REBOUND

REBOUND

Living in the present means embracing what is happening now, but also not discounting the tangible and intangible things we had or our past achievements. Even if we falter, we need to learn to accept that things happen and commit to a plan to move forward.

We don’t need to write things off right away but try to see that that difficult times do not erase all that we have accomplished. Such times gives us more strength to come back even stronger, even if we need to ask for help.

During these uncertain times we all need to look at the world for what it is right now and what it may become in the future, instead of just focusing on the way it was and what is missing. There are things that can come up in our day to remind us to enjoy what we do have, to stave off judgement, and to let things unfold as they may…if we keep our mind open.

For instance, I had a beautiful miniature Ficus tree that suddenly went dormant. All its leaves turned brown and dropped and it looked quite dead. The flowers that in circled the tree in the pot were thriving but the tree seemed to have expired. I just could not bear looking at its unhappy, bare branches. My spouse cut the tree way down just leaving a barely noticeable stump and after a couple of weeks the encircling flowers grew larger blossoms which engulfed the Ficus.

Today as I was watering that pot and I happened to notice that there were many tiny Ficus leaves on the stump hidden by the flowers. Wow, there is certainly life left in that tree I cheered to my spouse. This may seem like a trivial story, but it is one that has a deeper message. It can serve as a reminder that things may not be as they were or even as we hoped they might be, but there will always to be something to look forward to …if we keep our mind open.

Just look around and see people in the stores smiling under their masks and making eye contact with you. You can tell they are smiling because the smile is reflected in the eyes.

Let us find reasons to make the best of life as it comes to us.

Focus on What You Can Solve

Thriving under pressure means building a stronger sense of self. Here are some helpful tools to help you bounce back and focus on the problems you can actually solve:

*Fixing, planning, completing, growing, building, cleaning, planting, or creating things makes the waiting go by faster.

It can also help us stay away from uncertainty and dwelling. Say no worrying or negative mind spiraling and commit to creating a new and more positive world view.

*Adopt a positive view of the universe – stick with the “will” and skip the “won’t”

This starts with how we think and talk to ourselves. Using calming visual imagery or put the 2 for one rule into play: for every negative thought think of two positive images or things to be thankful for.

Having faith in ourselves comes from our belief system. Our positive beliefs come, in part, from being around positive people that can help support our will to thrive and move on.

*Seek support in your “friendship garden”

Including others in your friendship garden can help a lot, even online support or chat groups. A supportive network can foster resiliency, perspective, and growth.

*Look for Inspiration

Inspiration can be found in so many things such as poems, songs, books, and performances. If you like to read, consider joining a book club or consider listening to podcasts or audio books. If you are interested in reading, an author that may inspire you is Louise Hay (“You Can Heal Your Life”).

TIME TO RESET YOUR “SELF”

TIME TO RESET YOUR “SELF”

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, nothing seems as it was. Our usual routines of work, exercise, family time, visiting with others, shopping and leisure activities have all drastically changed. Even though many of us feel stuck at home, we can still find ways to feel like our old selves again … maybe even better!

Let’s face it, we all deserve to feel good about ourselves despite the uncertainty in the air.

Here are some useful tips to reclaim–or even improve upon–the old you:

RECALL

When we look back on past happy or successful moments, things look a bit brighter. We were happy; we were successful; we will be that way again! Looking through our rear view mirror at those funny or successful moments help us reset and learn to cope better with things temporarily outside our control.

ENJOY

We are all in this situation together, so we should be sure to stay connected emotionally even though we are physically separated. Our mobility has shrunken, but why not love and have fun with the ones we can connect with even if it’s just electronically? This includes family, neighbors, and former buddies from exercise, work, clubs or school. They are essentially all extended family and have been instrumental in making us the person we are today. Each of them can help us remember to enjoy ourselves, be ourselves and let our true essence out.

FIND

What better time than now to seek what we love to do and what we always wanted to do? As we grow in life our needs change and maybe it is time to give old pastimes a face lift (or find some new ones)? TV, video games and social media are okay in small doses but what about that hand-me-down watercolor kit or sewing machine in the back of the closet? Our hobbies are a true extension of our personalities. It is an activity where we can channel our creativity and feel like a new person again by creating something personal and unique.

EMBRACE

We all know how to multitask but how about slowing down enough to look at our reflection. No one is made just right. So, why not learn to like what we see and stop focusing on the flaws. When was the last time we really complimented ourselves? Started today by making a point of taking a second look in the mirror and finding traits as well as features you can fall in love with.

SEEK

Many external factors try to dictate what we should think, feel and like. We are not sheep, but individuals who can decide for ourselves what we truly want. Why not just look inside at our own preferences, history or beliefs? No one can tell us how or what will make us happy so take a moment to check out of social media and find the key to personal joy within ourselves.

ACCEPT

We are all perfectly imperfect. Once we understand and accept our flaws, we can roll with the punches. Knowing, as well as living with, our limitations can lead us to finding resources. We are more able to admit fault, embrace our humanness and ask for help. The greatest by-product of self-acceptance is the ability to live a life free of lies, reactivity and denial.

CLEAN

Like a twelve-step program, we all need to stay focused on our side of the street. If your side of the street needs some sprucing up, why not start spring cleaning now. Over time, cobwebs build up in our mind which keep us from making positive changes. If we want to be our best, this is the best time to look and begin revamping choices, behaviors and attitudes, as well as our physical environment.

RENEW

We now have the time to rethink, rebuild or refurbish our friendships. What about our relationship with ourselves? Hitting the reset button when it comes to our friends might be easy, but what about finding that friend inside ourselves? Why not begin with learning all we can about ourselves? Feeling good about what we are doing, spending quality time by ourselves, making healthy decisions and creating new boundaries will help us learn how to trust and rely on ourselves. Gradually we will notice that we can be own best friend and trusted support person.

***

Arlene K. Unger, PhD is a Telehealth Psychologist in Private Practice in Dana Point. She has been a contracted staff provider with Mission Hospital/SCMC since 2005. Arlene serves on the Mission Hospital Medical Staff Wellbeing Committee. Her other articles, blogs and her book about Mindfulness: “Presence of Mind – Mindful Affirmations” can be found on her website: www.drarleneunger.com. Quatro/Arum and Sterling Publishers have published Arlene’s popular self-help books which can be found on Amazon and Barnes & Noble: “Sleep,” “Calm,” “Courage,” and “Happy,” as well as her co-authored books “How to be Content” and “How to Make Space”. Dr. Unger is also an online therapist for several internet platforms for clients in California.

Dealing with COVID Cabin Fever

Dealing with COVID Cabin Fever

If you find yourself being forgetful, easily irritated with people around you, unable to get to bed or get out of bed, feeling bored or helpless, walking around in daze, or having sudden food cravings shortly after a meal, you might be dealing with the negative effects of being quarantined.

“Cabin fever” is usually associated with a type of claustrophobia and S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder). It is a term especially used during the winter months when it’s cold, the sun rarely shines, and we can’t easily get outside. Most of us can deal with cabin fever especially when we know there is a predictable end in sight. Unfortunately, with COVID-19 authorities don’t know a specific end to our new “Shelter in Place” lifestyle. A lot depends on the population following prevention and isolation measures.

Some say it can get worse and, like in Italy, people may only be allowed out for very limited purposes and might even be given a fine for violations. Being chronically away from our usual activities, friends, family, and co-workers seems to worsen that feeling of being cooped up.

The Stresses of Isolation

During this pandemic, where social (i.e. physical) distancing is the rule, almost everywhere, the stress of isolation brings with it some personal problems. Among them are loneliness, fatigue, motivational problems, hopelessness, unwanted weight gain, anxiety, depression, mental inflexibility, apathy, inadequate nutrition, lack of fresh air, sunshine and exercise. These symptoms may show up in clusters or one at time and there is no uniformity to them between people (just like the symptoms of a COVID-19 infection).

With more people out of work, or working from home, and with school and entertainment venues closed, isolation can certainly set in, making our ability to get through quarantining even more difficult.

Coping Skills

If you notice that you have some of the above symptoms and they seem severe, it is best to reach out for help right away. We are fortunate that there are MDs, therapists, lifestyle coaches and others available online to support you during this turbulent time.
If, though, you see only a few of these symptoms and they are mild, there are things you can do now to make your situation at home better. Here are some coping skills to manage the result of being stuck at home:

  • Bed is for bedtime: Sleeping longer at night, taking longer than needed naps and hiding out in bed will add to your sense of helplessness, as will working in bed during the day. Force yourself to get up and dressed on schedule and act like you are ready to go somewhere important even if it’s just on a brief walk.
  • Put yourself on a schedule: Establish a daily routine; it is especially good if you are restless or don’t know what to do next.
  • Convert hopelessness into helpfulness: There is someone out there that you can call on and let them know that “I am here for you and want to help.” For instance, the blood supply is low now so if you are healthy think of donating blood.
  • Get a Natural High: Open the curtains, or door or take a walk outside. The combination of vitamin D, fresh air and exercise does a lot to help pep you up.
  • Limit your sugar and high fatty food intake: Start monitoring what you eat. Try to manage the tendency to overindulge by prepping your meals and eating at regular times at a table rather than in front of the TV, phone or iPad. Adjust your food intake if your activity level is lower than normal.
  • Reward yourself: This is a great time to set achievable goals, track your progress and celebrate your successes. When you make of point of completing things you set out to do, you are climbing that wonderful ladder of self-esteem.
  • Be your hobby: What better time to (re)find a craft, hobby or skill. This will help you feel less boxed-in and give you a sense of accomplishment.
  • Be active indoors: Especially when the weather is not the greatest, try embracing indoor exercise. There are many free workout videos being offered online. Kids love to participate, and it helps burn off excess energy.
  • Learn new skills: Turn off the news, your social media and sitcom reruns. Here is your opportunity to learn something new and challenge yourself. The internet is a treasure trove of learning material.
  • Reach Out: If you can’t be near your loved ones, call/text/Skype/Facebook to find out how they are doing. You will both feel better!
  • Remember to celebrate milestones: Even if you must Skype or Facetime with family and friends, don’t forget to celebrate milestones like birthdays, anniversaries, etc. Plan a theme. When we get our brain cells going, the four walls won’t feel like they are closing in on us.
    • See my Blog “Coping with COVID-19” and other Blogs on practical mindfulness, as well as my resources page.

Be positive! Problems can also be opportunities! Consider that, however bad it may get, metaphorically, this is the world’s method of resetting itself. We will have cleaner air and water, less traffic accidents, more time to develop new skills, and more to time enjoy our loved ones. Now let us try to reset our own personal priorities and habits. This means putting more effort into our own health and interactions with the people we live with and love. Mankind has survived many pandemics and other calamities in the past and we will do so again.

We are all in this together and can all do our part to make this a better world.

Arlene Unger, PhD is a Dana Point CA based Clinical Psychologist in private practice. Her approach is using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy along with Mindfulness an Acceptance Commitment Therapy. She is the author of numerous articles (www.drarleneunger.com) on the practical application of mindfulness.

She now concentrates her practice on Telehealth. She works with numerous platforms including Telemynde, Betterhelp and Talkspace and accepts most forms of insurance. Dr Unger has 20 years’ experience with Telehealth as an early adopter and has lectured on the topic.

Coping with COVID-19

Note: Dr Unger is now offering Phone or Video sessions instead of office visits. Dr Unger has been using phone or secure video (i.e. telehealth) for therapeutic sessions since 2001. Contact her through your normal channels if you are an existing client to get instructions to set up phone or video options.  California residents only please.

Are You Overly Anxious?

If you have a history of anxiety, specifically around health issues this article is for you. Of’ course exercise, yoga and meditation through apps can help but, with all the dreadful news and social media posts surrounding coronavirus, we need to put some things into perspective and find ways to come together emotionally.

“Social Distancing” is Really Physical Distancing

It is totally normal to have some fear response to COVID-19 since it has been declared a global pandemic and humans have neither “herd knowledge” nor “herd immunity” since it is a new virus. When we are confronted with an unknown threat like this our initial response is to be fearful.

Some fear (or “concern”) is rational if the threat is real. However, turning our fear irrationally into willful ignorance, xenophobia, hoarding, or panic solves no problems. In fact, it creates more problems for the community than it solves. For example, face masks are in short supply for health workers because of panic buying by the public.

The internet is wonderful; the internet is terrible! While the internet can be a wonderful source of factual information, it can also contribute to fear and panic because there is both innocent as well as intentional spreading of incorrect or malicious information, as well as people trying to profit off of the fear and panic.

Check your sources! Only trust news outlets known for objective reporting. Do not trust social media unless you know the source is objective and not politically motivated! Avoid extremist and conspiracy theory based sources!

The US Center for Disease Control (CDC) {https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html} says to stay home if you are sick, keep up your sanitation (especially hand washing) and exercise proper social (i.e. physical) distances (6’ and only fist or elbow bump if necessary). This will help prevent the spread of the virus.

COVID-19 has a longer incubation period during which people can still unknowingly infect others as well as a high infectivity rate; the virus also attacks the lungs directly in advanced cases. These are some of the main “problems” with this virus compared to the common flu (which has a short 2-3 day incubation and lower infectivity). COVID-19 therefore can be spread to many others by people who are unaware they are infected.

The virus appears to be spread mainly by coughing which spreads droplets and some aerosolized particles (much smaller particles which last a little longer in the air, but not indefinitely, and travel a bit farther). It appears to last on various surfaces from a few hours to a few days. Therefore, cough into your sleeve and clean any surfaces you or others may have touched, keep your hands away from your face and well sanitized.

Elderly with underlying health issues are most susceptible.  Younger people may have “mild” cases (ranging from typical mild flu-like symptoms to just short of needing a respirators in a hospital), but are still infectious.

Thus the need for a community based response of avoiding interpersonal contact as much as possible.

Coping Skills

We all react to stressful situations differently but, if you know you are easily anxiety prone, keep your logical and coping mechanisms “on” at all times. This includes keeping to a routine, focusing on learning something new, bonding emotionally with those close to you or even something simple like cleaning out and reorganizing a messy space in your home. These actions can turn an anxious mind into a hopeful one.

If we don’t have hope it is probably because our social, economic, and local support systems are not strong enough. If they are not, this emergent time may be the time to make them stronger.

Here are some symptoms of fear that are not obvious:
• Perseverating on negative thoughts or ideas
• Changes in sleep or eating patterns
• Difficulty concentrating
• Worsening of chronic health problems
• Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs.

Here are some tools to help ease your worries:
• Avoid excessive exposure to media coverage of COVID-19 and only listen a few times a day to reliable sources to get factual updates. Avoid highly political or extremist or alarmist sources.
• Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch or use apps to help you stay in a peaceful place. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep and avoid alcohol and drugs.
• Make time to unwind and remind yourself that strong feelings will fade with time. Try to do some other activities you enjoy to take your attention off the negative.
• Connect with others at home especially if you are family quarantining. Share your concerns and how you are feeling with a friend or family member. Maintain healthy relationships (but physical distance).
• Maintain a sense of hope and positive thinking. Society has survived pandemics in the past such as the terrible 1918 influenza, SARS, Bird Flu, etc!
• Most importantly, if you are self-isolating with a roommate, partner or spouse use your sensibilities and adopt a civility rule. This means to accept that may be some topics are off limits and we use what San Miguel taught about the four agreements: speak your words with kindness, impeccably and truthfully, no assuming or judging, and of course put your best foot forward. Use your own sense of what you is the right and kind thing to do now. It is easy to get caught up in “Herd Mentality” whether it is to run out and buy a product or to ignore warnings based on fact. Bring up neutral topics with those you are living with and try to put a halt on correcting others or being right. Keep telling yourself we are all in this together and are all taking a hit now.
• Seek professional help (mental health, help lines, etc.) to help get yourself focused and calm mentally if the above doesn’t work.

Conclusion

This is a time for all of us to act as a community and take care of one another emotionally. Stress will just make you more vulnerable to illness. There are many trusted online sources, apps and skilled counselors out there to walk you through this. It is all a matter of reaching out and being open and flexible to possibilities (which you can control) rather than overfocused on calamities (which you can’t control). If everyone did just that we would be better equipped to handle the worst of anything out there.

We will all face this rough patch … but this will pass.

About

Arlene Unger, PhD is a Dana Point CA based Clinical Psychologist in private practice. Her approach is to use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy along with Mindfulness and Acceptance Commitment Therapies.

She is the author of numerous articles (https://drarleneunger.com/resources/) on the practical applications of mindfulness.

She now concentrates her practice on Telehealth. She works with numerous platforms including Telemynde, Betterhelp and Talkspace and accepts most forms of insurance.