"How are you?"
It's the kind of question no one ever expects an honest answer to. We're used to dishing out the usual responses; "fine", "okay", "good" come to mind. Very rarely do people answer with harder things like "anxious", "nervous", or "sad", because these are not the answers people are used to getting, and a lot more challenging to respond to, and most of us, well, we don't like to put other people out, and asking for help is hard.
This year's Mental Health Week's theme is #getreal. Getting real about not being okay is something that a lot of people are doing out of necessity, during the pandemic, and it presents a shift, for many, in the way we express our emotions. There's nothing like a global pandemic to unite people in not being okay. We're all living with a lot of uncertainty, and there are no easy answers (apart from a vaccine, I guess, but I'm not even sure that will be easy). For the first time in a generation, or maybe two, we are settling into uncertainty collectively, and working through that is challenging for everyone, mental health professionals included.
One of the most amazing things about The Healing Collective is that it is a community; something a lot of mental health professionals don't have access to when they decide to start a private practice, and right now, our community is very happy to have one another, but also running the gambit of emotions that everyone else is too, while supporting our larger community.
As the non-therapist in our group, I've found it incredibly useful to have access to our community through this. It's been almost reassuring to see that everyone is having a hard time right now, even the people who are supposed to have all the answers when it comes to times like this. The benefit of being a mental health professional is that you get to draw from a wealth of coping tools and self-care tips (that you've been working on with your clients), and apply them to take care of yourself. Last week, I asked our group what they were doing for self-care and got some really useful responses that have encouraged me to reconsider my own self-care habits and integrate a few new ones.
It's not a perfect fix in this time of unprecedented weirdness, but here are some of the things Healing Collective therapists are doing for self-care right now:
Jay Jonah has been doing an admirable job at self-care through this (seriously, I took a lot of notes on his ideas because they're accessible and don't feel overwhelming at all, but I can imagine adopting a few and getting optimal results). He's been going for walks, sitting in the sun, reading for fun, doing yoga and working out, cleaning, rearranging his furniture and taking on small renovation projects, cooking, hanging on social media, watching Netflix and Disney+, home pedicures (I put this one on my list this weekend), playing with his cats, and keeping a sleep schedule.
Melissa Taylor has been taking time to be crafty, working with leather, showering regularly, and talking to her plants.
As a fellow plant lover, I could relate to this one. Mine have never been happier!
Katie MacDonald has been taking her meditation practice to a new level, going outdoors twice a day and writing in a gratitude journal. The journaling practice is very new, and she has been so shocked and pleased with the results!
If you're looking to get started on some journaling, we just wrapped up our 12 weeks of journal prompts, which you can find on our instagram (and soon in blog post form).
Lisa Derencinovic is also great at self-care, and since we met, I've admired her commitment to self-care and the range of things she incorporates into a self-care practice. Her list is one to pin on the fridge (or maybe add to your journal).
-rinsing her face when I feel stressed or overwhelmed
-putting the weight scale in the basement
-not setting goals but focusing on getting done what she can get done
-listening to herself and asking for what she needs; for example, a friend group was setting a weekly goal and it really triggered her so she asked if they could not talk about goal setting
-singing and dancing
-re-reading books I love
-wearing comfy clothes
-keeping a routine while being flexible about it
-taking it one day at a time
-trying not to take on other people's stress
-staying connected with friends and family virtually
-finding good news stories
-appreciating the kindness of friends family and strangers
-and always taking a nap
See? How amazing and doable do these things sound?
Susan Anstice is letting go of expectations & comparisons - they just make her feel inadequate . She's also limiting her time on news media sites and (some days) social media. She's also accepting that some days are great - and some are exhausting & she needs a nap. Yoga is part of her self-care, and video chats and distance visits. She's also finding gratitude for small joys everyday (nature, friends, food, health, community and so many more things).
If you're looking for grief support (and yes, grief is one of the collective emotions we're all feeling), Susan is so well-equipped to support you.
Deb Kopeschny has been taking daily walks in the ravine by her home, doing zentangle, sewing, quilting, petting her dog, listening to music, and taking online courses.
Deb recently hosted a zentagle art therapy workshop on Zoom that was great! Like our Facebook page to find out when the next one is!
Alanna Fletcher has been walking and cuddling with her dog, dancing in her kitchen, making time for phone calls with friends, giving herself permission to not have to be productive at all moments/do it all, giving herself space to feel sad, and cooking her favourite foods!
Jamie Lemen has gotten her bike tuned up and taken some rides. She also has been making time for her relationship by scheduling date nights with local takeout and playing board/card games. She's been calling friends, playing online games with her nephews, listening to the Hamilton soundtrack on repeat, taking baths and going to therapy.
Greg Babcock says,
"I just wanted to share that listening to music of all genres has been my therapy for as long as I can remember. It’s like a tuning fork to my inner world. I enjoy crafting playlists. Another self-care favourite for me is walking in nature, anywhere with trees. I love going for walks at the Brickworks and Rosedale Valley. I find solace in the quiet spaces within nature. Lastly, an old staple of mine is cooking a meal for others (my family). I love the whole process of cooking from researching a recipe, shopping for ingredients, preparing, serving and sharing with others. Recently, my Italian mother-in-law taught how to make her lasagna. Lasagna making gives me joy! I also turn to poetry, gardening and drawing (doodles) for outlets."
Music is also self-care for Caitlin Beukema. She has been doing online cello lessons, and likes being able to plan and incorporate the time into her routine (like me, Caitlin has two small children at home that aren't normally at home right now) and make time for herself to do something that brings her comfort and a sense of normalcy.
Our clinical director, Abby Rozen has been making art. Her medium of choice is pottery (which she's very good at), and drawing on her iPad. She gives herself time to rant in her head, and call friends. She's been showering regularly (this is one of my most important self-care routines too), and I've convinced her to come distantly jogging with me a couple of times a week.
We'll wrap up today with one of Abby's favourite therapy related videos.