Put your oxygen mask on first...
Soon after you board the plane, your flight attendant mentions the safety instructions. Recommending you put your oxygen mask on before helping others. Why? How can you help someone else if you cannot breathe yourself? The same is true right now. We need to take care of ourselves. We need to put our oxygen masks on first.
If you watch CNN, their tagline through all of this has been, Fact versus Fear. I couldn't agree more. In this time of overwhelming uncertainty, our bodies are living in a constant state of fight-or-flight. The idea of fight-or-flight is a natural instinct in each one of us, this response is a physiological reaction that happens in response to a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival. Pretty much summarizes our world right now, we have that very threat to our survival circling the planet and our communities right now.
I think we can marry the two ideas together into something we can work with and manage in our own bodies and minds each day. Fact = Fight and Fear = Flight; or something like that. I believe this starts with doing exactly what CNN has asked us to do, identify the facts and identify the fears. We need to separate the two and go from there. The circle of control is a great starting point.
Believe me, I know this is easier said than done, however, I think it is a good starting point and worth jotting down for yourself. It's a couple of circles and lists. By identifying what you can control and where you should put your focus can be extremely grounding. You cannot control covid-19, you can control the amount of exposure you have to the virus. You cannot control the daily positive cases and deaths daily, but you can control how much news you take in and where you get your information. By making your lists - this will help you identify where to focus.
Identify if it is fact or fear, separate the two, acknowledge what it is and what it is not. Allow yourself to feel it but then release it and work with it. Why would I say allow yourself to really feel it? I think this is the top of a slide that is a slippery slope to the bottom of an unhealthy coping mechanism and numbing agents. A cocktail or two would be an excellent way to "feel it" but in actuality, you are just numbing it and once you start numbing it, you open up a plethora of unhealthy coping mechanisms. We need to keep pushing through right now, but we have to do in a way that is healthy.
After you have determined if it is fact or fear, think about your fight-or-flight response, how to do work with that in a healthy and productive way? If we live in the fight-or-flight for too long it can have negative health impacts, so we want to identify options that work.
I am going back to my undergrad Psychology 101 - but that just goes to show how vital, relevant and timeless psychology really is. :) Thinking back to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs - I am able to apply my fact (fight) versus fear (flight) list to his pyramid; albeit we may not get to self-actualization in today's post, but you get the idea.
Food and Sleep (physiological needs) - Those are the first questions my counselor asks me when we start our virtual sessions now. How are you eating? How are you sleeping? This is the foundation of Maslow's pyramid, but they are the foundation of our health as well. We need to make sure those needs are being met in a healthy way (remember the slide).
Schedule (safety needs) - It is so easy to fall short on following a schedule these days. Working from home is such a change, but what a blessing. We are able to spend time in the homes we built and love. We have gone from a world of go-go-go and as a fast as possible - to nothing. We didn't pump the brakes on this one, we slammed on the brakes and before we could blink, our world changed. My work schedule and pace has drastically changed, but there's a new schedule and I am doing my very best to stick to it.
Interaction (belongingness needs) - Right now, in today's 'new normal', this is so important. Just as we were used to the go-go-go, we were also used to constant interaction. At work, in the car, at the gym, at church, out to eat, at the salon, in the park, we had constant interactions. Self-isolation is just that, you are separated from all those things. Interaction with your family and friends, interaction with your co-workers, more than just email. Interaction with your healthcare professionals via technology. Self-isolation does not mean alone - we are in this together.
Exercise and Balance (esteem needs)- One of the first things I started when the idea of self-isolation became very real and long-term. I made a commitment (challenge) to myself to do one hour of yoga a day. The feeling of accomplishment and well-being after each session has been my saving grace day-in and day-out.
Do what works for you. Be cognisant of your mind and body. It will tell you what it needs. If I had to share what my saving graces have been thus far into this journey would be:
Journaling / Coloring
Find what works for you. Now more than ever we need to keep pushing through. We need to extend grace anywhere we can to anyone we can and we need to find gratitude. Every. Single. Day. Keep Pushing Through. Remember to put your oxygen mask on first.