Location and Times
 

Mental Health Wellness Tips for Quarantine

from Dr. Eileen Feliciano, clinical psychologist, New York.

 

  1. Stick to a routine.  Go to sleep and wake up at a reasonable time, write a schedule that is varied and includes time for work as well as self-care.

 

  1. Dress for the social life you want, not the social life you have.  Get showered and dressed in comfortable clothes, wash your face, brush your teeth.  Take the time to do a bath or a facial.  Put on some bright colors.  It is amazing how our dress can impact our mood.

 

  1. Get out at least once a day, for at least thirty minutes.  If you are concerned of contact, try first thing in the morning, or later in the evening, and try less traveled streets and avenues.  If you are high risk or living with those who are high risk, open the windows and blast the fan.  It is amazing how much fresh air can do for spirits.

 

  1. Find some time to move each day, again daily for at least thirty minutes.  If you don’t feel comfortable going outside, there are many YouTube videos that offer free movement classes, and if all else fails, turn on the music and have a dance party!

 

  1. Reach out to others, you guessed it, at least once daily for thirty minutes.  Try to do FaceTime, Skype, phone calls, texting—connect with other people to seek and provide support.  Don’t forget to do this for your children as well.  Set up virtual playdates with friends daily via FaceTime, Facebook Messenger Kids, Zoom, etc—your kids miss their friends, too!

 

  1. Stay hydrated and eat well.   This one may seem obvious, but stress and eating often don’t mix well, and we find ourselves over-indulging, forgetting to eat, and avoiding food.  Drink plenty of water, eat some good and nutritious foods, and challenge yourself to learn how to cook something new!

 

  1. Develop a self-care toolkit.  This can look different for everyone.  A lot of successful self-care strategies involve a sensory component (seven senses: touch, taste, sight, hearing, smell, vestibular (movement) and proprioceptive (comforting pressure).  An idea for each: a soft blanket or stuffed animal, a hot chocolate, photos of vacations, comforting music, lavender or eucalyptus oil, a small swing or rocking chair, a weighted blanket.  A journal, an inspirational book, or a mandala coloring book is wonderful, bubbles to blow or blowing watercolor on paper through a straw are visually appealing as well as work on controlled breath.  Mint gum, Listerine strips, ginger ale, frozen Starburst, ice packs, and cold are also good for anxiety regulation. For children, it is great to help them create a self-regulation comfort box (often a shoe-box or bin they can decorate) that they can use on the ready for first-aid when overwhelmed.

 

  1. Spend extra time playing with children.  Children will rarely communicate how they are feeling, but will often make a bid for attention and communication through play.  Don’t be surprised to see therapeutic themes of illness, doctor visits, and isolation play through.  Understand that play is cathartic and helpful for children—it is how they process their world and problem solve, and there’s a lot they are seeing and experiencing in the now.

 

  1. Give everyone the benefit of the doubt, and a wide berth.  A lot of cooped up time can bring out the worst in everyone.  Each person will have moments when they will not be at their best.  It is important to move with grace through blowups, to not show up to every argument you are invited to, and to not hold grudges and continue disagreements.  Everyone is doing the best they can to make it through this.

 

  1. Everyone find their own retreat space.  Space is at a premium, particularly with city living.  It is important that people think through their own separate space for work and for relaxation.  For children, help them identify a place where they can go to retreat when stressed.  You can make this place cozy by using blankets, pillows, cushions, scarves, beanbags, tents, and “forts”.  It is good to know that even when we are on top of each other, we have our own special place to go to be alone.

 

  1. Expect behavioral issues in children, and respond gently.   We are all struggling with disruption in routine, none more than children, who rely on routines constructed by others to make them feel safe and to know what comes next.  Expect increased anxiety, worries and fears, nightmares, difficulty separating or sleeping, testing limits, and meltdowns.  Do not introduce major behavioral plans or consequences at this time—hold stable and focus on emotional connection.

 

  1. Focus on safety and attachment.  We are going to be living for a bit with the unprecedented demand of meeting all work deadlines, homeschooling children, running a sterile household, and making a whole lot of entertainment in confinement.  We can get wrapped up in meeting expectations in all domains, but we must remember that these are scary and unpredictable times for children.  Focus on strengthening the connection through time spent following their lead, through physical touch, through play, through therapeutic books, and via verbal reassurances that you will be there for them in this time.

 

  1. Lower expectations and practice radical self-acceptance.  This idea is connected with #12.  We are doing too many things in this moment, under fear and stress.  This does not make a formula for excellence.  Instead, give yourself what psychologists call “radical self acceptance”: accepting everything about yourself, your current situation, and your life without question, blame, or pushback.  You cannot fail at this—there is no roadmap, no precedent for this, and we are all truly doing the best we can in an impossible situation.

 

  1. Limit social media and COVID conversation, especially around children.  One can find tons of information on COVID-19 to consume, and it changes minute to minute.  The information is often sensationalized, negatively skewed, and alarmist.  Find a few trusted sources that you can check in with consistently, limit it to a few times a day, and set a time limit for yourself on how much you consume (again 30 minutes tops, 2-3 times daily).  Keep news and alarming conversations out of earshot from children—they see and hear everything, and can become very frightened by what they hear.

 

  1. Notice the good in the world, the helpers.  There is a lot of scary, negative, and overwhelming information to take in regarding this pandemic.  There are also a ton of stories of people sacrificing, donating, and supporting one another in miraculous ways.  It is important to counter-balance the heavy information with the hopeful information.

 

  1. Help others.  Find ways, big and small, to give back to others.  Support restaurants, offer to grocery shop, check in with elderly neighbors, write psychological wellness tips for others—helping others gives us a sense of agency when things seem out of control.

 

  1. Find something you can control, and control the heck out of it.  In moments of big uncertainty and overwhelm, control your little corner of the world.  Organize your bookshelf, purge your closet, put together that furniture, group your toys.  It helps to anchor and ground us when the bigger things are chaotic.

 

  1. Find a long-term project to dive into.  Now is the time to learn how to play the keyboard, put together a huge jigsaw puzzle, start a 15 hour game of Risk, paint a picture, read the Harry Potter series, binge watch an 8-season show, crochet a blanket, solve a Rubix cube, or develop a new town in Animal Crossing.  Find something that will keep you busy, distracted, and engaged to take breaks from what is going on in the outside world.

 

  1. Engage in repetitive movements and left-right movements.  Research has shown that repetitive movement (knitting, coloring, painting, clay sculpting, jump roping etc) especially left-right movement (running, drumming, skating, hopping) can be effective at self-soothing and maintaining self-regulation in moments of distress.

 

  1. Find an expressive art and go for it.  Our emotional brain is very receptive to the creative arts, and it is a direct portal for release of feeling.  Find something that is creative (sculpting, drawing, dancing, music, singing, playing) and give it your all.  See how relieved you can feel.  It is a very effective way of helping kids to emote and communicate as well!

 

  1. Find lightness and humor in each day.  There is a lot to be worried about, and with good reason.  Counterbalance this heaviness with something funny each day: cat videos on YouTube, a stand-up show on Netflix, a funny movie—we all need a little comedic relief in our day, every day.

 

  1. Reach out for help—your team is there for you.  If you have a therapist or psychiatrist, they are available to you, even at a distance.  Keep up your medications and your therapy sessions the best you can.  If you are having difficulty coping, seek out help for the first time.  There are mental health people on the ready to help you through this crisis.  Your children’s teachers and related service providers will do anything within their power to help, especially for those parents tasked with the difficult task of being a whole treatment team to their child with special challenges.  Seek support groups of fellow home-schoolers, parents, and neighbors to feel connected.  There is help and support out there, any time of the day—although we are physically distant, we can always connect virtually.

 

  1. “Chunk” your quarantine, take it moment by moment.  We have no road map for this.  We don’t know what this will look like in 1 day, 1 week, or 1 month from now.  Often, when I work with patients who have anxiety around overwhelming issues, I suggest that they engage in a strategy called “chunking”—focusing on whatever bite-sized piece of a challenge that feels manageable.  Whether that be 5 minutes, a day, or a week at a time—find what feels doable for you, and set a time stamp for how far ahead in the future you will let yourself worry.  Take each chunk one at a time, and move through stress in pieces.

 

  1. Remind yourself daily that this is temporary.  It seems in the midst of this quarantine that it will never end.  It is terrifying to think of the road stretching ahead of us.  Please take time to remind yourself that although this is very scary and difficult, and will go on for an undetermined amount of time, it is a season of life and it will pass.  We will return to feeing free, safe, busy, and connected in the days ahead.

 

  1. Find the lesson.  This whole crisis can seem sad, senseless, and at times, avoidable.  When psychologists work with trauma, a key feature to helping someone work through said trauma is to help them find their agency, the potential positive outcomes they can effect, the meaning and construction that can come out of destruction.  What can each of us learn here, in big and small ways, from this crisis?  What needs to change in ourselves, our homes, our communities, our nation, and our world?

SSUC Face-to-Face Meetings and Groups

We can’t meet in person just now, but we can use technology to see each other, connect and talk. We will use Zoom, a user-friendly video conferencing platform.

Here are two quick videos to learn what you need to join a Zoom meeting:

Join a Meeting

 Joining and Configuring Audio & Video

Give this a try! We’re hosting a meeting on Monday, March 23rd at 3:00pm MDT. We’ll have a chance to say hello to each other, check in, and share a weekly question: “What practices am I cultivating in this time for deepening and quieting?”

Click this link to join: https://zoom.us/j/443519764

If you aren’t able to join us on a computer with a webcam, you can call in to 587 328 1099

 

 

 

 

Land Acknowledgments in Difficult Times

CBC’s Baronness Von Sketch show recently aired a comedy sketch having the ladies attending a theatre production where a land acknowledgment was happening. When the theatre staff member said, ‘we acknowledge that we meet tonight on traditional indigenous land’, one woman in the audience turned to her friend and said, “Did she say we’re on someone’s land? Should we leave?”

Comedy can often ask better and deeper questions than all our serious talking heads can manage.

Jonathan Kay, in a recent Quillette article, writes: The practice of land acknowledements is rooted in good intentions, and originally had real educational value. Indigenous lands often were seized through a mixture of brutality and theft. In many cases, the reserves on which Indigenous peoples now live don’t even correspond with traditional territories: Tribes typically were expelled from fertile lands for the benefit of white farmers, and often were left to languish in remote flood planes with little economic value. As Canada urbanized, these communities and their histories became invisible to most Canadians. Land acknowledgments were conceived, in part, as a means to remedy this ignorance.  a

So today we honour that this is traditional indigenous land of the Cree, Blackfoot, Metis, Nakota Sioux, Dene Tha, and others with whom we are in Treaty partnership.

We really are slowly learning to ask new and deeper questions, but it’s time. We’re learning the difference between inconvenience and lifetimes of neglect. We’re learning the day to day and generational impact of injustice and racism. We’re asking what reconciliation can mean when there isn’t agreement. We’re asking how to have conversations not just about history, but about our future lives together. And so we balance the reality that this land has a complicated, painful history and the need for all of us – indigenous and non-indigenous alike – to find a productive focus on common values and projects, as challenging as it always is when we don’t all speak with one voice. With gratitude, we continue the journey.

 

*Christopher New spoke these words as the land acknowledgment at SSUC on Sunday, February 23, 2020.

Being Honest with our Children

This week, our community lost one of its key children’s program leaders. Michael lived with a brain tumor for many years, managing the symptoms and functioning very well. Over the last couple of months, his reality changed and the tumor began to impact his movement and abilities.

After Michael was no longer able to be present with the community and teach the children, it was important for us to address his illness and his absence with the children with whom he worked so closely. During our regular conversation time during our gathering, we took some time to acknowledge the difficult reality of Michael not returning to teach. I spoke words similar to the following:

Today during our time on the carpet, we’re going to talk about someone very special. If you spent any time on this carpet, or in kidSPIRIT over the last 8 years or so, you know Michael. We have some pictures of Michael up here on the wall.

I want to tell you a little bit about Michael. He loves reading. He loves teaching. He loves science and understanding how things work. He loves old movies with a guy named Buster Keaton. He loves baseball, particularly the San Francisco Giants… we know this because he often wears his favourite Giants jacket to church on Sundays.

For as long as most of us have known Michael, he has had something strange happening in his brain. He’s had a tumor growing there. A tumor is a bunch of cells, just like the cells that make up our whole body – but these cells are growing in a place they shouldn’t grow…in a clump in his brain. For years and years, he was able to go to work, play games, come to church and lead kidSPIRIT and his brain did very well. But just in the last few months, that started to change and he couldn’t do those things anymore. Now that tumor is interfering with how the rest of his body works. He’s having trouble moving his arm and his leg and things like that. So now Michael is staying in a hospital where doctors and nurses and his family and friends can care for him.

This means that Michael won’t be able to come back to church and be our kidSPIRIT leader anymore. He’s sad about that. And we’re sad about that.

You might have questions about what I just said. It’s okay if you have questions or want to say something about this. You can ask me, or if you think of something later, you can ask your parents or your grandparents.

We went on to have a time of gratitude for Michael where we thanked him for his work and many years of volunteer commitment to kidSPIRIT. (You can read our tribute to Michael in a separate blog post) After, in their program time, the kids were invited to make cards and posters to share their love, care and appreciation for him.

As difficult as this time was with the children, it was important to do this. I think many times the realities of life and death are kept from our children. I know growing up, my parents certainly didn’t share with me when significant health events were happening in the lives of family members or friends. Even as an adult, there were times when my father was going through some cancer testing and didn’t tell any of us. Nobody wants to feel like they have to learn about news indirectly, or worse, learn about significant things much too late.

The thought of sharing difficult news with the children in our lives is more difficult in our imaginations than in the actual conversations. Children are so open…and when they have a trusted adult telling them serious or difficult news, whether its about someone they know or world events, many are very able to hear this in good ways. Our openness with children needs to be accompanied by the reassurance that they may not have a response right away; they may respond in different ways in an hour, a day, a week. And when that happens, we will be there for them to answer questions, to comfort them, and to continue the conversation.

I can’t imagine a community where we would not talk about someone so close to the children’s weekly experience. They know Michael’s not in the classroom anymore. They have questions about where he went. Imagine from their perspective if the adults in their lives knew he was dealing with his health and didn’t tell them. Perhaps they would discover this truth too late and be left out of any expressions of care and community in which they might participate?

I confess I was surprised when many in the community shared with me that they were amazed that we addressed this so directly with the children. I heard that they have never experienced a community that would be honest and open with the kids. This would be the real tragedy: if we didn’t honour our children enough to recognize the reality of sickness and death, in ways they can understand while reassuring them that they are safe, they are loved, and that they can have an impact in showing kindness and compassion. These are the skills of life at any age. I hope we can work to make this the norm for our families and communities.

I’m encouraged and honoured by the children’s reactions to our conversation, by their care and sensitivity, and by their love and respect for their kidSPIRIT teacher and hero, Michael.

 

Thank you, Michael

Michael O’Hea wins the kidSPIRIT VIP award as one of our most valued kidSPIRIT volunteers. Michael loves baseball, particularly the San Francisco Giants, and I know he’ll appreciate that a VIP award goes to someone without whom the successes and achievements we’ve made wouldn’t be possible. This is Michael. For more than 8 years, Michael has volunteered as a key leader in our children’s program.

Michael always has energy and excitement for leading kidSPIRIT, volunteering for summer camps and helping wherever he could to share his joy and positive spirit with children. His passion for science and wanting to share how our universe works, his love of nature and his excitement to teach and share are contagious! I would often ask him if he wanted to take a week, a month, any time away from kidSPIRIT so he could participate differently in the gathering, and he would always say… ”kidSPIRIT is where I love to be, it’s where I want to be, and it’s where I can contribute. Sign me up”. Michael has shown dedication to making our children’s program what it is.

So today is our chance to say thank you to Michael. With Michael transitioning and making a home for himself in St. Joseph’s Auxiliary Hospital, he can’t hear this tribute in person, but as he watches this video later he’ll see just how grateful we are for him.

We’re saying thank you today from all of us at SSUC:  for the years of leadership, week-in and week-out, making our classroom a welcoming, safe and fun place to learn, to explore; a place to be respected and loved.

Our hearts are with you, Michael, even though you can’t be here. We are with you – our support, our love, our care are there with you. Thank you for all you give to us, and the inspiration you are for us now as you face this challenging stage of your living.

 

These are some of the words used in a “Time for All Ages” moment with the children on Sunday, March 31st, 2019. Michael died later that night. Our hearts and care extend to Michael’s family, friends and all who loved and knew him.

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Gatherings at 10AM Sundays