With the holidays swiftly approaching, I have been thinking a lot about the purpose of play and rest in our busy lives. There seems to be an endless stream of things on the to-do list, which only increases with the demands of the holiday season. So, why do you feel exhausted even when you have gotten enough sleep and feel you are keeping up with your work-life balance? Why do you struggle to find joy even in those moments when you are intentionally cultivating “fun” for yourself or your family? I would like to propose that the loss of play and downtime in our adult lives has greatly diminished our ability to achieve balance and find pleasure in both our work and personal lives. Many of us crave this regularly, but struggle to name it.
When Fun Became Anxiety
Dr. Brené Brown talks about the importance of play and rest in her book, The Gifts of Imperfection. As someone who struggles with craving a sense of control, it feels foreign to carve out time to do something with no quantifiable value, no intended goal, and just for the sake of doing it. But, if I’m being honest with myself, I deeply desire to have this sense of spark and freedom in my life. When I spend time on a hobby for pleasure, it often involves some form of music. However, I have a lot of hang ups associated with music and performance that I never had as a child. This could be because I worked professionally as a singer for a number of years. I took my passion for music and turned it into a vocation, which in some ways was wonderful, but it also quickly became about pleasing others and perfectionism. I lost that original connection I felt when I was younger. It stopped transporting me and became a source of anxiety.
As a child, for a period of time, when it rained heavily, I would go to the piano and write a new song to match my mood. I remember singing my heart out and sometimes crying, because I felt so moved. Somewhere along the way, I lost the joy of singing. I’m trying to find my way back to those moments at the piano in the rain. Now that I’ve transitioned music into simply a hobby, I still feel intense pressure to get it right, to craft something of value and not waste my time making music which isn’t “perfectly” crafted and well received. All of these critical voices, self-doubt, and performance anxiety start to seep in, and it often stops me before I even begin the process. So, my current aim is to shed those expectations and go back to the basics: simply having fun singing and writing songs again, with absolutely no expectations. You may have those childhood moments of sheer bliss, of being in flow while doing something you love. You just need to find a way to access that again. So much is lost when you don’t allow yourself to take that journey, to be creative just because it makes you happy and brings a feeling of freedom. These moments will enhance your life and may bring back that sense of being more fully alive. In order to do this, you must unlearn a lot of the things you are taught growing up and choose to prioritize it. It is a lifelong process for many of us. Here are some articles which discuss how to achieve flow and how it relates to happiness.
Adult Play as the Antidote to Depression
Dr. Stuart Brown is a psychiatrist and clinical researcher who founded the National Institute for Play. He studied how play shapes the brain, helps with imagination and enhances our lives. Interestingly, he described play as the antidote to prevent and cope with depression. What he discovered is that play brings excitement and newness even to our work lives, helps us master skills, and is a core part of the creative process. Play seems to tap into the deepest parts of our needs and desires; therefore, it is essential whether you prioritize it or not. If you choose to dismiss its importance, you will invariably feel its effects. It is not an optional thing. There are some wonderful articles which highlight the importance of taking self-care days when you need them, the benefits of play in various areas of your life, what play looks like and how to incorporate it into your life. If you prefer videos, this Ted Talk helps to better define play, and this one talks about the power of play as it relates to displacement, social exclusion, and identity formation.
Rest and Wellness
Downtime is also a core component of emotional and physical health. So, why isn’t it seen as a higher value by most of us? Perhaps it is because you may be praised for over working and for achieving things that bring greater wealth or status. When people mention feeling tired or a need for rest, it can be perceived as a weakness. This toxic mindset starts to seep in and affect the choices you make. So, why are you surprised to find yourself depressed, anxious, overwhelmed, exhausted, and feeling lost?
I have experienced feeling judged or criticized for carving out the time and space for self-care and fun in my life. It is still difficult to practice setting boundaries by saying yes to rest and play and no to the things which I feel will elicit the most praise from others. However, I never regret acting on that impulse and following through on that which my mind and body are longing for. This doesn’t look the same in every season of life. I must continue to check in with myself and ask: What feels right? What is out of balance? Adjusting to what is and being flexible and kind to yourself is an important part of the process.
Play and Rest Checklist
Prioritizing play and rest is a common struggle. My aim is to normalize it and encourage you to prioritize it. Sometimes even small changes can make a huge difference to the quality of your life. Below are some reflection questions for you to meditate on or journal about toward a more restful and playful life.
I hope you have a great time exploring these things and find that the child in you comes out to play, perhaps even surprising you now and again.
Begin Online Counseling in Seattle, Washington
Are you feeling burnt out and overworked? Are you struggling with finding joy and pleasure in your life? With the guidance of a mental health counselor, you can begin to prioritize your happiness and wellbeing. Your therapist can work together with you to create healthy habits and improve your mental health. You can begin online counseling in the comfort of your own home. Schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation today to get started.
Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) has proven to be effective at mending marriages and relationships. Dr. Sue Johnson, the developer of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, condenses twenty years of experience and wisdom into her book Hold Me Tight. I’ve been curious to learn more about this method of therapy, and finally picked up the book for myself. As a non-therapist, here are some helpful strategies that I learned from this book to stop the cycle of blame and resentment in a relationship and rebuild that trust and security.
Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy
Dr. Johnson shows what emotionally focused couples therapy can look and feel like through examples from seven couples. I found the conversations of each couple the most fascinating. We see the gradual process of couples learning to dig deeper, to not concern themselves with the argument on the surface but rather the emotions that are hidden beneath. Here are a few steps that I took away to start forming a deeper connection in romantic relationships.
Check In with Yourself, and Choose Each Other
When you find yourself getting overwhelmed or frustrated at your partner, take a moment to stop and reflect. This can be hard in the beginning. These patterns can be set in practice for months or years without realizing it. You’ll find yourself talking in terms of “me” vs. “you," and getting lost in defensive or critical statements. I have been victim to this pattern many times. Acknowledging the cycle of critique/defense is the first step to breaking it. Recognize that you are both on the same team, and that your partner is not the enemy. Take a step back and ask yourself, “What are we really arguing about?”
Own Up to Your Actions
The next step is to acknowledge your shortcomings. Be honest about what you are struggling with. This can let the other person know that you are invested in being on the same team, rather than who is “right” or “wrong." It is valuable to discuss how fights are triggered without judging each other. When you acknowledge your behavior, it allows your partner to safely go deeper.
Share Your Feelings
Clarifying and sharing your feelings is the core of great couples therapy. In the beginning, it can feel uncomfortable or even frightening. But sharing your feelings in a safe space will allow your partner to understand you better. It’s okay to admit that you feel angry or isolated. It is okay if the feelings are confusing. Try to communicate how you felt about your partner’s actions. “When you don’t do the dishes, I feel like you’re not hearing me. I feel like you don’t care about me.” That last sentence is the key. When you are upset that the dishes aren’t being done, it can come from a place of past hurt or insecurity. Together, you can work together to validate and provide support from common ground.
Even if you’re not currently in a monogamous, romantic relationship, this book is still deserving of a read. Everyone has important connections with others that need time and care to look after. I found myself relating to a lot of the patterns mentioned, even in my platonic relationships. The word that comes to mind when I think of Dr. Johnson’s message is simply: hopeful. You can feel how much hope and trust she has in any couple that walks through her door.
Start Couples Counseling in Ballard
Do you find yourself stuck in a cycle of conflict and miscommunication with your partner? At Thrive for the People, our licensed therapists can help you re-establish a strong, secure, loving bond in your relationship. Our therapists use Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy as their main approach to working with couples. Together they can help you and your partner create lasting change. If you’re feeling lost, and looking for additional support, schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation with us today.
If you search for “therapists near me,” you might find almost every therapists’ web page with the same disclaimer: We are only offering online therapy at this time. This is one small example of the “new normal” since the pandemic began. Many people have made the switch to online therapy and continue to attend every week. Some people even started therapy for the first time in 2020, and to this day have not met their therapist in-person. Some of us have experienced new levels of grief and anxiety for the first time, while others are seeing long-standing issues push to the surface. I can’t help but wonder: what, if anything, gets lost in translation through online therapy? Is online therapy the best way to deliver therapy? Is it here to stay?
Benefits of Online Therapy
The clear benefit that many find about online therapy is the convenience. Now people can access care from the comfort of their own home. They can schedule sessions during their lunch break or in between meetings. Without the added time for a commute, more people have space in their day to invest in themselves.
As long as a therapist is licensed in your state of residence, you should be able to seek online treatment from them. This opens the door for more accessible care. If you live in a rural area, your in-person options could be limited. Some clients are seeking help from therapists with a specific area of expertise, like Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), or Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). If there is no one in your city or town that specializes in this, then online therapy could be a great resource to find a therapist who is a great match for you.
Furthermore, studies have shown that there is no significant difference in effectiveness between in-person and online therapy. There was also no difference in client satisfaction across both methods. It can be daunting to meet someone in-person for the first time, especially when the goal is to be open and vulnerable. With online therapy, you can take comfort in sitting on your sofa, maybe having a pet nearby or curled up in a soft blanket.
Knowing that you’re safe and secure in an environment that brings you peace can help you start the journey to heal. Being prepared and setting intentions before your first session can help tremendously as well. If you’re intimidated by therapy, or find the process overwhelming, online counseling could be a gentle first step.
Drawbacks of Online Therapy
Online therapy is not without its drawbacks. Without being able to interact face-to-face, there are going to be cues or body language that the therapist might miss. A trained professional will notice the way a client holds themselves in space and convey their feeling through body language. These small cues help the therapist make an accurate assessment and diagnosis. Certain concerns require more care as well. If someone is struggling with suicidal intent or psychosis, online therapy is not recommended. It can be harder for a therapist to intervene in the event of a crisis.
Another drawback of online therapy is the lack of transitions before and after therapy. I know one of my favorite things about attending therapy in-person was the time I had to myself afterwards. Driving home from the office, I was able to decompress and reflect on everything my therapist and I had talked about. It was such valuable time to myself, and I really cherished it. I could make a mental note of what I needed to work on for next week, or just use the time to really feel all of my emotions. With online therapy, that secondary location is gone, and it can make it harder to find the space to process.
There are several factors that will help you have a successful online therapy experience. It is important to have a stable Wifi connection and the privacy to attend sessions. If you live with multiple roommates or with family members, it could be hard to feel comfortable discussing sensitive topics when your conversation might be overheard.
Online Platforms vs. Private Practices
You might have heard of online counseling platforms like BetterHelp and TalkSpace. Instead of a 1-hour session with the same therapist over months or even years, you can access a wide range of providers through text and video calls. These resources are great if you have a busy 9-5 schedule. BetterHelp also has the option for you to sign up for a weekly membership. This allows you to explore online therapy without feeling any pressure to commit. It can also be much more affordable than traditional private practices or centers.
Does this discount impact the quality of care clients receive? The evidence points to yes. There is a growing concern in the therapeutic community about the impact of startup mental health companies. At the end of the day, their goal is to make a profit. This can lead to policies that devalue the honesty and depth of a traditional therapeutic relationship. TalkSpace will pay therapists by the word for text message correspondence, which incentivises them to prioritize quantity over the quality of messages. These companies set the tone that therapy can be a mass-produced commodity, rather than a unique and intimate relationship.
At group practices like Thrive for the People, our work is much more tailored to the individual. Our clinicians see a small fraction of the clients each week compared to larger platforms. It allows the clinicians to form a more personal connection, so that together you can set long-term goals. Because of this, our fees are higher and we do not have the same flexibility in our schedule. Check in with yourself, and think about what option is best for you.
Begin Online Counseling in Seattle, Washington
Are you feeling overwhelmed or depleted? If you are motivated to start seeing change in your life, it might be time to seek help with the accountability and structure that a therapist can offer. The talented therapists here at Thrive for the People offer online therapy to treat anxiety, depression, disordered eating, and trauma. We can begin the process of healing from the comfort of your own home. Schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation and we can determine the best support for you.
Asking for what you want and need in a clear, direct, honest, and courageous way is one of the keys to healthy communication and relationship dynamics and yet one of the hardest things to do. I have struggled with it personally for a long time. Raised as an Asian American woman, being assertive felt counter to my upbringing and cultural values. Yet I have learned over time, as Dr. Brené Brown puts it, “Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.”
To be clear and direct can fit into my cultural values when I do it with thoughtfulness, skillfulness, kindness, and compassion. In this blog post, I will offer some effective strategies to ask for what you want in your relationship to maximize the chance that your partner will hear and understand you clearly and accurately. Let's first identify some of the myths of healthy communication.
Myths of Healthy Communication
Fears of Being Direct and Assertive
Some of the doubts and fears that often come up when we practice being direct, honest, and clear are:
Sound familiar? I have these thoughts running through my mind too. When these thoughts get too loud, instead of asking directly, I might hint at my needs, use criticism or passive aggressive behaviors to express my needs, tell myself that it is better not to depend on others, and/or bury my needs to the point that I cannot recognize them anymore. Instead of building a healthy relationship dynamic, I may end up unconsciously and unintentionally self-sabotaging my relationship.
The skillful ways to ask for what you want and need maximizes the chance that the other person can hear it accurately and want to fulfill it. This way of asking is not demanding, intimidating, aggressive, critical, burdening, or obligatory. It is not setting ultimatums, escalating emotionally, using guilt and shame, or persuading the other person. When you are clear, direct, and confident in what you want, you give the other person the opportunity to come closer to yo, to understand you better, to step up into their higher self, and to care for you in ways that are meaningful to you. Below are the five strategies to ask for what you want in a healthy way that challenges the myths of healthy communication in a relationship. These strategies come from Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, Non-Violent Communication, and Interpersonal Effectiveness Skills.
1. Assume Good Intentions
Start the conversation by assuming good intentions about the other person. An unhelpful strategy to ask for what you want is to assume that the other person has not met your needs so far out of bad intention or not caring. In my work as an Emotionally Focused couples therapist, I often hear one partner say, “If they cared about me, they would have known to do x, y, or z.” By starting off this way, the listener is already on the defense about their intentions. Instead, try starting the conversation with the following:
2. Express Your Emotions
Expressing your emotions can help de-escalate and clarify miscommunication. The first step is to calm and soothe yourself and become clear about what you are feeling on the surface as well as at a deeper level. For instance, you might be feeling frustrated, resentful, bitter, and angry on the surface with your partner for not seeing your contribution or valuing your efforts. At a deeper level, there might be feelings of fear of rejection, fear of not being good enough, fear of abandonment, and feeling unseen, taken advantage of, and unworthy. Expressing both the surface emotions and the deeper emotions with vulnerability and authenticity can help to soften your partner and allow them to see the hurt inside that is in need of comfort, compassion, care, and protection.
3. Give Others the Gift of Caring for You
Reframe a request as a gift for your partner: a chance to see the map into your heart. Most likely, your partner wants to care for you and is looking for opportunities to express how much you mean to them. They will not be able to read your mind and they might need some help to understand you better. When your partner knows that something delights you, makes you feel loved and supported, it is setting them up for success to do that more often. Give them the opportunity to succeed with you by directly and gently letting them know what you like, what you would love to see more of, what brings you joy, and how you feel the most cared for. It is a privilege and a gift for your partner to be able to care and love you in the ways that matters to you.
4. Accept When They Say “No”
Sometimes you may hesitate to ask for what you want directly because you are afraid of rejection or being “too much” if the other person cannot fulfill your needs. You can decrease the stakes and risks of asking by identifying other ways to get your needs met. For example, if your partner is not available to listen to you right now and they say “no,” can you call a friend to talk instead? If your partner is not able to care for the children right now, can you hire a childcare provider instead? Feeling that you are empowered and have agency to meet your own needs makes it easier to accept a “no.” Just because your partner is not available or able to meet your request right now does not invalidate your need or want.
5. Express Gratitude When They Say “Yes”
Expressing gratitude and praise is the most effective way to increase the chance that a behavior will happen again. Humans are very responsive to positive reinforcement. When your partner gets instant feedback that what they did is on the right track, that it mattered to you, it had the intended response that they were hoping for, and that it made you happy, they are much more likely to do it again in the future. When your partner says “yes” to your request, delivers what you had asked for, spontaneously does something that makes you feel wonderful, let them know early and often that they are on the right path into your heart. Over time, your partner will internalize the feedback. When their behavior becomes a habit, you won’t have to express gratitude each and every time for them to continue doing what they know will make you happy and contribute to a healthy relationship.
Begin Couples Therapy in Our Ballard Office or Through Online Therapy
If the idea of working on these effective communication strategies feels taunting or overwhelming to do on your own, our competent and compassionate therapists can provide extra support and accountability through individual or couples counseling. We can help you dig deep into your current communication patterns, self-sabotaging behaviors, and stuck places in your relationship. We can guide you toward effective communication strategies to create more intimate, healthy, secure, and thriving relationships with your partner. Schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation with us today.
May is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month so I thought I would take the opportunity to talk about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs).
Perinatal mood and anxiety disorder is the occurrence of distressing emotional symptoms during pregnancy and throughout the first year after pregnancy. Around 15%-20% of mothers experience symptoms related to PMAD (Byrnes, 2018). The term has been broadened from postpartum depression in recent years to include symptoms of anxiety, obsessive and compulsive disorder, psychosis, and posttraumatic stress disorder.
Symptoms of PMADs
The birth of a new baby is typically a time of celebration and joy within our culture. The experience of PMADS so often goes into the shadows and parents are left to feel isolated and to blame. If a family is experiencing PMADs it can have adverse emotional and physical effects on the whole family. It is important to be able to recognize the signs and to seek support. With help, PMADs are treatable. You are not alone and it is not your fault.
Perinatal Mental Health for Partners and Family Members
It's important to mention that fathers, partners, and non-gestational parents can also experience symptoms of PMADS. This includes families with same-sex relationships, foster parents, adoptive parents or other non-biological parents. Having a newborn brings about a multitude of stressors into a family. It is a tremendous adjustment for the couple, the family, as well as psychologically for the individual.
How Perinatal and Postpartum Therapy Can Help New Parents
The shift to becoming a parent is complex and holds emotional and psychological challenges. The identity you hold as a “mother” or “father” may be ambivalent depending on your own experiences of being parented. The model you have for parenthood greatly influences how you feel about the emerging role of parenthood. I often hear new parents in my office sharing how they feel as if they lost themselves after becoming a parent. Lack of social support during this phase of life can amplify the stress and intensify feelings of isolation and helplessness. When I work with expecting or new parents, I help individuals explore their internalized models for parenthood, their expectations, and work through any rising grief and loss. We also identify and work towards addressing their needs for support. My hope is to strengthen families and help parents feel empowered as they step into their new roles and identities.
Perinatal and Postpartum Counseling for New Parents
With support, the journey into parenthood can be rewarding and beautiful. If you or a loved one is experiencing signs of PMADs, seek support with perinatal and postpartum counseling. It can get better. We are a group of licensed therapists and psychologist that enjoy working with new parents at every stage of parenthood. We are located in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle and we offer online counseling. Schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation to see if we are a good fit for you.
The past year has ushered in loss and as a society, we are collectively grieving. As a culture, we have a script for honoring big losses such as the death of a loved one. We have rituals in place that allow for the mourning process to be carried forward. This helps us honor our grief and work through it. What the pandemic has really highlighted for me, however, is the question of what do we do with small losses? How do we grieve the ambiguous loss? I think of the unattended high school graduation, the canceled concert, the postponed wedding, the break-up, and the social isolation.
I want to give space and air to these unobserved disappointments that so often get neglected. We are really good at “getting over it” and avoiding our pain. The default for many, is to dismiss and discount their experiences of small loss. It may bring up feelings of guilt or embarrassment because we can always point to someone who has it “much worse off than me.” When we compare our pain to others, we neglect a vital aspect of our personhood.
We are collectively enduring disenfranchised grief. This phenomenon was first coined by Kenneth J. Doka, a professor and hospice consultant. Doka puts language to the experience of losses that are not recognized by others (Doka, 1989). Some losses occur, and we have no social ritual of mourning for it as a culture. It goes unacknowledged and as result, our feelings go unheard and invalidated. Much of the missed experiences, relationships, roles, and opportunities of this past year can be categorized as disenfranchised grief. How are we processing these losses?
Unprocessed grief is devastating to our well-being. It’s no surprise that symptoms of anxiety and depression have increased considerably in the United States during the pandemic (Czeisler, et al, 2020).
When you experience a loss, it deserves to be grieved. The mourning process allows for you to honor its importance in your life and to work through the emotional impact. I often tell people in my work that “you can either feel it now, or feel it later, you choose.” Either way, the feelings associated with loss will surface sooner or later.
It is worth the time to reflect on this past year and identify what losses you have experienced. Suspend all judgement, no matter how insignificant it may seem. Try and acknowledge it. I hope that you can find some tenderness for yourself and honor the small losses. Here are some steps to take that I have found helpful in working through loss. (Adapted from Therese Rando’s 6 R’s of Mourning.)
Acknowledge Your Loss
Take the time to reflect on what has been most difficult for you during this pandemic. Don’t compare your experience to others. This is a practice that is personal and just for you. Notice what you have missed, what has felt disappointing, what have you been fearful, sad, or angry about? By naming the loss, you will be externalizing the experience and giving it a home outside of your body.
Share It with Someone
After identifying your unique experiences of loss, find someone who will be a compassionate listener. It might even be helpful to find people who have experienced a similar loss. Our grief deserves a witness. When we can bravely talk about it with others, we will feel less alone.
Create a Ritual
A lot of disenfranchised grief is not given the traditional recognition in our culture such as memorials, obituaries, periods of mourning, etc. Find a way to memorialize your losses. It was something important to you and deserves to be honored and remembered. Get creative and find some sort of action to accompany your grief. Some examples might be to light a candle, plant a tree, hold a special ceremony, bury an object, spend time journaling, drawing or painting.
Adjust to the New Life
Once you have processed your grief and loss, you now have the task of returning to life. How can you invest back into your life? What are the activities that bring you joy? As you adjust to the new normal, be intentional about finding purpose and meaning. Loss is a natural part of the human experience. With each loss you endure, an opportunity arises for new life and new experiences. As the poet, Mary Oliver once asked, “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
Grief Counseling in Seattle
Are you struggling with unprocessed grief and loss? Are you looking for support to help heal from past or current loss? You are not alone, and help is available. We are a team of therapists located in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle. We work with individuals and couples in the Seattle area on navigating through grief and loss. You can schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation or contact us for more information.
How are you doing? No, really. How are you? I know I have been so wrapped up with work, adjusting to the constantly changing landscape of the coronavirus, and the roller coaster of the news and media that I have not really checked in with myself about how I am feeling or coping through this time.
There is a part of me that knows if I slowed down and allowed my emotions to catch up to me, I am going to be overwhelmed with the grief, fear, helplessness, sadness, and anger. So instead, I fill my free time with new hobbies and projects. I have pulled out my painting supplies, jumped on the baking bandwagon, and gardened like my life depends on it. Although these hobbies are wonderful distractions in the moment, I know that they are not sufficient to help me pull through this marathon. As the pandemic stretches into the indefinite future, I want to offer some additional coping strategies to support you during this time. Writing this post is also a reminder to myself to come back to the practice of healthy coping during a crisis.
In Part I of the Coronavirus Survival Guide, I discussed the coping strategies of validating your emotions, validating others' emotions, and giving yourself time to adjust. In Part II of the Coronavirus Survival Guide, I will introduce the strategies of practicing meditation and creating new routines.
1. Practice Meditation
I have found that practicing meditation is even more essential during this time of uncertainty and constant transitions than ever before. In my previous blog post on meditation, I talked about how research has shown that meditation can decrease your stress level in as little as 3 days and change your brain chemistry and structure in the long term. How does meditation work? How can you harness the power of meditation to calm your fears and sooth your sorrow?
In my experience as a student of meditation, I have learned that the first step in meditation is to become aware of how much my mind wanders away into the future, the past, and the stories that I tell myself and believe to be true. The second step is to become aware of how my mind tries to push away things that I find uncomfortable, grasps onto things that I believe are desirable, and gets lost in my ego and false beliefs. When I learned to focus my minds on the present moment, I became awake to what is really in front of me and I can come closer to what is real in the moment rather than what is happening in my mind. The third step is to quiet my mind enough for the inner wisdom and truth to speak. When my mind is at peace, I often find the strength to accept what is difficult and painful as well as open myself to what is joyful and beautiful right now.
For instance, there have been times in the past few months when I have felt intense fear about getting sick and dying from COVID-19. I have woken up in the middle of the night crying with fear, panic, and dread. When I practiced meditation and quieted my mind, I was able to trace this fear back to this story that I tell myself that "there is not enough." A part of me believes that there will not be enough time in my life to achieve and experience all that I want before I die. In those moments of fear, I find myself pushing away the idea that my life can end at any moment and grasping onto my expectations of a fulfilling life. I hold onto false ideas about a life worth living (e.g., achievements, travels, wealth, etc.). I realized that the acts of pushing away and grasping were causing me anguish and suffering. When I calmed my mind, I came back to the truth and wisdom that death is as natural as breathing. I was expecting a sense of control over the length of my life when that control was never in my hands. I have a life worth living already because I am surrounded by people who love me.
Ready to learn more about meditation? Below are some of my favorite books on mindfulness and meditation. Here is a recent podcast episode from Oprah's SuperSoul Conversations with Eckhart Tolle titled "How to Find a New Spiritual Awakening During the Pandemic." Check out the Youtube video from author Thomas Hubl discussing how to stay open, vulnerable, and connected during this pandemic. Finally, Dharma Seed provides free recorded talks by meditation teachers.
2. Create New Routines
You may have already established a new routine since the pandemic began and the stay-at-home orders were put in place. As the nation is starting to reopen, you may be adjusting yet again to a new routine that is based on your profession, family context, financial reality, geographic location, health conditions, and many other factors. As the pandemic continues around the globe, there may be new developments that could disrupt and change your routine quickly. As you are adjusting again and again to the changes, I encourage you to identify the things that are most important to you. What are the values and aspects in your life that you do not want to compromise even during times of uncertainty? To spend quality time with your loved ones? To get out into nature? To have some down time to yourself everyday to recharge? To contribute meaningfully to your neighbors and community? I encourage you to identify the one thing that is the most important to you each day and shape your day around that.
Online Counseling During COVID-19
Are you struggling with increased anxiety and stress due to COVID-19? Are you looking for extra support during this difficult time? We are a group of exceptional licensed therapists providing online therapy. We love to help individuals and couples in the Seattle area with a wide range of mental health concerns. You can schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation or contact us for more information.