coping holistically though COVID-19

Here we are, living day by day with ‘shelter-in-place.’ The news reminds us to play it safe by wearing masks and gloves, keep the six foot minimum distance when in public, and most of all to stay home. In addition, media sources show us what to fear most and blast the death toll constantly. This provides information, sure – yet it can also increase stress and elevate fear, obviously. During these times, it is crucial that we learn to take really good care of ourselves, from the physical and mental, to the emotional and spiritual. This doesn’t need to cost a penny, nor does it need to become a burden. You can find a free 12 minute guided imagery experience at the top of my product page – or just click here.

I’d like to see more about holistic self-care from the media during times like these. I think the increase in online ‘happy hours’ and classes of all sorts has been really helpful as a way to build comradery, decrease lonliness, keep life as consistent as possible, and offer an alternative to television. There are some really creative outlets out there! For example, just about any form of physical exercise can do wonders for our mental and emotional states while ‘doing right’ for the body. Most people know this. Personally, I’m not a fan of the gym; I prefer exercises I can do in or near my home. Some of my favorites include mindful stretching and yoga, hiking, and dancing. Learning certain practices, even something totally new, can be done online. Tai Chi, Qi Gong, or yoga are just a few examples that bring with them a positive holistic impact. Mindful movement that attends to the breath does wonders! Most recently, I was invited to an online Zumba class and a group of friends decided to attend on the same day. Now that’s an energy release combined with laughter and emotional support!

Considering mental and emotional states, I think about my habit of overscheduling. I’ve been considered a “go-go-go” kind of person most of my life. It took a serious illness for me to learn to say “No” and seriously scale back. Furthermore, from my years teaching Cognitive Psychology, I knew that multi-tasking was not any faster than completing one task at a time. In fact, with multi-tasking we are worse off. Most people are doing too much. I knew I was too, but also struggled with making lasting change in this area. I’m hopeful that this virus will pass sooner than later, but until it does pass, we can use this time to ask ourselves how would we want to spend our time (especially if we knew we had so little of it left). So, if you need to say “No, thanks, not today” in response to an online invite of any kind, that is okay!

On a spiritual level, “living every day” becomes a way of life, especially for those most closely impacted by COVID-19. I’m talking about those that are currently ill or know someone who has been infected, along with every single person that is working to get us all through this: Nurses, mental health professionals, grocery store clerks, bankers, gas station attendants, and other service workers come to my mind immediately. How about for you? Those that cannot #StayHome during this crisis, may not be feeling isolated, but may be feeling incredible levels of stress. They may just want to sleep during the off hours and that is alright – sleep is very healthy. While on duty, conscious, abdominal breathing or slipping in a three minute mindfulness break while in the bathroom (I’m very serious about that) may be all that is possible. Do not underestimate the value of just these alone! If you are on the front lines, know that I am here for you and will gladly send free, pre-recorded guided mediations your way – just send me your email address through my services page. In addition, limiting exposure to politics and news stations can help reduce anxiety and relieve mental tension. You probably hear more than enough at work! Recognize what sources provide quality information as opposed to hype and drama.

Here are some additional ideas that can make life a little better when feeling alone, lonely or isolated, or in need of a little nurturing:

  • Get sucked into fantasy with a good book. Maybe reread one that you put back on the shelf years ago. I’ve been doing this lately and have even come across ones that I never read in the first place!
  • Begin journaling. Some prompts are as simple as “What am I feeling today? How is this similar or different than yesterday?” Other people use journals to write a letter to your future self. Project yourself in 5 years. What are your hopes and dreams for 2025? And of course there is dream journaling. Have you wanted to start engaging your dream life more? This just might be the time. Journaling our dreams is a great IMG_2508practice. Dreams are like a mirror, reflecting our inner world. They are the language of the soul. Dream plots and imagery are also inspirations for poetry, story-telling and art.
  • Take a sensuous bath – add oils, flowers, herbs or sea salts to the bath water. Allow yourself to soak away. Light candles or bring a good book for additional relaxation.
  • Write letters, the old-fashioned way, and snail-mail them. No text messaging this time! When was the last time you did this? I bet it’s been years. If you have old, used greeting cards, cutting them at the fold, turns the front side with design or picture, into a postcard. No need for stationary.
  • Spend time in nature. When was the last time you did a nature walk in your town? Get outside and notice what’s in bloom. Take in the spirit of mother nature, commune with her aliveness. If you have kids, a spontaneous treasure hunt or eye spy game is fun. Some kids love to collect leaves, bark and other tidbits to make a collage. Got glue?
  • If at all possible, allow yourself to sleep in! After all, you probably are not commuting to work or school (unless you work in particular industries, that is). That commute time, whether it be 30 minutes or an hour, can go toward increase shut-eye. This is healthy on so many levels and who knows, maybe you’ll have dream visitors – friends and family that, during these time, feel so far away. Give a dream hug! It can feel just as warm and beautiful…
  • Find a recipe you’ve always wanted to try and make it. Got any neglected cookbooks on your books shelf? This becomes extra fun with kids involved, so long as the adults feel calm and patient (Ha!). Or even better, go online and enter someone else’s kitchen – cook right along with them.
  • Consider doing a craft. This can really take our mind away from problems we are currently facing. Arts and crafts pull me into ‘the zone’ and I loose all track of time. How perfect on a rainy weekend! Consider this easy craft: Turn your attention to img_5155that stack of old magazines and catalogs lying around the house and simply rip out the images. Find glue or tape and a piece of cardboard, paper, or poster board (If you’ve ordered anything online recently, these can often be found in packing material once your product arrives) Once you’ve collected those, you are ready to begin constructing a vision board. The basics of vision board making include imagining what you want to complete or accomplish within the next 3-6 months. Be as specific and concrete as possible. From there, find images that reflect this. The idea is to create a board of images that move us in the direction we want to go. Imagery is powerful, so I suggest avoiding (or seriously limiting) the use of words or phrases – try to stick solely with images. I’ve made vision boards for my biggest goals: finishing a PhD program, getting published, finding the perfect home, and more.

Are you already engaged in any of these practices? Let me know what works best for you!

 

Wishing you wellness and inner peace,

Kim

My book, Extraordinary Dreams, can be purchased here!

 

self-care

Happy new year to you all! This month’s article is not about resolutions, but about something we should be doing regularly (and probably should have been doing all along): that is self-care of the mind, body, emotions and spirit. It’s never too late to start – anytime is a good time. How about now?

Sure, it’s nice to take a steamy bubble bath, or buy something nice for ourself when we can afford it, even indulge in a sweet treat, or get a mani-pedi…you name it. However, caring for the self goes much deeper. I was exposed to this concept around 1999 or 2000 after having worked in the child abuse prevention and trauma field for a brief period of time. For the last 20 years, I have had a self-care regimen of some kind. Still, I have been treated for vicarious traumatization (VT) and secondary traumatic stress (STS)/compassion fatigue (CF) due to all the exposures in my field and my particular work as a trauma therapist over the years, in addition to my own history. Life can be complicated and we can be complicated creatures. No one self-care routine is best. They can differ drastically from individual to individual. One routine may feel sufficient for months, then suddenly more support may be needed in one or more areas. A lot of what professionals teach regarding self-care, we can learn on our own with some research and thoughtful consideration. If you are experiences symptoms of VT, STS/CF, consult with a professional – that is a licensed psychologist or licensed psychotherapist specializing in trauma. After all, it is an opportunity to have another offer evaluation, new ideas and emotional support through a heightened self-care process.

Sometimes, self-care is divided up into physical, mental, emotional, spiritual categories, which is alright, but I prefer to look at things differently because one action, or domain, can support each of these categories.

One major self-care domain is Time in Nature. Getting regular time in the great outdoors and away from busy city life can do wonders for our nervous system and for calming theIMG-4846 mind and the emotions. Taking in fresh air while surrounded by plants and trees is a gift in itself. We can connect spiritually in nature as well. After all, everything is alive. Some people I know go camping (sleeping on the ground directly) every season while others dedicate a weekend day to beach walks, forest trail running or engaging in the practice known as Earthing. Earthing, sometimes also referred to as Grounding, is basically walking barefoot on dirt or grass (not on concrete) for example, like our ancestors did. The last time I did this, it was 45 degrees outside. My feet felt the chill of the ground, but I was bundled up everywhere else, so I was fine. The practice of Earthing is recommended in order to absorb some earth energy, as the planet is negatively charged. IMG-4842The build up of positively charged free radicals throughout the day can be tamed through Earthing due to it’s antioxidant effect. It’s an anti-inflammatory technique! Instead of coffee, try 15 minutes of Earthing in the afternoon as a caffeine substituting self-experiment for relieving grogginess. If getting your shoes off is impossible, do not give up – do it with bare hands instead.

Another major domain in my life is Organic Whole Food, Plant-based Eating. I used to complain (a lot) that organic purchases were too expensive, and that I didn’t have time to cook. Then I had a wake-up call teaching me that buying cheap food on the fly can lead to expensive medical treatments needed to correct a problem I encouraged through my behavior and choices. The inflammatory garbage I was putting in my mouth most days came with a cost. Basically, it’s pay now or pay later with a potentially bigger cost. This decade, it is even more critical since hundreds of new chemicals are being introduced into the environment each year. We know (for years now actually) that babies are born with toxins in their umbilical cord blood. Pregnant mothers’ blood carries many toxic chemicals too, of course. This develops by way of environmental exposures, one being the pesticides in processed and conventional foods. Thinking more about costs, some organic choices are very affordable, such as bulk beans, grains, and even certain fruits and vegetables are similarly priced to conventional. If it’s possible to grocery shop with a friend or family member with similar interests, the experience can be educational, curious, and maybe even fun. Eating as clean as possible offers benefits not just for physical health, but mental and emotional health as well. It’s true – consuming organic foods can be a support for optimal mental and emotional functioning.

An additional major domain is what I’ll label as Cleaning. Our entire being –mind, body, emotions, spirit – can benefit from regular cleaning. By cleaning, I mean committing to actions that invoke reflection, gratitude, clarity, protection, and especially release. Here are some examples:

Unstructured, reflective journaling,

Warm epsom and Celtic sea salt baths,

Writing gratitude lists (at least 10 things I am grateful for),

Mindfulness practices including meditation and guided imagery,

Energetic services such as Reiki or acupuncture,

Tracking dreams and looking for patterns and themes,

Adopting a short home-based energy medicine routine (see November 2019 article),

Getting lost in a craft such as knitting, painting, or coloring mandalas.

That’s only eight examples, but naturally, there are dozens and dozens of ways to clean. I clean daily-to-weekly. How about you?

Most of the ideas I have shared here can be combined in a variety of ways and many of them support more than just one aspect of ourselves. What you see here is by no means an exhaustive list, so add to it, and please share your ideas with me. Remember, a solid self-care routine can be done at-home and cost nothing, or if you have extra funds, hiring a service provider can be very nice.

Everyone wants their personal compass pointed in the direction of good health, happiness, meaning and connection. The power to make changes lies within each one of us. There is no rule saying that changes must be drastic or come all at once. Every small step we make in the right direction for our lives and the lives of our loved ones is well worth it in my book. May this new year bring all good things your way!

 

2020 blessings to you and yours,

Kim

#selfcare

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