Pandemic Combustion Prevention

Pandemic Combustion Prevention

 

Illustrate combustion

Have you about reached your limits after almost 8 months of chaos? Most of us began this season in March with some level of anxiety but a commitment to be careful and a belief that “this too shall pass”. Well. It hasn’t quite gone that way, has it? Not only are we staring down the barrel of a resurgence as winter approaches (something the experts predicted back in April), but add in social unrest, election vitriol and a complete breakdown of societal support and structure across every level. While folks have developed a routine of one foot in front of the other to get through our days, even those of us privileged enough to still have a job with the freedom to work from home, are beginning to realize that our gas tanks are near empty. With no end in sight, what is the plan?

It is time to stop and be strategic. As much as we would love to believe in the magic of a new year, 1/1/2021 will not bring with it any major changes. We are looking at more of the same for many months to come. In the coming weeks, we are supposed to figure out how to celebrate holidays without putting ourselves or others at undue risk. Not to mention – find the energy to do so. As mental health professionals, we’ve been observing all of this and feeling compelled to bring reasonable strategies to the table along with specific action steps that we can focus on as we bring this year to a close.

Mentally
Treat your brain like your favorite recipe – the ingredients you put in determine the end product. 
What are your priorities in life? Is it a mission you are called to; a role that you value – leader, spouse, parent; a set of spiritual values?  What are the concepts bigger than you which should drive the way you do life?  Once you have clarity on priority – become a diligent curator of everything you consume!  The websites you visit, the people/accounts you follow on social media, the shows you watch, the books/articles you read, the videos you watch, the podcasts you listen to, the music you play…take a militant stance toward each and every ingredient being deposited in your brain.  Does each one align with the priority you identified?  If the ingredients don’t match up, the dish you end up with will not have any resemblance to what you claim to be of importance to you.  Remember quality matters as well.  Marinara made with grocery store tomatoes cannot compare to the sauce made with heirloom tomatoes from grandma’s backyard, right?

Action step: Spend a week making note of everything you take in, then sit down and make decisions about what needs to go and what ingredients are missing in light of what matters most to you.

Emotionally
Protect space in your life to notice, identify and express your emotions.  If you struggle with knowing what emotions you are experiencing, try using this emotion wheel to give you the broader vocabulary which may help you get more specific about what you are feeling.

label emotions

Or…maybe words are not your issue, perhaps it is just not feeling connected to emotion at all.  Relying less on your brain to figure it out and more on listening to your body may help.  Just sitting quietly and scanning your body to find areas of tension, relaxation, pain, discomfort, unease or any other sensation can give you wonderful clues as to what is happening emotionally.  There are very good reasons why we lose connection to our own internal life and this is where therapy may be a great idea to build back that connection.

Action step: Experiment with a daily reminder on your phone for various times of the day: try morning, mealtimes, afternoons or bedtime.  When the alarm sounds, dedicate 10 minutes to tuning in to how you are feeling and express it in some way: draw something, find a song that matches, share it with someone or write it in a journal.  By the end of the year, you will know what techniques work and what time of day is best or you will have clarity on the fact that it is time to reach out for assistance.

Physical
Seek quality information and focus on the basics over which you have control.  Choose properly qualified sources for health information. (No, your meme-posting college friend who works in banking is not a good prospect). Look for people who are on the front lines of this pandemic – treating actual COVID patients or doing the research currently – and listen to their reports. COVID-19 was first reported on December 31, 2019 globally. Ten months is a very short period of time in the world of medicine. We have to expect the information to deepen and grow each week, so taking any kind of permanent stance on what works and doesn’t is not wise. Find good sources, listen to the information for yourself so that you can make wise decisions about your health and those with whom you come in contact.  If you have friends working in the microbiology, epidemiology or infectious disease fields, ask them for recommendations.  Here are a few resources to consider as well:

Medscape Resources

Simple model of what we currently understand regarding how the virus is transmitted. Note this is based on computer modeling and assumes a person in their most infectious stage of the virus.  The encouraging news is how effective simple strategies are against this worst-case scenario!

Laurel Bristow, Infectious Disease Researcher

Samantha Yammine, PhD – Neuroscientist/Science Communicator

Kennen Hutchison – PhD Student-Neuroinvasive Virology

Action step:  Find one or two good qualified sources for pandemic research information and do your best to minimize everything else so that you can protect yourself from panic and overwhelm.  Take a look at the basics in your life: gentle nutrition, sleep and joyful movement.  These are the things over which you have the most influence.  Determine the baby steps you can take to gain progress in those areas.

Social
Abandon ‘all or nothing’ approaches to social engagement. We need each other and so we need to be flexible in creating opportunities to connect.  We are called to physically distance – we do not have to socially distance.  It is time to let go of waiting on how it used to be.  Grieve the days that are in the rear view mirror.  The ways in which we interact – both in person and digitally are changed forever.  Change is constant.  We will have some elements of contact back someday AND we will have precautions that will stay with us indefinitely.  Many of us have refused to reckon with this reality, holding out for a return to “normal” while life passes us by in isolation.  Don’t skip the grief: the reckoning, the hurt, the fear, the anger, the sadness, the acceptance…it all must be attended to if we are to avoid the subconscious consequences.   Acceptance is hard won.  It looks like intentional strategies to regain what has been lost, from new sources.

Action step: Commit to the digital tools you may not enjoy as the price to be paid for relationship: video calls, phone calls, apps.  Feel the irritations, the frustrations, whatever difficult emotions you have and move forward anyway.  Put these digital connection appointments in your calendar so that they have a chance to slowly work their way into your normal routine.  Use the information you have gained from the science community to develop reasonable strategies for in-person gatherings.  Talk to your doctor about your unique vulnerabilities.  Discuss your decisions with friends and family and find the ones who are willing to commit to the steps required for minimizing risk to yourself and loved ones.  Make those folks members of your pandemic pod and enjoy your time together!

Would you benefit from a step-by-step walk through in applying these suggestions?  Click here to download our pacing manual!  We provide the questions and worksheets to help you identify your priorities, evaluate your media consumption, manage your emotions, improve your sleep, design your pandemic pod and prioritize your relationships.  We also provide great resources for learning more about helpful phone apps, nutrition and exercise.

GET THE MANUAL HERE

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