How to Better Cope, Help, and Balance Your Needs in Our Political/Environmental/Emotional World

By Sasha Taskier, LMFT

By Sasha Taskier, LMFT

As of September 1st, 2019, “which was the 244th day of the year, there have been 283 mass shootings in the U.S.” (source); we have experienced more shootings than days. As I type this, Hurricane Dorian is barreling its way across the Bahamas and towards the southeastern coast of the United States and families are still being separated at our borders and within our country. Between these catastrophic natural disasters and terrifying acts of terrorism, we are living in a climate of fear that can wreak havoc on our emotional wellness and mental health.

I know I have struggled to navigate my own feelings on these topics and the state of our political and environmental climate, but it comes up in my therapy sessions on an almost daily basis. I have cried with parents who cannot fathom the idea of their child being taken away from them and I have empathized with parents who are scared to send their kids to school or let their teenagers go to outdoor concerts for fear of yet another mass shooting. People are trying to understand how they can be more mindful of the environment and how that can impact some of their most intimate choices (like, should we have children if we do not know what the planet will look like in the next 50 years?).

Most of us are trying to understand how to live our normal, daily lives while we simultaneously fear for the safety of ourselves and our loved ones. It is taking an emotional toll, and it’s creating a spike in our collective anxiety.

Here are some topics to consider on the subject:

Media Intake

Limit your media; Either tune in occasionally in order to stay engaged and informed, or curate your intake very intentionally (ie. choose one podcast, or one newspaper), but do not feel bad turning off your twitter feed, turning off the news or closing your computer for some time. You are not disengaged or unfeeling if you decide not to watch violent footage, or become inundated with negative news cycles. It is imperative to create boundaries to protect your mental health and to respect your own limitations.

Meaningful tips on media consumption, from Brené Brown.

Seek Support

If you notice a rise in your fear and anxiety, or you’re struggling to manage your emotions as these tragic events continue to unfold, it might be worthwhile to seek some additional support. You can search for a therapist by zip code and/or specialty through Psychology Today.

Collective Healing

Reach out to friends and family. We are creatures of connection – and in times of threat and despair, we sometimes need to embrace our inner ‘pack animal.’ Put down your phone, and spend time with your people IRL; presence can be healing. Additionally, if you know someone who may not have family or friends nearby, reach out to them: invite them for coffee or have them over for dinner. Even something as simple as a text to tell someone you are thinking of them and hoping they are ok, means more to them than you realize. No one should have to feel alone during such a scary and uncertain time.

Get Involved

There is nothing worse than the feeling of helplessness that follow these horrific events; No, we cannot change what has taken place, but there is enormous healing in engagement and collective action. You can turn towards your local community and find a volunteer opportunity nearby. Connecting and helping in person may feel especially rewarding.

If you are feeling compelled to turn your attention towards gun reform, these organizations have opportunities both to donate and volunteer. There are numerous events and meetings around Chicagoland - just search below:

Red Cross - you can donate directly to those who have been impacted by Hurricane Dorian

[Unfortunately, I felt inclined to write a similar blog post almost two years ago after the Las Vegas shooting, which occurred right on the heels of a shooting in Texas, and the horrific earthquake in Mexico City. You can read my thoughts and many recycled tips from October 2017, here]

Strategies to Move Through a Breakup

By Michaela Choy, AMFT

Around Valentine’s Day, I’m reminded of beautiful ways we can honor our loving relationships, and I’m mindful of those who feel alone and hurt – particularly those who have recently ended relationships. Breakups are profoundly painful phases that drain our emotional and physical states, and they will most likely impact you at one point or another. The following list includes strategies to implement at any point during a breakup process. Incorporating some of these ideas will restore your energy and help you create a new normal.

1. Kindness

Do one good thing for yourself each day. This can range from a small gesture of kindness to something larger. Getting a special coffee from your favorite coffee shop, cooking yourself a nourishing and delicious meal, going to the movies, or getting a massage are some examples.

2. Connect with Your Greatest Support Systems

Set up time to see friends or family and schedule at least one or two of these get-togethers each week. This can be helpful for a few reasons. One, surrounding yourself with supportive connection can feel healing. Two, it gives you some structure in the week and forces you to get out into the world. There are open pockets of time that you and your past partner once spent together, and this is one way to fill that time meaningfully. If family and friends are far away, consider setting up phone calls or trips to see them.

3. Reflection

At times, you may want to create a list of reasons why the relationship didn’t serve you. Be honest with yourself about the ways this relationship impacted you. It’s normal to think of both good and bad impact.

If you are ready to take a step further in your reflection, notice the ratio of good to bad. Ask yourself if you had awareness of this picture while you were in this relationship and begin think of ways you can you build greater awareness going into your next relationship.

Reflection with this list can be particularly helpful if you hoping to get back together or stay apart.

4. Physical Movement

Go for a walk or try a new workout class. Joining a sports league or a weekly fitness class can not only help your body feel better but also add structure to your routine.

5. Distraction

Create a list of go-to, feel-good things when you have inevitable moments of emptiness. Think of activities you can do when you’re alone and activities you can do with friends or family. Moments of intense loneliness and pain can appear out of nowhere. A premeditated list of activities will give you options in moments where your thought energy is lacking.

How To Better Cope (And Help) In Today’s Climate Of Tragedy And Fear

By Sasha Taskier, AMFT

By Sasha Taskier, AMFT

In the wake of Sunday night’s shooting in Las Vegas, we are reminded (again) of the fragility of life and the senseless acts of hatred and violence that plague our country and our world. It feels overwhelming to wrap our heads around another tragedy, especially just on the heels of the devastation in Texas, Mexico City and Puerto Rico (and beyond). Between these catastrophic natural disasters and terrifying acts of terrorism, we are living in a climate of fear that can wreak havoc on our emotional wellness and mental health.

Here are a few thoughts and recommendations for how we can better navigate this difficult time:

ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR EMOTIONS

It may feel like the only option right now is to push through and ignore your thoughts and reactions to recent events. Often, when we ignore our feelings, they get worse, or they can manifest elsewhere in our lives.

Take stock of how you are feeling; it may be easy to identify the emotions you’re experiencing, but it may also be really difficult. It is common to experience multiple feelings at once, a constant switch between emotions, and even an overall sense of numbness. There is great power in naming our emotions – once we have a name for them, we can identify them more readily when they surface and then we can more calmly and better manage our symptoms.

If you have experienced a trauma or loss in your life, this news might be especially triggering for you. There is a particularly higher risk of feeling a sense of despair, helplessness, anger and grief– even if this event is in no way connected to your own experience. (There are links to both the disaster distress hotline and crisis hotline at the bottom of this post, should you need them.)

Other symptoms you may be experiencing around this event are increased irritability, loss of sleep, reduction in appetite and loss of focus. Pay attention to yourself and your body – if these are happening to you, it is your body’s way of saying you may need to seek professional help, and take some time to take care of yourself.

MANAGE YOUR MEDIA INTAKE

Many of us may feel guilty turning off the news, or choosing not to watch the footage of the most recent shooting. We may feel obligated to stay informed and force ourselves to see what is happening; in doing so, we hope to increase our understanding of the situation and our compassion for those who were affected. While I think it is a worthy effort to remain engaged and continue practicing empathy for those who are suffering, overdoing this media exposure can lead to increased anxiety, traumatization, and even a re-triggering experience.

Limit your media; tune in occasionally in order to stay engaged and informed, but do not feel bad turning off your twitter feed or closing your computer for some time. You are not disengaged or unfeeling if you decide not to watch this footage; (there are plenty of ways to remain engaged without exposure to such horrific visuals.) It is imperative to create boundaries to protect your mental health and to respect your own limitations.

(I so appreciate these wise words on consuming media, from Brené Brown.)

EMBRACE CONNECTION

Reach out to friends and family. We are creatures of connection – and in times of threat and despair, we sometimes need to embrace our inner ‘pack animal.’ No, you do not need to talk about the event if that feels un-welcomed – but you can share your feelings, share good news and continue to focus on joy. Remember, joy is an act of resistance, especially in the face of hatred.

Additionally, if you know someone who may not have family or friends nearby, reach out to them: invite them for coffee or have them over for dinner. Even something as simple as a text to tell someone you are thinking of them and hoping they are ok, means more to them than you realize. No one should have to feel alone during such a scary and uncertain time.

HELP OTHERS

Helping others counteracts the stress hormones in our bodies. There are countless ways to help and they do not necessarily have to be related to the shooting in Las Vegas. You can donate to relief efforts in Houston, Mexico City and Puerto Rico.

Donate to the Red Cross and Other amazing relief organizations to consider

You can turn towards your local community and find a volunteer opportunity nearby. Connecting and helping in person may feel especially rewarding.

If you’re in Chicago, this is a great resource: https://www.chicagocares.org/

If you are feeling compelled to turn your attention towards gun reform you can check out these organizations to see how you can become involved:

      -  The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence: https://www.csgv.org/

      -  Every Town for Gun Safety: https://everytown.org/

      -  Moms Demand Action: https://momsdemandaction.org/

And of course, you can contact your representatives to tell them your feelings about passing comprehensive and common sense gun reform in the wake of Sunday’s tragedy.

       -  Here is a useful script to help guide your words and guide for reaching outI’ve used the ‘ResistBot’ and found it to be an unbelievably                easy and fast way to contact mySenators and Congressmen about issues I care about. Text RESIST to 50409.

Additional Resources & Articles:

Disaster Distress Hotline:  1-800-985-5990 – Text: TalkWithUS to 66746 – Website

Crisis Hotline: 1-800-273-8255 - Website

Psychology Today

Huff Post Blog

Mashable

Grief & Resilience

By Sasha Taskier, AMFT

By Sasha Taskier, AMFT

Grieving is a universal action, one that we embody as the result of a loss. Humans all over the world grieve through different customs, ceremonies and traditions (TED Ideas). We’ve even learned that certain animals grieve when they’ve loss a member of their family or pack (BBC).

Most commonly when we speak about grief, we are referring to the death of a person; yet, I have found that we grieve when there is loss. That loss may be a person, but it could also be the end of a relationship, the loss of a job, the loss of our health, or the realization that our dreams and wishes for our future can no longer be reached.

I recently read Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant’s new book, Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy. Sandberg, most notably known as the COO of Facebook, tragically lost her husband in 2015. She, with the help of psychologist Adam Grant, share a very personal lens into her grief story and process of recovery. They examine the impact of loss (in its many forms) on depression, resilience and growth.

“We cannot control what happens to us, but, we do have some influence over how we respond to the events and hardships in our lives” – Adam Grant

If you or a loved one has experienced a loss, or are even curious about this topic – I highly recommend this book. It is not only a king of memoir, but also a collection of stories from resilient people around the world, and a self-help platform with the latest research from psychologists in the field.

In the meantime, here are 3 of my favorites takeaways from Option B:

1)    Grant present Martin Seligman’s theory of the Three Ps, which can help determine our ability to deal with ‘setbacks’ in our lives

  • Personalization: “This is the lesson that not everything that happens to us happens because of us”
  • Permanence: “refers to whether you see negative experiences as global or specific, or as Sandberg says, whether "an event will affect all areas of your life."
  • Pervasiveness: “explains whether you see an event as stable or unstable, or how long you think the negative feelings will last.”

Sandberg describes this idea as our brain’s psychological immune system – we can heal and recover, but sometimes we need steps to kick into gear. Noticing when we feel one (or more) of the three Ps can be a helpful first step to challenging our mindset around grief, or feelings of ‘stuckness.’

2)    Self confidence and self compassion

Sandberg shared how after the death of her husband, she felt her self-confidence plummet; she was apologizing to everyone around her at home and work. She felt guilty – that everything was her fault. One of the most important components of recovery is self-compassion.

Kristin Neff defines self-compassion as: approaching yourself with the same kindness you would show to a friend.

Sandberg felt that her internal experience (where she was falling apart) matched how she presented herself to the rest of the world. Adam Grant suggested that before bed, she write down three things she did well that day. It may take some time, but focusing on ‘small wins’ builds confidence.

3)    Its important to talk about loss and hardship

We have a really hard time talking about loss and adversity. Even if it is on our mind – we may not say anything to that friend whose parent is sick, or to someone we know is dealing with the loss of a job, or a recent death in his or her family. We’re scared to say the wrong thing, or perhaps we fear that by bringing it up, we’ll be ruining that person’s day. (Psychologists coined a term for this, called The Mum Effect.)

Sandberg talked about the feeling of isolation she experienced after she lost her husband. She would be amongst friends or coworkers and while she knew everyone knew what she was going through, they never said anything. It became the elephant in the room that fueled her sense of isolation and despair.

Just ask; if you know someone is going through a difficult period, ask him or her: “how are you, today?” This acknowledges that every day is different, and some days may be better than others. It is simple and it may give the person who is grieving the opportunity they have wanted (or needed), to share.

If you are interested in learning more about Option B, and/or lessons about grief, resilience and growth, Sandberg and Grant have created a platform to explore these themes and hear stories from real people who have overcome unbelievable hardship and adversity.

https://optionb.org/

 

The Power of Reminiscing

The Short north, columbus ohio

The Short north, columbus ohio

I recently returned to Columbus Ohio where I had spent three years of my life post college.  During these early twenty-something years, I can look back to some amazing memories, tough challenges, relationship building and self discovery.  Columbus was where I started the beginning stages of my career, built a strong support system of close friends and met my husband.  It was where I first experienced full independence and allowed myself to dream big and push through fear of failure and change.

As I drove through the city with my closest girlfriend Jaime, we found ourselves completely emerged in our memories of that exciting and terrifying time.  Not only did we reflect on our memories, but we also shared new awareness of the present as it is connected to our past. 

Research shows that reminiscing can be a very valuable tool towards healing and growth.  John Kunz, founder of the International Institute of Reminiscence and Life Review states “each time an individual tells part of his/her life story, those who listen are like a mirror, reflecting and affirming their lives.”  This experience of nostalgia does have its painful side, yet research continues to show that by reminiscing, life can seem more meaningful and death less freighting.  It can counteract loneliness, boredom and anxiety.

So the next time you find yourself with this opportunity of reminiscing remember that this experience strengthens relationships, creates more meaning in life, increases feelings of contentment and links our past to the present.