One of the common stressors I encounter are related to social interactions; sometimes there is anxiety if there is too much and other times depression/anxiety if there is too little. With social distancing as a recent recommendation to prevent further spread of the Coronavirus, there are ways to maintain connections to our social supports (technology, using appropriate precautions when gathering, etc.), but I think this is also a great time to learn how to hang out with yourself. Once, I recommended to a client “just try sitting and…do nothing”. Following a look of disbelief and confusion, I explained more.
We have become accustomed to constantly being stimulated and entertained, so much so, that when we find ourselves without something to do, we become “bored” or anxious, or those unprocessed events/emotions may peek out to say “Hey, remember me?” This, then leads to a constant avoidance of just being still, so we revert to more distractions! How about learning to live with…just you. Wonderful, perfectly imperfect you. Rather than avoiding yourself, how about:
Just sitting: Being curious and mindful as you just sit. You can observe your thoughts and emotions, without judgment, just taking note of where your brain goes when not stimulated externally. Some are fearful to do this because of negative thoughts of self or others. Can you just allow those thoughts to come up and pass on through (like a cloud floating by)? Maybe write them down and then we can try to better understand them in session? My clients also like to smile (and eye-roll) at me when I repeatedly suggest meditation practices, but now is a GREAT time for this and you can check out the resources page for some helpful tools. As you just sit, you can allow yourself to: still have value without having to do something, relax, learn more about yourself, ponder dreams and your own curiosities, decrease your dependence on the need to be entertained/engaged at all times, and also allow your body and mind to take a break and rest.
Time for reflection: Now would be a cool time to develop a practice of gratitude. Or check in with yourself about your goals/objectives. Create a vision board. Re-commit and strategize for healthy habits. To take note of what is working well for you and give yourself some props! Social isolation may not be the best time to intentionally process traumatic experiences or difficult emotions on your own, but remember that I, and other therapists, are still available for online counseling and support. So, if you find that during reflection, you are having a strong reaction to something, you can appropriately set it aside or develop a visualized container to set the event/topic in. While reflection should allow for all emotions/experiences, be mindful to put more effort towards positive reflection as social isolation can sometimes lead our brains into funky, depressed places. By intentionally engaging in more positive reflective experiences, you can practice this very important habit (which then becomes a worldview) of seeing the good despite the challenges life throws our way. My clients know that I am happy to help point out the positive items if they are struggling to see it in themselves and their lives.
Enjoying non-screen activities: Yes, this is still Doing (and somewhat ironic coming from an online therapist), but can also allow space for thoughts to arise, talents to be developed and enjoyment of yourself or those you are with. You can engage in hobbies you enjoy, or try new ones. If you’re isolating with a friend/loved one, how about time for those re-connection activities, such as the Ungame Cards, or the couples Gottman App)? What about pulling out all those dusty craft supplies you’ve been collecting? That book you’ve been meaning to read? Since starting the traveling lifestyle, I’ve made sure to bring books, colored pencils, the Spotify music app, yoga mat, the mini Buddha Board with me wherever I go, so that I can have something to learn, means of expression, and a way to release energy in a positive/healthy way. Others are into knitting, painting, music, costume (cosplay) creation, home decoration, Zumba, origami. I promise that you are more interesting than anything I’ve ever seen on television, Facebook, or Instagram. Especially now, with so much media focus on various anxiety-provoking topics, it’s a great idea to do brief updates from reliable sources, but then take a break. Constant exposure can be debilitating.
As for me, I’ll be hiking in the mountains next week and taking time to reconnect with nature. I’ll be back to sessions on the 23rd of March and if you can’t reach me (as I’ll be disconnecting…), you can schedule through the client portal. See you shortly! I look forward to hearing how you’re making good use of this time! Feel free to share additional ideas below!