JOURNEY TO WHOLENESS
Keep On Keeping On
By Jude LaClaire, Ph.D.
As seasons are changing, we are still living with COVID-19 and all it brings with it. Social contacts are limited, some jobs have not returned, and many people’s economic reality is grim, while social unrest and continuing focus on the reality of inequity takes our attention. Education is affected at every level, as are children from infancy to early adulthood. Each of you may be dealing with a different set of difficulties brought about and accentuated by these continuing challenges. Uncertainty is now rooted in our daily life.
I thought some reminders about what we can do to be healthy during this time would be helpful. These are things you may know about but forget as weariness of mind and body take over. Stephen Ilardi, author of The Depression Cure, tells us of six things we can do to be less depressed:
Getting enough sleep (for most people seven hours or more)
Exercising regularly (twenty minutes five or more times a week is good)
Sunlight exposure (if not outdoors, get full spectrum lights)
Omega 3 fatty acids (I also suggest a good multi-vitamin)
Social contact and support (Calls, video chats, outdoors, socially distanced)
Deal with negative/ruminating thoughts.
It is a ‘back to basics’ approach that gets us back on track. Very powerful.
Let’s think about ways to accomplish this, especially changing negative thoughts. An approach that is recommended by many disciplines is deep, diaphragmatic breathing. One very easy way to do this is paradoxical breathing. You breathe in half as long as you breathe out. Place your hand on your diaphragm. Take a breath in counting 1-2-3-4 and then breathe out slowly 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8. If you count out loud or to yourself it occupies your brain and keeps negative thinking from creeping in. Do this until you feel rested and calm. I suggest doing this for five minutes or longer. You will feel very different as the deep breathing re-sets the brain and helps change brain chemistry. As you breathe deeply, the neck and shoulders relax.
Try this simple process for changing thoughts. Imagine you are having a worrying thought about someone. Now, imagine how you would like them to be. For example, you may be thinking of someone at risk, engaging in a destructive behavior or facing any kind of threat. Now think of them as being surrounded by positive energy or light. Imagine them being safe, healthy and acting positively. You will definitely feel better. There is research and individual experience to verify the personal benefits. Though science has not studied the effect on others very much, time honored traditions and human experience would tell us this is accepted, believed, and practiced widely.
Telling oneself to stop a behavior or thought is not successful. It may even strengthen it. I think of this approach as changing the train track in the brain. As the brain goes down the path of negativity we can switch the direction with these words. “If I could imagine (a positive thought, behavior, complement,) …I wonder what it would look like, feel like, be like….” The “if I could” is a way of avoiding confrontation and letting the brain take in the less threatening, more positive thought.
Our brain is wired for negativity, so it is important to remember that it takes zero seconds for a negative experience to register in the brain. It takes at least fifteen seconds for a positive experience to register. Remember to take that fifteen seconds to let the brain absorb that complement, beautiful sunset, tasty treat, or thoughtful action of someone. You will feel more gratitude and have a storage of wonderful experiences to call on.
Two very important things you can tell yourself as you feel rushed or powerless are:
“You have all the time you need”, and “You have all the help you need.” You may not believe it so you might add, “I want to believe…” Either way, you will be reminding yourself to slow the pace and call on the internal and external resources available to you anytime.
In this challenging time, we all need to remind ourselves of what we can do to stay sane, centered, peaceful and hopeful. We can do this, one moment at a time.
Jude LaClaire, Ph.D., LCPC is a counselor and educator at the Heartland Holistic Health Center. She is the author of the “Life Weaving Education Curriculum” that teaches creative, effective, holistic problem-solving. For counseling appointments (confidential video sessions), seminars, in-service training, or speaker’s bureau, call 816-509-9277 or firstname.lastname@example.org; www.heartlandholistic.com. Some pro bono and lower fee sessions available at this time.