Category Archives: health

Ambiguous Loss and Covid 19

Hello Friends.

Life has changed so much since I last posted and there are daily changes.

About two weeks ago, I noticed that I feel sad and overwhelmed when I wake up and then I thought “things are still the same, it’s not a bad dream”. This feeling is similar to the time that my son died and many years ago when my dad died.

I remember waking up (during both these events/timelines) and being hit with a wave of sadness and feeling overwhelmed and discouraged (similar to how I feel now) and not knowing when the feeling would end or if it would end.

I think many people have feelings like this now with Covid 19. It’s terribly difficult wading through an emotionally painful, difficult experience and not knowing when or if it will end. I recently discovered this is called “Ambiguous Loss”, coined by Pauline Boss, Ph.D., and Emeritus Professor and Clinical Supervisor of Marriage and Family Therapy, at University of Minnesota.

I was part of a webinar training based on her book about a week ago and I wanted to share some newfound insights. Ambiguous loss is described as “An unclear loss that defies closure…often times it does not have validation or clarification or resolution”. Boss’ research includes information from POW experiencing crisis from Vietnam, 911 families, military deployment, and families of loved ones with dementia. Most every person right now has experienced some type of ambiguous loss-losing connections with loved ones who are physically absent but emotionally present whether they are sick or well, people experiencing job loss or co worker relationship loss, and healthcare providers going into a situation where they can be at high risk.

There are physical symptoms of ambiguous loss including depression, anxiety, family discord, confusion, grieving, hope, hopelessness, shock but it’s important to remember all these symptoms are NORMAL. She identified the ways all of us can shift from experiencing despair to hope and I will list them below with an example of what I am doing.

  1. Finding Meaning- I realize that my family relationships are very important to me (how are we pulling together?) and connecting in some way helps me distract from the world.
  2. Tempering (Adjusting) Mastery-learn to hold two opposing ideas at the same time-I have a lot of anxiety listening to the news about Covid 19 AND I feel peace when I don’t listen to the news and connect with others or reach out to help someone else (be cautious to blame oneself or others).
  3. Reconstructing Identity-try to recognize how my roles have changed before, during, and after Covid 19 (separate myself from Covid 19 and don’t stay in a role that doesn’t work-working from home and doing therapy by video-“no shoulds”)
  4. Normalizing Ambivalence-and I love this one because my webinar had a quote “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” -Tolkien   Try to acknowledge yours and others feelings, try not to judge yourself or others, and listen to each other. It’s actually kinda cool to think I’m sort of like Frodo and this is an adventure (I choose the word adventure instead of tragedy) I have never experienced.  Here’s another example:I want to see my family and friends, but I don’t want to get sick or get them sick.
  5. Revising Attachment-try to acknowledge how difficult it is separating social ties through social distancing and try to do new ways to strengthen or create other attachments, maybe through Facetime or Zoom or Marco Polo.
  6. Discovering Hope-I also love this one because Hope is increased through strengthening our connection spirituality. Whether you have a Higher Power or believe in God, discovering hope is huge and can comfort us. I know I feel comfort and peace when I connect with God by reading my scriptures, or praying, or listening to a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints General Conference talk. I have found life is so much less stressful when I connect with God.

 

I hope this information is helpful for all of you to manage this stressful time in our world which is new for all of us.

My hopes and prayers go with all of you my friends.

 

 

Isolating Together

Hello friends!

I haven’t posted for some time as I’ve been dealing with some pretty terrible neck pain along with our continually changing world.

The last couple of months I’ve had two sets (six shots each) of “diagnostic” shots in my neck to determine if “therapeutic shots”-shots of electricity to burn my nerves in the bulging discs of my neck will decrease my pain.

The last two weeks I’ve had these therapeutic shots and isolated at home on my bed because of the pain but I know not everyone is comfortable or ok in isolation.

I have many mental health clients that struggle mightily with depression; and isolation makes this worse. One thing that helps somewhat: everyone is going through this right now. If you struggle with depression or suicide thoughts, you are not alone-many people in our country or world right now are struggling with isolation and we can support each other.

Here are some ideas to stay connected during this time:

Join an online book club, watch live Facebook comedy shows, FaceTime your friends or family, get outside and go for a walk or a bike ride (isolation does not mean don’t go outside), read a good book-libraries have online resources too, visit a museum online, take an online course, learn how to speak a new language-there are many apps to discover, take a virtual national park tour, learn how to cook, learn how to sew, finish those crafts that you never had time, write your life story ( I wrote mine at 18 years old-there’s more to update!) scrapbook your photo memories, do some family history research online, call a relative you haven’t spoke to for a long time, and there are lots more ideas of things to stay busy and emotionally healthy.

I am adding a few ideas I have found online:

Mindful Eating

Hello friends!

It’s that time of year when nearly everyone I know talks about diets and losing weight. I don’t know what that’s the main focus in life, it might be due to media influences but diet companies are big business and spend $$$$ to advertise in lots of different ways-showing us we need to look a certain way to be attractive or accepted.

I’m tired of this particular scam. I also have a few years education in eating disorder arena. A month ago, I participated in a webinar comparing intermittent fasting/diets as usual with mindful eating.

Mindful eating has the most long term health benefits of any popular “diet” or intermittent fasting. Most people on diets lose weight but (I think it’s almost 95% of the time) gain all the weight back + more.

Mindful eating involves a lifestyle change-eating when you are hungry, don’t eat while doing something else, don’t eat while watching tv, and taking time to savor each bite. You can’t charge a lot of money for this nutrition style but over the long run far outweigh any diets or fads (there is nothing that guarantees weight loss although sometimes happens as we listen to what our body needs).

It’s takes about 20 minutes for the stomach to send a message to the brain that it’s full. I mindfully ate a gummy bear yesterday-spent about 5 minutes smelling, touching, seeing, and then tasting in my mouth before chomping down -I noticed several artificial smells-tastes that were NOT appealing and I only ate one.

Let’s all jump on the mindful eating bandwagon and make “health” not weight a focus of our lives-not just a January resolution.

Perfection Lies

Hello friends!

Happy Sunday -our weekend is almost over 😳

I thought today, since it’s still January that I would focus on a subject I think often on. Perfection-what a lie.

We have been told throughout our lives that it’s possible to be perfect, each January many people talk about their New Years resolutions and how this year will be different and they will really do it right.

I actually don’t believe in being perfect. I don’t even hold much to New Years resolutions.

The idea of perfection is such a lie-none of us are perfect and we all make mistakes -often in one day! Thinking we have to be perfect can overwhelm us and lead to feeling shame about our imperfections or compare ourselves to others we “think” are perfect.

Life isn’t about being perfect. It’s enjoying the moment we are in and often remembering when we make mistakes to try and learn from what happened.

Failure is a good way to learn and gets a bad rep. I think failure is more important than perfection. Failure helps us learn what works, what we are good at, and what we need more practice in life. We all fail in life, we make mistakes, and hopefully we learn.

I’ve learned to be more gentle with myself and remember I don’t need to be perfect. I try to be kind to myself and others and I think the rest works out.

None of us are perfect. Let us NOT strive to be perfect.

You Are Enough-Be Vulnerable

Hello Friends!

It’s getting close to the New Year and I want to leave you with a few thoughts consistent with my last post.

In treatment with my clients lately I’ve been focusing on helping people increase their awareness of shame and how to combat it. Shame keeps us stuck, it keeps us from reaching out, it tells us we are not enough, we are not important. Shame is paralyzing and keeps us isolated.

Many people deal with depression and suicide thoughts and feel ashamed because they think that there is something wrong with them, they think this is something they deserve, they are suffering in silence and it is not necessary. According to the National Institute for Mental Health shares statistics that 17.3 million adults had at least one major depressive episode (2017-data courtesy of SAMHSA). Depression is no respecter of persons; these numbers indicate anyone is vulnerable to develop depression whether it is situational or genetic factors.

Situational depression can affect people through illness, marital change, employment change, or death of a loved one; even a move away from loved ones could affect developing depression. In addition trauma can affect a development of depression too.

There isn’t a reason to be ashamed for having depression or suicide thoughts. These things affect many people.

I suggest listening to Brene Brown on YouTube; she has a couple of really excellent TEDtalks about shame and vulnerability. These are also very popular, getting millions of views. She emphasizes the way to overcome or silence shame is to be vulnerable. As a therapist I see this meaning: talk to someone about your struggles. Find social support somewhere that you can speak openly about your struggles and discover that YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

PLEASE REACH OUT IF YOU ARE STRUGGLING- it works.

 

TIPPs for Distressful Thoughts

Hello friends!

The holidays can be a difficult time for many people and sometimes those suffering can experience thoughts of suicide or self harm.

Here are some ideas to help if you’ve had these thoughts: I’ve coached many clients to manage these distressful thoughts by using DBT skills and it works very well!

When first experiencing suicide or self harm thoughts can be very painful and distressing, use the TIPP skill (temperature, intense exercise, paced breathing, or paired muscle relaxation)

Temperature-hold an ice cube or dunk your face into an ice/cold water bowl for at least 5 seconds.

Intense exercise-run on a treadmill or outside for 3 minutes at a full sprint.

Paced breathing-deep breathing -slowly count to 4 as you breathe in, hold your breathe for 4 seconds, breathe out for 4 seconds and hold for 4 seconds-repeat for a couple of minutes.

Paired muscle relaxation-starting from your toes- tenae every muscle group for 5 seconds and then release- moving you to your head and face.

After having done all of TIPP, people are usually quite tired and in a different frame of mind but just in case…get involved in an activity with a friend, do something kind for someone else, connect with someone who loves you… and always important: make sure you get enough sleep, nutrition, exercise, and medications if any are recommended for you along with meeting with a professional.

I hope these tips (haha TIPP) help anyone who struggles in this area. Know you are important ❤️

Taking Care of You

Hello friends!

I’ve been absent for a bit, I apologize for my delay. I’ve been contemplating where to go with my blog for a couple of reasons.

First, I’ve realized that many people that are influencers often give away or resell their clothes after one photo shoot…(that doesn’t really appeal to me. I love my clothes and usually keep a quality piece for many years so that seems wasteful in my opinion although I know I cannot judge others…this is just what works for me).

Second, someone I knew from kindergarten through high school committed suicide about two weeks ago, no one knew he was suffering, and I’ve been thinking how to help others that struggle or suffer alone.

I thought for a time I might focus on offering advice for others how to deal with life when you have difficulties that seem too hard to bear. I am a therapist IRL working at a mental health/substance abuse treatment center for young adults, and I feel terribly sad knowing that people suffer without anyone knowing or without resources.

Here are some tips I’ve learned while studying DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy-created for people with Borderline Personality Disorder but very helpful with people struggling with suicide and self harm thoughts.

(A past client of mine created a little flip chart for therapists to reference when feeling like we are burned out and one page I particularly enjoy is:)

LOVE YOURSELF LIKE A NEW PUPPY: Prioritize good sleep habits, Nutrition, Exercise, Connection with people you enjoy (add:honest discussion about what is going on with you), Focus on practices that promote calmness and well being, Meditation, Journaling, Talk therapy, quiet time alone doing an activity you enjoy. (These ideas are gleaned from DBT)

Many people struggle with depression, anxiety, or suicide and self harm thoughts but that doesn’t have to mean your life is not worth living. Talk to someone and let them know what you are going through and get some help. Speaking up can be scary but after that, the darkness fades if you share it with someone. The burden is lighter if you share.