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  • by Jaclyn Foster

Finding Relief in Hard Times

Updated: May 20, 2020

“Six feet. Please keep six feet distance.”

For most of us, we will never hear the words, “six feet,” the same again. Even as we prepare to re-introduce ourselves to work and social environments, those words, their impact and this time period will most likely bring up some strong emotions and memories of what this experience of social isolation has been like.

Even though we are dealing with COVID-19 globally, it is also a very personal experience for all of us. We are all impacted differently depending on multiple factors including whether we or those close to us have been exposed to the virus, the fear and overwhelm levels of those around us, how we are financially impacted through job losses or changes, and how our daily activities have been disrupted and require change.

There are many things that can be painful about this time and the uncertainty it brings with it. It’s very common and normal when we feel out of control to look for a quick solution to end the discomfort. I’ve had moments in the past couple months where I’ve felt nervous and anxious about the health of my loved ones and caught myself telling my partner what he had to eat to take better care of himself.

He didn’t ask for advice and it was clear he wasn’t happy about the offering. Again. Oops. I cringed after I did it and felt a sinking sensation in my chest as he looked at me with disappointment. Giving unsolicited advice to my partner is a habit I’m trying to break. But I felt a rush of anxious thoughts and the sensations that came with them, so I tried to find the fastest solution to make them stop. Eek. Can’t he just change for me. Let’s ask him again.

It’s an old habit of mine to put my attention on what others can do better to help me feel less anxious, and health is an area that has been particularly triggering for me. It’s become a slow and steady practice to own my feelings and emotions. Being at home more often has given me a very up close and personal look at the habit of being the unsolicited advice giver of my home.

I’ve found it can be hard at first, but very rewarding to take ownership of my responses and discomfort. To learn to reflect before responding and get curious about what’s under my initial reactions. To learn how to experience relief and make new choices that feel empowering and liberating for me and those around me.

There’s a wonderful quote I heard a couple years ago that originated from a Polish man named Jerzy Gregorek who took a journey from being an alcohol to a multiple World Weightlifting Champion. It goes like this, “Easy choices, hard life. Hard choices, easy life.”

In many ways this is a time period that offers us an opportunity, although I’ll totally admit it can feel more like a challenge, to examine our choices and our responses to life. To become aware of our reactions to what’s happening around us, and to potentially make different, and maybe even (initially) hard choices in search of a happier, easier life in the long run.

In my experience, tuning into my reactions, learning to be more present with myself and others, and making different choices is hard at first. It’s uncomfortable. But one of my favorite motto’s has become: It’s hard until it isn’t.

If you are holding your breath as you read this, thinking you could be opening a can of worms, I feel you. Diving into our anxious thoughts and fears about our health, exploring our resentments towards a spouse, or dealing with family members with opposing views can feel hard at first.

Taking steps to face our inner challenges can lead to unease initially and more uncertainty at first. But part of the trick is trusting that the discomfort and unease is part of the process and if you are already uncomfortable as it is, more the reason to try something new.

Practice makes most things easier and I’ve found that the things that have been proven to provide long term relief are worth learning and applying to our lives even when they feel hard at first.

So, in this month’s blog, I’d like to take some time to share tools and resources to support you in dealing with the stress and strong emotions that might be coming up right now. What better time than now to try something new if you are feeling the pain of uncertainty and isolation.

Start a curious conversation with any discomfort or pain you feel.

One of the most painful things about socially isolating times is that we are spending more time with ourselves, by ourselves, or in environments with the same people day-in day-out. If we tend to worry, feel anxious about the future, or experience overwhelm this habit is going to be more highlighted at this time. When we don’t have as many distractions, it’s natural that we will feel the impact the of pain we may have previously tried to avoid.

I have found that the knowledge of worry, anxious thoughts, and overwhelm are learned habits. This is extremely liberating because habits can be changed. It takes practice, but just as we can start a habit of taking a morning walk or flossing our teeth, we can also start new habits around how to respond to the thoughts and feelings that arise from our life experience.

A super powerful question we can start to ask ourselves is, “Is my current response to this situation giving me the desired result?” When we really get curious and clear about repeating patterns of upset and where they lead, this can give us the lift off we need to start making a different choice.

The realization, “Oh my goodness, this just isn’t changing, I need to do something different,” is a huge and powerful one and is our catalyst for change.

Get familiar with the sensations in your body.

One of the hardest things about making different choices, especially when it involves an emotional response is the physical sensations that come along with it. We feel angry and our jaw tightens or we clench our fists. We feel scared and our shoulders tense and shrug. We feel guilty or ashamed and our heads suddenly feel a rush of fogginess or ache.

How can we choose a different response when there is so much going on inside of us? It can be so much easier to try to suppress the sensation or get rid of it by focusing on something or someone outside of us.

Our best friend in these moments is taking time to pause to notice the tension we are feeling in our bodies and allow it to be there. It can be beneficial to step away from a situation and take physical space to do this, especially in the beginning, so we can start to familiarize ourselves with the sensations in a way that feels safe and non-judgmental.

If paying attention to your body and your sensations is new, a very simple way to start with this is to begin a body scan practice. Click here for a 3-minute guided scan you can try.

Give it a try and see if you notice that you have any accumulated tension or sensations in your body. If you enjoy this video, consider making the practice of body scans or taking pauses during the day to notice sensation a part of your daily life.

Take it lightly.

Remember that change takes time, responding differently isn’t easy at first. The more we can give ourselves the grace and permission to not have it all figured out and that that’s okay, the better. We are all trying our best.

Give yourself and those you love the benefit of the doubt and pay attention to when you are taking yourself or others seriously to the point that you have closed yourself off.

Consider comparing your journey to finding happiness to that of a curious explorer learning a new land, because that’s what you are. You are a person who is constantly having exposure to new life circumstances, relationships, and opportunities. As humans we are constantly offered opportunities to see our life experience from different angles. What if we embraced that journey from the eyes of an explorer trying to learn and thrive in a new world?

When you find yourself too serious, take a pause, consider doing something that brings your relief and softens you before taking your next step. Maybe it’s reading inspiring words, watching a cute video, taking a stretch or dance break, or watching a comedy skit. Step away and do something to recapture your innocence, and a softer more open perspective.

Get Support.

Two of the things we most need when we are in any kind of mental and emotional pain is to feel heard and experience a shift in perspective. This is one of the reasons that reaching out to support systems is so important. It can be tricky to provide ourselves with these gems when we feel we are wandering in the dark.

When you are in a funk or having a hard time getting out of it - reach out to someone! Call a friend or family member, reach out to a Coach or a Therapist.

If you are a Whole Health Plan Member, the Medical & Wellness Centers located in Austin, Texas and Glendale, California are available for support.

If you are Whole Health Plan member, and have not established care with the Center for your primary care services, call us to make an appointment or learn more about the benefits available to you as a patient of the Center.

You can explore our website to learn more about us as well.

You may be on your own individual journey, but you are not alone.

Resources for more support:

However you are responding, whatever you are capable of today, remind yourself you are doing great and you are doing the best you can.

Here are a couple of additional free resources available to you at this time.

Ten Percent Happier: is a meditation app that is giving essential workers (such as grocery employees) free access! Please use the link below to take advantage of this offer.

Team Member Assistance Plan: Remember that Whole Foods Market has a free resource of their Team Members and the family that lives with them. If you’d like to explore this resource and its various offering including mental health and financial assistance information, give them a call: 877-273-2715.

Sending you all warm thoughts for safety, health, relief and peace of mind.

Reach out if you could use a hand navigating these times.

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