It's common knowledge and well-supported by research:
Meditation has innumerable benefits for our mental & physical wellbeing.
The app I recommend most to my clients is the Calm app. Kaiser members can enjoy a nice benefit: a free year of Calm Premium.
To access this benefit, simply visit this link, click "Try Calm", sign in to your Kaiser account when prompted, and you're in!
A quick tip for stressful times...
Do you use white noise or nature sounds to help you sleep, focus, or self-soothe?
Are you a cat lover?
Then you might enjoy PURRLI - the "white noise purr generator." :)
It's free here! https://purrli.com/
At first, I was just intrigued by the cute idea, and I thought my neurotic cat might benefit from it. But when I listened through my earbuds, I was struck by how instantly soothed I felt! It was visceral, really.
It makes sense. Purring is understood as both a way for cats to self-soothe, and an attachment behavior that conveys pleasure and comfort in the presence of another.
Some PURRLI users report relief from anxiety and panic attacks. Others use it to sleep, or to help them cope with grief after losing a beloved pet.
My friend’s mother died last week. She said goodbye to her on Facetime. My friend and her seven-year-old son held the phone with shaky hands- and they sang and cried and said goodbye. Her husband sat close and cried. Their son did not understand what was happening. Neither did my friend. Neither did her husband.
My mom is still here. But I miss her.
When this is over, we will be different –my mom and I.
We used to believe there was solid ground.
When my mom and I finally run toward each other, we will check each step. We will expect tremors.
When this is over, our children will be different.
They have seen the worst of us.
They know now that we don’t know.
That we don’t know how to save them.
That sometimes we do know--but we don’t do it.
When this is over -- we will all be different.
Let Us Vow to Stay Different.
In the after:
Let us keep our to-do lists shorter.
Let us keep our grudges shorter.
Our patience, our visits, our naps, our laughter, our embraces--Let’s make them longer.
In the after, let us refuse to be tricked again into believing that
We are what we get done.
We are who we align with, who we hate, what we reject, what we have and consume and produce and save and spend and claim.
We Are Who And What We Love.
That is all we’ve ever been and that is all we’ll ever be.
We are our mothers and our fathers and our friends and our sisters and our brothers and our grandparents and our grandchildren and our children and our books and our pets and our neighbors and our couches and our sunsets and that long walk down that one path where the light slices through the trees just right and reminds us of magic.
When this is over, we will be different.
Let us vow to Stay different.
Let us remember Who We Are.
And to those of you who say:
“We won’t remember. We will go back to ‘normal.’ People always do.”
To those I say: You don’t know us.
We’ve missed our people.
We’ve missed everything.
We are different.
*sometimes, in the evenings especially - the energy it takes to be angry is gone. Then, there is just sadness. I understand. Me too.
How has your experience of the pandemic changed you? Have any of your priorities shifted? In what ways do you hope to "stay different" as life eventually moves back to normal?
The global pandemic continues to play out....
At this point, I think a lot of us are having alternating periods of better days and worse days, shifting moods and concerns, and - hopefully - blocks of time or whole days where we feel ok or even content. Some folks are, of course, struggling more than others, and if this applies to you, my heart goes out to you!
Our feelings are all real and natural, given what we're going through!
For folks with trauma histories, though, there can be more to this picture. There may be a sense of re-traumatization as they are faced with emotions that harken back to previous traumas they have survived. The current global stressors of uncertainty, fear, loneliness, isolation, conflict at home, lack of financial or food security, and/or upset at our "fathers" and "mothers" in government for failing to protect us - all of these can consciously or unconsciously trigger old feelings from prior traumas, and infuse this experience with extra intensity.
"Big T" and "Little T" Trauma
We ALL have "little T" traumas, and many (if not most) of us have "Big T" traumas too. Big T's are things we all recognize as trauma, like abuse, rape, having someone close to you die, witnessing a traumatic incident, growing up in extreme poverty, and so forth.
I think of Little T's as events that are more subjective and specific to yourself and your particular life experiences and temperament. These events might seem more subtle, random, or benign to someone else, but you recognize them as having had significant symbolic power or psychological impact upon you.
For example, something that caused you to feel deep shame as a child may leave an indelible mark, whereas another child with a different personality and history may laugh off the same event and never think of it again.
Or maybe your father once slapped you, and despite his apology and a lack of any lasting physical mark, you recognize that psychologically, this was a turning point in your life.
Trauma and the pandemic - taking inventory
Our reactions to this pandemic can sometimes be taken at face value, and other times, we may sense that there is something else "adding to" what is happening in the present. During this period of ongoing sheltering at home and experiencing the pandemic unfolding, if you find yourself struggling or feeling intense emotions, you might find it helpful to ask yourself, "Could any of my past traumas be playing a part in how I'm feeling and behaving right now?"
For example, if you're really preoccupied with FEAR, what is another situation(s) in which you felt significant fear in your life?
If tension or CONFLICT in your home right now is deeply troubling you, consider other relationships or living situations in your past when you were exposed to significant anger or conflict.
Making the connection and getting support
Connecting your feelings in the present to significant experiences in the past, when relevant, can be helpful for self-understanding, processing your feelings, and possibly reducing the intensity of your emotions as you consciously de-fuse the present from the past. Please ask for emotional support from loved ones, or a therapist or other trusted supportive person, and try to cultivate that healing attitude of self-compassion.
HBO is providing free entertainment for April!
TV and movies have an important value for us during the pandemic. We can use it as a "healthy dissociation" that allows us to take a break from news, anxious thoughts, and overwhelming emotions. It's not healthy for us to spend too much time in a heightened state of anxiety without a break. We need a variety of tools to helps us find relief, or self-regulation. So go ahead and watch more than usual if you like!
Here's a helpful article that describes and shares links to videos for 10 calming breathing exercises.
Don't underestimate the power of the breath to help us cope with overwhelming emotions and challenging situations!
In these anxious times when we lack control over some of the events happening around us, we can empower and arm ourselves with tools that help us regulate our bodies and turn down our anxious mental chatter.
It's helpful to practice these in a calm state to find what works well for you. That way, if you find yourself overwhelmed with powerful feelings, you will be ready and familiar with the tools so you can use them effectively when you most need them.
In circumstances where we feel highly anxious or traumatized, channeling anxieties into useful action and helping others can be key to restoring our sense of agency and connectedness, while reducing helplessness.
We're all scrambling to adjust to the changes, and not everyone has the time and energy to volunteer right now. But if and when you can, here are some ideas!
* If you know of additional opportunities, you can mention them in the comments section *
** Donate blood to the Red Cross (who reports experiencing severe blood shortages due to cancelled office blood drives): www.redcross.org/give-blood.html
** Make financial contributions... for example:
-In the SF Bay Area the new "Give2SF Fund" is raising money to provide shelter, food, and assistance in response to coronavirus to San Francisco charities who most need it right now: www.give2sf.org
-The Marin Community Foundation has set up a #COVID-19 relief fund to soften the social and economic impacts of the pandemic: Emergency rental assistance for low-income residents/ Expanded food for economically disadvantaged families/ Expanded meals for seniors/ Wi-Fi mobile access for economically disadvantaged students/ Emergency childcare for health care workers and emergency responders
-Feed The Frontlines Marin is raising money to deliver hot meals to our beloved medical workers on the frontlines, who are reportedly struggling to find time to get to the cafeteria: https://donorbox.org/feed-the-frontlines-marin
** Jewish Family and Children's Services has volunteer opportunities. Apply online here or call 415-449-3807 (serves families in San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin, and Sonoma Counties).
-Calling high-risk seniors daily to monitor their safety and security (Safe at Home program)
-Delivering food to serve housebound individuals
**NextDoor.com's Help Maps
NextDoor is like Craigslist by neighborhood, if you're not familiar with it. They have created a feature called Help Maps: "Daily activities may be risky for more vulnerable neighbors. Let neighbors know if you can help with essential needs like picking up groceries."
**Sew DIY face masks for medical personnel and deliver them to hospitals to help them as they wait for critical PPE supplies to arrive. (Note: there doesnt seem to be consensus on the safety of DIY masks, so it's a good idea to reach out to local physicians or hospitals to ask if they want these. Many groups on places like Twitter and Next Door are organizing local efforts and sharing patterns and tips).
**If you have a housekeeper, gardener, babysitter, or other service provider, continue to pay them while you're socially distancing. You can always get creative and brainstorm an arrangement with them so they can maintain their livelihood, and make it up somehow later if you need the money.
** Deliver supplies to high-risk and quarantined folks in your family or community
** Offer emotional support to those feeling lonely and/or in distress
Additional Opportunities for Licensed Psychotherapists
**THE COVID-19 PRO BONO COUNSELING PROJECT Pro Bono Counseling for Front-line Healthcare Workers Facing COVID-19 in concert with UCSF. To volunteer, click here.
**THE COVID-19 WARM-LINE INITIATIVE
Warm-line offers support daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the COVID-19 crisis. To volunteer, click here
The yoga collective is offering a free month of yoga at https://www.theyogacollective.com/
Are you worried you won't be able to make your student loan payments because the Coronavirus has impacted your finances?
From MoveOn's Student Debt Crisis:
"We’re familiar with responding to emergencies and we take seriously our responsibility to equip people with the tools they need to navigate this extraordinarily confusing and challenging time. While we are urging Congress to cancel student debt during this crisis, we don’t have to wait to immediately help student loan borrowers.
We are announcing the free ‘COVID-19 Student Loan Aid Tool’ for people impacted by layoffs, reduced hours, healthcare expenses, or any other harm caused by this crisis.
The only emergency tool helps people enroll in federal programs that can reduce or eliminate their monthly student loan payments.
Please stay healthy – and know that the Student Debt Crisis is on your side as we weather this together."
Poem for the Pandemic
by Lynn Ungar, 3/11/20
What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath--
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.
Promise this world your love–
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.
Maysie Tift is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a Certified Master Hypnotist with offices in San Rafael, CA and San Francisco, CA.