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Change Psychology Resilience Rest

Is It Too Soon?

This is an opinion piece written by the owner of the Seattle Direct Counseling website and blog.

Have you come across a question on Social Media that asks you to share positive things you have experienced due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

Before I do some research as to what other people in the field of psychology think about this question, I tuned into my own feelings. Mine are obvious, and you are free to disagree, yet I would ask you to read the entirety of this post and take a breath before you respond.

Nope. It’s too soon for me to share a list of silver linings. There are still people getting sick, still people dying, and still people grieving the loss of their loved ones because of COVID-19. There are still people who have lost their jobs or who are still bouncing back from economic hardship. There are still people getting evicted, moving because they can no longer afford their homes due to job loss, and still having difficulty making ends meet. There are still children and parents struggling to juggle in-person, remote classrooms, hybrid versions, and work-life balance. There are still essential workers from groceries to healthcare that are burned out, overworked, and traumatized by the care and servicing of sick, frightened, angry, and sometimes selfish people, all while they grieve the loss of fellow colleagues.

This is not to say that I haven’t seen or heard people experiencing many positive changes in their lives this year. Yet the question wasn’t just about positive changes. The question was about making a direct correlation between a pandemic – that has the potential to kill 20% of the population regardless of health history, decimate whole family systems with its easy transmission through secretions, and disable world economies for a number of years – with positive benefits.

I believe the question was intended to get people thinking about gratitude. The other potential meaning behind the question is what I find troubling.

I find that we’re often asked to make a list of positive outcomes when we’ve gone through a tough time. The problem is this: the tough time hasn’t ended. With the coronavirus out of control in many countries around the world as well as right here at home, it feels too soon to ask people to conjure a positive attitude or to list what good things they have experienced since the pandemic hit their respective towns and cities. It’s like asking people to diminish the real pain and hardship they have experienced, put on a smile, and move on, without getting to the real deal behind trauma and adversity.

If Not Silver Linings, What Else?

Is there something helpful to focus on besides silver linings and gratitude lists in the midst of difficult times, especially if you actually tried to develop a more positive attitude and found that to be — well, not very helpful?

If I could wish anything for you now, it would be a combination of Rest and Resilience.

What I mean by Rest is a short break from the elements of your life that may be causing insomnia, heartache, loneliness, burnout, and financial strain. If the coronavirus is out of control in your town, getting rest is complex. I understand you can’t let your guard down. Yet Rest can come in waves, from remembering to take time breathing fresh air when you can step outside and away from crowded areas, to choosing to turn off your smart devices at least an hour before bedtime so your brain can go into recovery mode.

Rest can mean snuggling with your pets and household members, singing along with a song you love, connecting with a friend via Zoom, or quietly putting together a puzzle while silencing distraction and stress. Rest can mean you give yourself a break from trying so hard to make this year’s holiday celebrations look exactly like previous years, especially if the means to do that cost you or others more than you can afford or risk.

What I mean by Rest is that if you have time off from work for the holiday, take it, and take it seriously like it meant your life. Rest. Your mind and body need it. If you must create something to do, you can invigorate your mind through the Art of Doing Nothing.

What I mean by Resilience is the capacity through a developing pathway or routine to adaptation through adversity. It involves mental and emotional toughness that can be built over time by allowing yourself to feel and experience something difficult, and then acknowledging what you did and how it felt as you got through it. It’s the acknowledgement that you weathered something uncomfortable if not downright painful, and you did not die.

Resilience can look like you buying your first couple of cloth masks at the start of the pandemic, moving through your feelings about wearing them, learning how to make your own, and giving or selling masks to others to help others. The next time you find yourself worrying about the pandemic, you may also realize you have adapted your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors – “I am concerned, I feel myself feeling anxious, I remember to put on my mask when I must leave my house”- in such a way that that you feel stronger to face the day. Over time, this might even feel easier.

Resilience can sound like learning to be more clear and direct with your words and actions, beginning with loved ones and expanding to your interactions with co-workers and community members. When you note how the choice to institute healthy boundaries around your time and energy has a payoff for you despite the fear of disappointment from others, you could be developing the necessary resilience to handle the kinds of uncomfortable emotions and thoughts that build when handling aspects of what so many of us fondly refer to as “adulting”, only it can feel like Adulting on Steroids.

At its most basic elements, Resilience involves personal growth. At its height and breadth, Resilience allows you develop something I call Relentless Forward Progress. It’s that part of us that can become more than we thought (and not to be confused with productivity), allowing even trauma, adversity, illness, and accidents to shape us. We would never wish these events on anyone, yet at the same time, the resilience that people can develop from having gone through these things can be profound. For more on what psychological resilience is, check out this link.

If making a list of how you think you’ve benefited by the pandemic coming to your door makes you feel more hopeful and upbeat, I’m not saying you should stop making that list.

What I am suggesting is that it wasn’t the pandemic itself — a virus that can kill — that should be celebrated right now. Rather, it’s your adaptive responses to it — and all kinds of adversity — that deserves cake and a happy dance.

Categories
Change Psychology Racism

COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter

via MEME

As you can imagine, things have been a bit busy at Seattle Direct Counseling. As of June 1 2006 at its inception, Seattle Direct Counseling has been owned, operated, and maintained by myself, identifying with the BIPOC community, and it should be no surprise that the majority of people who seek help and healing here do so, in part, because of that identity.

At this historic time in 2020,  King County, Washington’s most densely populated area, moved to Phase 1 Modified in regard to the Safe Start reopening guidelines issued by Governor Inslee on June 1 2020 in response to a global coronavirus pandemic, more businesses, personal services, outdoor recreation with up to five people not of the same household, construction, household helpers, and other activities have seen new changes. Update: King County has met criteria to be moved to Phase 2 as of June 18 2020, which opens more businesses, including day and overnight camping in state parks and campgrounds.

This means more people are out and about. And the coronavirus has not gone away. 

With a recent series of even more needless and cruel deaths of George Floyd and Breanna Taylor, as well as a white woman calling police while using her power to threaten a black man, the nation, the world, and locally in Seattle, protests have continued on a daily basis, calling for accountability, the end of police brutality, justice for those who have died at the hands of others who have used excessive force, and a wake-up call for all peoples to come together to end systemic bias and racial discrimination in all its subtle and gross forms.

This means more people are out and about, shoulder to shoulder, shouting and crying for change. 

Because of the pandemic, unemployment rates rose to 14.7 percent in April 2020, with a small decrease in May 2020 to 13.3 percent. Yet, demographic data shows that unemployment hit black people harder.

This means more people have less means to take care of their physical needs for shelter, medicine, food, clothing, mental health activities, childcare, and other essentials. The pandemic has hit the black and brown communities disproportionately harder, and this is something that I have witnessed with my own eyes. I have volunteered hours as a nurse in COVID-19 testing sites, private and community based, as well as conducted nursing rounds treating presumptive COVID-19 positive and COVID-19 symptomatic people in quarantine.

Truly,  the convergence of two pandemics — COVID-19 and Racism, are showing their devastating effects. What can we do from here?

“No One’s Coming to Save Us” 

One of the most startling truths I have read since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic was the statement, “No One’s Coming to Save Us.” I had seen this as a quote applied to taking responsibility for one’s life, and then I saw it again as applied to the coronavirus’ effect on densely populated cities around the world. It cruelly has applied to the lives of black people in America, who have watched the effects of systemic racism as well as overt violence take one life after another, and kick too many people down into a cycle of depression, poverty, addiction, and hopelessness.

Healthcare workers caught in wave after wave of sick and dying people grew exhausted, yet plugged on. No one was coming to save them. In the U.S., governors were told that they were on their own in getting masks, gowns, gloves, face shields, and respirators. Public Health officials scrambled to get test swabs, transport media with a way to seal it once the test has been conducted, and mobile testing sites with medical personnel. If they didn’t have the means, no one was coming to save them. 

When black writers and activists took to the Internets with videos, posts, photos, and calls for peaceful protests, they too made it clear that no one was coming to them. It is we who protest, and we keep protesting until people hear our demands for justice and change, because no one is coming to save us. The outpouring of support has been breathtaking. And the story is not over.

When you realize nothing will change and no one else is going to save you, you step up and do what you can. Every single person has a role to play towards creating change in both of these pandemics. You simply offer what you have, whether that is time, money, energy, a skill, a voice, a conversation, or a power that you have to share (influence, credibility, connections, knowledge).

What Can You Do?

First, we can acknowledge that this truth: no one is coming to save us. It is not a bleak statement devoid of hope; it is an awakening point to help us understand that each of us has within us the power to assess what is within our abilities to act on what we see and what is needed.

Second, we can acknowledge our own shortcomings, what we lack, and where we can improve. Own your own denials. Own your past lack of compassion. Acknowledge when and where and why and how you’ve failed to act upon what you know, when you’ve participated in actions that have hurt and grieved another person or community. Make a plan to alter your course.

Regarding COVID-19:  I encourage each and every person to take responsibility for themselves. Become a mini public health expert on such topics as personal hygiene and handwashing, disinfecting of commonly touched areas, wearing a mask while in public and taking care of a COVID-19 positive person, preparing for isolation and quarantining oneself and any household members for a full fourteen days if you become sick,  recognizing the signs of illness, getting your annual flu shot (and pneumonia vaccine if recommended), and getting tested for COVID-19 if you show symptoms, and if asymptomatic after an exposure with someone who has tested COVID-19 positive, get tested and isolate while waiting for results.

Be compassionate. Even if COVID-19 cases are slowing down in your locale, remember that it is raging in areas of the world like India, and Latin America, and other countries are still bracing for impact.

As of this writing, I am still receiving reports of people dying of complications from COVID-19, or struggling with the long-term effects during recovery (lung damage, organ damage, disabling fatigue, etc).

For some of you who have underlying co-morbidities and health conditions that warrant more vigilance, you will want to continue your life as much as possible as if you are in a long-term quarantine. Just because other parts of the country or your local region are progressing to Phase 1, Phase 2, or Phase 3 reopening does not mean that the coronavirus is gone. Case in point: over the weekend, King County has the largest increase in COVID-19 positive cases since the highest point in April 2020.

In summary, it’s to be expected that there will be more positive cases. This is, in part, because we have more testing available, so people who wouldn’t otherwise have known for sure if they were COVID-19 positive have access to testing. Yet, it was expected that with reopening our area, there would be an increase in these numbers, because the coronavirus does not magically go away. If those numbers increase too quickly in any area, city officials will step back down into an earlier phase or quarantine, to prevent an outbreak. And this would be difficult to do, as you can imagine.

Regarding Racism and Black Lives Matter: I encourage you to use what you have and take a role in helping to change the outcome of this pandemic that has raged in America nearly 400 years (1619 is one citation for slaves brought to a British colony in Jamestown).

Some of the actions you can take include: starting a conversation about Black Lives Matter, starting a conversation about what non-black people need to understand about power and privilege in relationship to Black people, supporting a local,  black-owned business or a BIPOC business (stands for Black, Indigenous, Person of Color) , donating to the Black Lives Matter movement,  joining a local protest (please wear a mask, do your best to practice social distancing, and get tested for COVID-19), writing letters to your local mayor, police department, and state government officials, signing petitions for change, learning about what it means to be an ally and not a collaborator in systemic racial bias, taking a course on bystander intervention.

While no one is coming to save us, the truth behind this statement is even more clear. YOU are the the hope you have waited for.

All that is needed is COURAGE.

Categories
Change coaching Counseling Psychology Technology Telehealth Therapeutic Photography Therapy

A Tale of Technology and Connection

A Tale of Technology (and Connection)

You might not have been around when phones came with long cords so you could drag them from room to room. Technology changed all that, and then some. Read about my recent experience with upgrading to new technology and changing with the times. Photo from Pixabay, no attribution needed.

Do you get nostalgic when it comes time to replace or discard old technology? Have you ever been caught off-guard by your own feelings when you encounter old tech and gadgets? And does your answer have anything to do with counseling?

When I celebrated my 50th birthday,  friends fêted me with a party that included homemade, allergen-free food, and reminders of my childhood. including an electronic memory game called, Simon.  Soon, I was reminiscing about everything from rotary phones with exceptionally long telephone cords to the different PC models that would have been the backdrop of every geeky kid’s experience in America.  Where were you when the TRS-80 (later called the Model I) was revealed on August 3, 1977?