Word-Of-the-Week #819: Coping

April 16, 2020 by · Comments Off on Word-Of-the-Week #819: Coping 

Copingdealing with difficulties and acting to overcome them. 

How well are you dealing with the difficulties the quarantine has caused? How is your boredom level? 

This week features the first half of LA Times Travel Editor Catharine Hamm’s articleBored at home? How to cope and overcome ‘the nothing to do’ syndrome while travel is postponed.”

“Feeling bored, disoriented and cranky now that you’ve put your travel plans on hold and your suitcase away? You have company — lots of it. For many of us, travel has its own rewards, including its role as a stress reliever. 

“Travel relieves stress because you are removed from the monotony of your daily life,” said Dr. Howard Forman, attending psychiatrist at Montefiore Medical Center in New York, “and many of the things that lead to stress are taken out of your hands and put into hands of other people,” including those everyday tasks such as fixing dinner, keeping the house clean and, if you have kids, making sure homework is done. 

Now what? Most of us are staying closer to home, by design or edict, and the absence of travel’s pleasures can lead to boredom, which, Forman said, is a common complaint.

Here, then, are some ideas about facing down the tedium. 

  • Play. “Adults don’t play!” you may say. But why not? Especially when you consider how beneficial it can be.

That doesn’t necessarily mean kickball or hopscotch, unless you want it to. 

“Think about the invigorating effect of a date night with your spouse,” Oksana Hagerty, an educational and developmental psychologist, and learning specialist at Beacon College in Leesburg, Fla., said in an email. 

“Or a picnic that, for all the mosquitoes, dust and lukewarm Coke, leaves you happy and refreshed? How about a bath with rosewater and candles?” 

“Some ideas of play … might be ‘pretending’ to be a healthy eater (by the end of the quarantine you might get used to eating broccoli instead of French fries, but if not — it was play, not a big deal). Or starting ‘a new life’ altogether — some of it might stick, but again, no hard feelings if not. 

“As long as we agree that some of what we do can be free, uncertain and governed by the rules that make-believe does not have to be productive, the tedious hours of social isolation won’t be as bad.” 

  • Reconnect. Try “getting in touch with your body in some way or another,” said Dr. A. Chris Heath, a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst in Dallas. “Walk. Feel the sun and breeze. Try stretching exercises. You don’t have to have a class to do it.”

Maybe resume playing a musical instrument you once dropped, Heath said. “It’s not just a way to make the time pass and not just a way to exercise your mind. It connects your mind with your body again.” When the body and mind interact, “it gets you back in touch with yourself.”

This week’s focus is on coping. Have you come up with any stress relievers? Do you realize all the benefits that come with playing at anything? What are you doing to reconnect with yourself?

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Word-Of-the-Week #818: Reflection

April 9, 2020 by · Comments Off on Word-Of-the-Week #818: Reflection 

Reflectiongiving careful thought to and at length.

With all the craziness of this virus have you taken time for careful introspective thought?

This poem, written by a Friar in Ireland, was sent to me by my sweet sister Lurene almost a month ago. Then Bill Marvin included it in his post on March 27th. I am hoping things will be better sooner than later.

Yes there is fear.
Yes there is isolation.
Yes there is panic buying.
Yes there is sickness.
Yes there is even death.


They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise
You can hear the birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet
The sky is no longer thick with fumes
But blue and grey and clear.

They say that in the streets of Assisi
People are singing to each other
across the empty squares,
keeping their windows open
so that those who are alone
may hear the sounds of family around them.

They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland
Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.

Today a young woman I know
is busy spreading fliers with her number
through the neighbourhood
So that the elders may have someone to call on.

Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples
are preparing to welcome
and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary

All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting

All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way

All over the world people are waking up to a new reality
To how big we really are.
To how little control we really have.
To what really matters.
To Love.

So we pray and we remember that

Yes there is fear.
But there does not have to be hate.

Yes there is isolation.
But there does not have to be loneliness.

Yes there is panic buying.
But there does not have to be meanness.

Yes there is sickness.
But there does not have to be disease of the soul

Yes there is even death.
But there can always be a rebirth of love.

Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.

Today, breathe.
Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic
The birds are singing again
The sky is clearing,

Spring is coming,
And we are always encompassed by Love.

Open the windows of your soul
And though you may not be able
to touch across the empty square,

– Fr. Richard Hendrick, OFM – March 13th, 2020

This week’s focus is on reflection. Do you know how very important it is for people to know what gives them meaning?  Do you know how hard that is to figure out if you are not connecting with yourself and taking the time to be introspective?

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Word-Of-the-Week #817: Reframe

April 2, 2020 by · Comments Off on Word-Of-the-Week #817: Reframe 

Reframeto think in a new or different way.

Has your normal daily routine changed significantly in the last month? How easy has it been to adapt to the changes? Have you used this time to start a hobby or learn something new?

This is the 2nd half of A psychologist’s science-based tips for emotional resilience during the coronavirus crisis by Jelena Kecmanovic.

To recap: “How can we respond to the coronavirus situation in a way that will preserve our psychological well-being? The following science-based approaches can help. 

Accept negative emotions – Reinvent self-care 

  • Create new routines 

“It’s normal to be unsettled and concerned about the upending of life as we know it. “Humans find comfort and safety in the predictability of the routines of daily living,” said John Forsyth, a professor of psychology at the University at Albany in New York and co-author of “Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for Anxiety Disorders.” As our lives have dramatically changed overnight, many are struggling with finding ways to deal with the new reality. “We have two children home from college, along with a girlfriend of one, and another high-schooler who is distance-learning,” said Jane Legg, an elementary school teacher from Bethesda, Md. “It’s like a lot of people cramped in a small ship, all trying to get their work done.”

 Although many people escape from reality by Netflix binging, cookie indulging or marathon Fortnite playing, be mindful of over-relying on these distraction strategies. Instead, studies have shown that planning and executing new routines that connect you to what really matters in life is the best recipe for good mental health.

 It’s important to establish structure, predictability and a sense of purpose with these new routines. “It’s good for adults and crucial for children to stick to regular wake-up, grooming and meal times. Where and how everyone works and plays at home should also be planned, while understanding that we all need to be flexible and adapt as needed,” said Deborah Roth Ledley, a clinical psychologist in Philadelphia and co-author of “The Worry Workbook for Kids.” 

In the time after work is done, use the opportunity to enrich your life. “The most helpful routines are the ones that meet essential human needs for competence and relatedness,” said Joel Minden, a clinical psychologist at the Chico Center for Cognitive Behavior Therapy and an author of “Show Your Anxiety Who’s Boss.” 

For example, this might be the perfect moment to learn to play that guitar that has been lying in the corner, or to master French. YouTube lessons abound. You can also teach your children all those skills we often don’t get to share in the era of overscheduling and helicopter parenting: cooking, laundry, balancing a checkbook, dealing with airline agents, building a ramp for the grandparents. These lessons will make them more resilient as they go off to college or move away from home.

  • Reflect, relate and reframe 

Nobody knows how long the pandemic will last or how long it will be until we can resume our regular lives. Even worse, many people are worried that they may be laid off and lose their livelihoods. The pervasive uncertainty of the situation makes it hard to plan a course of action and creates a high level of stress. To add insult to injury, our typical ways of de-stressing, such as working out in a gym, watching sports, meeting for happy hours with co-workers or hanging out with groups of friends, have largely come to a halt. 

It might help to realize that these trying times offer several avenues for psychological growth and an opportunity to deepen our relationships with the people in our household and beyond. “Start a family book club or watch Harry Potter movies together. When else will you all be home to do that?” Roth Ledley said. 

Leverage audio and video technology to stay in touch with others. As the usual hectic tempo of our busy lives recedes, taking time to savor heart-to-heart conversations with family members or friends will probably result in stronger social connectedness going forward. 

This crisis also offers an unexpected chance to check in with yourself. “I think that this is an opportunity for slowing down and reflecting on life,” Eastman said. What brings you meaning when the noise of modern life quiets down? Have your priorities reflected what truly matters to you? As the usual pursuits of status and money are put on hold, where do you find your life purpose and transcendence?

Finally, keep in mind that experiencing stress and negative emotions can have positive consequences. Studies show that people who go through very difficult life experiences can emerge from them with a stronger sense of psychological resilience, rekindled relationships and a renewed appreciation of life. Some describe starting to live more fully and purposefully. With care and planning, we, too, can stay psychologically strong during the pandemic and perhaps even grow from this transformative experience.” 

This week’s focus is to reframe. Have you created new routines that connect you to what really matters in life? Are you taking time to get outdoors? Are you having heart-to-heart conversations with family and friends?

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Word-Of-the-Week #816: Resilience

March 26, 2020 by · Comments Off on Word-Of-the-Week #816: Resilience 

Resilienceability to adapt well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress.

How well are you adapting to the coronavirus situation? Is it becoming a significant source of stress? Or are you accepting the “fear of the unknown?”

This Washington Post article A psychologist’s science-based tips for emotional resilience during the coronavirus crisis by Jelena Kecmanovic offers 4 approaches that can help preserve our psychological well-being. This week features 2 of them.

  • Accept negative emotions

As the news about the coronavirus pandemic becomes grimmer, and governments and businesses issue closing or work-from-home directives, many of us are experiencing a variety of negative emotions. We feel anxiety in response to the uncertainty of the situation; sadness related to losing our daily sources of meaning and joy; and anger at whatever forces are to blame for bringing this upon us. As a psychologist, I believe following evidence-based recommendations for bolstering mental resilience can help us weather this crisis. 

It is important to acknowledge that a lot of anxious thoughts and emotions will show up during this time, and to accept them rather than trying to push them away or escape them. The same goes for sadness stemming from the loss of our regular ways of living, worry about lack of supplies or apprehension about kids getting cabin fever. That’s because research has shown that avoidance of such emotions will only make them stronger and longer lasting.  

Notice negative emotions, thoughts and physical sensations as they come up, look into them with curiosity, describe them without judgment and then let them go. This is an essence of mindfulness, which has been consistently linked to good psychological health.  

“By allowing negative emotions to come and go, and focusing on how to spend this time to still include engaging in meaningful and joyful activities, we can get through this,” Forsyth said. 

Instead of fighting our emotions, we can invest our energy in creating the best possible life, given the circumstances. 

  • Reinvent self-care

Many parents of younger children are facing the stress of taking care of them at home, often while teleworking themselves. And families with elderly or sick members are dealing with even stricter isolation in an attempt to prevent covid-19 in this vulnerable population. “I feel especially sad and worried for my elderly mom and aunt, who are sequestered in their assisted-living facilities,” said Larry Eastman, a retired engineer in Ellicott City, Md. “And I’m concerned about my dad being isolated, because he’s not leaving home.”

 It is hard when you’re robbed of your tried-and-true ways of taking care of your physical and mental health. But don’t abandon them; science has shown that exercise, good nutrition and socializing are directly linked to emotional well-being, so now is the time to get creative. 

“To keep your psychological well-being, schedule self-care each day. It can consist of running or walking outside, using apps for home exercise or makeup sessions, and FaceTiming your friends,” said Ilyse DiMarco, a clinical psychologist at the North Jersey Center for Anxiety and Stress Management. Whether you need to change already estabished exercise, eating and socializing habits, or whether you’re using this time to launch a healthy-living routine, the new routines will give you mental strength. 

One thing that is still available to us, unless we experience complete lockdown, is nature. I have never seen more people in Washington’s Rock Creek Park than the past two weekends. Studies show that spending time in nature, whether you are hiking or gardening, positively affects psychological health. Make sure, however, that you are observing social distancing guidelines.” 

This week’s focus is on maintaining our mental resilience. Are you acknowledging anxious thoughts or negative emotions that you are feeling? Are you exercising and spending time outdoors? Do you feel some sense of control over your life?

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Word-Of-the-Week #815: Control

March 19, 2020 by · Comments Off on Word-Of-the-Week #815: Control 

Control – ability to manage one’s emotions, desires, or actions by one’s own will.

How are you feeling about this time of uncertainty? Are you obsessing about it? Or are you coping with it?

This LA Times article Why you should stop obsessing about coronavirus news, and how to do it by Deborah Netburn felt like a great follow up to last week’s Faith. I am using excerpts to keep it short because I’m heeding her advice of limiting consumption of media intake.

“It’s 1 in the morning and you can’t stop reading about the coronavirus. You look for answers on websites you trust, along with some you’re not so sure about. And when you can’t find conclusive information, you keep searching, clicking and reading. 

If you have descended into a coronavirus rabbit hole, you are not alone. It’s only natural to feel anxious about the evolving coronavirus situation. It is a novel threat that has caused more than 4,200 deaths worldwide.  

But experts say there is something else that is adding to our collective anxiety around the potential pandemic: fear of the unknown. 

“Our brains are wired to pay additional attention to uncertainty,” said David Rock, co-founder of the NeuroLeadership Institute and author of “Your Brain at Work.” “It is something we all have an issue with, although it affects some people more than others.” 

And when it comes to coronavirus, there is a lot of uncertainty. Things are changing so quickly that it can be hard to know how best to respond to keep yourself and others safe. 

Rock said that in the face of an ambiguous situation — maybe fine, maybe bad — our brains automatically bet on it being very bad, just in case. 

“It’s an insurance policy,” he said. “If you think you hear a bear in the woods, it’s better to be safe and start running than wait until you see one running at you.” 

One way people try to exert control during times of uncertainty is to increase their media consumption, said Roxane Cohen Silver, a professor of psychological science and public health at UC Irvine. 

“When there is a lot of ambiguity and a lot of uncertainty, people are drawn to the media,” she said. “It’s a cycle that is very hard to break out of.” 

Looking to the media in a time of public crisis can be useful. Trusted sources can help you make informed decisions to protect your health. They can also counteract harmful rumors and alleviate distress by providing accurate information that puts the threat in context, Silver said. (For example, it’s helpful to be reminded that about 80% of those infected with the new coronavirus have symptoms that are mild at worst.) 

However, Silver’s research over the last two decades has also shown that in times of collective trauma like natural disasters and mass shootings, the nonstop media cycle can also cause people to overestimate the severity of the threat to their own community — and that leads to psychological and even physical distress. 

“The media is a double-edged sword,” she said. “It is the mechanism by which we get important, validated information. But at the same time, we need to protect ourselves from the onslaught of the 24/7 news cycle.” 

So, what’s a healthy dose of media that will keep you informed without needlessly stressing you out?  

Rock’s advice is to limit your coronavirus media consumption to 10 minutes a day, not 10 minutes an hour. 

“The more we can feel like we are in control, the calmer we’ll be,” he said. “And one thing you can control is your media intake.” 

Silver said she reminds her own friends and family to stay informed but to avoid repetitive stories with little or no new information, because they can amplify one’s sense of stress and doom. 

“Remember that the expertise of TV and radio is to keep you listening and to engage you,” he said. 

 “Things are very different this week than they were last week, and we don’t really know where things will be next week,” she said. “It is challenging and stressful to cope with all this uncertainty, but overexposure to media is not likely to help.”

I’m choosing to have faith that “this too shall pass.” I’m taking control of my thoughts and actions. I’m being cautious. And I’m playing golf to feel some sense of normalcy. Plus just being outside lifts my spirits!

This week’s focus is about feeling in control. Have you chosen to limit your media intake? Are you taking precautions? Can you have a sense of calm about all the uncertainty?

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