Things have fundamentally changed in our world over the last few years. It looks the same, but internally we are all different from who we were. I was talking with Counsellor Kathie the other day and noted that we used to laugh so much when we got together for our regular lunch as co-workers. We have changed and become more serious. I think it comes down to the illusion of control. We thought that we had some control over our lives. We thought that we created our reality to some degree. Many of us are mourning the loss of this control. We are all noticing our inflexibility and feeling the resistance to change.
Change is PAINFUL
While it is true, that there is no growth without pain, no one likes being forced to change. Most people like to change in small, tiny bite sized chunks. We can flex, but not flex too much. Even trees don't like category five cyclones. Generally, our battle is internal: ‘But I am not ready to change.’ ‘But I don’t want to get out of my comfort zone.’ In fact, many have resisted the change by blocking with substances, alcohol, anger towards others (scapegoats) and self-sabotage. They have tried to erase it, but it is there waiting – sitting in their minds and bodies. It waits until some inopportune moment to come out as frustration, anger, intolerance, polarised opinion, stubbornness, rage, anti-authoritarian behaviour, facebook venting etc.
Moreover, those that block change only delay their suffering and later get hit by a tidal-wave of emotion. It must be expressed – this stress and anxiety! It must be expressed with words, body language, exercise, discussions, painting, cold showers, work outs, writing/ journaling – anything other than holding it in.
The Toll on Our Mental Health
The stress response has been triggered more in the last 3 years (from the media and society) than it has in most people’s entire lives. We have to understand that staying ‘normal’ in an ‘abnormal world’ is extremely difficult. Our survival fight or flight response has been on so long creating cortisol (which blocks production of serotonin). In a nutshell (excuse the pun), we are all running our cups on empty.
Methods that we once used for work/ life balance are not working. Combine that with a loss of social connection and finances and you have more anxiety and depression (inward aiming anxiety) than ever before.
Slight dis-regulation is easy to recover from. Prolonged Covid level stress is not.
I have many clients who tell me that they think they should be handling things better. They feel self-doubt, contempt and criticism for themselves. But I answer, ‘How could you do things better? The world has never had such prolonged stress except in war time.’ We need to normalise how hard this has been; this toll on our mental health. It has been hard for therapists too. We are witness to this suffering of our fellow man. We have to balance ourselves more often and with more methods than ever before.
Self-Love Demonstrated as Boundaries
We have to set new boundaries in place for this new world. The old world seemed safer. This new world is unknown. We find that everyone has an opinion about this new world. We have to be more tolerant than ever before. We have become so polarised it is like two political party loyalists within a family. So what do we do about maintaining a sane brain after this when there is potential for more disease or calamity? We must change our internal voice, our inner-mantra…
What is the mantra that you tell yourself regularly? (There may be several for different situations.)
Whatever it is, you can change it. You unconscious does not know that difference between fantasy and reality. It only knows what the conscious commands. And how do we do that? Naturally, with repetition - either spoken out loud or internally as thought…
‘I am doing the best that I can.’
‘This is meaningful what I am doing.’
'Everyday in every way I am getting better and better.' (At least 1% better is true)
‘My body is excited! Oxygenated.’
‘It is okay to feel sad or powerless sometimes.’ (Most emotions last 90 seconds! Ride it out. Sit in it.)
‘I am complete. I am enough.’
‘I am a tragic optimist!’
(High five yourself in the mirror)
Strategies for Relieving Prolonged Stress and Anxiety
Exercise: Dancing, Gym Workouts, Downward Dog /Yoga, Walking, Hiking, Jogging, Deep Breathing, Wimhof Breath work, Golf, Surfing, Hugging for 20 seconds, Sex.
Nature: Looking at a Horizon, Beachcombing, Viewing a Nature Scene, Earthing: Walking Barefoot on Grass, Earth or Sand, Lying on a big rock, Sunshine, Sitting Under a Tree or in Nature.
Other: Talk Therapy/ Counselling, Cold or Hot Showers/ Warm Bath, Watching Funny TV (Belly Laughing), Film, YouTube Videos (laughing), Listening to Happy Music or Sounds of Nature, Positive Visualisation, Affirmations, Mindfulness & Meditation, Reading Books, Getting a Body or Foot Massage, Serotonin Boosters, B Vitamins, Pro-Biotics, Herbal Teas.
Engaging the Frontal Cortex: (Getting out of reptilian fight or flight brain mode) Puzzles, Games, Crosswords, WhoDunnit Books, Stop watching fearful TV and news (Censor your television), Learning something new (Online study?), Problem Solving, Singing.
Take walks together: Walking in parallel creates shared pace. Men listen better on their side. (It is okay not to talk for the first ten minutes.)
Name and express personal needs while the other listens.
Acknowledge disappointments without blame. (I feel this about that because this is important to me…)
Future proof by talking about shared hopes and dreams. Problem solve together. Make plans. Talk Goal Setting. Try Couples Counselling. Intimacy, Touch, Massage, Making Love.
I hope that this blog has been useful to you. If anxiety is severe, see me for Counselling, NLP or Time Line Therapy.
Founder of Ghita Therapy - Ghita Andersen (B.Soc.Sci: Psych & Coun; Grad Cert FDR, Hypnosis Cert.) is a professionally trained Psychotherapist, Couples Counsellor, Hypnotherapist and a Federally Accredited Family Dispute Mediator (FDRP).