14 Tips for sanity and self care during the Coronavirus pandemic, from the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists and me
Tip 1: Practice Acceptance
A global pandemic is not a usual occurrence. It makes sense that you are feeling uneasy. Allow for your feelings and allow for the reality of the situation. Also allow for the fact that most of us are not in immediate danger, and that we’re working together to find solutions.
Tip 2: Make a Plan
Our brains get very overwhelmed in situations that are out of our control and have uncertain outcomes. Comfort yourself by controlling what you can. Be sure to wash your hands. Do what you need to feel safe and secure. Check out the Red Cross Safety and Readiness Guide here, and share your readiness plan with your family: http://bit.ly/REDCROSSSARG
Tip 3: Stay in the Present Moment
When we bring our mind into the present, and stop ruminating about the future or the past (what has gone wrong and what could go wrong) we realize that we’re ok. Make sure your mind is where your body is. Use a mantra if that’s helpful – “This too shall pass.”
Tip 4: Don’t Overexpose Yourself to the News
Repeatedly viewing or listening to the same scary story can really push your nervous system into full panic mode. Schedule just a few times a day to turn on the news or look at the internet, for about 20 minutes at a time. Set a timer to keep yourself from fixating on the scary stuff.
Tip 5: Pay Attention to your Body
Our brains and our bodies are intricately connected. We feel better emotionally when we feel physically rested. Make sure you are eating healthy, getting a little exercise, and practicing good sleep hygiene. Apps such as Calm offer guided meditations and “body scans” which allow us to increase awareness of the physical and emotional sensations we hold in our bodies (follow this link for a free 30-day trial with Calm).
Tip 6: Practice Deep, Slow Breathing
When you practice deep, slow breathing, you’ll feel less anxious, because your lungs will send a message through your Vagus nerve to your brain that all is well. Practice breathing ‘In’ for a count of six, and breathing ‘Out’ for a count of six, for one full minute or more.
Tip 7: Stay Connected
We are biologically wired to connect with one another, and there is real healing power in connecting with other people who are struggling in similar ways. Even though you may not be able to spend time in groups or see people in person, make sure you’re not isolating more than necessary.
Tip 8: Keep a Balanced Perspective
Even in the most challenging times, we can find a few aspects of our lives that are going well. It is important to focus on the good in times of struggle. If you realize you haven’t laughed or smiled in a while, watch a funny TV show or call a friend who makes you laugh, and remember that the world isn’t all bad. Sometimes, even in the midst of crisis, we can find silver linings.
More tips from me:
Tip 9. Practice Progressive Muscle Relaxation and body scans
This is a fundamental, proven relaxation tool that effectively stimulates the body’s relaxation response. The more you practice it, the more effective it becomes. It’s also a great way to ease yourself into sleep. I’ve posted a 12-minute guided relaxation recording to my homepage, where you can stream it directly any time you feel anxious, tense, or having trouble sleeping: https://www.maysietifttherapy.com
See also body scans in Tip 5.
Tip 10: Think about what helps YOU the MOST
In times of ordinary stress, think about what have you found helps YOU the most. Getting outside/ being in nature? Making 8 hours of sleep a top priority? Eating healthy meals at regular intervals? Playing with your kids or your pet? Spending time with friends? Reading a great book? Watching stand-up comedy specials? Meditating? Cuddling with a loved one? Everyone is different, and you know yourself best. The same strategies you rely on in normal times are likely to have even more positive impact right now.
Tip 11. Look for opportunities to help others
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. Every day we see opportunities to help... click here for some ideas. Aside from these, I bet you someone in your life or your neighborhood who is more isolated or who needs help with errands and so forth, if you have the time and internal resources to help them.
Tip 12. Create routines for the new (but temporary!) normal
Creating some structure and routines for yourself and your family can calm nerves, create a sense of predictability in an otherwise unpredictable time, and help you organize your day. It helps to facilitate acceptance of the changes that are happening, freeing up some energy for you to adapt and creatively rise to the challenge. It may not happen overnight, so go easy on yourself as you implement and revise your schedule as needed! Many parents are trying to loosely follow the rhythms of the school structure their kids are accustomed to.
Many people find it psychologically helpful to shower and groom themselves each morning as they would in normal times. Going days without showers or wearing pjs and holey t-shirts all day can lead to a sense of timelessness, lethargy, and depressed mood.
Tip 13. Connect with others in quarantine
If you’re in quarantine and feeling isolated, you might enjoy the new app QuarantineChat at https://quarantinechat.com/ Here you can talk to others who are in quarantine and understand what you’re going through. Once you sign up, I’m told you'll receive periodic phone calls from others in quarantine, but you don't have to pick up if you’re busy. You can join and leave the line whenever you'd like. You use your phone number to sign up, but others using the app will only ever see your username.
Tip 14. Get outside for some ecotherapy!
Getting outside is one of the most refreshing and mood-supportive activities we can do during this time - especially when we can incorporate some nature (city folks... that includes walking by that neighbor’s house with the amazing rosebushes). Spring is almost here and some flowers are already sprung. If getting outside isn’t accessible for you, trying immersing yourself in beautiful, soothing nature documentary series, such as Blue Planet and Planet Earth.
IF YOU NEED SUPPORT FROM A MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL, PLEASE REACH OUT TO ME, OR USE ONE OF THESE RESOURCES TO FIND A THERAPIST NEAR YOU (OR ONLINE)!:
MAYSIE TIFT, LMFT (only offering online therapy during Shelter at Home period)
How much alcohol is too much?
If you have some concerns about your relationship with alcohol, but you want to keep alcohol in your life, one important piece of your efforts will be looking at concrete numbers. Although alcohol carries some risk at any level of consumption, staying within moderate drinking parameters can greatly reduce your risk and improve your quality of life.
One helpful starting point is to look at the guidelines health researchers have proposed for defining moderate alcohol use. Statistics suggest that the risk of developing alcohol dependence increases when a person's patterns of alcohol consumption exceed the following daily and/or weekly quantities.
Moderate Drinking Guidelines
up to 1-2 drinks* on any given day
up to 7 drinks* in a week
*1 drink is defined as 12 oz regular beer; 5 oz wine, and 1.5 oz liquor.
up to 2-3 drinks* on any given day
up to 14 drinks* in a week
*1 drink is defined as 12 oz regular beer; 5 oz wine, and 1.5 oz liquor.
Those who exceed both the daily and weekly limits are at highest risk for developing alcohol dependence. So if you're comparing your drinking habits to those around you to see how you stack up, these moderation guidelines might be a more helpful framework. They take some of the guesswork and emotional reasoning out of the conversation, so you can consider a research-informed perspective.
A great first step is to download an app such as Saying When to track your alcohol intake for a couple of weeks, and see how your numbers compare to the moderate drinking guidelines. From there, you can begin the work of defining your specific goals, so you know what you're working towards and you have a picture of what lower-risk drinking could look like for you.
Of course numbers aren't everything, and the real work for most people is taking personal factors into account. This is where individual psychotherapy or a supportive group can be helpful. Some can successfully make changes on their own - but everyone can benefit from exploring their alcohol use on a deeper level, which often leads to important insights and opportunities for personal growth. If your drinking is much higher than the moderate drinking guidelines, you'll probably need support as you embark on making changes which can be quite challenging for heavier drinkers.
Note: If you experience serious alcohol withdrawal symptoms, seek medical guidance before reducing or stopping alcohol, as it might be dangerous or even life-threatening to do so on your own.
References for definitions of moderate drinking limits
U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on moderate drinking
UK Department of Health alcohol guidelines
Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse's low-risk drinking guidelines
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommended drinking limits
I know it can be challenging to develop new habits and health practices, but if you are curious about how meditation can benefit you, I'm here to encourage you to go ahead and check it out! It's more accessible than ever, and doesn't require a huge time commitment.
Let's talk about what mindfulness and meditation have to do with your mental health.
A lot! Our brains are neurologically prone to engaging in processes that can cause or exacerbate suffering, and the regular practice of mindfulness and meditation can mediate these effects so that we grow wiser and more peaceful over time.
Meditation can help you...
What's on Your "To-DON'T list"?
Many of us struggle with the pressures and the grind of trying to get through our tyrannical "to do list". We try different planners/organizers, apps, and others tools to help us organize our lives. We look for those extra free moments to get something done, or we burn the midnight oil in desperation to catch up.
But there are times when I encourage my clients to work on doing less, not more. For example, when a person is so chronically stressed out and overwhelmed by her to-do list that she loses the ability to relax and find joy and meaning in her life, or she neglects her most important relationships, it's time for her to do less. Similarly, when someone is struggling under the burden of depression (and it's best pal anxiety), the to-do list often seems downright impossible. Enter the "to-don't list."
The to-don't list is a critical coping strategy for the depressed or otherwise overwhelmed person. She builds this
The standard medical approach to IBS treatment is unsatisfactory for many
For many who suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), traditional Western medical treatments can be disappointing and may only provide limited relief. These folks may continue to struggle with bloating, abdominal pain, gas, difficult or abnormal bowel movements, and emotional issues.
Hypnosis for Irritable Bowel Syndrome may improve your condition
If you want to consider a different approach to treating your illness, you owe it to yourself to consider hypnosis. This safe and effective approach uses the power of suggestion, and the principles of medical hypnosis, to help IBS patients take charge of their bodies and reduce - or even reverse - the symptoms of IBS.
In my last post, I wrote about signs that you are feeling suffocated or overwhelmed by your mom. Now let's talk about how to start taking some space.
Re-evaluate the relationship
Every person's history, culture, present circumstances, and needs are unique, so if you desire a change in your relationship with your mom, the first place to start is reflect upon and journal about what YOU need.
Begin to envision what a better relationship with your mother would look like, even if you're not yet sure how to achieve it. Here are some things you can do:
Mom Won't Leave You Alone?
In my last post, I talked about the problem some folks experience of feeling burdened or overwhelmed by their mother's demands. For some, even admitting they feel this way can bring up confusion and guilt. Often, this is because the person was "trained" in a sense to be oriented to meeting their's mother's needs - sometimes from a very young age.
Here are some signs that your mother is asking too much of you:
Is Your Mom Too Dependent on You?
If you are contemplating this question, there’s a good chance your mom does lean on you too heavily!
Idealistic notions of Mothers abound in our culture. It’s wonderful when a mother and
Do you Have a Hard Time Saying"No"?
Parents, older siblings, and enthusiastic aunts and uncles know that a toddler's favorite word is "NO!!" Why does the two- and three-year-old express that sentiment up to 25 times an hour, according to research? She has discovered that it gets attention from others and carries a lot of power. The otherwise powerless toddler is eager to express her preferences and desires, and to tap into a tool for taking charge of her life. Her proud, loud "no's" are early expressions of who she is and what she wants. Although we all go through this phase of
These days, our smartphones give us access to many powerful tools for supporting our efforts to maintain positive mental health, and to achieve our goals.
Some smartphone apps are excellent adjuncts to psychotherapy and psychiatry as well. For example, a central component of cognitive behavioral therapy is “self-monitoring” – i.e., tracking behaviors, moods, and thoughts over time. What better way to do that than with a tiny computer you already keep in your pocket all day, every day?!
Below are a few of my favorite psychology and mental health related apps, podcasts, and other online resources. I’m just scratching the surface here - explore what’s out there to meet YOUR needs!
Maysie Tift is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a Certified Master Hypnotist with offices in San Rafael, CA and San Francisco, CA.