Bessel Van Der Kolk recognizes and outlines the psychological toll being quarantined can take over time. Here is a summary of those conditions and what you can do to reduce the trauma of today.
Lack of Predictability – no one is quite sure yet when all this being at home will end. When it does we don’t know what will open and what changes we will need to make and all of this makes life very unpredictable. Proactive move is to make a regular schedule at home you can keep, this allows us to anticipate what is predictable in our own life. Schedule something to look forward to like a movie night or zoom party.
Immobility – while we are staying indoors our bodies may feel immobile and while our stress hormones may go up we have no way to reduce cortisol in our bodies. Proactive move is to do something with your body, go for a walk, run, hike outdoors, exercise in your home, practice the art of Tai Chi.
Loss of Connection – we may miss seeing people in our old life like co workers, extended family, friends and this creates a feeling of not being seen and not being connected. Proactive move is make use of technology, set up those zoom get togethers, have a drive way or neighborhood visit for grandma with the baby. Call people who might not otherwise have a visit and stay connected to those you would normally.
Loss of a Sense of Agency – When we lose our ability to choose what we do each day, visiting the grocery store, going on a date, having our hair appointment, we can begin to experience a numbing experience as though we might be shutting down. Proactive move is to practice some daily meditations to gain perspective and practice controlling our inner thoughts. If we can stop the ruminations of what we are not doing and replace them with a greater sense of detachment and freedom then this can help us regain our sense of agency.
Loss of a Sense of Time and Sequence – is this Friday or Monday, is this Groundhog Day or what day it is when they all begin to be the same? Proactive move is to practice daily mindfulness choosing to focus our intentions on what is right before us. Take some time to increase our awareness of present moment that holds without regards to past or future events.
Loss of Safety – are you safe in your body? in your home? when you go out in public? Are the places you travel to using safe practices to ensure your safety? Is your home a place where domestic violence is present? Is there a safe place you can go each day to be alone and uninterrupted? Proactive move is if you are not physically safe then call 1-800-799-SAFE or contact http://www.thehotline.org/help/ for immediate assistance. If you can set aside a small place in your home or apartment where you can be alone for an hour a day to be private this helps create boundaries for feeling safe.
Loss of a Sense of Purpose – during this time you may think what you are doing is without meaning, without a long term goal or immediate results why participate? For those who have lost jobs or lost opportunities this set back is creating a loss of purpose. Proactive move is to see what opportunities you can gain from this time. Can you create something to express your loss, to express how you are feeling? Your art can serve others when you share it on social media, try writing, painting, cooking, sewing, or making music. Are you volunteering your time to help others during this time either formally or informally?
The Loss is Real – everyone is suffering some kind of loss, here is what you can become aware of that is happening right now –
Shock – each new change that is happening causes a degree of loss, we may first have lost our job or our connection to co workers, later we lose our ability to go out into public except for essentials. Each change is a loss.
Anger – we may be angry at the government for not warning us soon enough about what was going to happen, for making us stay at home, we may be angry at the lack of governmental response, we may also be angry at those who won’t comply with socially distancing guidelines and expose others to the virus that makes our staying in last longer and adds more time until we can resume our lives.
Sadness – so much loss is happening at once as we lose people we love and know, our jobs as they were whether they are temporarily gone, permanently gone, or we are now essential workers suffering exhaustion. We experience sadness at missed experiences we are no longer allowed to have, our attendance at a funeral, a birth, a religious service. Sadness at the safety we once had because we are wearing face masks and we can no longer see people’s faces when we communicate.
Integration – once the losses end we can being to integrate the way forward. But as each loss happens again and again it becomes more difficult to begin the process of integration. For now, we practice resiliency, gratitude and adaptation. For more ways to cope watch next week’s post. And if you need help now your therapist is just an email away.
These stages of loss are paraphrased from Robin Shapiro on “Therapy During Covid-19.”
While many of us are at home, we will begin to experience many different reactions to what is happening. We may not be able to resume our normal lives in short order so what are we do with the new way we now experience life? If you reflect on the diagram you can see some areas there is still some fear while in other areas there is learning or generative growth. Some days we may meander back and forth between levels.
Practicing consistency in our outlook while looking inward to see what is forming those beliefs can provide a more stable emotional intelligence during this time of quarantine. Choose one or two items where you might be experiencing fear and take a step, any step to moving away from fear to learning. Your steps do not have to be linear or perfected. Once you get into learning mode you will be surprised at all the new ways you begin to see other people practicing, Zooming family and friends, finding exercise outside a gym, finding you don’t need as much as you once did, saving on gas because you are not going anywhere. If you are out you may meet people with face masks, what we see are the eyes, how do our eyes communicate? What is the best thing you have noticed about being in quarantine?
As your own learning curve increases you will feel safe enough to extend your calm to others, making connections with people who might need extra support at this time, offering goods or money to organizations that provide medical relief to those in need, using your extra time to create something be it music, crafts, writing, cooking, or simply whatever feeds your soul. In creating you will also feed another, think of the Italians singing to each other from their balconies. Beauty and goodness will be the hallmarks of moving through this time.
As always if you get stuck in your emotions and old beliefs, and this can happen, give us a call or an email, we’re here to help.
When I closed my office door last week I thought I would be driving into the office to see clients and other office colleagues today. In the past my office has offered many people sanctuary to rest and reflect on what is causing them to seek help in a confusing world. Each visit is a connection with each other, an opportunity to offer supportive care and compassion while listening to how one can better navigate or accept the next challenge. Life sometimes changes so slowly so we can only see the change in retrospect, now the changes are coming daily and sometimes things are different in the evening than in the morning. What do we do with all this change? We have left the threshold of how our lives worked before and we don’t know when we will cross the old threshold of safety again. What if we are dealing with loss of job, loss of friends, loss of family, loss of health? What if we feel the stress of navigating drive up errands or we are burying a loved one within new constraints?
If you are struggling with any of these, find your support system, begin to make connections with other people on line. If you want to schedule a session, please see my contact page, I am but an email away.
Cori Pursell is a Psychotherapist licensed in Kansas who listens to the stories that make up your life. She recognizes you as the author of your own life and is available to help you change the ending. New endings require new beginnings and so choosing a therapist is important to feeling comfortable. Ask other people you trust for recommendations and referrals. Begin to ask yourself questions; what do I want to accomplish in therapy? What are some of the goals I would like to work towards? Can meaning come from suffering?
Whether you have never been in therapy before or are returning to do additional work you want to trust who you are working with as a therapist. You want to choose who will advocate for you, who has the skills you need to make progress.
Cori Pursell has experience in working with clients who have experienced some type of trauma in their lives. She initially worked with listening professionals who suffered from secondary trauma or co-dependency while working with clients. She gained additional experience while working with domestic abuse clients, spiritual trauma or abuse and others who have experienced primary trauma and often complex trauma. Her interest is in teaching skills of resiliency to promote primary or secondary growth together with making meaning from old experiences motivates her therapy.