Mithun: The need to adjust our sails in uncertain times – Wadena Pioneer Journal

Posted: May 16, 2020 at 1:41 pm

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Right now, we are in the midst of a powerful wind. As a community, as a nation, and as a world, we have been hit by a virus named COVID-19.

When I think of a picture to go along with this quote, the movie 'The Perfect Storm' comes to mind. Granted, it wasnt a sailboat, but a much larger boat, and yet it was faced with the challenge of staying afloat as the great storm crashed into them. Right now, as humans, we are experiencing a great storm that has disrupted our lives. This virus has changed everything about how we function; from how we shop for necessities to how we educate our children. We know we cannot direct the wind, so how do we adjust our sails? Here are some tips on things you can do in your life to help during this time.

Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, there is nothing easy or normal about what we are experiencing. As humans, we were born for social connection. Our ancestors lived and traveled in tribes and this served an important purpose: survival. At this time in our lives, it becomes important to figure out new ways to create social connections. Technology offers many ways to connect, ranging from a phone call to apps such as Marco Polo or Zoom where you can send videos or have live group chats. Moving away from technology and using other resources, you can mail a letter or card to someone you care about. This could be a great opportunity to teach a new generation the excitement of going to the mailbox and finding a card or letter from a loved one. There are creative ways of creating social connection while practicing social distancing.

On Easter Sunday, I heard cars honking outside, and I went to my window and saw a parade of Easter well- wishers driving down my road, honking and waving. There are ways to build connections while maintaining social distancing, it just takes some creativity.

Self-care is a term that has become mainstreamed today but is often misunderstood. Self- care is any activity we do on purpose to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. Although its a simple concept in theory, its something we often overlook. Good self-care is key to improving our mood and reducing anxiety. Its also key to a good relationship with oneself and others.

Self-care means examining the different components of our lives: spiritual, physical, mental, psychological, and social, and exploring areas lacking attention. Its recognizing the importance of all components and finding ways we can work to improve what we are giving to each of them. It means figuring out how to give the world the best of you instead of whats left of you. Some examples of self-care could include setting aside time in your day to take a breathing break, going for a walk outside, or taking a hot bath. Self-care is finding what works for you.

Believe it or not, there has been extensive research completed on the Science of Happiness. There is a whole movement called Positive Psychology that is devoted to this. By and large, much of the research comes back to one main skill that can be strengthened to improve overall happiness and life satisfaction. And that is gratitude.

One might be thinking: We are amid a pandemic, what is there to be thankful for? But the answer is there are many things to be grateful for, but it might be harder to find them right now. But once you get in the practice of finding these things, it becomes much easier. A great way to start or end each day is by stopping and reflecting on three good things. This activity is simple, but research shows that ending each day consistently reflecting on or writing down three good things has a positive impact on our mood for the next week and even month! This is a great dinner time activity, especially for those with younger kids. Ask everyone around the table to share three good things that happened during the day. It stimulates conversation and helps instill gratitude into our daily lives.

During this new and challenging time in our lives, we are all feeling an onslaught of emotions. We are actively engaged in grieving life as we knew it, along with significant events and in some cases, loss of life. It is important we find ways to feel and metabolize these emotions. Research has shown that a great way to do this is by using words to get these emotions from inside our head to outside of our bodies.

Journaling and talking to a trusted peer are two ways to do this. Sometimes people are intimidated by the thought of journaling ; feeling like they need to write things properly or fill up an entire page. This is not so; there are no rules in journaling! This experience is about writing what you think and feel, whether it is incomplete sentences filled with words, a poem, or even a drawing. Do what feels comfortable to you.

Given the challenge of social distancing, it may be more of a challenge to connect with a trusted peer. Again, I encourage you to explore new ways of doing this. In addition to peer support, mental health professionals continue to work during this time. Many are available via telehealth and this offers a way of receiving counseling while maintaining social distancing. This means you could be in your home and be seen by a professional.

Research has shown exercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood and by improving self-esteem and cognitive function. However, people often respond negatively to the word exercise. It can feel like a chore; one more thing to knock off your list. But here is another way of looking at it: movement. Try to increase your movement a little each day.

I am reading a book about explorers of Antarctica, and they have a saying: 11 more steps. This comes from the experience of previous explorers who they discovered would have survived their adventures across Antarctica if they had just gone 11 more steps each day. Perhaps look at your life and small ways to incorporate increases in movement perhaps just 11 more steps.

With workout centers being closed, there are numerous offerings on the internet of free exercise classes that can be done at home using household items as equipment. However, if that feels overwhelming, keep it simple and focus on increasing your movement.

In closing, I encourage you to find ways to adjust your sails as we weather this storm together. It is important to remind ourselves we are all in this together, and as a society we are experiencing the same emotional roller coaster. No one has been through this before and no one has all the answers. This is a time to practice grace with each other and ourselves.

Mithun is a Behavioral Health Home Integration Specialist at Lakewood Health System in Staples.

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Mithun: The need to adjust our sails in uncertain times - Wadena Pioneer Journal

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May 16th, 2020 at 1:41 pm

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