Category: <span>Anxiety</span>

Type A Meet Type C (Covid19)

Have you noticed that when your world is filled with the unknown, our subconscious fears, tucked away neatly, have resurfaced with force? If we like to control things, this is like a big slap in the face. The new Covid-type rules of engagement ask us to do our “best” in an unpredictable environment, both indoors and out. Some people thrive in chaos, their engines rev, and while even worried they may work better, like our superheroes of the ER. But for many “Type A’s” who fear not getting it all done, or losing their place, my heart goes out to you. You know who you are. I know who you are — because I revere you. I wish I had that gene to be more proactive or at least enable me to fold a four cornered towel neatly. I hired an organizer to organize my organizer. (if you can understand that, then I know which Type you are)

Fair be it to call me out on stereotyping the perfectionists but give me a pass. My intention is to highlight that flexibility and compassion for the imperfect are necessary now. The burden to hold it together and be everything to everyone is felt by so many. That slogan “we are all in this together,” is comforting. Perhaps, not so much when you’re lying awake at night, feeling guilty for not finishing the dishes. For, there is no “we” vacuuming while you sleep.

If you are constantly hearing “I should” statements in your head or someone else’s, I want to remind you to stop right there. It could be that being perfect may have its roots in creating a sense of control. If so, we have less now. If you feel guilty or unproductive, be mindful of how much energy it takes to carry that shame around. Stop comparing yourself to Pinterest boards or your buddies who are building cars out of erector sets. If you admonish yourself for not doing, finishing, or giving 100%, then please rethink your purpose. Give yourself the gift of a new picture of what 100% means and STAT. It cannot look the same pre-virus and it does today. The 8-hour workday is an impossibility at home. How can you answer your boss’ call while your two-year-old is crying on your lap? Even as I try and polish this article (we all have a Type A in us somewhere), my teen asks me to make him breakfast and I cave because, who listens to their own advice? Be right back…

[5 hours later…]

How’s it going with the shared workspace and your new annoying co-worker, named “Spouse”? Torturing the enemy should look like assigning a complex project to be finished in 2 hours at home with spotty wifi, alongside their most annoying friend, while homeschooling 3 little people. And you must make lunch for everyone and walk the dog all at the same time. This has major limitations on productivity. Let’s not forget to throw in bonus irritating sounds like crying, loud talking, or someone pacing the entire place while you try to Zoom (that last one is not me, I swear).

We all need to change expectations of self and other. That 100% must equal “good enough,” right now. It is the best we can expect when placed in survival mode. Biologists point out that the resiliency of a species depends on its ability to adapt to changing environments. Please, give yourself a break. Redefine your perfect. Redefine what “giving your all” means during this pandemic. It may look like making sure there is food on the table or stopping to give hugs to an anxious child. Everything is going to readjust once this crazy time is over. And no one is going to judge you except yourself if you forgot to wake up on time. When this is over, you will have your life back, but not if your mental well-being crashes before any virus gets the best of you.

Stay tuned for my next posit “COVID and ADHD…I can’t find myself in my own house”

Reminders for Life at Home

During our CV-19 crisis, we are having to shift our way of being in this world to a whole new level of “normal.” And for all of us, there is so much unknown; that very word causes a spike in anxiety and fear in many. If there is to be a silver lining in all of this, it would be learning to adjust to slowing down, spending more time with family and not having to be somewhere. This forced slow down does have mental benefits: 

I invite you to notice that when the pressure of “having to do something” or “be somewhere” is lifted, you may feel more calm and less stressed. You may find this is the time you allow yourself “permission” to just BE, and lose the self-judgment. We criticize ourselves multiple times a day for not accomplishing This or That, going to bed angry at ourselves for not finishing your errands, or feeling guilty for turning down an invitation to a party. Now, we have the opportunity to experience the ironic freedom that comes with having to stay at home and say NO to going out when we don’t feel comfortable. In short, this is a chance to experience what it is like to do less. There is a gift here to judge yourself and others less. In community crises, our compassion tends to come to the forefront. Resiliency can stretch throughout the community if we help each other.  

For those that live with family members, being together may at first be challenging but the science of attachment tells us that human connection is what slows down our heart rate and calms our nervous system. In stressful times, we may feel moments of panic (real or perceived), and being with family may provide more opportunity for  healing and support with physical touch such as holding hands or hugging.  

Playing more games or doing art projects is shown to help express difficult feelings. These are great options to helps kids and teenagers who may not want to talk about anything.  Creativity usually creates a shift in our nervous system with new sensations, using different parts of our brain (or body, if using sensory items). Crafts, projects and cooking also shift our focus to something else — usually more positive, but at least a shift is generated which helps us stay more present and less thinking about the future, wondering “how long can I do this?” Grounding yourself (i.e. being present) will help the overwhelming anxiety from taking over. Use your time with family to be open and ask for what you need and see if you get surprised with how our humanity shows up.  

My favorite message to myself and others which comes from my resiliency training is this: “What else is true?”  Can I hold that this very scary, awful thing is happening and also make space for noticing what is not awful at the moment, what else is there…my family, my friends, beautiful nature that surrounds me or my ability to be here in this moment..

Help Now for anxiety in the moment.

Don't you hate it when you feel worried or anxious and someone tells you, "Just relax!"  Sometimes we can't just make it to the beach. And it may even feel like we have no control over the panic or worry. Well, you actually do - if you distract yourself (and your brain) with something in the moment. Try one of the following tactics that you can do instantly. My favorite is using the 5 senses to describe wherever you are...think road rage on the 405 or when you are triggered by the boss in a meeting (okay, mabye don't lie on the floor in that situation...). 

  1. Lie on the floor on your back and practice breathing from your diaphram (tummy).
  2. Smell something strong (pleasant) and say a positive affirmation.
  3. Stand in the “Warrior Pose." Notice your balance and your strength.
  4. Push your hands against the wall (or press your back against the wall) slowly and notice your muscles pushing. Take note of the sensations in your body, the temperature of the wall, the support of the wall, etc.
  5. Name six colors you see in the room (or outside).
  6. Take a bath or shower.
  7. Use your 5 senses and vocalize what you see, hear, feel, smell and taste at this very moment, wherever you are. Use at least 2 descriptive words for each sensation.
  8. Count backwards from 20 as you walk around the room.
  9. Take an ice cube and rub up and down your arm. Notice the sensations.
  10. Drink a cold glass of water.

What to Tell Your Kids When there is a Snow Day – I mean Bomb Day

Where I grew up on the East Coast, we would sit by the radio and listen to the latest weather forecast to find out what our chances were for that anticipated day off from school called the “Snow Day.” If school was cancelled, we would start planning out which sledding run to hit. Those were the good ole days.

Today, here in sunny Los Angeles, We don’t get snow days; We get “Bomb Days.” And without forewarning, we typically find out right after we’ve dropped our precious ones at school, or better, when we are in a business meeting far away from home.

Fortunately, this time for me, I had recently left my 9-5’er to start my private practice and was home sleeping. I was jarred awake by the clanging of my doorbell, coupled with loud banging on the front door at 7:50 am. The only one that could be so annoying was my cute 10 year old. I expected he forgot something on his way to school, but instead I opened the door and he yelled, “No school! Another bomb threat!”

Eh? Seriously? Whah? My brain as haywire as my hair. We just had one 2 days ago. I turned and looked behind me at the high school football field and suddenly wondered if my house was safe.

I closed the door behind my boy and worried if we should be saying words like “bomb” and “threat.” I want to shield my son from scary thoughts and situations. I don’t want him to be afraid… But, is that realistic? I had to ask myself this question… And while I worried, he walked in, pushed me aside, and threw his backpack on the ground, running for the Xbox. He was stoked.

At least with Snow Days, parents tell their kids to put on their hats and coats and be home by dark. Now, what do we tell them? Don’t forget your bullet proof vest? I asked my son if he was scared? He said “No.” Yet, shortly after, he asked if my BF could come over and “guard all the doors.” This request said a lot more than he was willing to.

A couple days later, when we assumed the hubbub was over, we learned LAUSD closed all of its billion schools today. LA has the second largest school district in the nation. Not a small feat. Then, my sister in law called me as I was figuring all this out in my head.

“What’s going on over there?” She asks, as if I have a private line to Homeland Security.
“I don’t know.”
“I saw on the news…it’s some overseas threat!?” She added.
“It is? You know more than me.” I noticed my voice was flat and I didn’t really want to talk about it. I realized I really had nothing to say. I felt a pit in my stomach. I got off the phone quickly, explaining I’m in the middle of dusting.

So, what do you say? Promise everything will be fine? That doesn’t feel right or sound fair. I should know this answer. I am a psychotherapist, trained to help people with their anxiety and managing difficult situations. But in my Mom Moment, I had no idea. I was, after all, scared too.
So, I tried to figure it out…and here is what I know.

  • First of all, Be PRESENT. Turn off your phone, your computer, and the TV. Be close to your children; get on the floor with them. Give plenty of hugs and kisses. Your flight instinct is going to want to takeover and forget all about discipline and routines – This helps us if we are being chased by a tiger. However, it does not help us when we need to pick up our kids from school unexpectedly. So, Parents: Breathe. Breathe and ground yourself before the kiddos get in the car. If you can’t relax, they can’t either.
  • Be Open to your children’s needs --- Ask your child, “What do you need?” While trying to maintain a sense of normalcy in the home, Routines and discipline should be followed but be flexible enough to listen and respect each child’s needs.
  • Talk. Consider developmental ages when you do this. Children are going to see and hear more than we may like. Wouldn’t you rather be the one to first discuss these issues instead of your child’s seat partner? This is another good opportunity to teach children ways to express feelings.
  • Get creative: Draw. Create, write, Act. There is scientific evidence to support that doing something creative is an excellent way to express difficult stuff and quite healing at the same time. Bring out those puppets for the little ones and have them narrate a story.
  • Build Character and Model Resiliency: Talk about values and intentions. How do you want to live your life and what kind of person do you want to be? Our children can be strong in the face of adversity. We aren’t the first to deal with bomb threats. Resilience is being able to adapt, be flexible and stable. Let’s show our kids we can lean into this uncertainty and trust that life will go on.
  • Love yourself. This may sound unrelated to a bomb threat, but this is akin to “give yourself oxygen first, then your child.” If you have a pure heart, your children will too.
  • TRUST. Trust that you have done your best, you have loved your best and there is only so much you can do. Give your child the benefit of accepting that we do not have control over everything and that doesn’t mean life won’t be grand while we manage unsettling situations. Life continues. We are okay.

Perhaps the only thing we do know to be certain is our love for our children. When my two kids come home today, I’m going to hug them tightly and let them ask questions. If I don’t know the answers, that’s okay. The best thing we can do is provide a safe place for them to be curious and find their own answers to whom they want to be and how they want to make their way in the world. We can’t force this, but we can provide the space for their own self discovery.

And even though we don’t have snow here, we do have the ocean nearby. So maybe today, I’ll take them to go build a sand castle instead of an igloo and make snow angels on the beach. I’ll turn this “bomb day” into a “Beach day,” after all.

A version of this was printed online at The Beach Reporter, December 2015