Tag Archives: coping

Do You Have PPSD*?

(*Post-Pandemic Survival Dysfunction)

Even as daily life seems headed towards recovery, it’s hard to relax. This insightful analysis explains why “burnout” only begins to describe what so many of us have been feeling.

[by Soo Youn, The Washington Post]

Why burnout won’t go away, even as life returns to ‘normal’

For Marcia Howard, the Cheez-Its were a breaking point.

At her son’s first in-person school event this year, she realized she forgot to bring the class snack.

“I just broke down in the car and I started crying,” she said. As a class parent, she was torn up about forgetting the crackers. “It turns out everything has been overwhelming. And there’s no shaking it.”

Howard started a new job at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic working as a creative operations director at a Fortune 500 company.

“I’m a Black woman. Between the pandemic and everything that happened to George Floyd and the summer of protests. . . . I had that first wave of, ‘Oh, gosh, I’m tired. I don’t feel like I can do anything. I stay up all night, looking at my phone and just really can’t focus,’ ” she said.

Then the fall came around, and it became clear many schools wouldn’t fully reopen for in-person learning.

“I’ve never thought about quitting more,” said Howard, who lives in New York City.

She’s been told by her company that she can take time off as she needs, but it’s just not that simple for her, she said. “It is all really wonderful to hear. But trying to prove myself in a corporate environment as the only Black leader, can I?” Howard said.

In February, she says she was told by her therapist that she was on the verge of depression.

“I feel like everyone is starting to think the world is getting back to normal, and I just can’t even bring myself to be hopeful about it,” Howard said.

With vaccinations initiated for half of Americans over 12, and guidance on masking and social distancing easing, the triage stage of the pandemic is lessening for some in the United States. Yet external progress markers can disguise – or even induce – a flurry of conflicting emotional, physical or cognitive states. Like getting sick right after turning in your last final, for some women who bore the brunt of domestic burdens while juggling work pressures for over a year, the breaking point may come with the breathing room.

As the country races toward a “normal” summer, for women like Howard, the picture doesn’t match up with her reality. She’s still struggling through a burnout unlike any other.

“Traditionally, we think of burnout being a state where someone is increasingly overwhelmed with the tasks in their lives, feeling a markedly decreased sense of accomplishment and effectiveness in what they are doing, and feeling like the things they loved to do now feel like just additional tasks. After a time, there can be mental health consequences,” said Maureen Sayres Van Niel, a Boston-based psychiatrist.

The pandemic magnified that condition exponentially.

“We had women with and without children managing situations that had life and death consequences in their daily lives: how to provide food for their families when the deadly virus was omnipresent or they were suddenly without an income, how to care for an elderly mother without physical contact,” she said. “Burnout in the traditional sense doesn’t capture the sense of the past year’s events.”

By March 2021, 1 in 4 Americans adults suffered the loss of a close friend or relative to the coronavirus, according to the KFF coronavirus vaccine Monitor; about 1 in 3 knew someone who died. And for those with family and friends in countries where death tolls are mounting daily, there is little relief.

“By mid-summer many will likely be feeling conflicting emotions such as relief that they are protected against the virus and happiness to see friends and family again. But having these new freedoms allows us to reflect on what we just lived through, what we endured, and what we lost. We will then be able to really feel our burnout, to let it surface,” said Stanford University sociologist Marianne Cooper. “People will need time to process what they have lived through.”

People are also mourning the loss of jobs – as well as routines, health, opportunities and time.

Baltimore-based psychiatrist Kimberly Gordon says burnout isn’t an adequate term. She treats patients from underserved communities and has lived and worked through traumatic events like Hurricane Katrina. She frames the current conversation as one of moral injury, a term referring to “the strong cognitive and emotional response that can occur following events that violate a person’s moral or ethical code.”

“Burnout suggests that the problem resides within the individual, who is in some way deficient. It implies that the individual lacks the resources or resilience to withstand the work environment,” according to a 2019 study published in the journal Federal Practitioner.

That’s impossible, the authors say: “While there is nothing inherently wrong with any of those practices, it is absurd to believe that yoga will solve the problems.”

The problem with using the term burnout, Gordon said, is that people equate it with a failure of their own, compounding the issue.

“You take these people who are really passionate and energetic, who want to do a good job, and they lose their motivation,” Gordon said. “Moral injury addresses the systems issues that lead to burnout, and calls for systems to address those issues.”

For some, the moral injury felt like betrayal by employers, the government and neighbors.

Jennifer Casaletto, an emergency physician in North Carolina, remembers one of the lowest points in the middle of the pandemic, a period she refers to as “backstabbing.”

“That was one of the hardest humps to get over, realizing we’re still going to work risking our lives and the lives of our family, and our friends telling us ‘This is completely overhyped.'” She recalled an incident during which a neighbor brought their child to Casaletto’s house to get stitches, then told her they were going on vacation to Mexico and were hoping to get around having to mask on the plane.

While the pandemic has been hard on everyone, women are bearing the physical and mental load of burnout unequally, emerging data shows.

In March, the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index found 30% of women said they felt “overwhelmed or burned out” over the past year, compared with 21% of men.

“The pandemic has also laid bare the ways in which the society and its institutions were not created with the biology of women workers in mind,” Sayres Van Niel said.

Mental health professionals suggest telling employers about what you need to be more productive at work.

“We think of ourselves as passive participants in our workplace but we can actually have an active role in the culture,” Gordon said.

For example, say you can work until 7 p.m. but you need child care. One of Gordon’s patients recently told their manager they were manic depressive, and they were able to come up with a more flexible schedule.

“It’s really important to find workplaces or create workspaces, where people can have courageous conversations,” she said.

She also recommended making small changes in everyday life, like exercise or watching a comedy special. Little daily tweaks can be more effective than a week-long vacation over time, she said.

Howard, the Fortune 500 director, says she tries to work in a daily bath and is focusing on a renewed exercise routine. There’s still plenty for her to be stressed out about: an upcoming minor surgery for her son, family reunions with mixed vaccination statuses and a recent emergency room visit for the family cat.

It can feel like the rush to reopen is happening too fast, she said, putting her at odds with others who are thrilled to take off their masks and return to “normal.”

“I’ve just realized that I don’t have to be there. . . . I don’t emotionally have to get there. I can take my time recovering from the past year and a half. I’m sitting with my feelings and it’s still normal to be unable to focus.”

– – –

This story first appeared in The Washington Post’s The Lily publication.

COVID-19 Spending and Saving

Perhaps the only upside to what I call the “pandammit” is that I’m not shopping like a drunken socialite, to quote my friend S. Which doesn’t mean I’ve stopped shopping altogether; it’s more that I’m buying different things.

Big-ticket items flew out the window as life got simpler and our activities remain close to home. Meanwhile, entire categories (hello, hand sanitizer) became essentials. What a topsy-turvy world! (Google reports that the expression “may be an adaptation of the medieval verb ‘tirve’, meaning ‘to turn or to topple over’. It has also been suggested that ‘turvy’ is an allusion to ‘turf’ and that ‘topsy-turvy’ means ‘with one’s head on the turf’.”) 

Spending more

  • Amazon – miscellaneous household items, esp. hard to get stuff
  • Whole Foods delivery in the early months
  • Fresh fruits and veggies from farmers’ market and small specialty grocers
  • Cooking gadgets
  • Wine and booze – do you even have to ask why?
  • TV streaming services
  • Zoom membership
  • Books
  • Vitamins, supplements, acetaminophen PM
  • Face masks — whoever predicted one would need a wardrobe of these?!
  • Cute socks
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Fresh flowers to maintain sanity and illusion of elegant normalcy

Saving more

  • Makeup, especially lipstick – kind of pointless when wearing a mask, no?
  • Hair salon – spreading out appointments and doing trimming/touch-ups myself until desperate
  • Pedicures – My toes are not worth dying for
  • Restaurants
  • New clothes – to go where, exactly?
  • Travel
  • Cultural events/theatre/opera tix
  • Massages and facials (see pedicure)

Yep, things are definitely tirving these days.

photo of inverted woman on wooden chair

Photo by Wendy Wei on Pexels.com

 

 

 

Good News Monday: Relaxation IS Possible

Since we’re all stressed these days, I thought this article was worth sharing, even though suggestions such as seeing an acupuncturist are a bit aspirational at the moment.

[Reprinted from AllTimeLists.com]

“Just relax.”

You have heard this a million times, right? Usually, it is some well-meaning friend or family member that sees you are under some intense pressure, and they offer this piece of advice as if it never occurred to you. But of course, you want to relax. But the situation you are in is just not relaxing.

What you need is a proven method to reduce the stress you are feeling. When it comes to calming the mind and spirit, the Chinese and other Far East nations of the world have been practicing techniques for centuries. Many of them are quite simple. Let’s look at some ways to reduce your stress and increase your energy.

Qigong

Pronounced “chee-gun,” it combines meditative and physically active elements and is the basic exercise system within Chinese medicine. Translated into English, qigong is “life energy cultivation.” It’s a holistic system of coordinated body posture and movement, breathing, and meditation used for health, spirituality, and martial arts training. Here’s a summary of the exercise routine:

10. Crane Stands on One Leg – The exercise is intended to develop balance and agility, gently stretch your ligaments, improve circulation, and release your spine. Repeat on each side at least five times. Don’t worry if it doesn’t work the first time.

9. Standing Still With Absorbing – This meditative exercise improves your breathing and encourages your body to contract and expand itself to generate vitality. Visualize your breath inflating like an internal balloon. Meanwhile, imagine you are pulling energy in toward the core of your body. Continue for 2–5 minutes. IMPORTANT: Your arms should stay in the same place throughout the exercise.

8. Coiling Recharge – The exercise is perfect as a stand-alone practice or as an energizing warm-up before martial arts. Qigong involves using the hands to direct energy, often in a spiral pattern. It helps to develop energy, power, and well-being. IMPORTANT: Pay attention to your fingers — they should be turned down to your abdominal area.

7. Chinese Wall Squat – This exercise is a fundamental exercise for keeping the Qi channels in and around the spinal and lumbar region clear. It is very effective in alleviating mental and nervous disorders, and it also helps to improve kidney function. IMPORTANT: Repeat the stance as many times as you can, but don’t forget to listen to your body. Experts from the Qigong Institute recommend starting with 10 squats and increasing it daily.

6. Endurance Activator – This exercise is known as the “walk-three-miles point.” In the Middle Ages, fatigued monks practiced it to enhance stamina and improve leg strength. IMPORTANT: Avoid rounding your back.

5. Picking Fruit – This is a simple exercise, but it’s very effective. Try to lift your arms high above your head, and stretch upward like you’re picking fruit from a tree. This is one of the oldest movements of mankind, and it activates the kidneys, the spleen, and the pancreas. These organs are all activated, and the joints are lifted.

4. Full-Body Spiralling – This movement helps to open up the joints and relax the muscles. The exercise also teaches full-body integration and allows you to engage your tendons and ligaments rather than relying on purely muscular strength. Repeat eight times.

3. Horse-Stance Circles – The main purpose of the exercise is not just training the body but training your energy and mind. It is a marvelous method that can really help to alleviate tension in your hips and improve posture, as well as opening up energy in your lower body. Assume a wide stance, keeping your feet close to parallel. Start with your elbows bent, and extend your hands overhead, allowing your shoulders to rotate so your hands face each other. Your fingertips should lightly touch at the top.

2. Bending and Lifting – This exercise improves knee-joint stability and teaches you how to lift things without hurting yourself. IMPORTANT: Bend at your knees and waist. Make sure your knees do not extend past your toes and that your spine is straight.

1. Circling Knees – This is a widespread warm-up exercise in martial arts that invigorates the legs, both up and down. Start with your feet shoulder-width apart, and slowly bend at your waist and knees. Place your hands on your knees, and circle them outward around your ankles, making sure to not let your knees extend past your toes.

Aside from this exercise and meditation program, there are also simple tasks you can do that will dial down the stress and pain of the daily grind.

Foot Massage 

In China, it is relatively common to have regular foot massages. Chinese medicine tells us that our feet connect to the earth and the energy of the earth circulates throughout our body. The feet conduct energy to our heart, liver, and other organs so it’s very important to take good care of them. You can also go barefoot as this too helps open the body’s energy channels.

Acupuncture 

This practice is a great way to improve circulation in the body. It has been shown to be a solution to treat symptoms of stress like muscle aches and pains. Acupuncture opens up the meridian or energy channels of the body to relax the muscles.

Meditation 

In China, people meditate daily. Chinese doctors encourage meditation because it reduces stress and promotes health and well-being. There are many different types of meditation such as Tai Chi, QiGong, and Buddhist meditation.

Valerian Root and Chrysanthemum Tea 

Valerian root has been used for thousands of years in China to promote relaxation. Other cultures have also used it to alleviate stress and it is commonly used in many sleep aids found in grocery or drug stores. In Chinese medicine, it is most often used as a tea. If you’re interested in purchasing Valerian tea you can find it at Walmart.com. Chrysanthemum tea is used on a daily basis to relax and maintain a healthy liver. You can purchase Chrysanthemum tea here.

These tips should help reduce the stress to the point that no one will fill compelled to tell you, “just relax.” Enjoy your less-stressed life!

alone bed bedroom blur

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

 

Celebrities, Please STFU!

Sharing a wonderful piece by NY Times culture writer Amanda Hess, about how incredibly annoying it is to see celebrity “news” about how hard it is for them to cope with the current crisis by sheltering in place in their ginormous houses.

Aw, boo-freakin’-hoo. Was there ever a time that celebrities were less relevant?!?

Enjoy!

architecture bushes chimneys clouds

Today’s COVID-19 Practical Tip: Avoiding Tech Neck

“Tech Neck” is a term given to headaches and spasms you can get from too much hunching. While working from home at this time, it is crucial for proper ergonomics to be taken seriously and avoid low back and neck issues.

Here are some tips from my chiropractor.

GET OFF THE COUCH
Although it might be tempting, working from your sofa is one of the worst things you can do for your back. Sitting or lounging on your couch for extended periods of time causes your lower back to curve inward too much, resulting in low back pain.

Maintain spine health by going for a chair or a barstool during working hours & use a table top. If possible make your own standing desk.

USE A ROLLED UP TOWEL TO SUPPORT YOUR BACK WHILE SITTING

COMPUTER SCREEN SHOULD BE AT EYE LEVEL
Whether sitting or standing, the middle of your screen should be in line with your eyes while you’re working, not below. Your computer/laptop should be elevated approximately 6 to 12 inches above your desk. Use books or boxes to get to that sweet spot. This will avoid neck & shoulder strain.

Avoid no-no spots for your laptop: never on your lap for long periods of time, sitting on your bed, and definitely not on your coffee table.

USE A WIRELESS KEYBOARD & WIRELESS MOUSE

Using a computer keyboard and mouse requires a person to make small, exact movements with their hand, fingers and thumb, and these small muscles can become tired and overworked. This overuse can cause pain, numbness, tingling, burning, stiffness and restricted range of motion as well as shoulder pain.

Reduce these symptoms by making sure you use the mouse as close to your body as possible. You should be able to reach your computer mouse when your upper arm is close to your body and your elbow is at 90 degrees.

If your computer is elevated to the proper height, it will be hard to use the keyboard and mouse without shrugging your shoulders. A wireless keyboard & mouse are a good investment. You can easily and inexpensively buy some fun ones online.

TAKE BREAKS AND STRETCH

Set your timer for 45 minutes-1 hour intervals when working on your computer. Take a 5 minute break to change activity and body position. Do some easy stretches to save your neck and back.

PROPER NUTRITION, SLEEP, HYDRATION, CUTTING BACK ON SUGAR, AND MAINTAINING GOOD GUT HEALTH WILL HELP YOUR OVERALL IMMUNE SYSTEM!

 

Good News Monday: Tales from the Dark Side

They say laughter is the best medicine. (And possibly our only one until we get a reliable vaccine.) Luckily, this pandemic has some upsides. Let’s call them “coronadvantages”:

  1. Crime deterrent:  Only a fool would break into a house without knowing if its inhabitants were infected. Plus, they’re probably home
  2. Ivanka’s shoes (made in China) might finally go out of business
  3. You now have the perfect excuse to avoid just about anything
  4. West Coasters have something to take our minds off worrying about The Big One
  5. There’s no shame in being a hypochodriac
  6. Terrorists may think twice:  No large gatherings = no large targets
  7. Your neighbors will stop hosting loud parties
  8. Working in pajamas
  9. Alcohol kills germs; ergo, vodka surely has medicinal properties
  10. A new appreciation for canned goods
  11. It’s far less likely your significant other will cheat on you

not-hear-2687975_640

Today’s COVID-19 Practical Tip: Greetings

Rather than elbow-bumping, which still puts you in closer contact than the recommended 6′ distance from another person, some folks now greet each other with the namaste bow: hands together and a slight dip forward.

Personally, I’m adopting the “queen’s wave”.

namaste-3899976_640

 

TGIF! How To Have A Stress-Free Weekend

If I won the lottery, one of the first things I’d do is put a massage therapist on retainer to come de-kink my muscles daily.  (Of course, if I won the lottery I’d probably be a lot less tense in the first place!)

Being on a less luxurious budget, though, I can only manage this monthly at the most. So after several days of traveling last week– always stressful, even when things run smoothly — I enjoyed a much-needed, long massage session yesterday. Which got me thinking about the benefits of massage therapy and why I need to do this more often.

Manipulating the body’s muscles, connective tissue, tendons, ligaments and skin does many good things, including a few that aren’t immediately obvious.

Reduces stress. Relaxation is probably the #1 reason people get massages, but there are real health benefits to reducing stress. When you’re tense, you instinctively breathe faster to quickly increase levels of oxygen in your blood. But this also raises your blood pressure. As a result, frequent or chronic stress makes your heart work too hard for too long.

Elevates your mood. Research has shown that massage has a direct impact on lowering the levels of stress hormones adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine that cause the “fight-or-flight” response. At the same time, it helps release “feel good” neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, endorphins and oxytocin.

Improves circulation. As the therapist presses down, blood moves through congested areas. And the release of this same pressure causes new blood to flow in. That helps get oxygen to all your body’s cells.

Boosts energy. Since massage aids blood flow, it delivers oxygen to all your body’s cells, which we need for energy.

Soothes anxiety.  If you’re not in a relationship or you spend a lot of time alone, it’s especially important to stay literally “in touch” with others. Human touch is a basic need, as long as it’s safe and comfortable.

Encourages restful sleep. Especially if you have your massage later in the day, and keep that relaxed feeling going by taking a warm – not hot – bath before bed.

Reduces muscle tension and pain. By relaxing tight spots throughout your body, massage is an effective way to reduce pain, even for people with chronic conditions. A 2011 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine reported that massage therapy was as effective as other treatments for chronic back pain.

Counteracts too much sitting.  Got an office job? Chances are, your posture is suffering and your neck and shoulders are taking a hit. Postural stress can also manifest as pain, soreness or weakness in your lower back and gluteal muscles, aka your butt.

Helps you cope with the pain and stress of chronic conditions and disease, such as stomach problems, fibromyalgia, cancer, and heart disease. Interestingly, women diagnosed with breast cancer who received massage therapy three times a week reported feeling less depressed and less angry, according to a 2005 study published in the International Journal of Neuroscience. That’s pretty amazing, I think.

Eliminates toxins (or does it?) Your therapist may tell you to drink a lot of water to flush out toxins after your massage. But what are toxins anyway? They’ve become a scary buzzword for the buildup of nasty environmental substances that are wreaking havoc in our bodies.

While there are situations that are truly dangerous (e.g., chronic exposure to radon, asbestos and cigarette smoke), it seems that a lot of “detoxing” is more money-making hype than true science, and is at best a temporary “fix”.

Our lungs, kidneys and pancreas are already designed to remove harmful substances. Nonetheless, it’s always a good idea to drink water and rehydrate after a massage,

Improves flexibility and range of motion by loosening up your muscles.

Relieves headaches. According to researchers at the University of Granada in Spain, a single 30-minute trigger point massage decreased tension, anger status and perceived pain in patients with chronic tension-type headaches.

Boosts immunity. By decreasing levels of cortisol, massage can contribute to stress reduction and management. Massage therapy also increases the activity level of the body’s white blood cells that work to combat viruses. According to research from Cedars-Sinai, participants in a Swedish massage group experienced significant changes in lymphocytes, which play a large role in defending the body from disease.

Helps you lose weight.  Sorry, massage doesn’t directly cause weight loss. But it helps release endorphins in the body that make us feel happy. And by doing healthy things for our bodies, we build a better relationship with ourselves. Which may make us less likely to use food as a stress reliever.

Have a great weekend! xx, Alisa

adult alternative medicine care comfort

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com