These last few weeks have brought about rapidly evolving change in our lives. We are facing obstacles and uncertainties unlike any other time in our experience. All this has left many at a loss of how to cope and brought anxiety and fear about the future.
First things first, focus on safety. Do what do you need to do to keep you and your family safe which includes distancing from others, staying at home if you can, and thorough hand-washing. Heed the warnings of those in charge and take their guidance seriously. You may not be worried about your own health but realize that you could carry the disease to others even if you don’t feel sick. Be especially mindful of those in your life who are at high risk and do what you can to protect them.
Pay attention to keeping a daily routine which will provide structure and a sense of stability. Try to get up and go to bed around the same times. If you need to, create a schedule for your day, even if it’s tasks around the house or calling specific friends. If you find it difficult to focus, eliminate distractions, only listening to the media or checking your phone every few hours. Turn notifications off of your phone if you must. If you are working “remotely”, make yourself a comfortable work area even if it means converting a table into a desk in the corner of the room.
Next, consider what options you have to limit your stress given the new restrictions. Try not to focus on what you are missing or what you can’t do. Focus instead on what is within your power to control. Consider what your needs are such as to be active, or to socialize, or to relax. Think creatively about ways you can meet those needs in new (and healthy) ways that work with your individual situation and restrictions. Try a new workout video, find a new hobby, create trivia games through social media with your friends to find out how well you really know them.
If you find yourself not sleeping well or becoming increasingly anxious, focus on your breathing, taking long deep breaths from your belly and slowly letting it out. Find videos on mindfulness and practice it, starting with just a few minutes each day, gradually increasing the time. Give yourself positive messages such as “We will get through this” or “I can handle what today brings”. Being positive doesn’t mean you are ignoring the obvious, it means you are choosing to look for the good.
If you are considering using substances to help cope, consider this. Alcohol and other substances (including marijuana) negatively affect your immune system. Right now, you need your immune system to work at its best capacity. So do everything in your power to focus on healthy self-care, good sleep, good nutrition, stress management and not using substances so your body has its best chance to fight the coronavirus if exposed. If you are struggling with staying sober, try online 12 step meetings or call a treatment center.
Lastly, consider doing something for others. Reach out to others who are struggling and help how you can in a way that doesn't compromise yourself. A simple phone call or text indicating that you care and are concerned for that person could make all the difference in someone's day. Be the light for someone else.
Try to live one day at a time, use the extra time you have at home to focus on you, your self-care, positive thinking and finding the good in each day. We will get through this. We are in this together. At the end of the day, you need hope and strength. Hope that it will get better and strength to hold on until it does. Be safe. Stay well. You are worth the investment.
©2020 Peggi White Behavioral Health
Often when we are attempting to change thoughts and behaviors, we make long term goals and then become frustrated and disappointed when we aren’t able to effect change. Change takes time and it occurs sometimes in fits and starts (sporadically). We create expectations that we aren’t able to meet and that dashes our hopes of success. Sometimes we institute behavioral changes but don’t have the underlying infrastructure in place to keep the changes sustainable.
How can we incorporate the 12 step slogan “First Things First” into our thinking to help facilitate change? First Things First can mean focusing on self-care first. The flight attendant’s directions to put the oxygen on yourself first is an example of that. You can’t help anyone else if you don’t take care of your own basic needs. Some people spend a lot of energy taking care of others, which is honorable, but sacrifice their own needs in the process. Ultimately it affects their ability to meet the needs of others as well as their own needs. This means sometimes setting boundaries with others and saying “No”. When evaluating how you spend your time, take into consideration your needs and responsibilities before agreeing to a responsibility. Just because you are capable of doing the task doesn’t mean you should. Instead of thinking, “If I don’t, who will?” consider it an opportunity for someone to “step up to the plate”. Everyone needs to play a part and everyone needs to take responsibility. Sometimes people need help understanding that and may be enlightened when someone else takes a step back.
First Things First can mean preparing first. Attempting to change behaviors without the underlying infrastructure in place will create obstacles for success. A common example is when a person decides to quit smoking. Many people “just decide” today is the day to quit. They might have a motivator like a respiratory illness or guilt over the cost so they just decide to quit. The old adage from Ben Franklin, “When you fail to plan, you are planning to fail” says it best. You need to put thought and energy into setting up a plan (infrastructure). Refer back to the stages of change (see December’s blog) and put effort into deciding your motivators for change, prepare for the change by looking into what tools and resources you will need and what obstacles you may encounter. It will be well worth your investment to build a successful foundation.
Lastly, First Things First also means learning to prioritize. This means understanding the basic foundation everything else depends on. Ask yourself, “What is most important to me? What needs to happen so everything else can follow?” Then put those ideas down. What comes first? Sobriety? Family? Health and Wellness? When you clearly know your priorities, your decisions will become clear and choices will be easier to make using your values and priorities as your guide. So put your energy into making first things first. You are worth the investment.
©2020 Peggi White Behavioral Health