mind and body will be grateful for it and your spirits will be lifted.

Until next time,
Deborah

Calm Your Worries

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In times of uncertainty and increased anxiety, our worries can increase with out fears. With each added worry or fear, we can find ourselves feeling overwhelmed and in some cases unable to do even the most basic things.

The first step to calming your worries is acknowledging they exist. Many times, we think it is easier to ignore or deny or dismiss what it is we are afraid of or worrying about. This might work temporarily but the worries present themselves again at some point and in usually greater numbers.

Sometimes we use behaviors to distance ourselves from the fears or worries. By using substances or sleeping all the time or becoming irritated and taking that frustration out on others around us. But still we are not recognizing the fears and worries for what they are.

Confronting fears and then truthfully analyzing them is the only way to take away their power. Monitoring the truthfulness of the fears or worries. This can be done in a variety of ways.

Keeping a journal of your fears or worries. Writing them down daily. Coming back to them the next day to see if they actually came to pass. If they did not, then it helps to reinforce that they are not true and are a creation of your mind. If you do this repeatedly you will find that your mind starts to dismiss the same fears or worries because you have already shown it that they are not going to happen.

There is an app also that can help with managing fears and worries. It is Worry Watch. The app helps you keep track of your fears and worries and also helps you to track the truthfulness of them. There are also positive affirmations and other tools for reinforcing new thoughts to replace you fears and worries.

In times of uncertainty, fear and worry seem to grow rapidly. It is important to face them, apply the test of truthfulness to them, and replace them with different thoughts that are true.

Take some time today to get ahead of your fears and worries before they get ahead of you.

Until next time,
Deborah

The Importance Of Self-Care In Isolation

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Self-care is an important practice at all times, but now even more so during these periods of isolation. With so many things on our minds during this time including care for others, worries about jobs and bills, children home from school, not being able to get supplies, our own self-care can fall by the wayside.

Isolation for those not used to it and even for those who are who feel even more isolated can result in an increase in mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

It is very important to keep up your self-care routine as much as possible or to start doing self-care on a more regular basis while isolated. Many of our self-care options are being limited by social distancing such as gyms, movies, massages, restaurants, etc. We can find that many of the things we did for self-care before are not available to us now.

That is when we have to find new ways to care for ourselves in the confines of our current situation. If we do not find these outlets for our anxiety and depression, we may find ourselves sinking further into despair and worry.

Here are some ways to practice self-care at home during this time:

1 – Writing. Starting or continuing a journal. Writing poetry. Writing short stories. Getting emotional transference through writing.

2 – Meditation. Continuing or starting a meditation practice. Calming your mind can go a long way to calming your life. Apps like Headspace, Calm, Worry Watch, and more can help you in this meditation process.

3- Art. Painting, drawing, crafting, creating and any other art related activity can inspire creativity, promote the release of dopamine and focus your thoughts on what you are doing.

4 – Games. Playing games can be very helpful during this time. If you have kids at home playing games with them or playing games by yourself on your phone, computer, or gaming system. I wouldn’t recommend doing it nonstop but every now and then offers a good break in the routine.

5 – Organizing. Taking a room of your house one at a time and organizing, managing clutter, and tidying up can not only help your home space but your mind space as well.

6 – Schedules. Having a set schedule for each day regardless of if you can go out of the house or not. A time to get up, make breakfast, work on tasks, do self-care, etc. If you have children, a schedule is necessary to continue providing structure and routine which they desperately need.

7 – Get Outside. Even if you cannot go to places you normally would, you can go outside your house. Even if it is just to sit outside in your yard in the sun, it will make a HUGE difference.

8 – Exercise. Do some kind of exercise. Even if it’s just stretching. Yoga, walking around your house, anything to get you moving and get those endorphins and dopamine going.

9 – Humor. Don’t get trapped in the gloom and doom of the news, social media, and your fellow man. Find some humor. Find ways to laugh, a lot. Funny videos, movies, comedians and things like this are all ways to have a good laugh.

10- Therapy. If you go to therapy already either keep going in to the office if possible or see if your therapist can offer telehealth (video sessions). If you feel you need to see a therapist do the same thing, go in or see if they offer video. Your mental health is important too.

These are just some of the things you can do during this time of isolation to take care of your self-care. Don’t stop taking care of you.

Because you matter.

Until next time,
Deborah

Responding To Fear

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The coronavirus is making it’s way through the world and the fear that accompanies it is overtaking many people’s minds. In many cases, the fear is far surpassing the actual virus and causing many to feel anxious and in some cases more anxious.

As I tell my clients, fear is the strongest emotion in the world. It is fear that drives almost every decision that people make. Fear pushes people to act and react in ways that they might not normally. And now fear is at the heart of this virus.

The way that fear spreads is by our response to it. If we respond to fear with fear, then the fear grows bigger. When many people are afraid and that fear is reinforced by media and government, the fear grows and spreads and then behaviors change and our anxiety increases.

So how do we manage our response to the fears of those around us, the fears coming from media and government? The same way we respond to any other fear that we encounter. In the present moment, what do we know as the truth in our own lives.

In this moment, what is happening in your life only. What is occurring in your own life, your own house, at the moment. Not what is happening to others. Not what the media or government say. But what are you actually experiencing in your own life at the present moment.

We cannot control the fears of others or their responses to it. We can only try to control our response. But that is not easy to do when we are surrounded by the fear of others.

This is why it is so important to stay focused on what you know to be true in your present moment. Not what other people are saying is true or how other people are responding to their own fears. But what is true for you, right now, this moment.

Fear is very contagious. It is spread when we accept other people’s fears as our own. We can be proactive during this virus by washing our hands, staying home if we are sick, staying hydrated, and getting enough rest. We do not have to panic or allow others panic to increase our fear.

Stay in the now with what you know to be true for yourself. Take precautions but avoid panic and the fear of others. Breathe in, breathe out. Let go of fear and doubt.

Until next time,
Deborah

Inspiration For Survivors

This week I thought I would do something a little different. We all need inspiration. We all need motivation. We can all use encouragement for our journeys. Seven quotes to encourage, inspire, motivate each day of this week. Use them as affirmations, read through them every day, repeat and reinforce.

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Being an overcomer, a survivor means that you have been at the bottom, the darkest places, but you have chosen not to live there. You have found ways to motivate yourself, believe in yourself, never give up on yourself. If you feel you haven’t started that journey yet, perhaps these quotes can help you take that first step.

Believe in yourself, always.

Until next time,
Deborah

How To Identify An Addiction

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Whenever most people hear the word addiction, their first thought is drugs or alcohol. While drugs and alcohol can lead to addiction, they are by no means the only things people can be addicted to.

An addiction is anything in our lives that we cannot stop doing and that we feel compelled to continue doing and if we attempt to stop doing it we suffer negative reactions.

We can be addicted to almost anything. Food, exercise, shopping or spending, gambling, phones or tablets, video games, self-harm such as cutting, soda, hoarding, cleaning, and anything else we are not able to stop doing and that if we try to stop causes us negative reactions.

Addictions are built up over time of repetition and reinforcement. Similar to forming habits, but the difference in addictions is that our brain becomes convinced that we need the thing we are addicted to and that we cannot live without doing it. We are compelled to do it by what becomes a chemical need for it. The addiction releases dopamine into our brains (reward chemicals) that make us want to have that reward or in some cases release more and more.

If we try to stop these addictive behaviors, we suffer withdrawals just the same as we do if we are addicted to drugs and alcohol. In fact, the withdrawals can be exactly the same. Nervousness, shaking, feeling depressed, being irritable can all be present. I have seen many clients who are addicted to electronic devices and/or video games who stop doing them or are prevented from accessing them by parents, who then display these withdrawal symptoms.

Most all addictions have a negative effect on our lives. We may tell ourselves that our addiction doesn’t affect us negatively so that we can continue doing it, but a truthful examination will show that is not true. Addictions cost us money, time, relationship issues, health issues, emotional issues, and much more. What is your addiction costing you, honestly?

Many people with addictions do not want to give them up. Convinced that they are making their lives better or that the addictions make them feel better emotionally (which dopamine can do that) but it is a false sense of feeling better. It is avoidance of dealing with the emotions that are driving the addiction. Many times, I have clients say, I play video games all day because I enjoy it. Only minimally true, it is more likely because they are avoiding a negative emotion or situation. Constant dopamine release can make one feel that way.

So, if you have an addiction, how do you break it? One step at a time. One choice at a time. One moment at a time. And working to gain understanding of what the addiction is helping you to avoid? Emotions, trauma, relationships? It can take quite some time to break an addiction and there will be negative responses by both your body and brain during this time. This is why many people start trying to break an addiction and when the negative responses come they find it too hard and give up or relapse.

Even if that happens, we can always start again and again and again. As long as we are alive, we have the opportunity to begin again. We do not fail because we do not succeed on the first attempt or the 50th, we fail because we do not try again.

One step at a time. One day at a time. One hour at a time. One second at a time. One choice at a time. Repeat as often as necessary. Fail. Try again. And then keep trying.