Dear Christine, Signed Furious in Ferndale

Dear Christine,

I’m trying hard to keep my stress and anxiety levels down. I have high blood pressure as it is. I struggle to stay away from all news and social media but at the same time, there’s a need to know.

I’m not too afraid of getting it myself (well maybe a little) I’m social isolating and lonely. My frustration and anger is off the charts at this administrations  (Trump) lack of response to this emergency.  I saw on Facebook this morning that (he) doesn’t think NY really needs the amount of respirators they’re asking for!!!  Who made him king to decide who gets help and who doesn’t?

I feel like I should be doing something and I’m not sure what.  March on Washington?  Call my representatives? Do you know of any way I can channel my anger into something useful and help me get my anxiety under control?

Maybe I just needed to vent. Either way, thanks for listening.

Thanks,
Signed Furious in Ferndale

 

Dear Furious,
I share your fury and anxiety, as a human and as an American citizen with a sociopathic president who puts money before lives and relies on his own judgement instead of advisers of any type.  Our Federal government has been dysfunctional since January 2020 since the Pandemic President was elected, and we all feared a real crisis, for good reason.  Thank our Republican Senators and Representatives who have enabled this Pandemic President and all his lies.  They “agree”  with his policies and are making big bucks off of him.  Kudos to Michigan US Rep Justin Amash for leaving the Republican party and its craziness to be an Independent.  And Kudos to Governor Gretchen Whitmer and our leaders in Michigan for taking controversial steps to lock-down early and long.  Our state government is following scientific facts and is a fully functional government.  Write your state and federal representatives and scold them or thank them according to your judgment.  Your voice matters.

However, this virus lock-down is our national and personal reality.  Raging about it only raises your blood pressure, which does not help you at all.  The best thing you can do is take care of you, and make sure you vote in November 2020!  Writing letters, emails and signing petitions is helpful to have some place to make your voice heard.  Congresspeople keep records of their constituents responses and it can change legislation.  Again, VOTE in November.  And if they are taking steps you approve of, make sure to let them know that too.

So what can you do?
BE INFORMED:

Set aside some time each day to be informed by accurate information, say from the Centers for Disease Control at www.cdc.gov or the State of Michigan https://www.michigan.gov/coronavirus/.  Verify sources of data of what you read on Facebook.  Large circulation newspapers such as the New York Times and the Washington Post have an ethical responsibility to verify sources before printing news, and if they make an error, they will report that and correct the information.

LIMIT EXPOSURE

First and most importantly, social distance to avoid the virus.   Also limit exposure to the social media circus.   Co laugh!  See Randy Rainbow’s latest parody on this and laugh with him:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WimbyL_25Nw.  Yes, it can leave you lonely, particularly if you live alone.  Stay 6′ from others unless you live with that/those persons.  Avoid traveling around.  It may be legal to go take a drive or walk around Meijer to clear your head, but there are police that may pull you over.  Southfield has been doing this.  They may send you home if you don’t have a letter from your employer deeming you to be a critical worker.  Instead, take a walk.  So, this means marching on Washington is not an option for the next quite-a-while.

TURN OFF/DROP OUT

It’s a 1960’s phrase but it may help you cope.  We didn’t have Facebook or Face Time back then, but the idea of disengaging with things that prey on our need for contact and provide misinformation and innuendo and emotional hooks make advertisers a lot of money and destroy your peace of mine.

TAKE CARE OF YOU

Once you disconnect, do something positive for yourself.  Establish a routine bed time and wake up time.  Eat healthy meals.  Exercise.  Get outdoors, as it’s spring and perfect temps for running, dog walking (my neighbors are all doing these) or gardening.  Be glad that we get to be outside, unlike the the Chinese people who were quarantined indoors.

STAY CONNECTED
Use Face Time, the phone and even old fashioned letters or cards to stay in touch with friends and family.  Social isolation is a risk factor in human health and especially for senior citizens.  There are Facebook pages and NextDoor apps that help you connect with your neighborhood.  Maybe a friend or neighbor cannot go shop for food.  Volunteer to pick some items up for them before you make a grocery run.

ORDER TAKE OUT

Restaurants are part of our critical infrastructure.  Call ahead or go on line and order carry out from local restaurants.  They are working a skeleton staff and struggling to stay open and you are helping your community through these tough times.

EXPRESS YOUR SELF
This could be talking to your therapist (we have all moved to telephone and/or video sessions).  If you have insurance, check with the website for participating providers.  There are also some websites offering to connect you virtually to a therapist through the Internet.  https://www.fastcompany.com/90482540/all-the-ways-to-get-free-therapy-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic.
Journal your thoughts and feelings, preferably not publicly.  The point is to let your inner censor take a break and vent whatever you are going through without upsetting others.  Once you have some coherent thoughts, feel free to share them with friends and family.
Draw, make music, paint, dance.  Express yourself though a variety of media.  Try something you have never done before.  There are online classes, some of them offering free lessons during this crisis.

Read for pleasure.  The New York Public Library is offering all of their eBooks and audible books for free during this time.  Various on line platforms are offering special deals for entertainment https://www.timeout.com/newyork/news/you-can-now-download-over-300-000-books-from-the-nypl-for-free-031820

 

BE MINDFUL:

“Mindfulness, for the uninitiated, is the quality of being aware and engaged, leading to reflection rather than reaction.  Many psychologists believe it is one of the best ways to combat anxiety and depression.”  WLWT5 News

Ways to be mindful are to pay attention to whatever is in front of you, next to you, below you and surrounding you.  So, not Facebook.  Look at your physical surroundings and disconnect from the stream of chatter elsewhere.

 

GROUNDING FOR PANIC

Some panic attacks feel like a heart attack or perhaps even like the symptoms of COVID 19.  Even if you are SURE it is a physical or medical emergency, please first take a few moments to try to calm down and breathe.  There is no point in going to the hospital unless you really are unable to breathe.  So, first, ground yourself:

 

Use your 5 senses to reconnect with the present, as panic is always about the future that has not arrived yet.

Feel the floor under your feet or under your body if you lie on the floor.  Feel the floor support your whole body.

Tense and relax the muscles of your body, starting with feet and legs, moving up to the trunk and arms, and finally neck and head.  This will increase your awareness of your physical body and help you stay present.

Breathe deeply in a 5 second inhale, hold, then a 5 second exhale.  Listen to the sound of your breath.  Listen to music that soothes you, or energizes you, depending on what you need.

Look at your surroundings and notice something new or different.

Smell something:  your dog, some perfume, some food, a flower.

Taste something:  drink some water, or tea or milk.  Just a sip to taste it.

 

To continue to relax:  keep breathing deeply and imagine that are growing roots out of your feet deep into the earth, and feel those roots bringing up the air as you inhale.  Feel that air filling your feet and legs, your trunk, your arms and finally your neck and head, and then, exhale, feeling the air release back through your body and into the ground.  Lie on the ground, literally.  Feel the floor or ground beneath you support you as you relax and then tense your muscles up and through your body.  Finally, lie there consciously relaxing all your muscles, just breathing deeply.  Stay in the present.  Right now, that is all we have.

Soon enough, the future will be here.  It will probably get worse before it gets better.  So, remind yourself to do these things to take care of you.  Your one and only responsibility is to take care of yourself, and if someone is dependent on you, the only way you can take care of them is to protect your mental, physical and emotional health, to keep you strong.  Be kind to yourself and others.  These crises bring out the worst and the best in us.  Kindness will create an opening for others to respond likewise.

And lastly, you can write me again.  I would like to hear how readers are coping in these difficult times and learn of any suggestions you have of what is helping you get through these hard times.

Christine C Cantrell, PhD,
Licensed Psychologist

 

Christine C. Cantrell, Ph.D.
Licensed Psychologist
Prism of Possibilities Psychotherapy
1026 W. Eleven Mile Road, Suite C
Royal Oak, Michigan 48067
248-591-2888

www.christinecantrell.com
christineccantrellphd@gmail.com

 

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