We're All in This Together
Like you all, I’m doing the best I can but I feel stressed. We all know stress in small quantities can be beneficial … like when you encounter a tiger and need that flight or fight response. Or when you have a school exam and need to hunker down and study. Or when you have a deadline coming up for a work project and use that stress to come up with brilliant ideas. How amazing does it feel when that deadline is met, or when you know you aced that exam and that stress is lifted and you can just chill or celebrate?
In our current situation, we are experiencing more stress than imagined. It’s almost cumulative and the weight of it is oppressive. We know that too much stress can have arduous effects on our bodies inside and out. For example, it can cause or exacerbate anxiety, depression, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, arrhythmia, obesity, anorexia, asthma, type 2 diabetes, GI distress (diarrhea/constipation), and weaken the immune system (which makes us more susceptible to viruses!), among many others. It also effects our skin by causing or exacerbating acne, rosacea, hives, eczema, psoriasis, hair loss, vitiligo, poor wound healing, and accelerated skin aging (yikes!).
I am not a psychiatrist but I have been doing some research in ways you can de-stress during this pandemic and in future stressful periods. I have to admit that some of these options do not work for me because I have no time or space to invest in my hobbies. I have a small house with 5 people and I would love to set up an art studio or a gym in a spare room or corner but alas, I don’t have any space to spare. I don’t have a functional basement (it’s a scary dungeon circa 1875) and I have spread my kids toys, tricycles and tents all over the house. The dining room has become the kids art center and kindergarten class room. I usually love a nice quiet hike but feel guilty going alone so my kids come with and I am usually yelling at my oldest not to climb or run so his little brother doesn’t copy him and roll down a hill breaking a leg, going to hospital and getting and bringing home coronavirus. Or I am inundated with questions THE WHOLE TIME that all contain these words : “What happens if …. poop ……?”
What helps me destress is working out in the small space at my bedside via the @sweat app which has a program designed for those with small spaces. I am also grateful for my televisit dermatology appointments that I take in the quiet solitude of my office on Monday and Wednesday mornings. It has been so nice connecting with my patients virtually and seeing them in their natural habitats with kids and pets. My husband and I started watching TV shows together again once the kids are asleep. We haven’t really watched any shows together since Game of Thrones ended but now we have so many options: Schitt's Creek, Hunters, My Brilliant Friend, Homeland, Curb your Enthusiasm. The only show I am watching on my own is Outlander (never thought I would crush on a ginger Scottish warrior, but, DAMN!). I am also reading a great book (non-electronic version) called Sapiens about the history of Humankind – which is the perfect book right now – that explains how we got here.
Here are some suggestions from real psychology experts about how to de-stress. Hope some will apply to you!
Stick to a daily routine.
Get dressed for the social life you want and take the time for self care. I have not worn jeans for the last 3 weeks and I probably won’t but I do agree with the self care. I have been taking more time to thoroughly apply my skin care products, and do deep hair conditioning masks. I have been enjoying the makeup free break. Despite my botox wearing off, I feel like my skin is really breathing and looking great.
Get some fresh air! Try to go outside for at least 30 minutes a day. As much as I complain about my kids driving me crazy, we were playing outside when my husband brought out the tennis rackets and we started hitting like beach paddle ball. I have to admit, it was unexpected and so much fun. Be grateful for unexpected moments like that.
Move or exercise for 30 minutes a day even if you don’t feel like it.
Reach out to others for at least 30 minutes a day. The tech available now is amazing! I like Facetime and Zoom. I now have weekly wine and FaceTime chats with my best friend from elementary school who I haven’t spoken to in decades! It’s like we picked up where we left off. I plan to reach out to more long lost friends.
Stay hydrated and eat well. This is easier said than done. Allow yourself some “cheats.” I am baking with my oldest and truly enjoying our sweet creations.
Realize that everyone is doing the best they can and give them the benefit of the doubt. Don’t engage in an argument that you don’t want to be a part of, don’t hold a grudge, keep your cool in a blow up and apologize if you just got overwhelmed and move on. We all feel the same way and have our moments when our worst is revealed
Designate a retreat space for yourself. I’m still working on that one. My shower isn’t even safe from my kids.
Give yourself what psychologists call “Radical self-acceptance.” Accept that this situation sucks and there is no roadmap for what lies ahead. Lower your expectations, don’t resort to blame.
Limit social media and the news. Also easier said than done because I like to be in the know.
Learn about all the good in the world and see how you can help. Balance negative news with positive news. Our frontline doctors and nurses are our true heroes. Scientists are true innovators and working on a vaccine as you read this. Forget about celebrities suffering in their villas on the pacific coast and influencers attempting to stay relevant. Donate, pick up groceries for the elderly, support your local restaurants. Watch cute videos and memes and make TikTok videos with your kids (I wish I could; it’s so up my alley).
Keep busy and distracted with a long term project. Learn how to play an instrument, start a huge jigsaw puzzle, clean out all the closets in your house (my project).
Seek help. Reach out to your therapist, stay on meds, seek a support group. If you're not sure whom to reach out to, ask family members for help.
Remember, this is temporary. It’s a blip on the radar of our lives. There are good times ahead with love, laughter, closeness, and touch. We will come out of this stronger and smarter.
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