Recently, psychotherapist Karen Gould, LMFT gave a one-hour Zoom presentation to our GaGa Sisterhood about how to find hope and stay sane during the pandemic. Her talk covered the following topics:
- why we feel anxious during these uncertain times
- specific tools for reducing our anxiety
- strategies for finding hope as we continue to face uncertainty
I’ve divided her information into two posts. Part 1 explains why we feel anxious and provides some tools for reducing our anxiety. Part 2 covers some strategies for finding hope as we continue to face uncertainty.
Many in our generation believe that things are not going to get back to normal in our lifetime and that we won’t be able to see our family or be able to mark meaningful life passages in the way we used to. But our speaker, Karen Gould urged us to find hope now and gave us several strategies to practice.
Nature Is a Balm
Nature always soothes the soul. Not everyone can go hiking but you can have potted plants in your home or look out the window at nature. Being in nature takes us out of ourselves.
Being in nature takes us from a place of feeling constricted to expansiveness. When we look up, we see birds, flowers, and clouds moving across the sky which reminds us that this too shall pass and life goes on. Even after terrible storms, beautiful things happen. Being stuck in our homes deprives us of that hope. So go outside and really look around you to see the beauty of nature.
Seven years ago, a friend told Karen she started keeping a gratitude journal. At the end of every day, she wrote down 3 things she was grateful for. Karen thought it was stupid to just write about gratitude. So she took a course in the neuroscience of gratitude.
The professor explained that we tend to mark our past by the negative things that have happened because trauma has more impact than joy. If we remember mostly negatives when we think about the past, how can we move forward with hope and optimism?
When we keep a gratitude journal (she’s been keeping one for 7 years) and we look back at it over time, we have a treasure chest of riches. She doesn’t put pressure on herself but she writes at least one thing every day. This process forces her to review her day before she goes to bed and remember all the things she would have forgotten. We move at such a fast pace that we don’t let the good things sink in and allow ourselves to feel them.
For example, we get a sweet text or compliment and we just go on to the next thing without letting it land with us. If we know we’re going to write them in our gratitude journal, then we’re more conscious of what happens and notice them.
She experienced this when she was recovering from a terrible skin disease that disabled her for months. She was able to feel gratitude for the tiniest things at the end of each day and that helped her get through a difficult time.
Two of her clients started gratitude journals six months before the pandemic and they both reported that those journals have helped them through this period now.
Rituals are the glue that connects us in our families. Rituals can lift our spirits, help us cope with problems, gain insights, and enrich our everyday lives while, quite literally, feeding our soul. Rituals are simple repeated activities that give us something to look forward to. They help us move forward and feel secure.
Writing in your gratitude journal can become a ritual or drawing a scribble. Karen has a client who lights a candle, does a scribble drawing, and writes in her journal every night. When our children were little, we created bedtime rituals for them. Anything you can do that gives you pleasure and comfort can be turned into a ritual and help you feel secure.
It’s more challenging to volunteer during the pandemic. We can send cards, donate, make things, paint rocks, or bake for people. When we can put ourselves out there in the world, that gives us hope.
Tap into Your Creativity
Everyone is creative in something. We should be painting, dancing, singing – all of these activities can help us put ourselves out into the universe and it’s expansive. Using our creativity is a spiritual process. When we’re involved in a creative pursuit, we forget time and place. That’s the meaning of spirituality – getting perspective and forgetting time and place. We get so involved in the creative process we forget ourselves and our troubles.
Karen is an artist and paints portraits. But right now she can’t do that so instead, she’s playing with playdoh and finding great joy. Karen is also singing on a karaoke app and sending the recordings to her father.
Creative pursuits can help us get through anything. If ever there was a time to engage in self-care, it’s now.