Why Is Self Care So Hard?

I have given a lot of thought to what makes self care so hard for so many women I know.  I have noticed a few important common denominators in people who have a hard time with self care.  And while this is not just an issue for women, I see it more commonly in women.  But if you’re not a woman and this applies to you, please take it to heart. 

Self care is talked about so frequently these day.  Let me say a bit about what I mean by self care.  I’m not talking about hedonistic, narcissistic kinds of self focus.  I’m not talking about manicures or spa days or anything like that really.  I’m talking about basic care for ourselves.  The stuff that keeps our bodies functioning well.  Things like sleeping well, healthy food, joy, calm, a sense of safety, connection with others.  For some it’s keeping the house clean enough, getting enough sleep to feel rested, caring for one’s appearance, getting a chance to move our bodies regularly.  It’s keeping connected to friends and romantic partners.  

Though many people struggle with self care, I have noticed that some clients, often men, have a different issue – a low bar for suffering and a high expectation of reward.  They often can’t tolerate the distress that comes with family life and often take more time for themselves, to the dismay of their partners or kids.  These are the people who do not overly focus on others and who are often disappearing to go on a bike ride, take a run, read a book, etc.  They’re often in bed right when they want to be and are less considerate about how their choices effect their family members.  While their self care is admirable, the way their relationships are affected by their self-focus is something else, and probably the topic of a future article.  But for those of us who struggle for self care, they may have something to teach us.  We can learn from their focus on themselves. 

The circumstances of peoples lives make this kind of care easier or harder, depending on their situation.  Single parents, care givers, people juggling multiple jobs, people with chronic mental or physical illness, will all have greater challenges when trying to care for themselves, even in these basic ways.  So, as we think about self care, please don’t compare yourselves to others who have different circumstances and please don’t judge yourselves.  And no matter what your circumstance, I suggest that people who struggle to give them selves care, take some time to focus on this and see what improvements they can make.  

Remember, self care is not extra.  It’s the basis for health and basic enjoyment in life.

Why do some of us struggle to give ourselves self care more than others?  Those of us who didn’t have enough structure, support, boundaries and guidance as we were growing up can struggle a bit more with self care.  Some people grow up with little parental supervision and structure.  Some examples of what households like this might look like are kids watching endless TV, having very little supervision, not having structured expectations and help with homework, staying up till all hours, and falling asleep in class.  Meals not being provided at regular times and kids finding what they can for food.  When parents aren’t able to provide this structure for kids, it’s often not easy to teach it to ourselves later on.  If kids grow up with this as their normal, they don’t know any different and it can be hard to find a different way in adulthood.  This kind of experience is a low bar around care from others.  

Kids who endure a lot of suffering in childhood often have trouble with self care.  People who experience lot of loneliness, sadness, fear, large amounts of daily anxiety, or specific distress around various kinds of abuse (such as emotional, verbal, sexual abuse), and alcoholism and drug abuse, can get used to a lot of internal distress.  Kids get so used to that internal feeling of distress that it becomes the norm and anything more is just a bonus, but not necessarily expected or looked for.  Kids who grow up working a lot or who are athletes, often have issues with this as well.  Athletes are often taught to push past suffering rather than tuning in to it.  

Getting used to suffering is a problem.  Later in life, when young adults have more control over their situations, they don’t always realize when they are pushing through more pain than they need  to.  People don’t always know that there are better feeling options available to them at any given moment.  This is a high threshold for suffering.  

As a child, a low bar of care by parents plus a high threshold for suffering can equal not being very good at self care.  

If either or both of these describe you, please take a few minutes to acknowledge these patterns and where they might have come from.  Be compassionate with yourself about this, knowing it’s not your fault that you struggle with this issue.  But it is you who gets to address it now.  And that’s good news, because what you can control, you can change.  And you deserve all the self care and love you can find.

Be on the look out for my next post, which will have some ideas for improving your self care, little by little.  I’d love to hear about what true self care means to you.  How often to do you feel you’re able to give it to yourself?  When you can’t, what get’s in your way?  When it goes well, what does it give you?

Black Lives Matter

I am a white woman and I want to say something about race to other white people.  I have rewritten this post multiple times because it’s a complicated issue and I’m not an expert by any means.  Anything I say here will be completely inadequate, but silence is complacency and I will not be silent regarding where I stand on the Black Lives Matter movement.  I fully support the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Speaking up, doesn’t mean saying it perfectly, or not making a mistake.  I know that for many reasons, but most especially because I’m white, I have an endless amount to learn.  I will not get to most of it in my lifetime, but my goal is to keep trying, learning and growing and changing my behavior and choices wherever I can.  

I want to share a few things because I know that my silence leaves people who don’t know me  unsure of where I stand.  White silence leaves people of color in a less safe situation.  So here are some of my thoughts, where I’m coming from, what I’m trying to do right now to grow, and a few ideas on places other white people can grow and take action too.  

My first lessons around race came from growing up in Texas, a place with a LOT of racism.  I grew up feeling horrified by the racism I saw, and unaware of the racism that lived within me.  The graduate school I went to, Smith School for Social Work, had a commitment to become an antiracist institution.  One of the things this meant was that we looked at race and racism in every class we took, no matter what the topic.  And we looked at racism within ourselves.  I came to believe something I learned there – that every white person is racist – in some way or another, in one moment or another.  And I came to believe that about myself.  And that was a rough realization for me.  I realized that there were infrequent, almost imperceptibly-out-of-my-conscious-mind thoughts, about people of color that came from things I’d been steeped in growing up.  I learned that instead of going into a shame spiral about that and then pushing the thoughts away, I needed to bring thoughts like that into my conscious awareness, thereby exposing their ignorance and deflating them. 

I share that story for other white people who might think they’re not racist or don’t contribute to the racism we see around us.  I ask them to just consider the idea that racism may live inside of them.  I’ve known white people who say they’re not racist, but are obviously racist.  I’ve known more white people who say they’re not racist and though they don’t seem racist in any way that I can tell, I seriously doubt they are feeling any ownership for the black men and women (and other people of color) who suffer racism every day. 

White people are the only people who can end racism.  Black people didn’t create the problem and can’t end it.  Only we can.  White people created the problem.  It is built into the system, into the way of life in America.  If we want it to end, we need to make racist people uncomfortable.  We need to put ourselves at risk, and stand up for what is right.  We need to work harder and do more to create change.  It is squarely up to each one of us.    

I am more aware than ever of my white privilege and how every single, little, tiny advantage I received because of the color of my skin, created a disadvantage to a some person of color somewhere. 

Here are some of the things I’m committing to do to help this situation, or am doing already:

  • Give money to Black Lives Matter 
  • Give money to scholarship funds that are being developed for black therapists through the International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy
  • Start a book club to read How to Be an Antiracist, by Ibram X. Kendi
  • Confront racism
  • Listen to feedback from people of color, and white people who are further along the path of becoming antiracist than I am
  • Offer a significant discount for black clients who would like it, in addition to my regular sliding scale fee spot

Here are some things all white people can do to help to end racism…

TAKE A STAND 

Remember that by not taking a stand for Black Lives Matter – you’re taking a stand for racism.

SPEAK UP

Every time we as white people don’t speak up against racism we are complicit and we are allowing the status quo of racism and suffering to continue.  And white people have all kinds of reasons that they don’t speak up and none of them are good enough and never have been. Our shutting down racism and educating where we can, can stop the horrific cycle of violence, murder and micro-aggressions that black people live with everyday.  Talk to your families and friends about this issue.  Open a dialogue in your workplace.  Demand change.  I am asking other white people to make your voice known – name the side you’re on, out loud.   

ROOT OUT RACISM INSIDE YOURSELF

We need to look deep inside ourselves regarding extremely subtle (or not so subtle) racist thoughts, beliefs, behaviors, assumptions, or places of ignorance.  We must question ourselves, our white privilege, how we benefit from it, and how have we subtly or otherwise, participated in racism our lives.

TEACH AND BE OPEN TO OTHERS

We must keep speaking up to our white families, friends, and co-workers who need to be brought along further down this path.  We can help those of us who are less aware than we are.  And we can be open and learn from those who are more aware than we are.  

LEARN

We need to read, watch, and listen to educate ourselves.  We must let the movement for equality and respect direct us.  We need to follow, and learn and grow. This is not our time to talk.  Black folks don’t have anything to learn from us about racism.  We have a lot to learn from them.  This is a time to listen to people of color and educate ourselves.  

LEARN ABOUT REPARATIONS

We need to educate ourselves about reparations and start taking action.  Reparations are something our government promised long ago and never delivered on.  It’s important that we learn about it and make it a reality.  

LEARN ABOUT POLICE REFORM AND DEFUNDING

There are some amazing ideas out there about police reform and alternatives to police.  Learn about them.  Research them and talk about them.  Vote for them.  The complacency for violence and abuse towards black people exists within police departments and must be stoped.

PROTEST

This won’t be right for everyone in the time of COVID.  It’s a personal decision and every single person who is marching is taking on some risk.  But these protests are making a difference.  They are putting the problem in front of the whole world in a clear and important way.  If you’re healthy enough and feel you can protect yourself enough, or you simple don’t care about the risk, go for it.  If you are at greater risk or it’s not right for you for another reason, there are many other ways to help.  Protesters who are white, face less risk from the police.  Let’s use our white privilege to stop racism in all the ways we can.  

GIVE MONEY

Give money to Black Lives Matter, to people supporting the protests, to bail for protestors, to black people in your profession.  Check out the reparations Facebook page:

https://www.reparations.me

DON’T VOTE FOR TRUMP

If you want equality for human beings and if you want human beings treated with respect, you will not vote for Trump or anyone who supports him.  A vote for Trump is a vote for racism.

I’d like to share some of the things I’ve been listening to and reading lately.  I’ve gotten ideas from my own research and other people’s lists of what they’ve been paying attention to.  Let’s share good information with each other.

Reparations:  https://www.reparations.me

There are so many other resources.  Here’s a list that was recently shared publicly.  

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/e/2PACX-1vTkmrhfhYUfCcTbp3NoDmxKZUAN7xMiVuhqIlNBizKz-Ih7yPPqTPFgYzmd5NgKtEdpVugB6GoZwPWR/pubhtml?fbclid=IwAR2NojxApSpFAQ6Lcs6t3hbKabzxaBLyOhOxq91qr3orZ0xg3R8RE5k6u7w

In Judaism, we have an idea called Tikkun Olam – To Repair the World.  The idea is that the world is broken and it’s up to each of us to do all we can to heal the world while we are here. 

I’d like to hear from you…  

What are you doing to learn more, do more and think more?  How are you working to repair the world regarding antiracism?  What are the ways in which you can relate to what I’m sharing? 

No Justice, No Peace

How to Get along When COVID19 ‘Isolation’ Feels More Like an Endless Road Trip With the Family

Over the first two weeks of the pandemic I was surprised that most of the couples I do emotionally focused couple therapy with, were doing really well.  It’s not that all of their issues were gone, but they seemed to be communicating more purposefully, and working well together, in a crisis.  

COVID19 requires households to plan and to act.  What food do we need from the store?  Which room will you use for your online meetings?  Who will be with the kids, during which times of day?  All of these kinds of changes in a person’s day to day life necessitate communication.  And everyone is in the same boat, so there was a ‘we’re all in this together’ feeling that pervaded at the beginning of this wild ride.  

Many of my couples have a long history together and despite’s the difficulties they’ve faced, they do a good job in a crisis.  They’ve been through a lot and know how to rally together when necessary, for a short period.  

Some have more time now because they’re not working as many, or any, hours.  Despite the financial stresses that this brings, some couples and families have noticed that the time together has calmed some of the tensions between them.  Some family and couple difficulties are made worse from not having enough time together to simply be in relationship with one another. 

I noticed all of those positives in the first few weeks as I worked with couples over video on my computer.  But this past week, things were getting back to normal in some not so good ways.  The negative cycles that the couples are working on in therapy to dismantle, began to rear up again.  This does not surprise me, but reminds me that we could all use some pointers about how to get along in this time of prolonged togetherness.  

(Note:  This article is intended for people in non-abusive relationships.  If you’re in an abusive relationship, please call a therapist in your area for help, the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, your state’s child protective services number, or if necessary call 911). 

16 THINGS THAT CAN HELP DURING ALL OF THIS TOGETHERNESS…

  • SHARE FEELINGS, NOT CRITICISMS   There is a big difference between saying, in a soft, vulnerable voice, “hey Sweetie?  When you said that the way you just did, it really hurt my feelings…” versus, “don’t talk to me like that. that was so rude…”.  If you share your feelings softly and vulnerably, you’re more likely to get your needs met.
  • LISTEN  If your partner, or child complains, really listen.  And don’t just hear them, but hear them.  Try, for a moment, to ignore how they said it and instead try to really hear what they’re saying deep down.  So, when responding to your wife who is saying, (in that irritated tone), “I thought you were going to take out the trash… put the dog out… read to the kids… not be on your phone…”,  etc., do your best to respond to how she likely feels, not the defensive tone she used to tell you.  
  • BE EMPATHIC  Your job is to try to care about your family member’s feelings.  Try to let their concern move you.  Respond from a place of true empathy for their experience.  
  • VALIDATE  If you can, reassure them that you get where they’re coming from.  “It makes sense to me that that upset you.”
  • TAKE TURNS  What happens if two people try to walk through a door at the same time?  It doesn’t go well.  It also doesn’t go well if you both try to share your view point, or feelings at the same time.  No one gets their needs met.  If someone is upset and they’re sharing about it, it’s your job to catch them.  If you’re also upset about something, finish responding empathically to them, take an hour or so in between, and then you can share your feelings with them. 
  • DO WHAT YOU SAY YOU’RE GOING TO DO, and if you can’t do it, tell them ahead of time, tell them why, and apologize.  
  • OVER-COMMUNICATE about plans, sharing space and feelings.  Basically, explicitly communicate about everything for a while.  
  • TOUCH  When words fail, give a hug or a kind hand on a shoulder (as long as that touch is wanted and appreciated).
  • TALK TO THE TEACHER  If you are overwhelmed with your new parental responsibility, called, “being a teacher’s assistant,” take a breath, consider lowering your standard for yourself and your child and consider giving the school or teacher some kindly worded feedback about how it’s going.  I have had more than one parent give feedback to the teacher and then work was decreased or changed in a helpful way.  
  • BE FAIR  Be aware of the concept of invisible labor.  These are the many things that women are expected to do, because the culture is used to it being that way.  No matter how much we talk about, or may want equality in the home, regarding chores and responsibilities, we all tend to play in to keeping the status quo.  I am hearing a lot about this issue right now from women.  “I’m expected to work from home now, take care of guiding the kids learning, on-line and also do most of the cooking and cleaning.”  Or, “why is his meeting prioritized over mine?”  This is a really important time to consider what each of your responsibilities are, and get together and divide them.  Negotiate agreement on who will do what, when, and then try it for one week.  Give it your best shot and then sit down and talk about how it went and see if there’s anything that needs to changed for the next week.  Keep trying different things until you find something that works.  It’s not you against your partner.  You’re in this together, remember?  Trying to make it work and feel good for everyone.  
  • BE FORGIVING  Remember that everyone is stressed… in one way or another about one part of this pandemic or the other.  Everyone has their own real fears, real stress and real worries, whether they’re talking about them or not.  Change alone is stressful and we’re dealing with a lot more than change.  We’re dealing with loss of work, loss of income, loss of control, temporary but significant loss of a way of life, fear of the unknown and fear of illness and death.  
  • GIVE EACH OTHER SPACE   You’re all suddenly together a lot.  Make sure everyone has some time to themselves if they want it.
  • TAKE TIME-OUTS WHEN YOU NEED THEM   If you find yourself flooded with emotion and about to communicate in an unhelpful way, take a time out.  And if your partner or child needs a time out, let them have it.  Don’t follow them around insisting it gets worked out right away.  Letting each other cool down will allow you more healthy communication when you resume.
  • FIND WAYS TO SELF-REGULATE  If you find that you’re trying to do things from this list, like taking time outs when you feel triggered, but you’re losing your cool anyway, it could mean you need to give yourself some extra time to unwind, or get regulated.  This could look like taking a walk, meditating, doing some exercise, or just laying on the bed, alone for 10 minutes.  It could also mean that you’re dealing with more anxiety than you realized.  Feel free to read about managing anxiety, here and here.  
  • TRY TO SURPRISE EACH OTHER WITH SMALL KINDNESSES  This can be as simple as taking a moment to give a kiss, or a kind word.  It could be doing someone else’s chore to make life a little easier for them, or being explicit about the appreciation you have for them.  
  • UNWIND  Whether you’re working from home, looking for work or volunteering, take time for relaxing.  Find time for yourself alone and time for good connection with your family members.    

If your partner or family member is a medical practitioner or first responder, or if they are a delivery driver, sanitation worker, grocery store clerk, or one of the many heroes keeping vital services going, please be oh, so understanding.  

And if you’re a partner or family member of one of the above, get extra support from friends and family, and be kind to yourself.  

Tell me in the comments, how it’s going in your house?  What’s working and what’s not?  

Practical Help for Pandemic Panic

Anxiety in the time of a pandemic makes sense.  Anxiety is normal and protective in many ways.  Some amount of fear can help us make the choices we need to protect ourselves and others from spreading the virus.  But too much of it is not good for anything, including your immune system, so here are some practical action oriented things that can help….

  • Problem Solve   Think about the things you’re worried about.  Many of the these, are things you can do something about, and doing something about them may help lower your anxiety.  If you’re worried about money because your business is temporarily shut down, make a budget and track your spending to see what the reality is.  Look for a temporary job online, or if it feels right for you, work at a grocery store, or deliver food or packages.  
  • Lower Your Expectations   The idea that you can fill your time, and your children’s time, with totally productive activities, not to mention becoming their teacher as well, is pressure you don’t need.  Decide how you will spend your time by listening to your inner compass, not societies expectations, nor social media’s latest thing. 
  • Exercise   Get that blood flowing, and body moving.  Really get out of your head and into your body.  Do anything that creates a little joy or pleasure.  What did you used to love doing?  What do you love doing now?  Hiking, dancing, yoga, lifting weights?  Do it.  You can do it alone, with people you love, or join an online class.  Even hiking, walking and riding can be done at least 6 feet apart.    
  • Enhance Your Nutrition   Good nutrition can help us be at our best emotionally, mentally and physically.  Avoid alcohol which can be a depressant and may lower our immunity at times.  Avoid too much sugar which can also mess with our mood and immunity.  Eat nutrient dense foods.  Try to avoid the SAD (standard American diet).  See if you can eat lots of whole foods.  Drink lots of water.  Avoid anything you know you are allergic or sensitive to.  Those foods can create more inflammation in our bodies which can seriously contribute to emotional disorders like those of anxiety and depression.  
  • Sleep Well and Enough   Sleep 8-9 hours per night.  If you’re having trouble sleeping, contact a knowledgeable doctor or medical practitioner, herbalist, doctor of Chinese medicine or talk to a staff person at Pharmaca.  There are many good solutions for sleep.  Good sleep is essential for good mental health.  
  • Get Outside   Garden, or just sit or walk in the sun.  Vitamin D is another essential ingredient for mental health and we can get a lot of that from the sun.  Nature is also a reminder of what is going really well in the world right now.  From the big sky and beautiful trees to a tiny lady bug, or spring tulip.  Revel in all that is beautiful and just as it was meant to be, in the natural world.  
  • Help Others   Focusing on others can sometimes get you out of our own troubled mental state long enough to help it shift.  There are plenty of people who need lots of help.  In the state where I live the governor has called for volunteers, blood donations and donations of money.  There are elders that need someone to bring them food.  There are many opportunities right now.
  • Busy Your Mind   If you have more time on your hands, do something productive.  Take an online class.  Study something that interests you.  Learning can provide a nice distraction from anxiety.  
  • Do Something Active   What is the saying?  You can’t wring your hands and role up your shirt sleeves at the same time.  Busy your body and your mind may quiet down.  
  • Re-organize Something   Do a home project, garden, paint something.  Just get busy.
  • Meditation, Guided Imagery, and Biofeedback   All of these are very regulating to the brain and body and therefore, the emotions.  The more you do them the more helpful they will be.  
  • Deepen Your Spiritual Connections   Whatever you believe, dive in a bit.  This could look like online services, prayer, acts of kindness, study, etc.  It could also look like meditation or simply appreciating and connecting to nature.
  • Connect With Others   Connect over video, on the phone, with those you live with, standing outside, apart from, but with, neighbors.  Try to work on your relationships.  Enjoy them.  No matter what happens with this pandemic, life is short.  Let’s live it.
  • Consider Adding an Animal to Your Life   Maybe you already have one, or maybe not, but being at home a lot might lend itself to bonding with an animal.  But make sure not to go that route, if you won’t have time for them when life normalizes and you’re at home less.  
  • Sit Still and Notice   Be quite and still.  Just let things stop.  
  • Use Aromatherapy   Scents can be very soothing.  Find a scent that brings you more calm and relaxation.  Lavender is a go-to for many.  
  • Take Baths   Really let yourself feel the full experience of sinking your body down into a warm bath of water.  You can add some flowers, herbs, or scents to your bath to add to the calm.  Candles can add to the ambiance of relaxation as well.
  • Get Creative   Paint something.  Write a song.  Write a book.  Write a poem.  Choreograph a dance.  Learn how to play an instrument.  Express yourself.  Do something creative with your angst.  Transform it. 
  • Figure out What Kind of Person You Are Regarding the News and Information   Some people feel very grounded by getting all the facts, so they can have the best response.  Others feel overloaded and scared by all of the info and need much less.  If you’re the latter, have someone you trust read the news and just give you the facts you need to know to be as safe as possible.  Even if you’re the former, perhaps just look at it once or twice a day.  Receiving news notifications to your devices can create a constant sense of panic and not enough reprieve or sense of normalcy.
  • Meet With a Therapist   We are lucky to have many great therapists in our community.  Ask your friends if they know someone good, or research them on Psychology Today, and the internet.  Try a few or a handful.  If they don’t have expertise in what you’re struggling with, or even if you just don’t like them very much, find someone else.  Then give it a little time.  We are so lucky to live in a time where we can access online therapy and even do it from our couches.    
  • Try Medicinal Herbs and Supplements   These products can help a lot with anxiety.  Contact a functional medicine practitioner, an herbalist, a doctor of Chinese medicine, or talk to a staff person at Pharmaca, if you can.  Traditional herbal medicines have been around forever.  Before pharmaceuticals, herbs were all people had.  Learn about them and make use of the ones that are right for you.  These are simple and powerful medicines from the earth.  
  • Pharmaceutical Help   If your anxiety is too much and not getting better soon enough, consider a pharmaceutical.  There are some antidepressants that are known to help with anxiety.  Consult your physician or better yet, a psychiatrist.  Don’t mix anti-anxiety, and antidepressant herbs and supplements with pharmaceuticals without a doctor’s approval.  

Remember that at any given moment, you are sharing whatever experience you’re having with countless other people around the planet.  You are not alone.  

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Coping With Fear in COVID19

As a psychotherapist, I have seen a whole range of responses to the COVID19 pandemic, from denial, calm acceptance, to mild anxiety, and all the way to true panic.  We are all responding to the same event, but to different triggers regarding that event.  Some people are triggered by seeing the empty grocery shelves.  Unless you’ve lived through a natural disaster, you may have never seen something like that before!  Just the sight of it seems to have triggered panic for so many.   Some are afraid for their parents, for their children, for their medically vulnerable spouses, and some about not having enough money.  Some are afraid about what will happen to their animals, if they can’t take care of them for a time.  Many are afraid for themselves.  Afraid of pain and sickness and potential death.  Some are afraid of all of this.  And on and on the list goes. 

Anxiety is a totally normal reaction to a pandemic.  So is denial.  As the days tick on, less and less people seem to be falling into the denial camp.  Let’s try to continue to be compassionate with others as we see each other reacting differently to the same event.  And let’s be compassionate with ourselves if we sometimes don’t like our own responses to this event.  

There are fears about the situation as it stand now, today, and their are fears about the unknown.  How long is this going to last?  How will this change our lives for the next year, or even beyond?  So, what can help you when you’re scared?  

Basically there are two tracks to go down to get relief from fear:  to go deeper into it, or to move away from it.  Moving away may seem like the obvious choice, but it’s not always possible, and when you try, it may not help enough.  Try to deepen into the fear first, and then go to do some of the things in this article.  If this feels too scary to start with, then try the things in this other article first, and if they don’t work well enough, come back to this.  😊  This may feel a little scary at first, but it’s likely to make you feel much better!

Before you start, make sure you’re somewhere safe and sit back or lay down, and close your eyes.  And if your house is chaotic, with lots of kids and family, you can find a space away, or just do your best, right in the midst of the chaos.  Really go inside of your own experience, taking your time with each step.  Try to take a few minutes, at least, for each one.

Remember, You’re Ok Right Now
In the spirit of Thich Nhat Hanh’s work:
Take a big breath in: I am in my body  
Exhale:  Right now, I’m safe
Do that several times.  Breathing in and out through your nose (not mouth)

Feel the Feeling
Check in with your emotions, your heart, and your body to find the feelings.  If you check in to your emotions and find fear, say to yourself, “I feel so scared right now.” And name the trigger: “I am so scared of…”.  And remember, this is just the feeling that you’re having right now. 

Notice your Body Sensations
Sometimes the best window into the room of the emotion, is through he body.  When you’re in the fear, just notice the sensations in your body.  Find where it is that you feel it in your body.  Your stomach?  Your heart?  Where?  And how would you describe the sensation?  Mentally measure the area of the fear.  “Ok, it’s 4 inches wide, but 12 inches long”.  Just notice.  Just noticing can help you be present with the emotion in a slightly more detached way. 

Validate Your Feelings
Validate what you’re feeling.  It makes so much sense that you feel this way right now.  Of course this is scary.  Just say to yourself, “Of course you’re feeling scared.  There is so much about this that is scary.  That’s so normal you’d feel that way”.

Meet Your Fear With a Nurturing, Compassionate Response
You know that amazing, nurturing, loving grandmother (or mother, father, aunt, teacher, dog, etc) you had who made you feel safe, calm and protected no matter what was going on in your life?  And if not, then the one you wish you’d had?  This is what we’re going for here.  Meet the painful emotion, with a loving, compassionate, and maybe even wise response.  Really imagine that loving response.  Really see that loving presence, and hear and feel their response.  Meet the scared feeling with inner compassion, love and empathy.

Accept the Situation
So much of our distress comes from trying to fight what is happening right now.  But this is what is happening right now.  For example, if you’re scared that you aren’t sure if you can pay your rent or mortgage next month, say to yourself, “It’s true.  I may not be able to pay it.  I’m not sure yet, but I might not be able to”.    

Remember: Feelings are Temporary
Know, this level of fear cannot last forever.  Emotions rise and they fall.  Just like a wave.  Just let them rise.  Feel them rising.  Feel them get to the peak of awfulness.  Know they will come down.  Feel them peak and then notice them coming down.  No matter what you do, feelings will rise and fall.  Knowing this, can help us not panic about the panic.  Fear of the fear can be worse than the fear.  

Have you ever seen this drawing?  
The fear is sometimes smaller than the fear of the fear.  

Separate out Your Feelings from Your Story (and Don’t Believe Your Story)
The story is often confused for the emotions, but it’s actually something totally different.  The story is what we tell ourselves about the trigger.  It’s filled with our assumptions.  The story can be dangerous and inaccurate no matter what it is.  “I’m going to die” can be just as inaccurate as, “I’m going to be fine”.  You have no idea what’s going to happen.  That is all.  You just don’t.  The other thing that’s true is, you’re feeling whatever you’re feeling.  Feelings never lie.  But beliefs and stories are “a bunch of hooey,” as my Granny would say.  So instead of an internal dialogue that goes, “I’m going to die.  Oh no.  This is so bad.  We’re all going to get it and it’s going to be awful…” needs to be changed to, “Wow.  I’m really scared.  I hate this situation and it’s really totally freaking me out.  I’m afraid something awful will happen, but honestly, I have no idea what’s going to happen.  All I know is right now, I’m afraid.”

Connect With Others
When we are afraid, or hurt, or lonely we need to be emotionally and or physically held and comforted.  We need another to be with us.  If you have another who can hold you that way – with love, compassion and empathy, turn to them.  Let them hold you.  Physical touch and holding can be so grounding in ways that words often miss.  And if your other is scared too, hold each other in the fear.  If you are with a dog or a cat or another animal, tell them about it and have a snuggle.  If you’re alone, call a friend, have a video call and talk deeply, or ask a neighbor to talk with you over a fence or from the distance of the driveway.  Let any good feelings that come up from these connections, expand and sink in to your body and your heart. 

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