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Circles of Influence

Summer is at last upon us, and I don’t know about you, but every week simultaneously feels like an instant and a million years. There is so much going on all around us, and if you’re one of the lucky ones not feeling overwhelmed by it all, go out and buy yourself a lottery ticket, because it would seem you’re one of the very lucky ones!

I heard a brief talk recently that explained one way that a person could find peace in this extremely chaotic time. The idea wasn’t new per se (in fact, I think it was first referenced in “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”) but helpful nonetheless. The speaker talked about two circles: the circle of influence, and the circle of concern. The circle of influence, he explained, was the circle of your immediate life: your self, your family, friends, neighbors, and so on. The circle of concern encapsulated all of the “big issue” things that concern us: our health, financial status, relationships, society at large, etc. It’s called that because those things concern us, and we are concerned by them. The trouble is, though, that a lot of those things that concern us are things that we ourselves have very little control over, and when we sort of blur those circles together, we tend to fall apart. His solution? If you want more peace in the chaos, focus your attention on your Circle of Influence more than your Circle of Concern.

Now, that makes very logical sense to me, but I can see the challenges with this that would easily pop up in my own life, mainly through social media  Because my news feeds and all of that content is shared by people I (mostly) know in real life, it can become overwhelming to sort through the things I can change vs. the thing I can’t.

Does this mean that we can’t affect change on a broader scale? I don’t think it does! I think that it means that the actions I choose to do will, I believe, work outward. I can’t “fix” (or my personal favorite, “control”) really large things that affect millions of people. But I can do my share. And I know that it sounds little, and small, and silly, but hey, something is better than just worrying about how terrible things are and how no one will ever be able to fix them. My effort, and yours, and everyone else’s, can grow and can change things.

But it’s really difficult. It’s not easy to look at our lives and figure out what we can change.  It’s really hard to think outside ourselves. But we can do it, even if we fall short.

I heard a story once about an American woman who read about Mother Teresa’s work in Calcutta, how she used to help the utterly poor and those near death, the ones that no one in society wanted anyone to do with. And, in her zeal and inspiration, this woman traveled to Calcutta, met up with the Sisters of Charity, saw with her own eyes the desperation and the pain and the degrading poverty, and…she just couldn’t do it. She couldn’t help. She had read about it and thought she knew what it was going to be like, but she saw it with her own eyes and just couldn’t move – she was too overwhelmed by it. One of the sisters who worked with Mother Teresa saw this woman’s struggle and didn’t kick her out, didn’t send her back to America. She just asked her to come with her and to help her do the work that needed to get done. Even that little help was enough.

Mother Teresa had that famous line, “Find your own Calcutta.” She knew that there are people in our own lives that suffer immensely, even if it’s not from material poverty. If we stayed home and did that, that would be enough.

It all feels so loud out there. So overwhelming. So in the next few days, try to figure out what your circles are – write them down or draw them out, if you would like to! And see what you can do for your own circle of influence. I hope some peace comes from that both for you and for those who will feel it coming from you!

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

Young girl on a swing in the park alone

Life Goes On

When my mother died in a January that’s been years ago now, I was surprised by how swiftly the rest of the world continued to operate. It moved forward unrelentingly, singly-focused, completely churning along as it always had. It didn’t skip a beat, not one: the sun still rose, the February weather was still frigid, waves of the oceans still approached and receded from the shorelines. I don’t know what I’d expected; of course the world would go on. My world, as I had known it, was so different, but the world at large had no idea. And I had resented it a little, at first – didn’t everyone understand what a big deal this was?

(My mother used to tell a similar story, in the opposite way, every year on my birthday: “When you were born, I couldn’t understand why it wasn’t on the front page of every newspaper. Didn’t everyone understand what a big deal this was?”)

Death, birth.  The world kept turning through both of those things.

I thought about this the other day when I saw a friend of mine. I was trying not to huff and puff too loudly as I walked up the hill of our street (a couple of months in isolation without strenuous exercise can make anyone winded pretty quickly these days), and I waved as I approached her driveway from the requisite six feet away.

“How’s it going?” I asked, the way I asked everybody who’s been under lockdown for weeks on end, in that tone that clearly implied that I knew exactly how it was going.

Only I didn’t know. My friend stood still in the driveway, her boys playing behind her, and told me the news as I stood across the street, six feet away.

“I found a lump.”

Aggressive breast cancer in a 36-year old mother of two little boys, a tremendous wave of uncertainty in a time that already feels like a tsunami. And still, the world rolls on.

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One of my favorite traditions around Mother’s Day is to watch the BBC version of “Little Women” that came out just a couple of years ago. Every time I watch it, I’m struck by how death and birth exist so closely to one another. When someone dies, two little ones are born. Bad things happen, but so do the good. There is War, and separation; but there are also weddings and reunions.  

It is not lost on me that the world, although it looks and feels very different than it did just a few months ago, is still home to not only terrible things, but good things, too. All of the precautions we are taking to combat the coronavirus are also shedding light on things that we really enjoyed and miss, and can’t wait to take part in again. We are, like it or not, learning that for all the things in our lives we can control, there are so many that we cannot.

There are plenty of terrible things to see in the world, but there are also beautiful things.  They may be harder to find than they used to be (in fact, I’m sure of it); but maybe it’s a comfort to you to know that they are there. Maybe we can seek them out more than we used to, now that we are beginning to understand the importance of seeking the beauty around us. And I totally understand how frustrating that exercise is if you’re stuck inside… but is there a way the light hits a table in a way that is beautiful to you, that you’ve never noticed before? Is there a curtain you could pull back, or a blind you could roll up, or a photo you could move to a more prominent place in your home space to look at that reminds you of love?

Think of the smallest thing you can, then try to find more because just as the world rolls on through sadness, it’ll roll on through joy, as well.

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor online

About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

Mother with little daughter playing in a autumn field

Hold Things Loosely

There’s been a lot of talk about sacrifices these days, especially in comparison to the past. There’s the usual talk about how people today would never have been able to “hack it” back during times of real struggle, like during World Wars and Great Depressions; but there’s also some good discussion out there about how best to put the time we’re in right now to good use.  And what I’ve found most appealing so far hasn’t been pep talks like “Now’s the time to write that novel you’ve always wanted to!” (Which I think puts a ridiculous amount of pressure on an already unstable situation, but anyway) It’s been articles of historical value: “Here’s how people got through the really hard times.” It’s concrete history that’s shown us how resilient we’ve been as a species; and if you ask me, it’s helpful to remember that we’re just as resilient now, even if it looks a bit differently. 

In the face of all of this uncertainty (and who doesn’t see it everywhere they go these days?) I’ve found it’s best to “hold things loosely.” To think ahead and to hope, but to not put too much stock in what’s coming because it might be taken away more quickly than we think. Pennsylvania is operating on a tri-colored tier, and although it’s tempting to fix our eyes on the “green” phase of operations, it may be a good practice to realize that we could get kicked back to the “red” zone pretty quickly.

When the shutdowns first began, my kids’ school moved pretty quickly to shuffle everything online. They’ve done a wonderful job, and my kids do benefit from the one-on-one instruction that I cobble together to supplement their teachers’ videos. But I still find myself so thrilled by the PA Department of Education’s report that they expect students to be returning to their brick-and-mortar schools in the Fall. I dream of the day in just a few months when my kids can step on the school bus, fresh supplies in their bags, ready to start a new year, all crisply new amid the backdrop of all of that uncertainty.

But I’m learning not to hold on to even that so tightly because we just don’t know. We just don’t know what it will look like in even just those few months. And lest the disappointment be even worse than the hope, I’m finding it’s better for me to keep hoping, but also plan for things just in case.

We’re all in that boat, aren’t we? We’re all in this shared situation of having to wait, and I think it’s a sure bet that by now most of us have grown accustomed to disappointment. But before we go swimming into all of that despair, what are some ways we can find to balance out our disappointments? What are the small hopes we can believe in that can temper our temptations to believe that the world will be forever terrible? How can we hold things loosely in our lives and gain the freedom that comes with that flexibility?

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor online

About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

Boy holding a magnifying glass showing a big eye next to the door

Follow the clues

For all of the reasons I hate living with an anxiety disorder, there is one reason I’m glad for it – helping others through it. One of my children has a lot of anxiety too, and because I have lived with it for so long, I’m able to help guide him through his experience.  (Although, to be honest, sometimes it feels like the blind leading the blind!) I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for parents to help their children who do not themselves suffer from anxiety, because it is just an intricately difficult mindset to understand if you don’t already experience it.

One way I’ve been trying to help him, and this is a technique that I’ve found really helpful over the years, is to introduce the idea of being a detective. He’s just about at the age where the idea of detective work sounds so exciting. So for every anxiety-filled thought he has that causes him a lot of trouble, we “investigate” it: look at it from every angle, trying to inject as much logic as we can into it to see if the anxious thoughts will hold or if they’ll fall apart.

Most times, it works relatively quickly, but it does take some effort, particularly because his body is hyped up from the fight-or-flight response that accompanies the worries too.  (We’ve found that it’s best to wait until his body is calmer to help him take in the questions better.) We’ll try to sit down and ask questions of his worry:

  • What worry are you feeling right now?
  • Where in your body do you feel the worry?
  • What really happened? (We’re looking for objectivity here.)
  • What evidence do we have that makes your worry true?
  • What would someone else think about what happened?

And we go from there. The more we talk it out, the better.  Of course, as a parent, it gets tiresome because I don’t always feel like stopping everything I’m doing in the moment (making dinner, or cleaning up, or helping with a school assignment) to sit down and address these worries with him. More often than not, I brush off his worries with a “It’s fine” or “Don’t worry about it.” But as someone who struggles daily with anxiety and worry, I know statements like that do nothing to help the situation. It really is worth the time it takes to untangle his worry and help him back on the path to a good day and, if it can wait, some time right before bed is also helpful, when our attention can fully be focused on him and his needs.

Being a detective can also work for you! What worry do you have that keeps popping up, robbing you of your peace and your happiness? Where in your body do you feel it? What is really happening, and what evidence do you have for what you’re perceiving to be happening? What would a trusted friend think about what happened? Give yourself time to think about it, write it down/type it out in a journal, and talk to a therapist or friend if you need outside affirmation and guidance.

This is just one tool that we can find useful in our supplies to help us rise above and conquer the anxieties in our day, and can help us see more clearly as we go about our daily lives.

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor online

About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

Woman enjoying a cup of coffee during healthy breakfast at home. Writing on notebook. Adorable golden retriever dog besides.

It’s Okay To Be Okay

A writer/comedienne that I follow on social media, Jennifer Fulweiler, shared an Instagram stories post recently that expressed her shock at the reaction of a friend of hers to the current quarantine.  “How are you?” Jennifer asked her friend. “Never better!” was the reply.

“Never better?” At first, I had the same reaction to Jennifer’s: pure shock. How in the world could that be possible? And yet, it was, at least for this woman. And you know what? I’m sure that it’s true for more folks than just her. And I think it’s perfectly fine!

You know the saying “It’s okay to not be okay?” Well it is also “okay to be okay!” It’s okay to realize that, all things considered, now that we’ve had over a month of self-isolation under our belts, maybe things aren’t as bad as you thought they might be. Maybe you’ve been able to find some bright spots and silver linings in between the disappointments and the sufferings. Maybe you’ve been able to play at some new hobbies: baking bread, learning to knit, trying your hand at poetry. Maybe you’ve been able to catch up on a few TV shows you’ve missed out on, or you’ve been walking around the block during the day and you’re watching Spring unfold in a new way for what seems like the first time.

Of course, I don’t think (even for the woman who is doing so well) that there’s anyone going through this that is all okay every minute of the day. Even when we didn’t have a pandemic going on around us, no day in our lives was completely wonderful for every single minute of it. And maybe the complete opposite of all of this is true, and you’re miserable. Maybe your days are filled with dread, or disappointment, or just plain old weariness. But just as things don’t have to be okay for every minute, they don’t have to be terrible for every minute either. If you do feel despair, fear and rising anxiety, please reach out – and if you can find a window, walk over to it, and look outside. Spring is here. The birds are singing, and the plants are growing. Plants are funny things. It seems like they’re completely bare one minute, and then the next, boom! Everything is in full bloom.  But they were growing all the time.

We’re growing too, in this time of quarantine. It may not feel that way – it still may feel a lot like winter to you, at least interiorly. But we are growing. We’re becoming more patient. We’re becoming more hopeful. When things are opened back up to us, we’ll be able to do things we love again, and maybe this time around, we’ll be better people for it.

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor online

About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

The Benefits of Deep Breathing on Anxiety

by Don Laird and Christina Pettinato

There are many great ways to promote physical and mental health for you and your family during this time of social isolation and distancing. One highly effective technique is quite simple and can be used anytime. Diaphragmatic breathing or deep breathing is intended to help you use the diaphragm (a muscle at the base of the lungs) correctly resulting in less effort and energy to breath. Additionally, it slows your breathing rate and heart rate and decreases oxygen demand, which in turn makes you feel more relaxed and calmer.

There are two ways to perform this exercise. In the video below eTalk Therapist and Mindfulness Expert Christina Pettinato demonstrates the chair method.


You may also perform this technique when lying down.

Lie on your back on a flat surface or in bed. You can use a pillow under your knees to support your legs. Place one hand on your upper chest and the other just below your rib cage. This will allow you to feel your diaphragm move as you breathe.

Breathe in slowly, deeply, through your nose so that your stomach moves out against your hand – think of it as a balloon expanding and deflating. The hand on your chest should remain as still as possible. Tighten your stomach muscles as you do this, letting them fall inward as you exhale through your lips.

When you first learn this relaxing breathing technique, it may be easier for you to follow the instructions lying down. As you gain more practice, you can try the diaphragmatic breathing technique while sitting in a chair, as demonstrated above.

You should practice this exercise 5-10 minutes at least two times per day. Most people prefer to do it before bedtime because it can promote a better night’s sleep. Gradually increase the amount of time you spend doing this exercise, use soft music or a guided meditation video or audio to enhance the relaxation experience.

Be safe, be healthy, be well,
Don & Christina

two women on a bus wearing face masks looking at their phones

Love in the Time of Covid-19

Well, that came out of left field, didn’t it? For most people, I mean. You may have felt the tremors, but I’ll be honest with you: I certainly wasn’t expecting it. But that’s how life-changing (really, truly life-altering) things go, really: they’re sudden, even when you know they’re coming. There’s always a before, and then an after. Right now, I suppose we’re experiencing the during. But there will be an end, and then will come the befores and afters.

This cosmic blend of same and different – I’ll give you an example: I observed my neighbor getting into the car and backing out of her driveway. Same. She stopped the car to stretch blue medical gloves over her hands. Different. Here’s another: my kids learn during the day. Same. At home now, with me, rather than at school. Different. A hundred million little transitions that we need to make, and are making, sometimes without even thinking of them.

One of my mother’s favorite things to do while she was still alive was make us watch all of her favorite movies. Some were great fun (“The Birdcage”) and some were considerably less fun (“Spartacus”). The all-time great was (and I actually agreed with her) “The Sound of Music.” And now that I’m a mom, I get to make my kids watch my favorites, too. So, with great effort, I removed my much-screen-refreshed phone and settled in with them for three hours of merriment, humor, telegrams, and a wonderful puppet show. The VonTrapps, they too dealt with the same and the different. They too dealt with evil, and fear, and heartbreak against all of that beautiful mountain scenery. 

Humanity experiences suffering. Same. Humanity experiences COVID-19. Different. It is okay to feel every emotion you feel about it. It’s okay to cry when Fraulein Maria marries Captain VonTrapp, even if you’ve seen it fifty times. It’s okay to wonder what happens to Max at the end of the Austrian folk festival, because you know Herr Zeller wasn’t going to let that go. And it’s okay to be afraid when you’re fumbling around in the darkness, stumbling blindly toward the first light you see.

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As part of their new educational experience, my kids watch one episode of “Our Planet” on Netflix per day. The episode on forests was particularly striking, because it shows the resiliency of our wonderful, absolutely amazing planet. There is a segment on a forest fire, and only a few months after hundreds of miles of forestland was absolutely devastated from fire, the floor was blushing again with green, with vines, with life.

As we go through our own, very particular fire of fear and uncertainty, don’t look down only in sorrow, and in regret, and in fear. Look down to see the life that is growing just below, underneath. Invisible, but certain.

Same.

Until next time, be well!
Christy

 

Young sick woman in blanket with thermometer

Anxiety in the Age of COVID19

As human beings, we do not do very well with the unknown. Uncertainty and an undetermined future can create a level of constant worry that is often disproportionate and, at times, unmanageable. Anxiety manifests around that which we cannot control. What compounds this feeling is a sense that what is out of control should not be. When things feel uncertain, we don’t feel safe. However, it is okay to feel stressed or anxious, particularly when there is conflicting information around us.

Currently, most of us are worried about the Coronavirus (COVID-19). We may experience feelings ranging from helplessness to fear about what will happen in the weeks and months ahead. Again, it’s okay to feel this way. It may not feel good, but trying to push it away or act as if it doesn’t exist is the unhealthiest thing you can do.

In short, your mental health will likely suffer over the next several months.  You might feel on edge, nervous, angry, frustrated, helpless or sad. You might want to completely avoid any reminders of what is happening. “Normal” daily activities will alter drastically, and for those who already struggle with depression or anxiety the next few months will be quite challenging.

Remind yourself that you are in control to how you respond to any event (and anxiety thrives when you feel as though you have no choice). Yet, you are stronger than you may believe. Below are three basic things that can help you with your mental hygiene.

  1. You are not alone in this pandemic. Control what you can. Wash your hands. Remind others to do the same. Continue to exercise. Limit your exposure to the news. It’s healthy to update yourself once or twice a day, but over-consumption will have a negative effect. Checking your news feed every few minutes or every hour is not helping you stay informed, but it is helping you develop an unhealthy fixation. Also, limiting screen time is good practice regardless of the reason or situation.
  1. Social distancing does not mean hiding under a rock. Avoid crowds and close contact, but get outside. Exercise helps with both physical and mental health. Being in the sun and fresh air helps restore emotional balance and gives a boost to natural vitamin D levels. Stay grounded by being mindful to the world around you. Do this by noticing what your senses are telling you through sight, sound, taste, and touch. This will help you stay present and avoid projecting into an uncertain future. Remember, choice and change only occurs in the here-and-now.
  1. If you are feeling overwhelmed or need support, please talk to those you trust most. It’s okay to feel afraid or angry – it’s what you do with those feelings that matters. If needed, reach out for extra support or help. You don’t have to be alone, professional help is always available online with a therapist or counselor.

DUE TO THE FINANCIAL IMPACT OF CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19), eTALKTHERAPY IS NOW OFFERING LOWER PER SESSION RATES BASED ON YOUR FINANCIAL NEED.  Contact us today for further pricing details.

Be safe, be healthy, be well,
Don

 

Hand hygiene. Person in the bathroom is cleaning and washing hands with soap

Anxiety, Stress, Social Distancing, & Healthy Control

By Mandi C. Dalicandro-Turk MSPC, NCC

Anxiety, frustration, change, and uncertainty are a realistic and at times, a stressful part of life that humans grapple with. Currently, society as a whole is in a pandemic with many feeling highly anxious, fearful, and uncertain of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the long-term impact on society, the economy, loved ones, and the outcomes of overall health and wellness. It’s natural to have fear and anxiety of the unknown; to feel your healthy controls are being taxed and possibly becoming depleted.

During this time of uncertainty in the weeks to follow, there are ways to feel reasonably prepared while decreasing stress, anxiety, and worry.

Consider the following:

Grappling with Anxiety & Stress

For those experiencing anxiety, that have anxiety disorders, and/or a predisposition to stress, the fear and worry about the health and wellness of you and your loved ones, the economy, finances, having essential medications and supplies over the next few weeks or longer can feel overwhelming for some. Others are frustrated with feeling society is over preparing. Most are hoping for a level of preparedness and a positive outcome without mass hysteria.

During times of chaos and confusion, many seek out information from the news, social media, and other sources. It’s important to stay informed, it’s also vital to find good information based on statistics, data, and facts. Choosing how much to engage in information and when to disengage (put your phone down) assists with lowering feelings of uncertainty, of being out of control, and catastrophizing what is happening in the world around you. It’s normal to feel a sense of uneasiness, vulnerability, anger, confusion, and cognitive dissonance about the future.

It can be stressful for families and for parents to know how to talk with children about what’s happening. Being open, honest, and factual is important on an age appropriate level.  In addition, it’s important to balance your own fears during conversations and to do your best to monitor your own anxiety, anger, and stress to keep from instilling an unnecessary foundation of anxiety in children to potentially grapple with. It’s an opportunity to open a dialogue for critical thinking about individual feelings, values, the meaning of exploring those feelings moving forward, and how a person can learn and grow from what is happening.

It’s natural to feel the physiological and psychological impact of anxiety, it’s a protective mechanism; the fight or flight response in humans and animals. However, it’s what you do with the anxiety and stress you’re experiencing. Check in with yourself on how intense your feelings are, how long symptoms are lasting, and how your daily life is impacted. Implementing realistic expectations, allowing for flexibility, tapping into positive coping, tolerating frustration, and adapting for what is within your healthy controls day to day can help with lowering symptoms and the long-term impact. It’s beneficial to spend time in the present moments, practice gratitude, and enjoy yourself as much as realistically possible.

Social Distancing

Social distancing puts individuals at risk for social isolation; especially when depression, anxiety, stress, and other mental health issues are present.  It’s important to have awareness of the differences between social distancing and social isolation by checking in with yourself on how you’re feeling day to day. Consider what activities you’re engaging in or not doing at all. This is a good opportunity to carve out time to rebuild a relationship with yourself, reflect on what’s important, watch the sunrise or sunset, and connect with family and friends via phone, social media, or through email. Getting back to basics can feel healing and reaffirming; especially when focusing on significant and already established relationships. Make family time fun by keeping it simple. Hopefully, this is a time for children, adolescents, and adults to take a break from the high stress and pressures of a few daily responsibilities and obligations.

With that being said, if you’re in a stressful situation at home whether it’s due to a strained relationship with your partner or feeling overwhelmed by stress and responsibilities, take time away to rebalance. Consider listening to music, going for a walk or run, spend time with your furry friends, laugh and enjoy yourself, and do your best to focus on who and what you do have in the present moment, which includes your relationship with yourself. Check out online options in your community for working out, yoga, supports, and keeping up with physical and mental health. Focus on your strengths, tap into your supports, and treat yourself with compassion.

Healthy Controls

It’s beneficial to be present and work within what is in your healthy controls. Healthy control is different than attempting to control uncontrollable factors and attempting to control those around you in unhealthy and damaging ways. Healthy control is an internal sense of strength, presence, and balance. It’s trusting yourself and valuing where you are, what you’re feeling, and what is best in moving forward. Therefore, it’s making decisions that work well for you and your loved ones in ethical and healthy manners. Putting life in perspective, having a level of preparedness, and moving forward from there realistically.

Allowing some time to decompress and enjoying time with those in your shared environment as much as possible is within the realm of healthy control.  Check in with yourself and your loved ones; if your mental health or your loved one’s mental health is suffering and/or you or a loved one is struggling, feeling overwhelmed, and need to talk, reach out for support. Therapy where you’re meeting face-to-face online through a HIPAA secure site from the comfort of your own home is a safe, healthy, confidential, and convenient way to work with a therapist and to begin the healing process.

In conclusion, find ways you can feel content, ways you can help yourself feel balanced, and reasonably safe without adding undue stress, anxiety, and social isolation. Do your best to plan in realistic areas and to take one day at a time when planning isn’t possible. Consider where your information is from, look for statistics and data to assist with keeping anxiety and the stress of the unknown as low as possible.  There are many opportunities for self-reflection, growth, connecting with loved ones, and to engage in healthy and beneficial ways. Seek out the support of an online therapist if you’re feeling overwhelmed; even in the midst of a pandemic you can get the help you need. It’s important to treat yourself well, with compassion, and to check in on how you’re feeling.

Keep first responders, medical professionals, and individuals at increased risk for direct exposure in your thoughts, and individuals with higher risk for complications too. It’s important to come together as a community in safe and healthy ways to increase feelings of belonging and to decrease anxiety, stress, fear, and social isolation.

Stay safe, healthy, and well!

Learn, grow, & enjoy,
Mandi

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MandiTurk[1]Mandi Dalicandro-Turk writes about a variety of topics related to mental health, behavioral health, relationships, stress, anxiety, aging, grieving, self-care, therapy, and improving one’s overall quality of life.

girl running through flowers in spring time

We Get Spring

There’s a catchy pop song that was a big hit a few years back, and part of it echoes so plainly in my ears now: “How am I going to be an optimist about this?”  That song was about Pompeii, and what’s swirling around us these days is, no doubt, just as much of a candidate for the history books.

I don’t really know how I’m going to be an optimist about this, but I may have one little idea: I will sleep when the baby sleeps.

For those of you who aren’t parents, the phrase “sleep when the baby sleeps” is given to new* parents to remind them that they too need rest, and that you’d better get while the getting is good.  Of course you want to stay up and fret about whether your baby is breathing in the night. Of course you want to gaze for hours at their features while you hold them in the moonlight. But babies wake up, and cry, and nurse, and because you didn’t sleep while the baby slept, you’ll be tired and cranky the whole time, and possibly want to throw anything within arm’s reach at your napping husband.

And so it is in these long, languishing days of quarantine, I will sleep when the baby sleeps. Not really sleep, of course, because my kids are much too fond of crawling all over me and incessantly asking me questions, but I will just focus on what the immediate need is, at this moment. It’s all I can do. It’s all anyone can do.

Farmers have a similar saying: “Make hay while the sun shines.” There’s no point in making hay while it’s raining; it’d get ruined.  So instead, you clean the dishes or wash the walls or count raindrops sliding down the window. You do what you can with what you have in front of you.

We all want to make hay, I get it. We all want to watch the baby sleep. But most, if not all of us reading this will need to pretty much be sitting in their homes, where those things just cannot – or should not – get done. So what can you do? How can you be an optimist about this?

I can’t answer that for you. But for me, it’s truly getting down to the brass tacks. The minutiae of it all – what’s in front of you.

We have more time for walks, the kids and I, because we’re homeschooling now and there’s no one to tell us no. The smallest buds are coming out, and the robins have soared back into the yard, looking for bits and bobs to feather their nests. My kids are excited that Spring is earlier this year. “Because the groundhog didn’t see his shadow!” Says the oldest. “Yeah!” chimes the younger. “Punkshatawney Film didn’t see it! We get Spring!

We get Spring. Yes, we get trouble, too. But we get Spring. Enjoy it! And take a nap, when you can.

Until next time, be well!
Christy

*This advice is only for first-time parents, because once you have more kids all bets are off…unless there’s a tremendous gap in age between your kids and you have one newborn and one teenager who works and can drive themselves anywhere they like. Well done to you, I say.

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About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.