Mama absolutely did not say there’d be days like this.

‘Your normal methods of coping may not be enough right now. You had found effective ways of coping with life as normal, but this is not normal.”

When I wrote my last blog entitled “Change is a comin'” I had no idea of all the changes we would soon be facing. So many changes. Most of them rather abruptly with an unknown duration. I’m now seeing all my clients through telehealth, meaning I no longer go into my office and sit with my clients face to face. We are doing video calls and some of them phone calls. It’s not the same as sitting in the room with my clients, but it’s been okay.

I miss hugging my children and grandchildren. We have been using Zoom to have virtual family time for all of us. The other night I read a book to the littles using Zoom and they got to talk to their cousins. We are planning a talent night soon and they can all share a talent with the rest of us. It should be very entertaining. My 87 year old mom lives with my husband and I. She has enjoyed video calls with our relatives.

I recently asked friends to post positive effects of staying at home.  Here’s some of the comments:

Cooking more.

Dinner and game night at the table every night.
I’ve taken time to get things done instead of “lounging and recouping “ when I’m not at work. I’m more driven

Those quiet moments when the dishwasher is humming because it’s full from another meal we enjoyed together, kids are reading or doing school work, and I’m drinking coffee and moving about the house kissing my husband on the cheek in passing.

I sat on my patio and enjoyed the beautiful day. I felt thankful.

It has forced me to slow down! And I have enjoyed EVERY second of it! No complaints here!!

And I’m so happy for them. I’ve found all these things to be true as well. We’ve done DIY projects that we probably wouldn’t have had time for. We are slowing down, being intentional about connecting with family, spending time outside. But, not every one has it so good.
I’ve talked to a number of my clients in the last couple of weeks about adjusting their coping skills. Your normal methods of coping may not be enough right now. You had found effective ways of coping with life as normal, but this is not normal. This is the opposite of normal. You need to adapt the skills you already have, or maybe you need some new ideas. Here’s some things I’m suggesting to clients:
1. Get outside every day. Even if it’s just for 10 minutes. Preferably several times a day. Breathe the fresh air deeply. Look around you and try to notice 5 things you haven’t noticed before.
2. Connect with someone either by phone or video, but preferably video. As humans we need to see facial expressions. Remember Tom Hanks painting the face on the volleyball in Cast Away?
3. Eat healthy.
4. Have some structure in your day. Get up and go to bed around the same time each day. Get up and get ready for the day. Don’t lounge around in pajamas all day. Wash your face, brush your teeth, brush your hair and put on deodorant at the very least.
5. Limit the time you spend watching the news and social media. Don’t drown yourself in COVID-19 information. Check it maybe twice a day and that’s it.
6. Reach out when you are feeling sad or lonely or overwhelmed. We all are feeling it. Reach out to someone and talk through that.
7. Remind yourself each day that this is a temporary situation. This will not last for the rest of your life. This will come to an end and life will go back to normal at some point.
8. Practice being present and grateful. Without the distraction of future thinking (ie. what time to pick the kids up or drop them off, appointments, ballet lessons, sports practices, church activities, etc.) that we usually have, allow yourself to be fully in the present. Intentionally use all five senses (taste, touch, smell, sight, hearing) to experience your world. Each morning and evening find 3 things to be grateful for.
9. Do something that makes you laugh every day. Watch a comedian, a funny video, family videos, play a silly game, have your kids tell you jokes, look up tongue twisters and try some of them, etc.
10. Reach out to someone else to make sure they are alright. Text, phone, video, email, snail mail…so many options. Checking on others gives us a sense of purpose and value.
I know that some of you are in terrible situations. For some, staying at home isn’t a welcome change. You may be home with an alcoholic, an addict,  or an abuser.  You may have lost your job or the provider in the home has, causing you to worry about if you will lose your home, your car, or be able to buy necessities. You may be home with a new baby and no support. You may be a caregiver of someone and have no support. You may be grieving the death of a loved one all alone.  You may be dealing with a difficult diagnosis alone. Please reach out. Please ask for help. Ask for support. Most mental health professionals are doing telehealth like I am. We want so badly to support anyone that we can. Ask friends. Ask people in your church. Ask anyone, please just ask.
Here’s a list of US numbers that may be helpful to someone:
Suicide Prevention Lifeline — 1-800-273-TALK
Trevor HelpLine / Suicide Prevention for LGBTQ+ Teens — 1-866-488-7386
Crisis Text Line — Text HOME to 741741
IMAlive — online crisis chat
National Runaway Safeline — 1-800-RUNAWAY (chat available on website)
Teenline — 310-855-4673 or text TEEN to 839863 (teens helping teens)

Child Abuse Hotline — 800-4-A-CHILD (800 422 4453)
National Domestic Violence Hotline — 800-799-7233
Missing & Exploited Children Hotline — 1-800-843-5678

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) — 1-800-662-435

Be kind, be grateful, be courageous,

Jules

Just breathe.

…most of us have become so accustomed to breathing shallow, because we live very stressful lives, that the only time we are breathing diaphragmatically, is when we are sleeping.

Put your hand on your chest. Feel it rise and fall as you inhale and exhale? That’s not

diaphragm

good. Most of us don’t breathe well. Most of us, most of the time, breathe shallow from our chest. Our lungs are located lower, and under our lungs is a muscle called the diaphragm.

I teach my clients something called Diaphragmatic Breathing. When we do this, the diaphragm contracts, the chest does not rise, but your belly rises and you can feel your lungs expand. This type of breathing is a natural, relaxed form of breathing in all mammals. This is how we should be breathing when we are relaxed and there is no present danger or threat. When we perceive danger or threat, we breathe shallow and fast…like an anxiety attack for instance. But, most of us have become so accustomed to breathing shallow, because we live very stressful lives, that the only time we are breathing diaphragmatically, is when we are sleeping.

Belly breathing maximizes the amount of oxygen that goes into our blood. This in turn circulates more oxygen to our muscles, organs and brain. The benefits can include improved lung function, improved heart function, relaxation, slowing of your heart rate, anxiety and stress management and reduction, lowering blood pressure, centering yourself, emotional regulation, self-soothing and calming the chaos in your brain, just to name a few. By practicing regularly, you can calm yourself with only one or two breaths. I’ve been practicing belly breathing for about 7 years now and can usually take one or two breaths and my body responds.

I teach this to nearly every patient I have. So, I thought it might be helpful for you. I’m going to teach you the basic tenets and you can practice it and let me know in the comments what you think of it. You want to breathe deep from your diaphragm (or belly). Put one hand on your chest and one on your belly. You will feel your belly rise and your lungs expand. Then exhale it all out through your mouth. Inhale through your nose, exhale through your mouth and make these the same amount of time. So if you count as you inhale, “1…2…3…4…5” you would count as you exhale “1…2…3…4…5”. Make sense? Great!

distracted

When I was first learning this skill, my mind would wander. And no matter how much I focused on the breathing or on the counting, my mind wandered. What did I need to get at Target later? Whose birthday is next? Why did Game of Thrones end? How did Game of Thrones end? How much of a telephone pole is in the ground? You see? It was a problem. But, I found out that if I had a visual image I could focus on that. My visual was the numbers as I counted. My numbers look like black house numbers you buy at the hardware store. Your numbers could look like clouds or be colors or whatever works for you.

If you try to ignore a distracting thought, it just knocks louder on the door. It’s best to acknowledge the thought and then go back to focusing on the breathing, or the counting or the numbers. Something like this, “Oops, I can think about my Target list later, now I’m going to focus on my breathing.” then let the distracting thought pass through your mind and refocus. It’s more difficult at first, but it gets easier the more you practice.

Some patients imagine inhaling a warm light, or peace, calm, love, (positive things) and then exhaling chaos, darkness, sadness, anxiety. Try this. Use it if it works for you and don’t if it doesn’t. Practice at least 3 times a day for 5 minutes each time. Set a timer so you aren’t distracted by the clock. Sit in a quiet place, close your eyes and give it a try. When you need to use it, you will be surprised how fast your body responds after practicing for awhile. Let me know in the comments how it goes for you! Happy breathing!

Be kind, be grateful, be courageous!

Jules

So I’m freaking out…

Superman left for boot camp January 17. I’ve heard from him a couple of times while he was in reception, but I know from last year when Bear went to boot camp, that now I won’t hear from him again until I get a letter. Every day I check the mail, telling myself not to expect anything, but in my mommy heart I can’t help it. I hope there is a letter. At times my mind gets the best of me and I find myself imagining all kinds of not so pleasant scenarios that my army boy might be finding himself in. If I let my emotions take control, I could get pretty worked up. If I take control of my emotions, I control the fear and anxiety and it doesn’t have any power.

“But Jules, I can’t control my fear, it takes over and I can’t do anything about it!” I hear ya. I’ve felt that way. I’ve been in that same state of fear and anxiety. I’ve had anxiety attacks. I get it. Then I learned that I can control it! So can you!  Sound ridiculous? Read on…

solutionAnxiety is a state of fear. Fear is an emotion. Our emotions are controlled by a couple of things. 1. Our thoughts and words. Let’s say every time you get in your car you get anxious. First identify what you are afraid of and what your thoughts are. Then exchange those fearful/negative thoughts for empowering/positive thoughts. Write your new thoughts on post it notes and put them on the dash of the car. “I’m capable.” “I’m a safe driver.” “I can do this.” Every time you have a fearful thought, replace it by reading/speaking/thinking an empowering thought. The cool thing is you don’t even have to believe it! You are simply creating a new neuropathway in your brain, and eventually the empowering thought will become your default.

2. Our body. What is the first sign in your body that you are getting anxious? Maybe your heart or breathing speeds up. Maybe you clench your jaw. Maybe your hands get tingly. Whatever it is notice it. As soon as you feel the first sign, try a grounding technique using your senses. Find something to see, hear, smell, touch and taste. Rub your jeans with your hands, focus on a something you can see, what can you hear, taste something strong like peppermint or cinnamon gum, hold an ice cube, smell some lotion or oil. Using your senses will help bring you into the present moment and calm your body. Take a few deep breaths and use your empowering thoughts.

There are a couple of other good tools I will give you for anxiety attacks. 1. Ask yourself anxiety“What’s the worst that will happen?” Often the worst that our emotional brain has us thinking, isn’t so bad once we say it out loud. Once we hear it spoken we realize that we can deal with it. 2. Use 1-100 thinking. Ask yourself “1-100 how likely is my fear to actually happen today?” Often our logical brain helps us realize that it’s not too likely, and it can help decrease your fear and let it go. If it is likely to happen, make a plan and take control of what you can control.

I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m not saying it doesn’t take hard work and practice. I’m just saying that it’s possible. I’d love to talk to you more about controlling your anxiety. Contact me for an appointment in the Kansas City area.

Be kind, be grateful, be courageous,

Jules