Looking After Yourself During This Time of Turmoil

A Health and Wellness Post

By Dr. Robert Oliva

I waited until after the inauguration to write this post. My stress levels have been nearly off the charts. To be honest, I feared we would be facing another calamitous disaster at the inauguration. It seems to have gone off without a hitch, thanks to 25,000 national guard troops, countless secret service agents and who knows who else.

I take comfort that we have made the transfer of power. We now can see what the new management can do to address the challenges facing us. And it’s a lot:

  • The spread of Covid-19 is reaching unfathomable heights. The daily death toll is exceeding 4,000 people a day.
  • The second impeachment of a sitting president.
  • Only two weeks ago, the Capitol Building was violently breached.
  • Plus, lest we forget, the vaccination distribution is in chaos.
  • Conspiracy theories and right-wing militias abound from QAnon to the Proud Boys.

It’s no wonder most of us remain fearful for our health, that of our loved ones, and the political future of our nation.

Caring for Ourselves Right Now

I’m not one to give up hope. There are things we can do to care for ourselves and our families during this dark winter.

I’ve tried to set down a few pathways spelling out how we can truly care for ourselves.

Before jumping in let’s be reminded of some basics:

  • Wear a mask. Preferably the n95 or kn95 versions. This is especially important if you are in crowded indoor spaces.
  • Wash your hands with soap for 20 seconds.
  • Socially distance.
  • Get vaccinated. This is somewhat problematic right now but don’t give up. Be patient when trying to sign-up for an appointment. I just got bumped off myself.

Meaningful Self-Care

Self-care is a very popular phrase and can be found just about everywhere. Unfortunately, it is often reduced to contemplating your next massage, pedicure, aromatherapy purchase, or yoga session. These things can be valuable but are often mere external fixes that leave you feeling just as bad as before.

Meaningful self-care has to do with you, who you are, your state of mind, and the direction of your life. To get to that you must embark on an honest assessment of your state of mind right now. That’s the starting point.

Let’s take a look at what a real self-assessment might look like during this time of crisis.

Assessing One’s Mental State

We are often told to reach out to others when in need. That’s good advice. But it is also important to reach in. Taking the time to honestly assess how you are doing mentally and emotionally cannot be overestimated. This is especially true when you are under relentless stress, like during a pandemic or political mayhem. Checking in on yourself is as important as checking in on a loved one.

Alia E. Dastagir of USA Today has an interesting take on this. She interviewed psychologists Vaile Wright and Lynn Butka. They suggest some basic steps to follow when assessing your own emotional well-being:

  • Find a somewhat quiet place. I know this is sometimes hard to do. Minimizing distractions and taking a few moments to breathe and relax is step one of the journey. Stop the multitasking!
  • Start with a big picture question. Dr. Bufka recommends looking at the roles you play in life. Are you handling your role as mother, father, parent, spouse, caretaker, worker, etc. If you haven’t been able to keep up with the demands, it’s a clear sign that there are troubles brewing.
  • Look closely at how you feel and how you are behaving. Note changes in your behavior and mood. Are you still able to find joy in things? Are you feeling more down than is customary? Are you catastrophizing and avoiding people? Have you noticed these changes lasting for longer than two weeks?
  • Take a close look at your body. The mind and body are closely linked. Have you noticed changes in your sleep patterns? What about your diet? Are you performing everyday tasks like making the bed and brushing your teeth? Are you experiencing bodily tension, headaches, gastrointestinal issues, etc.?
  • Don’t wait until you are over the edge. Dr. Wright recommends your take the same approach to your emotional well-being as to your physical health. If you are physically ill you see a medical doctor. If you are emotionally struggling, seeing a therapist or mental health practitioner is essential.

Keep in mind that it is not selfish to take care of yourself. Taking the time to heal is necessary for you, your loved ones, and your community. These are demanding times. Make your contribution count.

Resources

For an in-depth look at self-care, access the online magazine Self Help. It contains numerous articles on how to use self-care constructively in many aspects of life. You will have to pay a fee to access this magazine but it’s worth it.

If you are struggling emotionally you can follow the six approaches I outline in my article 6 Ways to Stay Mentally and Physically Healthy Right Now.

For Relaxation/Meditation Training: here are some relaxation sites to help: Headspace and Calm are good places to start. You can also find Headspace on Netflix. These are all good resources.

When you feel overwhelmed, seek out professional help:

  • To find a tele-therapist, psychotherapist, psychiatrist, substance abuse treatment centers, and support groups go to Psychology Today. They will provide you with local information.
  • If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for assistance. Don’t hesitate to call for professional assistance.
  • For help with mental health issues, you can contact NAMI, a mental health grassroots organization. In addition to general mental health counseling, they offer free crisis counseling.

The information provided in this article is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace medical diagnosis or treatment.