Still Coping ….with ……

Hey everyone, here’s the final piece of advice about how to get through COVID with a healthy attitude. So let’s get right to it! Trying to figure out what you can do?

How about:

Nurture the relationships that you have.

Working at home with my husband and our 4 kids has provided an interesting environment. Knowing Because I want to keep my relationship connecting to my husband, I have to make a conscious choice to do that. When we walk by one another or are close enough to hear one another, I make my best effort to either put my hand on him, give him a quick shoulder rub (or pat depending on how much time we have), or giving a giant hug like I haven’t seen him in days. It’s certainly not necessary but not only does it make me feel better, I think it has kept us having fun and connected.

If you are living alone, reach out to friends and family. Try to have virtual dinner with them. Don’t emotionally isolate even if you physically are. If you have kids, take a moment to reflect on what you want the relationship with your kids to be like when they are adults. Having that relationship starts today. If you focus on their ability to perform at school, what message do you tell them? If you want them to learn how to balance having emotions and getting their responsibilities done, that starts now.

I’ll be honest, I am putting more effort into concentrating on helping my kids learn, how to care for the house, garden, take care of the pets, and work together as a team rather than against one another. Why? I certainly care about academics. They care about their academics. But as difficult as it is to remember, the relationship I have with my children when they are adults starts now with how I interact with them, speak to them, how I respond when they walk into the room, how I talk about others and treat myself. Oh, and the screen time limits as far as I am concerned do NOT apply right now.

Finally, remember that a dysregulated parent will have a dysregulated child. You know, this is the whole “put your oxygen mask on first” advice. You need to take care of yourself so that you can take care of your children. That is so important. Our kids feed off our emotions and actions. Sure, they may not listen to everything we say, but they do pick up on what is happening with us. This isn’t a time to pretend you are “totally fine, I’m fine”. It is important for your kids to understand that you too have feelings about what is happening. You sharing feelings gives them permission to share. What I think is really important is also sharing how you will or did cope with those feelings.

Listen

A few weekends ago, I couldn’t find toilet paper. I checked delivery and pickup for all the local grocers and then the big box companies. Nothing. I panicked. I stayed in my bedroom and panicked. I didn’t want to snap at my kids or to overreact (because really, we have showers in the worst-case scenario). It took some time for me to really process why the lack of toilet paper was so anxiety provoking. As I finally realized that my anxiety had to do with the role I took of taking care of the shopping. the mom role I placed myself in, I take care of the groceries, clothing, anything in the shopping realm that involves grocery stores, Target, and apparel. Typically, I LOVE doing that. But not finding toilet paper got me in the gut. It made me question the effectiveness of me as a mom in preparing for the pandemic (shame on me, right, given the time I had to prepare?!), the desire to keep things normal for my family (despite absolutely nothing is normal), and the fleeting questions of if we can’t find toilet paper now, what is next (cue spiral of thoughts)?

Once I gathered my thoughts, I went to my family and shared my brief moment of panic and how I managed to problem solve. To me, this was an important moment. I shared with them how I have been grocery shopping for food, so we don’t have to go into the stores and rewound to the pivotal grocery shopping trip that left me with high anxiety from the lack of others social distancing near me (like others coughing 1 inch away from me). I realized I had been keeping everything so normal for my 4 kids that they didn’t
even comprehend what the pandemic was doing at to the grocery stores, economy, mental health, schools, etc. As much as I wanted my kids to have a positive experience during the shelter in place, that meant I was working extra hard to keep things normal for myself. that I almost missed the value in showing them how the pandemic is impacting our community, state, country and world. I almost missed and the opportunity to practice resilience and gratitude. This revelation was over toilet paper.

My point?

It’s ok to be human. It’s not ok to pretend everything is normal when it
isn’t. This lack of accepting where we are at in the world right now can actually
make our kids confused, irritable, misbehave, etc.

I wish I had all the answers. We are trying to get through each day too. My husband and I are grateful to both be able to run our own companies and that we can do so from home. The unfortunate slowness of both our jobs has allowed us to fill in as teachers. We are now somehow homeschooling our four children. There is a reason I went into higher ed and not K-12. I am a terrible teacher! As I am typing this, the power went out in our house. It is also hailing. What I wouldn’t give to get Starbucks and walk around Target just to get my steps in. But I can’t do that right now. However, I do have the ability to find ways to honor my values today: be nice and do my best. Ugh, though, shopping at Target feels a lot easier.

Even in the dark.

Jen Yensel, Ph.D
Part 1 – Coping with ….Today
Part 2 – Still Coping … with Today
Scheduling
 

 

Still Coping … with Today

A few days ago, I shared some of my thoughts on COVID and how it is affecting me and my family, and how it might be affection you and yours. Now let’s get into some advice – what can we do during COVID to try to effectively
deal with our emotions, thoughts and concerns?

Well, I don’t have one answer, but I have a few ideas.

Here’s one place to start:

  • Take a moment and reflect on what you have control over today.

When we focus on what we can’t control, anxiety or depression naturally rise. In a time where adults feel controlled by the whim of the government’s decisions, focusing on the news and waiting for updates you will certainly
eventually receive, may only heighten anxiety.

This is where coping skills come in. I also think this is where many people’s productivity comes in. When I am home on a cold and rainy day, my family and I may do something fun indoors to let out some energy.

But this isn’t an option right now. So what do I want on this cold and rainy day? What would make ME feel better? For me, I really wanted to paint the trim on my foyer doors. Yes. It’s something I have been wanting to do for years and I finally had some time to be in the house using the supplies I already had. Once I did that, I immediately felt better, useful, accomplished, proud to make a positive aesthetic improvement on my home.

So let’s talk about you. You may feel angry that you can’t see friends. How can you connect with friends? Send a letter, make them a playlist, safely share games and puzzles you won’t play anymore? My point is this, focusing on what we don’t have control over makes us anxious, angry and sad. Denying that you feel something is also not helpful.

What I am recommending is that you do what you can, do what you need, do the things you can do to make yourself feel the way you want to feel (which is probably not how you feel right now). If we all made decisions based on our feelings, we would probably overwhelm Netflix, eat chocolate cake in bed and wear solely joggers (ok, this isn’t perhaps all of us but I am rather speaking of myself).

  • Take a moments to stop and reflect to think about how you’re feeling.

What are you thinking, feeling, and what is your body telling you. I often say that we are like strings of Christmas lights. If we don’t acknowledge thoughts, feelings and our body as both separate and connecting pieces of ourselves, we are just as good as Christmas lights that are plugged into one end and not connected. Of course they aren’t going to shine!

If you have thoughts and just react to those thoughts without acknowledging how that makes you feel and how your body responds, you give more control to your thoughts. Focusing only on feelings, which are like waves coming up to shore, denies us the opportunity to appreciate how our feelings fluctuate. Ignoring what your body is telling you is ignoring the alarm system (or perhaps focusing too much) that is inside of you. One key observation I have made is when people struggle to identify how their thoughts, feelings and body are connected they invariably have physiological symptoms such as headaches or stomach issues. My point? Don’t focus on just thoughts, feelings and your body.

Connect all three parts. I’ll share more ideas next week.

What questions/concerns do you have? Share them in the comments so I can address them.

Jen Yensel, PhD.

Anxious Feelings

Coping with Anxiety During COVID-19

“I can’t stop worrying about what could happen.”  That is a phrase I hear often from my clients, as I specialize in treating anxiety.  During this time of pandemic and “stay-at-home” orders, many are struggling with worry thoughts.

Some fears I am hearing are:

  • Contracting the virus
  • The unknown future- when will things be “normal” again?
  • Will I be able to pay my bills?
  • What if I get laid off?
  • When will I be able to go back to work?

These questions can and certainly do generate fear.  I recognize and validate that for my clients. However, I always remind them that anxiety is about something that may or may not happen, or about something that has happened which we regret or about which we feel badly.  These thoughts take us out of the present moment.

COVID-19 or no COVID-19, we never know what will happen, ever.

Why does not knowing have to produce worry?

Worrying is never helpful.  Planning, preparing, and focusing on what we can control is helpful.  We cannot be present if we are worrying.  Being present does not mean we do not care about what might happen.  Rather, it allows us the opportunity to focus on what matters most at this moment, i.e., self-care, caring for others, being with family, appreciating the sunset, etc.  If we are constantly worrying we are creating unnecessary stress which negatively affects us physically, mentally, and emotionally.

One way to manage worrying thoughts is to make a list of you worries.

Ask yourself

  • Which of those worries you can control?
  • What Can you do about it?
  • What can you tell yourself that would be more helpful?

Examples:

  • Worry thought-What if I get the virus?
    • Questions to ask-What can I do to prevent this in the first place?

Look at the facts

  • What are the odds of getting the virus and actually getting sick?
  • If I were to get the virus, what is my plan?
  • Helpful thoughts-  I am healthy
    • I am grateful for my health.
    • I will focus on what I can control.

The questions above do not require worrying.  They require focusing on thinking more rationally to look at facts, take precautions and plan.  In addition to examining and changing our thoughts through CBT, as a therapist, I teach clients about the mind-body connection and ways to decrease anxiety through deep breathing, physical activity, adequate self-care, etc.

These are challenging, anxious times for many.  If you find you need more help to manage your anxiety, I am available for teletherapy sessions.  We are in this together.  I am here to help.

Marcie Nithang 

Scheduling

Coping with ….Today

     In Ohio, we have now reached a startling anniversary —  more than a month of shelter in place.  I have had a lot of clients asking me “how do I cope?”  What I have seen most often is questions about how to parent, what is healthy and normal or not, what is a sign of depression or anxiety versus what is expected anxiety and sadness.  People don’t tend to want to cope when they don’t understand or cannot comprehend what is going on.  People are asking what is “normal” and I fear that is the last thing we should be trying to do.  It is one thing to make lemons out of lemonade, but it is another thing to pretend mud is chocolate.  However, just because things aren’t normal doesn’t mean we can’t find positives, joy, grieve, learn etc.   So here I am writing this blog with all the answers.  Just kidding.  

     I have never been through a pandemic before.  How about you?  Yeah, we are figuring this out together.   The only fleeting comparison I could wrangle about this experience was when I stayed home for a full 8 weeks when my first daughter was born.  It was the middle of winter and the pediatrician recommended me not taking her out anywhere for 8 weeks.  Even then when it was for her safety, I still felt all sorts of emotions. Then, I knew of an end date.  I could leave the house when my husband came home.  I could have visitors over.  The toll it took on me mentally, even though I knew it was for the best, caused anxiety that was triggered every time I anticipated my next children’s due date. 

     This is a whole different level.  This is unprecedented. I have anxiety about how this will change us.  I am also afraid if it doesn’t change us.  I have peace knowing my family is home and safe.  But I feel a loss for my sister who is a senior in high school.  I am on a teeter totter of gratitude, sadness, dread, hope, worry, love.  Are you experiencing this, too?  I would be concerned if you weren’t feeling a variety of emotions.  

     Remember that emotions and thoughts are fleeting.  If we dig in and focus on the unpleasant thoughts and feelings, then they get more power (In a future blog, I’ll clarify that there is a difference between focusing on thoughts and feelings and acknowledging them, which is important).  Our reactions to thoughts, feelings and our body have more weight than the thoughts and feelings themselves.  

    Jim Gaffigan, a comedian, told a joke that having a fourth child is like someone handing you a baby while you are drowning.  There is truth to that.  When the pandemic hit, some of you got handed, no many of you got handed, metaphorical babies: financial burdens, loneliness, lack of community, lack of human touch, lack of safety, and more. Some of you have been drowning for a while.  Some of you were afraid to go into the water in the first place.  

     We don’t worry about coping when we feel like we are trying to survive.  Students aren’t worrying about their grades when their lives have been turned upside down.  We don’t worry about how our makeup looks when we are going into the shower.  It would seem strange otherwise.

      I wish I had all the answers.  We are trying to get through each day too.  My husband and I are grateful to both run our own company and can do so from home.  The unfortunate slowness of both our jobs has allowed us to fill in as teachers.  We are now somehow homeschooling our four children.  (NOTE: There is a reason I went into higher ed and not k-12.  I am a terrible teacher!)  

     As I am typing this, the power went out in our house.  It is also hailing.  What I wouldn’t give to get Starbucks and walk around Target just to get my steps in.  I can’t do that right now.  

However, I do have the ability to find ways to honor my values today: be nice and do my best. (Ugh, shopping at Target feels a lot easier. Even in the dark!!)

So, what’s my professional advice?  Well, I don’t have one answer, but I have a few ideas that I will share over the next few days.  What do you want to know, process, have support with?  We want to hear your thoughts – leave them in the comments below.  

Jennifer Yensel, PhD

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Scheduling

Welcome Gina Parasson

Gina Parasson, M.S., LPCC, CPT

Gina Parasson received her Master of Science in Education Degree in Social Agency Counseling from the University of Dayton. She is an independently Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor in the state of Ohio with over 20 years of experience working in both inpatient and outpatient settings as well as private practice.

Gina has clinical training in Behavioral Medicine from Harvard Medical School’s Mind/Body Medical Institute. She is also a Certified Personal Trainer holding specialty certifications in Older Adult Fitness and Lifestyle and Weight Management with a focus on wellness, holistic healing and the mind/body connection.

Gina utilizes Mindfulness Meditation/Movement Therapy, Person-Centered Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Reality Therapy to treat people with a variety of chronic health concerns, stress, adjustment issues, depression, anxiety and grief/loss. She has a special interest in Women’s Issues with a focus on infertility, pregnancy loss, post-partum depression and menopause. Gina’s interest in infertility arises from her personal experience making her empathetic and knowledgeable about this issue.

When she is not working, Gina enjoys the outdoors, traveling, fitness activities, music, volunteering and spending time with her family and friends.

Scheduling

Welcome Beth Franczak

Beth Franczak received her Masters of Science in Education from the University of Akron. She is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor with a supervisory designation (LPCC-S). Beth has been practicing in the community and private practice setting for over 10 years.

Beth uses an eclectic approach to counseling. She believes that the therapeutic relationship is the most important aspect of counseling. She strives to help clients feel as though they are hanging out and chatting in a living room or coffee shop, not in a stuffy clinical setting. Beth incorporates aspects of CBT, DBT, Sand Tray Therapy, and client centered therapy into her work. Her therapy is trauma informed and she has training in trauma focused behavioral therapy and sand tray therapy.

Beth works with adolescents (12 and up) as well as adults. She specializes in treating depression anxiety, adjustment issues, ADHD and trauma. She has a special interest in adoption and enjoys working with all members of the adoption community.

In her free time, Beth enjoys going on adventures with her daughter, reading, doing projects around the house, and watching documentaries to learn cool stuff.

Scheduling

Mike Marjama’s, MLB Catcher, Struggle with an Eating Disorder

Mike Marjama retired after playing 15 games in Major League Baseball. He then accepted a role as an ambassador to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA).

Check out the video of Mike explaining his struggle.

 

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Mindful Parenting – Key to Happy Healthy Family

Start of the School Year

Summer’s Over and the Kids are Back to School

Congrats parents! You made it to the first day of school. Now you can relax…

On second thought, while you are now off full-time parenting duty, it’s likely that your busy, chaotic weekdays are back in full swing. We forget over the summer that having kids in school equates to hectic mornings, homework to check, extracurricular activities to attend, and all the same regular errands to run. No matter how well you balance life’s challenges, life gets stressful, and it’s normal to feel overwhelmed.

As a parent, the list of ‘to dos’ feels never-ending and always being updated by so many priorities. Rushing from first thing in the morning until we with luck falling asleep in our bed instead of the cozy warm pile of laundry.

Stress

Stress effects our bodies causing the rational part of our brains take a back seat. We start relying on bad habits like yelling, threatening, and issuing ultimatums. The longer we are stressed it can lead to being short-fused, irritable, impulsive,  and actually changing the structure of our brains.

Ignoring stress allows the effects to compound until it finally spills over into our lives impacting:

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Jobs
  • Health

Q. How to address this parenting rut?

A. Mindful Parenting

Mindful parenting is about being aware, acting with intention, and accepting the reality of any given moment. It means being in control of our emotions and how we respond to our children. The magic of this approach is that it validates that none of us are ‘perfect’ or immune to getting angry or frustrated. We simply choose to do the best we can, at any given time. Mindful parenting empowers us to stay calm, see challenges as opportunities, and have fun with our kids. Best of all, it fosters deeper connections, leading to happier, healthier families!

Sounds amazing, right?

Join me the first 3 Saturdays in October for a Mindful Parenting
  • Location: Cuyahoga Falls Office
  • Dates: October 6th, 13th, and 20th
  • Time: 10am – 12pm
  • Cost: $150 for the 3 sessions

This 3-week workshop is designed to introduce and discuss the following:

  • Mindfulness and mindful parenting practices
  • Ways to foster, grow, and sustain resilience in children
  • How to connect, create joy and have fun with your children

Click Here to Register for this workshop, space is limited.

Check out these excellent articles for more information!

 

By: Rachael Muster M.Ed., LPCC-S

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