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.

Mindfulness and Finding Life Balance – Part 10 – Arguing Mindfully

Arguing Mindfully

People argue — even in the most loving relationships. The image of Mindfulness is one of peace with oneself and the world, but that is not reality. So how do you argue mindfully?

It may sound counter-intuitive but conflicts can lead to closeness.  The only exception is when people become deliberate or malicious in their intent to hurt one another with their temper, tone and words.

With that said, arguing typically occurs when our requests for nurturing, reassurance, or space fall on deaf ears.

Unfortunately, too many couples start arguing when they are either hungry, tired, bored, overwhelmed or lonely.  Under these conditions, arguments that start off as calm disagreements can easily degenerate into swearing and yelling matches.

This kind of arguing can leave each party feeling emotionally barren or wounded. More often than not, mismanaged rather than mindful arguing can easily mess up our future plans, happy occasions or even a good night’s sleep.

There are no winners in these kind of disputes.  Sometimes they can last for hours, days or even weeks.  Running away from arguments altogether actually can make things worse for everybody.  Stockpiling mental ammunition against the other usually leads to withdrawal.

Unresolved arguments are no better.  They can deepen resentments, cause festering, and drain our motivation to be mindful.

How to Argue Mindfully

The key to mindful arguing is to shift attention from nasty fighting to gentle conflict resolution.

Mindful arguing can occur when the couple accepts responsibility for their emotions and avoids blaming, judging or shaming.

Besides shifting your focus away from the person to the problem, owning your part of the argument, and saying sorry when you screw up, try practicing the mindful mnemonic “LOVED” below.  In doing so, you’ll likely feel more energized and cared for by your partner.

Being mindful when arguing takes practice, but isn’t rocket science.

The LOVED Mnemonic

L:   Listen how your partner expresses their concerns

O:  One at a time, take turns breaking down the problem

V:  Validate and reflect back what you see and hear your partner say using “I” statements

E:   Express why this issue is important to you right now

D:  Discuss with calmness and ease how things can be made different and decide on a possible solution to test out

 References

William Harley, PhD. How to Create Your Own Plan to Resolve Conflicts and Restore Love to Your Marriage. www.MarriageBuilders.com.

John Kabat-Zinn, MD. Mindfulness Based Stress Management.  https://psychalivemedia.pivotshare.com/media

Mindfulness and Finding Life Balance – Part 3 – Abusive Relationships

 Can Mindfulness Free Us From an Abusive Relationship?

A Mindful approach to living may afford us the opportunity to free ourselves from the ravages of an abusive relationship. By practicing the ABC’s of Mindfulness: Attention, Balance and Concentration) we gain the clarity to find peace and move away from drama.

The A in ABC means that our ATTENTION is necessary to stop acting out of fear and to stop avoiding our own needs. When we don’t attend to our self-defeating behaviors, we stay stuck in our denial and convince ourselves that things can be a whole lot worse or they can only get better,

Although, we may not have caused the abuse, staying in the relationship keeps us emotionally unregulated and off-balance. The B in ABC pertains to our need for BALANCE in spite of our chaotic existence. Accepting our need for equilibrium will lead us to replace the abusive dynamic with one that is more aligned with our personal values. We are out of balance when our lifestyle doesn’t reflect what we truly need.

Lastly, the C in ABC stands for CONCENTRATION. Without positive concentration, we are not able to separate ourselves from the abuse. By focusing on hope, we can start believing that we don’t have to be the victim for life and that we not only deserve a healthier relationship, but that there is one actually within reach.

Self responsibility without judgment is the cornerstone of Mindfulness. It moves us toward self-empowerment which in turn helps us heal from the hurt. As we take steps to save ourselves, the healing process begins and we become open to the wealth of supportive resources around us. This may include, but is not limited to, turning to family, clergy, close friends, therapy (face-face/online) and/or self-help groups. Such avenues of help will hopefully illustrate that love alone is not enough to stay in a controlling relationship.

Along with love we also need results, healthy intimacy, and respect. Second to financial stress, the thing that mostly traps us in abusive relationships is the overwhelming concern about what others might think, or say, about us. Our fear and distorted belief system gradually fades away when we develop realistic expectations. For example, we may think that we can only be happy if we are with someone despite how bad that person may be for us. By forcing ourselves to look in the mirror, we can admit that being in an abusive relationship is not only keeping us disconnected from those we love, but from our inner selves.

Once we begin to assume responsibility for the life we were given, we can improve our existence even if it is by being by ourselves. Choosing an Mindful path allows us to observe our hurt instead of acting it out. Staying open to possibilities and taking life as it comes can help us move away from self-sabotaging behaviors and live our truth. This process, although not immediate, allows us to choose conscious living over our need to stay stuck in a toxic environment.

Over the years I have heard many of my patients say that staying in abusive relationship because of finances was far worse than having nothing, starting over, and being free.

Adopting a Mindful stance helps us remove the blindfold often associated with abuse and to stop hiding behind our shame. Most victims of abuse learn from an early age to pretend that nothing was really amiss. By using the ABC’s of Mindfulness mentioned above, we can stop living a lie and seek the immediate professional help we need to get well.

The poet Jose Harris eloquently sums it up for us:

“There comes a time in your life, when you walk away from all the drama and people who create it. You surround yourself with people who make you laugh. Forget the bad, and focus on the good. Love the people who treat you right, pray for the ones who don’t. Life is too short to be anything but happy. Falling down is a part of life, getting back up is living.”

 

References

Rebecca Adams, “Free to Soar: My Journey Out of Abuse to Freedom.”

Megan Kennedy Dugan, “It’s My Life Now: Starting Over After an Abusive Relationship or Domestic Violence.”

Jose Harris, “There Comes A Time…”

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