Tips for Handling Quarantine

Reviewed May 7, 2020

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Hello and welcome. We're going to get started at one o'clock and about five minutes to go. It's good to see so many people logging in. Looking forward to chatting with all of you today. You're welcome to use the chat feature to send any comments or questions to me. That would be wonderful. I welcome that. [Silence 00:00:34]. We'll get started in just a couple more minutes. Welcome if you're just joining. Good to have everybody today. I hope you're all staying healthy, doing well. And we're going to have a great session today so I'm really looking forward to engaging with you a little bit through the chat. So feel free to put any comments or questions there as we move along and I may pause a couple times and throw out some questions and get some engagement from all of you. I'd love to hear your thoughts too. So we'll be getting started in just a couple minutes. [Silence 00:04:10]

Well, good afternoon and welcome. I'm Laurie Andrews, and on behalf of Beacon Health Options, welcome. I'm so happy to be with everybody today in this unusual time. And what a great way to take a short break and center ourselves and focus on how are we doing, how are we coping, what other tips and techniques can we all learn from each other regarding our emotional health, our physical health and our well being? So my background is marriage and family therapy, just so you're aware. And I had a 10 year career in that field in community mental health and private practice and I also do a lot of training and facilitation of groups such as ours today. And that is part of an extension of what I have done as a marriage and family therapist. So good to have you all with us. So let's get started today. Just a quick word about quarantine versus isolation, and sometimes you hear the terms used very interchangeably.

And isolation really limits the freedom of movement or action of a person who is infected. And I think about a good friend of mine who went into the hospital about three weeks ago for some unknown respiratory issue. And when she got there of course, they put her into isolation and acted as if she could potentially be exposed already or ill with COVID or possibly going to become ill. So that would be an example of isolation. So they put her in a special room and she was not allowed to see her family or friends, they had to sit outside a glass window and they could text each other or talk on the phone. But for a while until she was tested until they knew, she was in isolation.

Then when we think of quarantine, another example pops into my mind of a friend who, just before our state went on stay-at-home order, she had been out of the state and was traveling back literally over the same 24 hours when the stay-at-home order was beginning. So her workplace did a good thing by asking her to quarantine for two weeks to keep herself at home just in case she had been exposed having traveled across the state lines etc. So those are just a couple of examples to orient us to the differences. Now fear is real and fear is affecting everybody to some degree, whether it might be a low level, anxious thought in the back of our subconscious all the way to some folks experiencing full blown, what I would call a panic attack where the anxiety is super high and they're in a very fearful place. So obviously, reaching out and seeking professional help is vital, especially during a time where you might be feeling ... if you're not sure if you're struggling or not.

Sometimes we question ourselves, or we might have self doubt thinking maybe I'm the only person feeling this way. Why not reach out to someone at the employee assistance program and find out what could be helpful in those moments? So when we look about the uncertainty piece, that is the most ambiguous place to be and many of us are struggling because we don't know how long this may go and depending on which region of the country you're living in, it could vary quite a bit. So it's the unknown, which is the hardest place to be. Not knowing at all brings up all kinds of fears for most people. And even though many of us can acknowledge, okay maybe my fear is a bit irrational. And I know the statistics that 80% of folks don't tend to have serious symptoms, they recover. Even though I know all that intellectually, because I'm a human being, I am hard wired to survive. And my instinct is to protect myself, self preservation and so I tend to go in my mind to the worst possible case scenario, even though I may recognize that it's not rational.

So one really helpful tip if that's operating in your world, and for anyone in your household or your family is to encourage that person or have yourself write down, what are my fears? Even if you think they're totally irrational, put them down on paper and then next to that, write a different thought. Perhaps one about I'm going to ask for help, I'm going to take care of myself, I have a loving support system, I'm taking steps to protect my house. And acknowledge that perhaps you are having an irrational thought or feeling but it's real to you and it's real to me when it happens. So just honoring our feelings is so critical. In fact, simply labeling our feelings takes us from the brainstem or the amygdala, emotional center of the brain, back to the neocortex or the thinking frontal lobe of our brain which can help us problem solve, make decisions and take care of ourselves.

So that's powerful when you think about just naming our feelings and validating them and acknowledging them. Now, many of us have struggled also with food anxiety, and yet part of us rationally knows that there is still food available. For most of us, somehow we can get ahold of food if we need it. But what if, what if, what if? So dealing with that whole piece has been a struggle for a lot of folks, in addition to paper products, let's mention that, right? And other vital needs. So these are very real concerns and very real fears. And yet it helps us to reach out and talk to somebody and get reassurance. Sometimes just talking about the fear brings it back into a realm where we feel empowered to make choices to help ourselves.

So what I do want to tell you before we move ahead is according to stress management research that has held the test of time from the 1960s, about 80% of the things that we worry about don't actually happen the way that we think they're going to. So if I could encourage all of us and I'm speaking to myself, what if we adopted a confident wait-and-see attitude and we just suspended the worry because the worry only eats away at our health and compromises our immunity even more because of the stress hormones that are released like cortisol and adrenaline. So what if we had a confident wait-and-see attitude and we wrote down our concerns? And then we kept a notepad and we check back daily, hourly, even two weeks later, a month later, a year later and look back on these things and recognize that many of them changed, if not all of them, turned out a little bit differently. And some in fact were almost removed from the universe as a nonevent.

So that may help you if you can hold tight to that statistic. Now, I know some of you are thinking what about that 20%? There's always a chance, right? While having a backup plan and keeping it, not in the forefront of your mind but as a plan B or C, again is helpful. Just suspend it a little, put it into I may not ever need to use this and don't spend a lot of mental energy and a lot of physical energy worrying or thinking about it. That will only compromise all of our health. And I don't know if you've ever had that experience of getting so emotionally concerned about something that you actually had symptoms in your body. But that's happened to me. And unfortunately after the fact I realized, it was all for naught. And I've learned to now have that confident wait-and-see attitude and suspend the worry, which takes a little bit of practice, I will acknowledge that.

So here's a little bit about our new normal, coming up with activities to keep us busy. And I don't know if you're like me, but at first I saw everybody posting on social media or talking on the phone with me saying, "Oh, I'm using this time to get organized. I'm deep cleaning my house from top to bottom. I'm rearranging all the drawers." And I thought to myself, that doesn't sound like a project I want to do. And I almost felt like a peer pressure that I should be doing more because I had shifted my role from being out and doing in-person training, facilitation and consultation.

Now I'm at home so therefore I should be more productive. Well, you may need to resist that a little bit because that might not be the right thing for you. It's not necessarily helpful to everybody. But it could be an opportunity to do some learning, do some reflection, do some reading, praying, meditating, whatever you like to do. To have some break time, some pleasure time, some thinking time, even distraction time, perhaps watching, streaming videos or whatever it is that you like to do.

So give yourself a lot of compassion and a lot of permission to find what works for you. It may not work for your friends and neighbors and your family. So using technology is going to be vital to stay connected socially. We are social beings, there's no question and we're also innately compassionate. We love to use our empathy and tap into that. So think of it as the capacity for caring and sharing, that is truly human. And while some of us might be a little more introverted, and others are extroverted, we still need personal connection. So I have a little bit of research to share with you briefly. Friendship and mental health is connected. And people with smaller networks and fewer intimate relationships find it a little more challenging or difficult to manage these social situations, especially now. And that's where technology comes in.

I have friends who are popping by nursing homes of their aging relatives, because they're not on technology. And they're making signs and standing outside and talking through windows and things like that, sending cards and sending letters. So those are some ideas. We do enjoy sharing those experiences together. So I know a lot of folks are getting on to Zoom and other platforms, even Facebook Live to do watch parties together or to just interact in small groups and even social groups. For example, having happy hour together or a birthday party over Zoom. So what happens in the body is when we can visually see each other and talk to each other, we have that direct person to person contact. Granted, it doesn't involve touching right now, but it triggers part of our nervous system that releases that feel good neurotransmitter. Think dopamine, think endorphins. And those regulate our responses, specifically dopamine to stress and anxiety. So we want to appreciate that we can still facilitate that a little bit, even though it might be through the sound of a voice over a phone or using FaceTime or some other video type platform.

When we come face to face, it can help us be more resilient in the long run, that's what's the research is indicating. So in 2017, Harvard did a quick study ... actually they did eight decades of research and I just referenced it really quickly. And they found that people who are more socially connected to family, friends and community are happier and healthier and they tend to live longer than those who have fewer connections. So that's something to just consider overall, as we develop in our lifespan. Everyday must involve a routine, and I'm guessing everybody on this call today has a new normal routine. I don't know how many of you might be essential workers if most of you are working remotely right now. I know we have a diverse audience today. And this power of routine is amazing because if you're not aware, the brain likes to put about 40% of our day on autopilot so that it can free up, I call it the disk space for other creative problem solving activities and thinking and interacting.

So if we can get our routine down to such a pattern that we don't have to think as hard about it, it grounds us. Frankly being grounded in the mundane is super helpful right now at least for me, I can speak for myself. So getting into what you would do typically if you were going to leave your place where you live or not but trying to get outside as well given that we might have limitations, we might have issues with weather or just social distancing. It might be difficult to do that. I know in my city in Minneapolis, a lot of the streets have been turned into one ways so that people can, for example, walk around the lakes. So there are a lot of things happening depending on your location.

Also eating healthy, trying to make the most of your first meal of the day, whenever that is, a lot of people don't break there fast until the afternoon and that's fine. But it might be more about the type of food that we're choosing. And certainly we want to eat for energy, we want to eat for health. We want to probably avoid ... well, maybe all the things we might be craving unfortunately, the sugar, the caffeine, the inflammatory foods that are probably not helping our immune system.

And a lot of this is related to stress. I know for myself, I crave sugar and carbs when I'm stressed out. I don't know about you. But I did struggle the first couple of weeks that we were on stay-at-home and I didn't want to eat some of the wrong things. And I just didn't always make the best choices and I didn't beat myself up for it, I just tried to get back on track and now I'm trying to eat to feel healthy and feel energy. So check in with your family quite often and your friends and just send a message, make a call, do whatever you can to stay connected, use all possible connecting points if you can.

Let's talk a little bit about our mental health and dealing with negativity. One of the best recommendations I think during a time such as this or any time really is to avoid the first half hour or hour of your morning. And then the last half hour or hour before bedtime, avoid social media and media if possible. That would be the recommendation. And a lot of folks will have trouble with this because they wake up in the morning, they're immediately thinking about what's going on in the world and they want to find out what if I missed? What's going on? Well, chances are, it's not going to make a huge difference if you wait 30 minutes, have a little bit of quiet time or perhaps thinking time. And just ease into your morning and consider what you're listening to, who you're listening to, what you're watching, what you might be viewing. And if you can work on that, it will help you ground your day and just start your day from a place of centered calm and peacefulness.

It's really a powerful technique if you haven't tried that yet. Also get reputable information and use the data as best you can that you're receiving about what's going on and put it into perspective. Use it as a good guideline for yourself. And there is a lot of controversy out there, you have to be really careful when you're on the internet. Some have said that it might be somewhat web alony. So you have to check your facts and go to reputable sources to do that. So reading or listening for inspiration will help you tremendously. And then there's self talk, not sure if you're aware, but we tend to have about 60,000 thoughts per day. Oh, my goodness. I've wondered, what am I saying to myself? I'm not sure I'd want to read the transcript either. We do have a lot of empowerment about choosing which thoughts we allow to come in and which ones we send away. So for me, a positive mantra might be something like, this too shall pass or I'm going to do my best.

One of the underlying beliefs that I've struggled with in my life, probably due to upbringing in childhood and a lot of influence is no matter what I do, it could have been better. I don't know if anybody can relate to that one. So telling myself that not only am I good enough, how about just I am enough and going with that. So really focusing my thoughts. So one thing that I do in the morning is, I read affirmations and you might chuckle and think, well does that really work? But it does if you read them, and if you think about them. And if you say them out loud, it's more effective because it goes into your subconscious mind and really helps you to manifest those things that you're saying about yourself. Even if your conscious mind doesn't believe it yet.

Over time, the research shows we can influence our brain. Our brain is very malleable. We have a lot of neural pathways that can change up and we can rewire our own brains by what we're thinking about. So perhaps gratitude is another facet we could mention briefly. And if you are choosing to look at what's going well, what am I appreciating? What if we all started our day with thinking about all of the ways that we use water before we're even one hour into our day? Isn't that incredible? And having that attitude of gratitude goes a long way to help us stay grounded. And I know work teams are starting to use this more and more. I'm seeing folks in companies doing huddles, or perhaps you'd have to do a WebEx huddle or a Zoom huddle right now, getting on with your team and just doing a check in. How's everybody doing? What are you grateful for today? And it allows people to express and share and just talk about what they're noticing, what they're focusing upon.

And that will really go a long way to help us all have a better day, focus on ... for every one thing that goes wrong, there were 30 things or more that probably went right. And we tend to be, as human beings wired toward the negative side, we tend to look at that first. And we have to make a conscious choice to be more grateful if we can. Making a to-do list is critical. I would say every day, all day every day, because that will give you the ability to free up your mind, to focus on tasks and not worry, what am I forgetting? What's going on? If you can keep going back to that list, even if you only have one or two key items on that goal list or to-do list for the day, that's huge. Especially during this time, there is a lot of pressure to try to accomplish more when in reality, if we have a couple of key goals or tasks that we're accomplishing, we've done a lot.

So always be compassionate with yourself and understand that we're all doing the best that we can do. So eventually this will move forward. I also want to talk a little bit about some of the signs of mental health if it could be changing for you, and just being aware that sometimes out of the blue or not, we don't always know what can trigger things, our mental health can change. And typically, mental health issues tend to surface for most people in the adolescent years or the early college years. But that's not to say that something couldn't be triggered later in life that was never manifested before. We have unique DNA, we have unique biochemistry. And when those chemicals change in the brain, and perhaps neurotransmitters aren't being produced as well or they're not being taken up by the synapses as well, for whatever reason, things can shift and the human body is extremely complex.

When you start tossing in hormones and circulation and mood, it gets really difficult to sort out so don't go it alone. If you think something's changing, reach out to a professional and talk to somebody, talk to them over the phone or over a web and figure out. A couple of key issues to watch for would be changes in sleeping or eating. And this is a little tricky because well, in the state I live in, we have so many radical weather shifts that I noticed for myself, my appetite can change dramatically from one season to another. Well, that would be kind of normal for me. You have to know what's typical for you. But if all of a sudden you're finding that you're not very hungry or that you're overly hungry, and that doesn't seem typical for you, yes it could be related to the stress of what we're all navigating. It could also indicate a change in our mental health functioning that is biochemical. So definitely consider it part of your physical health. It's all interrelated.

Also sleeping patterns can change. And I must confess, I've had a few kind of wild dreams lately. And it's probably related to some of this overarching stress hanging over with COVID but it's a lot of things. And so I am still getting good quality sleep, and I'm getting enough sleep. But if that's changing for you, and you just seem to be struggling, reach out once again, because not being able to get enough rest or have good undisturbed, deep sleep can lead to other health issues. And it's all related again, to how you're coping and how you're managing. And on a good day, I can handle stress pretty well. But if I'm fatigued, that's a different matter. And it's one thing if it's a day or two, but if what I'm talking about is if these things are changing for you, eating and sleeping and it's been more than two weeks, I would suggest reaching out to your provider, reach out to employee assistance program and definitely get your resources and talk to somebody. Don't try to go through thinking, well, it's just stress, it'll pass.

If you also have a chronic health condition that is getting worse or more challenging, that's another reason to reach out for sure. And with those unhealthy habits, we want to just try to think long term. And as we're reaching for the thing that will help us maybe temporarily ... I mean, let's acknowledge perhaps caffeine is a quick pick me up, alcohol can maybe in our minds help us relax. But long term these things create more problems than they help. One thing about alcohol is that if you do have a glass of beer, wine or an alcoholic drink, let's say to try to help you unwind in the evening and fall asleep, while it may help you fall asleep initially, chances are you're going to wake up and have interrupted sleep later. So again, it might be in the short run seemingly helpful but in the long run, it can create further reverberations in your sleep patterns. So these are another set of reasons why you could definitely reach out and get help for that.

So, tips for the elderly. I'm dealing with my mother who is immunocompromised right now and she lives about 10 miles away. And she's functioning very well on her own, but we've had to help her get some food delivered occasionally. We've used a lot of Zoom, she knows how to use Zoom, she loves FaceTime, and we're staying in touch a lot more frequently just checking on, does she need anything and how is she feeling today and looking through old pictures. She's actually left me photo albums outside of the door for me to take home and look at and then bring back and then I've exchanged with some of my photo albums to bring back to her. And of course, we're doing this safely and making sure everything's clean, but we're trying to engage in some activities around common interests.

And in fact recently, we decided we would start reading a book together. So we're going to have our own little book club. And so she'll be reading the book, I'll be reading the book, and then we could Zoom together and talk about it. So I'm also working on listening. And one of my favorite listening techniques, which I have not mastered I have to admit, is to allow two extra seconds after I think she's done speaking. So instead of jumping right in with my response or asking a question, I am disciplining myself to, in my brain, say 1001, 1002 or maybe like, I live in the Midwest, one Mississippi, two Mississippi. But it really encourages her to say more. I've noticed that. It's a little harder over a phone when we can't see each other, there's more of that awkward time delay. I am realizing though that she often has a little more to add, if I listen.

And simply by doing that with another person, you're giving them the sense that you have all the time in the world for them. And that you're the best listener on the planet and that is certainly worthwhile. Instead of listening to respond or apply, let's listen to understand. I love that. Letting people vent is also something that I'm learning to do. Sometimes I want to just say la-la-la in my head, because I'm aware that it's affecting me. So I do set some boundaries around that. And I have been able to redirect some folks, if it's going on a little bit too long, I'll try to get them back on a different track. But if you can, be a good listener, let somebody share what's going on, especially if you're in a leadership role. Asking your folks how they're doing, how they're feeling, and just being a good listener goes a long way. Just your presence alone. You don't even have to do anything or say anything. And folks that are going through hard times will often report later, "You know, Mary didn't really do a whole lot. She just listened. Jim didn't really say much, but he was there."

And that's what people remember. So sometimes less is more. But definitely you may have to then go home. If you're in your workplace, if you're an essential worker, or if you're in that call with that person and you're feeling overwhelmed because they just put more negativity into you, you're going to probably have to dilute that by adding more positivity. And that's where I turn to stories of resilience, I turn to inspirational stories. I love to hear what other people are doing and just bring in more positive, feel good stories, or I might watch something on Netflix that kind of uplifts me or gets me laughing. That's been really helpful for me to dilute the negative because let's face it, a lot of it could be in our families and we may not be able to get away from it.

It could be in our household. So what are we going to do to offset that? That involves taking action and being more proactive, bringing it in, bringing the positive for yourself. So validating people's opinions and perspectives is so critical. And unfortunately I've struggled with this, I acknowledge that I have often tried to go right into problem solving with people. Oh well, what about this? Well, have you tried that? What can we do? Instead of just pausing and saying, "Wow, it seems like that's really hard on you right now." Or "It sounds like that's super frustrating," Or "My goodness, I hear how angry you are? Yes, I can hear it." People need to be validated. Or even just saying, "I could understand why you'd feel that way." That's an extremely powerful empathic statement, you might find that to be helpful as well.

So let's begin talking a little bit about self care. And I thought I would just pause for a couple moments and ask in the chat ... And by the way, we have 165 on this call, you may not be able to see each other in case you're wondering. So if you can put in the chat box, I'm going to give everybody a couple minutes to think on this, what is your favorite self care technique right now? And let's keep it appropriate for the large group if you don't mind. So let's think on that for just a moment and I'll pause and give you a chance to put something in the chat. I would love to hear what everybody's doing. [Silence 00:34:29]

All right, we're getting some good responses. Oh my goodness. We've got hiking, yoga. Oh my, yes. Anything involving moving that body is fantastic. And yoga is wonderful. It incorporates the stretching, the breathing, could even be the meditation, kind of an all around good thing. Wow, we may get 165 responses, I'm going to go through here. So let's see. Exercise, cooking, crocheting, walking the dogs. These are fabulous. Journaling, listening to music, yoga, meditation walking. Fabulous. Meal planning, cooking. Oh I'm so glad somebody loves that, that's not exactly my favorite. 45 minute walk daily, good for you. Gardening, dancing, working out with the grandkids, all that is awesome. Talk about making memories. Here's one, pet sitting, walk the dog two times daily. I think I saw a nightly scotch in there in moderation. Nightly scotch and cigar, there you go. No judgment here.

Daily workout at a certain time of the day, that might be incredibly important. Reading. Let's see. Getting all of these. My son and wife moved in with me, I'm teaching him how to meal plan and cook. Isn't that wonderful? Yeah, we're helping our high school kids learn how to manage their money a little bit better, jigsaw puzzles, riding bikes. I'm going to try to do all of these tonight. No, I'm kidding. Right now favorite way of self care is asking my husband for 15 minutes of uninterrupted time so that I can just breathe. Oh, that's brilliant, absolutely brilliant. Yes, breathing is ... we don't think about it but we should. So if you can do what I call round breath to manage your stress, it's super helpful. So what that involves is, breathing in through the nose for about four seconds, holding for four seconds and exhaling for four seconds. So in through the nose, hold for four seconds. And then exhale for four seconds through the mouth.

Super awesome. Brings down your blood pressure potentially, your heart rate, helps balance your metabolic rate, it's wonderful. So we've got a few more, taking an online class, lots of dancing. And let's see. We also had a couple more here, bear with me. Virtual cooking with my daughter out of state. That's so creative. Daily workout, we covered that one I think. Online Cards Against Humanity games with friends. That's good. Yeah, some are doing more board type games at home or games at home. Painting walls and any other coloring opportunities, fabulous. Family Zoom to celebrate birthdays. All right, thank you. Well, you can keep adding into the chat. Some are doing trivia with friends, a girls' night house party app. Wow, this is fun. I'm getting all kinds of great ideas. So thank you for sharing all that.

So let's talk a little bit about practicing our mindfulness and just being in the moment. And I do have a quick little calming technique I could share with you, it might help with your family members as well. And part of what goes on with stress in the brain is that the corpus callosum, the tissue that connects both hemispheres of the brain, the right and the left, often needs to be worked upon for integration. And so anything that crosses the midline of your body when you're doing ... that's why dancing and exercising is so good when you're crossing over and doing any kind of activity that way. So what you can do is you can hold your hand straight out ahead. I guess if I can do this with the camera and cross your arms first, and then turn your thumbs downward so your thumbs are pointing to the ground. And then clasp your fingers together like you're just holding your own hand. And then bring it towards your chest in a downward motion, but you're going have to turn your hands inside out to bring them to your chest.

So I hope everybody could see that. So when you hold your hands that are crossed to your chest, the thinking is that it will calm your stress response. So think about it as a fire hose for your adrenal glands. It's going to dial down all those ... transmit those hormones, cortisol and everything that's coming out, the stress hormones. And it's going to dial up on your focus. And I don't know about you, but I feel better just doing it right here with all of you. So if you can try this at home, that would be great. Or with colleagues or with your coworker, anybody really, your friends, you could ... So once again, you're going to hold your arms straight out, cross your arms, thumbs down, clasp your hands, bring it into your chest and turn your hands inside out like this and hold it your chest. And then hold it for about one to two minutes and see if it doesn't calm you.

So this might be a really fun thing to try if you have children in your world, even for elderly folks that you're talking with over the phone. If you could show them on video it would be great. So any positives you can pull from the situation will help as well. So let's talk for a minute about what I call reframing. Taking a seemingly negative challenging situation and looking for the silver lining, the serendipity, the positive or upside of that. Now it takes some mental effort, I will acknowledge. It can seem really hard to do at first, especially if the thing that you're dealing with is extremely negative and challenging. You might be thinking there is nothing good about this. I don't like anything about this, I can't possibly see what good will come from it. But if you practice and challenge yourself, even if you don't believe it right now, make up a reason if you have to.

What possible good could come from this? So I can give you a couple for myself. One is really simple, I've been learning some new technology recently. And it's been hard, I will acknowledge it. And it's been frustrating and it's brought up these issues about, am I competent to do this? These anxious feelings. Am I going to be able to learn this? And what I've done instead is I've reframed it as saying to myself, "Wow, I'm sure developing a lot of new neural pathways in my brain. Gosh, my brain is going to be off the chart with neuroplasticity," which is what we're supposed to be doing, exercising our brain. So this is going to be a good thing for me. Like 20 years down the road, this is going to help my brain. So again, I'm trying to buy into the fact that there could be an upside to this down the road.

Another situation that happened about a year ago is my son was about to turn 16, get his driver's license. And I was thrilled because we live at a distance in a rural community from his school. I had been driving him to school every day. And it's a one hour round trip. So I had started making plans thinking, wow, I'm going have two whole hours to myself. This is going to be fabulous. And then lo and behold, we get closer to his birthday and we try to make an appointment with the Department of Motor Vehicles. And yeah, we realize he's not going to get in to get his test for six months. So I was a little crushed. I didn't show it a lot in front of him but I may have had a small breakdown thinking, oh, this is not how my next six months were going to go. I am sad, I'm disappointed, I'm frustrated. Oh, so difficult.

And then I said to myself, all right Laurie, you actually teach people to do this. So yeah, unless you're going to be a hypocrite, you're going to have to do it yourself. And so how are you going to reframe this? So it took me probably about a day. I thought about it and all of a sudden, it hit me, wow, wait a minute, the only time this 16 year old boy really talks to me much is in the car. And it dawned on me that I was going to get six more months with him to myself in the car. And that changed my perspective. And I took it a step further, because he likes to listen to a couple of genres of music that I probably wouldn't choose as my first choice. And I recognized that when we were in the car, he would talk a little but then the headphones would go on. So I knew I was competing. So I decided to start listening to the kind of music that he liked.

So when he got into the car one day, I turned on the radio and it had one of the stations of the music genre he enjoys and he kind of looked at me skeptically. And as we were driving, I allowed him to turn it up a little louder. And then I started asking him about who I thought the artist was, and then he laughed hysterically. He would say, "Oh, my gosh mom, you are so off base, you have no idea who's singing, right?" And I said, "Okay, well help me out." So we started a little game where a song would come on and I would tell him, "Okay, give me three choices. Give me three potential performers. Who could this be? And then I'm going to try to guess." Well, my odds went up tremendously and I almost always got it right. So we had a lot of fun with that and I'll treasure that time forever. But I have to say I went kicking and screaming, I did not want to find anything good about that, I was upset. So that's just one example of what we could work on.

Taking it one day at a time. Easier said than done. And I think for me, sometimes I have to take it one hour at a time or one minute at a time, and that's okay. I tend to be very future oriented. I'm not sure about you, I like to be looking forward and sometimes that's a problem. I've even shown up for meetings a day early because I'm so eager for the future. So learning about yourself and how to slow yourself down and just be present in the moment is a huge undertaking, if you're not typically wired that way.

Some of us are so good already at just being in the here and now. We're extremely patient people and when we're with others, they feel that with us, and they just feel like we're the only person in their world at the time, even though they have a busy life too. So wherever you are on the spectrum, it's going to help all of us to focus on what can we control right now? Where does our influence lie? What do we need to accept? And what do we need to let go of? And then be thinking about what do we want to take from this experience? What have we learned about ourselves, about our loved ones? How do we want to channel that into the future?

There's a lot of good things, a lot of great stories and wonderful experiences are coming from this difficult time in our world, and we're going to take the good hopefully from that and apply it to our future selves. So let's think for a moment about mindfulness and these negative thoughts and these fearful thoughts are going to continue to come just because we're human. So when they come, we have a choice. And what I like to imagine is that I'm watching a parade. So what if I was sitting curbside, watching a parade? I would notice floats going by and because I live in a rural community, we'll have tractors and horses and marching bands and karate demonstrations from karate schools and all kinds of amazing units that are going to go by in that parade. So if I imagine that some of those units are negative thoughts, I have a choice. And when the thought comes, I can step back on the curb. I can take a perspective, I can maybe watch that go by and not judge it, not take it in yet, just acknowledge that this negative thought is here.

And I'm going to watch it pass by in a detached fashion. And I will not necessarily take that thought to heart right now but I'm going to acknowledge it and pay attention to it. I might even validate it that yes, it is there and it's a real thought, but I'm going to make a choice. Do I want to take that thought in or not? Is this going to help me manage my sense of peace, my health, my mental health? And if it's not useful, or it's not going to contribute to that, well I may need to think about it.

But perhaps I can table it for now. And I can put it off a little bit and then look at it and certainly we don't want to be in denial. I'm not saying that's what we're going to do, but we want to think consciously about how does that thought make me feel as I'm watching it march by? How do my feet feel on the ground right now? How does my body feel? Are my shoulders tense? Is my neck tight? What's going on with my breathing? Perhaps I'm holding my breath, or breathing from a thoracic chest, shallow breath. I don't want to be doing that when I am trying to process these things.

So part of what goes on with our brain functioning is that under stress, when we've got those stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol flowing through us, we tend to not see options. If we go especially over into the fear mode, we can almost become paralyzed by that fear where we don't know how to turn, we don't know what to do, we don't see options. So unfortunately, fear and stress narrows the brain's perspective where it doesn't see ways to get out of it or solutions or ways to help ourselves. Also, we need our memory, believe it or not to help us plan and solve and move forward. So unfortunately, during the stress response, our memory is not functioning as well as it could. And it makes it harder to do tasks. It makes it harder to focus our attention and make decisions and see options to solve problems. So these are all reasons why we want to intervene with ourselves much earlier when the stress response kicks in and when the fearful thoughts come.

So it's a little bit of a balancing act between acknowledging our feelings, writing them down, talking about them and then also stepping back and getting a perspective maybe from a trusted professional. Because we may be doubtful in our own mind of what we're even thinking about, what we're trying to process. I just wanted to share that. That can be super helpful for us. So we have a little bit of time remaining and I would love to talk a little bit about some of the other comments in the chat here and then maybe pose another question and give people an opportunity to ask questions. Or maybe hone in on something that you were hoping we would talk about that we didn't quite cover. Let's keep this interactive. So a couple other thoughts that are happening with [inaudible 00:50:11] getting active and doing things are reading and enjoying the backyard, I love that. And I think someone else already mentioned ... Yeah, we have another person watching classes online or doing TED Talks, that kind of thing. And yeah, I think we got all of the comments in the chat hopefully.

Hopefully I read yours out loud. One thing that we're doing in our household is we're having more family meals together. And we're also doing more games together and that's been really fun. I have two teen boys and a college graduate who's living at home for a brief period. And then we have another college daughter who is at distance. So we've done some FaceTime, we even have a game that you may or may not have heard of called Loaded Questions where we ask a question, we put it out to everybody. And then one person collects all the answers and we try to guess who said it. So it's kind of hard to do with someone at a distance but with people in your household, you could potentially do it. Some of the things that are happening in our world is we're having the ability to get outside and be socially distance.

So in Minneapolis, some of the neighborhoods are putting together a little like [inaudible 00:51:36] and happy hour type activities where they're parking their vehicles, because we have a lot of space in some of our areas here. They're parking their vehicles eight feet apart or whatever or more. And there's another group that is standing out, and they're coming out of their houses every night. I think there's also another group doing it at their apartment complex and they're spreading out around the parking lot and they're doing some exercise together, some dance moves together. And it's been really fun. The kids are getting involved and some of the kids are drawing chalk circles on the street. And they're all standing, they're eight feet apart or whatever and doing these wonderful, interactive calisthenics, if you will, exercises. And it's just heartwarming to see groups of people getting creative. I know we have a friend who is a personal trainer and she is doing some socially distant workouts ... a daily workout at a park nearby, weather permitting. We're still coming out of winter a little bit here.

So that's been kind of fun to watch. And she's posting videos of that and just trying to give everybody encouragement to move the body. So with your body movement, it is important to remember that our heart is pumping the blood through our body. Our lymph system, however, doesn't have a pump. So unless you're exercising or moving, walking, doing something, it's a little bit more challenging to process all of the toxins out of the body as well because that's what the lymph system is really doing, is helping to filter that out. So by moving your body, you're not only boosting your immune system, you're not only creating more of the feel good endorphins, the neurotransmitters in the brain, but you're literally building up your immunity and helping yourself process out toxins.

I've got a great comment here in the chat. Couple of them actually. Any suggestions for when we wake up at night and the brain starts going and you can't get back to sleep? Yeah, there's a couple of thoughts there. You could try ... Literally, if you're laying there, the general recommendation is if you're laying there may be more than 30 minutes or it's coming up on 45 minutes or an hour, consider possibly getting up and maybe moving to a chair and doing a little bit of reading. Possibly you could ... I know if you have a sleeping partner, this is really tricky. If you're in the same bed, you may not want to be moving the bed or shaking the bed. This is a really hard one. But some folks are finding help by keeping a notepad right by their bed and maybe using a flashlight on their device if they don't want to bring light into the room, but they're quickly writing down what it is that they're concerned about. And sometimes just getting it onto paper like that changes it. And then you can be more likely to fall back asleep.

You may have to tell yourself some of these mantras and affirmations like, "I'm okay. Things are going to work out," whatever you have to tell yourself. You could try some podcasts, relaxation type meditation podcasts. There are lots of apps out there, some are free and some aren't. And some will give you a 30 day trial and then they want you to purchase it but you could explore that a little bit and maybe even listening to some music that's very soft, maybe through earbuds if you've got again a sleeping partner there. Another thought might be some aroma therapy if you have anything that you can smell literally like something vanilla or lavender, some kind of a scent if you're not allergic to sense or have issues with that, that can be super helpful as well. Maybe even considering looking at your evening routine because for some folks, they are going a long time between their last evening meal, let's say they're having dinner at maybe 6:00 or 7:00PM but then they're staying awake and not going to bed until 11:00 or 12:00.

That creates a long time for your blood sugar to fluctuate and it could for some people kick in a little bit of insomnia effect because of hormones. And so maybe a light snack in the evening. Now when I say light snack, I don't mean a whole pizza or the whole Ben & Jerry's container. I'm talking about perhaps a little handful of almonds or a little handful of berries. Something that might give you a little something in your stomach, it might help you stay asleep longer. But certainly trying to listen to something or reprogram your thoughts, I would also recommend doing that round breath breathing. Just try doing the breathing for a while, the breathe in, hold it, breathe out. Try doing that repetitively, and see if that helps. And then there's one other one that I haven't tried that it might just be anecdotal, is you could try humming to yourself.

Again, if you have a sleeping partner, that could be a deal breaker but it might be worth trying. So I hope that gives you a couple of ideas and maybe talk to somebody professionally if it doesn't change, and you've tried a lot of different things. There could be underlying health issues going on too. It's really hard to know without seeking out a provider. So here's another one. The hard part right now is not knowing how long this might last. Exactly. Yeah. And I feel like every week or two, we get our hopes up. And then perhaps wherever you live, the governor says "Well, we're kind of thinking a few more weeks" And that's where we want to draw upon our resiliency and remember our history.

Let's recall how we felt at first and how we're feeling now and let's look at our coping strategies. What has helped us? How have we gotten through this so far? Do we need to repeat that? I know boredom is another factor for many people. And I guess I'm fortunate in my household, we haven't had that issue with any particular family member getting bored. But if you have small children around and trying to entertain them and keep them going can be very stressful while you're trying to work. And there's a lot of tension happening within families right now. And being all together in close quarters isn't always a fun thing all the time. And it's harder to have boundaries. The first day I started working from home, I had to put a note on my office door saying, "If this door is closed, this means I'm not available." Because the kids were coming and walking in and my husband, he's taken over the dining with three computer screens, and we're all trying to be quiet when he's on a call.

There's a lot happening. So it is really hard and we need to be compassionate with ourselves, remind ourselves that we're doing the best that we can do, and then talk to our family members. Have those difficult discussions and say, "How do you think it's going around here? Well, here's what I'm noticing." And trying to be assertive and ask for help, that's been another thing. Generally, I'm seeing the roles are shifting in my family where people are starting to have to pitch in and do more and do different things that is out of routine from what we used to do. And so we're having a lot of conversations. So we've had some tense moments and some difficulty and some hurt feelings. And it's not easy but again, if you can talk to somebody professionally, if you're struggling or you're feeling really stuck, and you need a little bit of outside perspective on what could I try, definitely pick up the phone and seek that help. So here's another one, the working from home.

How does the workaholic turn it off? Oh my goodness, what a great question. Yeah, this is going to be really different for folks who are working at home. Because you may have to create some kind of a ritual that involves shutting down your email, your computer, I'm not sure what the case might be. But you may have to literally create some boundaries. So we've done this with our family a little bit and part of it is communication. And so we've talked about at the front end of the day, we've put ourselves on a schedule a little bit. So if you're working alone from home, I think it can be even harder to turn it off because you're already so dedicated, you're a high achiever. That's why ... you're very driven, that's how you become so successful. And so how do you just flip that switch and allow yourself to turn it off? Well, it's about your health long term. And I can tell you from the research that taking regular breaks, hands down is proven to be the most effective way to help you work better.

Now, it might seem counterintuitive and you might even feel like well, I'm a slacker if I'm taking so many breaks. But the brain research shows otherwise. It shows that when you take regular breaks, and we'll talk about what that means here in a moment, you are going to be more focused, you're going to be more productive, more effective. You'll solve problems better, you'll make decisions better. And all around, you're going to be a higher functioning employee. There's no question about it. In fact, union schedules were developed not just randomly because oh, we think everyone should take a break after a couple hours. No, it was based on brain research. They put electrodes on and watched people's brainwaves. And what they found was that if you don't take a break after two hours, your brain is going to take a break anyway, you just won't recognize it as such.

But meanwhile, you're going to be spinning your wheels, you're not as effective. So I would recommend put yourself on a schedule as best you can. And then have a ritual where you plan to walk away at a certain time, maybe close that laptop, go into maybe another area if you have it to get away from that and just consider that you have left the building and you have shut the door. I know some people do this when they leave there if they go to a workspace. If they don't work from home regularly, and now they are, they used to have that where they would walk out of the building.

They would get into their vehicle or get on the bus and they would put the backpack or the briefcase or whatever aside and they wouldn't pick it back up. So you'll need to discipline yourself to do that from home, you have to consider that you have office hours even though they're home office hours. So I hope that helps a little bit but my heart goes out because it is really hard to turn it off. And then there's the brain keeps going even after you've shut it off. So hopefully that helps a little bit.

So let's see. I think if I was going to say anything about that. Stay hydrated folks. If you are not hydrated well enough, you can have daytime fatigue which is not a fun thing either. And the recommendation now is generally from most providers will say 88 ounce glasses a day or 64 ounces. If you talk to personal trainers, and especially if you're working out you're going to need more. If you're an essential worker and you're outside in the sunshine or the heat, you'll need more. If your work is very physical, obviously but if you are generally looking at how much water you could take your body weight in pounds and then half of that is what you would want to consume in a given day. So if you weighed 200 pounds, you'd want to be doing 100 ounces. If you weighed 100 pounds, you'd want to be doing at least 50 ounces. So that's kind of a general guideline. But again, you can run that by your provider if you have questions.

So any other comments or questions? I want to be respectful of your time. We've got just a few minutes left. So I've appreciated everybody joining today. This is been wonderful. So I'll give it a moment if there's any last questions. Otherwise, please contact your employee assistance program. And I hope that you realize we're all in it together and be careful about isolating and not speaking up if you're struggling. I've made that mistake. I've compared myself unfairly to other people and thinking, am I the only one having a hard time here? I don't know if I'm doing it right. What's going on with me? And I've just not spoken up and asked other people how they're doing. And when I do, I realize I'm not alone. I'm normal.

And whatever I'm experiencing is happening to others. And that's been great just to know that. All right. I think we're good to go but I'm going hang out for just a couple minutes. I'll just watch the chat and if you need to run. We're almost at the end of our time. So I will remain on and answer any questions in the chat. So thank you so much. Have a great day. Enjoyed being with you.

 

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