Excuse Me, Your Tranquility Is Slipping

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Counselors are human too.

It started off badly, my work day. My car wouldn’t start, again. It has some sort of electrical drain issue. No one was home except me and so I had to use my youngest son’s car, which I loathe.

Driving to my office I encountered, in the 5 minutes it takes me to get there, multiple drivers who were less than stellar. I get to the office and realize that I had forgotten to schedule a client that day. And multiple other no good, very bad events followed.

My first client comes in and I am quite stressed by this point. Not the ideal situation for doing therapy, but counselors are human too. The client notices my “aura” and asks how I am doing. So, I shared just a few of the day’s events and then I look at the wall beside the client’s head.

I have some different wall clings on the walls of my office with lovely sayings, cherry blossom limbs, and words. The word beside the client’s head is….tranquility. And it was hanging halfway off the wall. And to the end of the sentence about my day’s events, I added…

“and now my effing tranquility is slipping.”

The client looked at the barely clinging tranquility and started laughing, really laughing. I started laughing, really laughing. We laughed so loud and so hard and I was crying laughing and the client was too. It was amazing.

After we had stopped laughing, I was able to continue the session, feeling much less stressed. I later wondered, was my tranquility slipping a result of the stress I was putting into the universe and seeing it was a message from that same universe that even if your tranquility is slipping, it’s not as bad as you think.

You can let it overwhelm you or you can laugh until you cry about it. You can also just stick that crap back on the wall and carry on.

Counselors can be viewed as above the fray of things, objective, even distant at times. However, just like everyone else, even counselors have bad days, get stressed out, and watch their tranquility slipping.

Counselors are human too.

The New Normal

question mark on yellow background

Every day, many times a day, the phrase “the new normal” is spoken by thousands perhaps millions of people in regards to what happens after the coronavirus crisis. But even as this is said, it is almost immediately followed with the phrase “I don’t know”.

And here is where the issues start for most people. I don’t know is a phrase filled with uncertainty just as much of this situation is. There are so many questions that cannot be answered.

There are a lot of maybe answers. A lot of possible answers. A lot of if this happens, then this is the answer but if that happens, then this is the answer. There is no certainty, no knowing.

And this is a very scary place for the human mind to live.

Human beings want certainty. They want answers. They want safety and security. One of the biggest needs that human beings have is to be able to feel safe and secure. The phrase “I don’t know” does not offer either of those things only the unknown.

When things are unknown it leads to the mind then creating what it thinks will happen, good and bad. In anxious situations and thinking, the mind generally creates what bad things will happen because we don’t know and we have no control over the outcome.

Worst case scenario, catastrophes, predicting the future, all of these and more become where the mind goes. These anxieties build on themselves and in short order we are overwhelmed with anxiety about every aspect of our lives.

It is tremendously difficult during times like these to find space to stop and really think about how our anxious thoughts are affecting our lives, our choices, our emotions.

But stop we must or be overtaken with fear.

The way to confront these thoughts is to stop with every single one and ask the question, what is going on in my life right now that is true. Not what I am creating or imagining, but what is actually happening right now. Do I have a place to live, do I have food, is my family safe. These are the basic needs for safety and can calm many other fears once we acknowledge that we have this security.

Every anxious thought must be confronted with the lens of truth. If we are creating coming catastrophes with our thoughts, we must ask are they true right now this moment. If they are not, we must then replace them with what is true in this moment. We cannot predict the future, no one can, we must live in the right now. And only the right now.

There is no good that can come from anxious living and thinking. That is something we do know.

It can be difficult to confront anxious thoughts as they can quickly go from one thought to a mountain of thoughts. We must start with the first thought and confront it. Then the next, and the next, and the next. Repeat and reinforce the truth not the unknown.

Things that we do not know can only hurt us if we let them, if we give them power. The truth takes their power away and keeps our mind from being overwhelmed.

The new normal is to stay in the right now and live in the truth.

The Anxiety Of Reopening

woman in gray coat wearing white face mask

Throughout the Covid-19 virus crisis, anxiety has been a part of the lives of many. Even with the shut down orders in most states, many people are still anxious about their own health or the health of friends and loved ones.

People have been anxious about their education as schools are closed. More have been anxious about their jobs as employment has also been shut down for many people. Still others are anxious about loss of income and paying their bills.

There has been anxiety over supplies such as toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Anxiety over relationships as being at home with others all the time can be very stressful and in some cases even dangerous.

Some states are now beginning phased reopening. Some businesses are being allowed to reopen with guidelines. People are starting to come out of their houses in much greater numbers. The traffic in stores is increasing daily. Some people are being allowed to go back to work.

This brings fresh anxiety to many people. Will it be safe to go out? Will my family and friends be safe if they go out or if I go out and come back to them? Will I be protected in my work environment? Will reopening cause cases of the virus to go up?

All of these things are unknowns.

As so much of this virus is, unknowns are a huge part of this crisis. From the symptoms to when will things get back to “normal”. No one has all the answers and in some cases they have no answers at all.

This is all very difficult for humans. We do not enjoy unknowns. We want answers. We want to know. When this is not possible we get anxious. Reopening is just the latest in a long line of unknowns that can cause anxiety during this crisis.

So what can we do? Concentrate on what we do know, however little that might be. Concentrate on what is going on in our lives right now. Are we going back to work? How will that be managed? What can we do if we do not feel safe going back to work?

Concentrate on what we know right now for our friends and family. Are they healthy? How can they continue to be protected?

Stay focused on what is going on in the right now moment. Not on what you do not know and what no one can give you answers to.

You can also work to lower your response to anxiety. Meditation, deep breathing, exercise, journaling, hobbies, and other forms of self-care to continually train your mind and body to relax. Let go of negative or anxious thoughts by writing them or practicing the cloud technique of watching them float by and replacing them with positive or relaxing thoughts.

In this new world of unknowns the possibly of anxiousness seems to be lurking everywhere. We can work to avoid giving in to it and allowing it to overtake our emotions. We can’t have all the answers, but we can practice staying in the present moment with what we do know.

One Thing

I have had a lot of conversations lately with people feeling overwhelmed with everything going on in their lives. Feeling as if they try to do one thing and then see all the other things they need to do and move on to something else and something else and ending up doing none of them well and feeling inadequate and overwhelmed.

I have been telling all of the people who are feeling this way that a beginning to gaining some control over these feelings is to do ONE thing. It doesn’t matter what that one thing is, just do ONE thing. Whether that one thing be decompressing in the bathroom or your bedroom of your home when you arrive from work for even 5 minutes. Changing your clothes into something more comfy, washing your face, taking a 5 minute brisk shower, doing 5 minutes of meditation or journal writing BEFORE you engage with other people or things in your home. Just a brief break to gather yourself and your thoughts. And when this one thing is accomplished, recognize it and yourself for having done so. Say it out loud, I have done this one thing, I feel more calm, I can think more clearly.

Another ONE thing can be to take a break when you feel overwhelmed. This can be the most difficult for overwhelmed people to do. The feelings generally push harder on us to get these things done or manage this situation or deal with these people wanting our attention right now all at once. When you start to feel overwhelmed take a break. A break can be just going into another room and doing some deep breathing. A 5 minute or even a 1 minute meditation. Going outside and grounding yourself in nature. Lying on a bed or even the floor and grounding yourself with the 5 steps – What can you see, what can you hear, what can you touch, what can you smell, what can you taste. Wash your face or take a quick brisk shower. Go for a short walk around the place where you are. Color something or do some free writing and emotionally transfer your feelings out of you. One thing, just one thing, can change your mindset in seconds. Again, be sure to recognize the one thing you are doing and recognize what it does for your emotions and how that feels in your body.

If you are driving from school or work to home or somewhere else use the drive to decompress. Do some deep breathing while you are driving. Get into the being mode while driving and notice everything around you during the drive instead of going on automatic pilot and letting your thoughts dominate the drive. Put on some relaxing music or something you like to sing to. Do progressive muscle relaxation while you drive. Don’t spend the drive thinking about all the things that will confront you at your destination and things you cannot control.

Try it out today. Do ONE thing to redirect anxiety and overwhelming feelings. It does not matter what the one thing is just make sure to acknowledge it, notice it, pay attention to how it makes you feel and where you experience that emotion in your body. Do ONE thing every day that centers you.

Until next time,
Deborah
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Enhance Your Calm

Enhance your calm and be well. So many of my clients struggle with anxiety related issues and find it hard to be calm. Whether it is non-stop thoughts, worrying about what other people say or think about them, inability to sleep or sleep well, social situations, past events or traumas they find it hard to notice the present moment, breathe, and relax. With just a few changes or additions to your daily routine, you can learn to enhance your calm and be well.

Everyone is so busy or think they are so busy that they often feel they cannot incorporate any calming strategies into their lives. However, many of those calming activities can take just a few short minutes each day. If you cut a few minutes off your time spent on your phone or other devices you could find the time very quickly to enhance your calm.

Meditation practice offers many ways to incorporate calm into your life. Headspace is a guided meditation app I have used for years. It offers a free option with 10 basic meditation units that you can use over and over again to become more calm. It also offers a paid version that has meditation units as short as 1 minute in length and other units that are targeted to specific situations. Meditation is not about learning how to STOP thinking it is about learning to notice your thoughts and let them GO. Seeing your thoughts as clouds and that just pass through, not as plants that put down roots and stay.

Another way to enhance your calm quickly is practicing deep breathing techniques. There are several techniques to practice and you may find you benefit from one more than another. It just takes practice. You can practice before sleep, while driving, on the bus, in class or at work, while you are scanning your electronic devices. Everyone has a few minutes to spare to enhance their calm.

Progressive muscle relaxation is another way to enhance your calm that once you have practiced it only takes a few minutes as well. Once you have learned the “script” by practicing multiple times, you will be able to achieve deep relaxation throughout your muscles with head to toe calm.

Essential oils can be an additional item to use to manage anxiety and stress. Using aromatherapy through diffusers, applying oils to cotton balls, or just breathing them as you are doing deep breathing practice can enhance your calm dramatically. Some of the best oils to use for anxiety and stress are Valerian, Jatamansi, Lavendar, Bergamot, Chamomile, Ylang-Ylang, Vetiver, Frankincense, Clary Sage, Holy Basil are all very good at enhancing your calm. Blends of these oils are even more effective. Always use pure, organic oils for aromatherapy to get the best results.

Some other ways to enhance your calm that you can add on to these more practiced ways include exercise even if it’s just a little bit to release endorphins, very dark chocolate at least 80% cocoa, laughing A LOT, and a nice cup of Sleepytime tea from time to time.

If you find yourself getting on to your phone or other device and thinking you will spend just a few minutes only to realize you’ve been at it for hours, binge watch full seasons of shows on Netflix in a weekend, or spending a lot of time wondering how to feel less anxious – you have time to use some of these ways to enhance your calm and be well.

Until next time,
Deborah

If you think counseling can help you enhance your calm more and learn how to let go of some of the things that keep you anxious and worried, I am accepting new clients (adolescent girls and adult women) for counseling. Call 406-413-9904 or email mindfulmontanawellness@gmail.com to set up a FREE initial consultation.