I hear you.

Posted By Elana Klemm, MA, LPC, NCC 03-26-2020

During these unprecedented times, fear, anxiety, isolation, and depressive episodes are prevalent within mental health. These are now pressing matters within an entire globe of humans, ourselves included. In a globalized state of uncertainty, how can we help? How can we make these uncertain times more settling? I know that this question has been circulating my thought process and understanding of the challenges being faced, and for some of my patients, situations such as isolated quarantine could heighten their symptoms to a crippling state.

I hear you.

I hear my patients’ concerns and thoughts.

I hear my colleagues’ who are searching for solutions

I can’t say I have the answers, but I can tell you the practices and reflections that I know are helpful during these hard times. Just like we approach all thought processes, we must observe the situation and realize what is entirely out of our control AND acknowledge that we are indeed in control of how we respond.

We all have the power to refocus and reboot! 

Even in times of uncertainty, it presents us opportunity! Now it is a wonderful time to practice being in the moment. Hours could come and go if we focus too much on the news and constant updates. We all have been presented an opportunity to put our phones away, log off our computers, and hide the TV remote, and, indeed, be present. Whether they are members that live in your households, your pets, yourself, allow yourself to be completely in the moment. 

The ever-changing news of Covid-19 and the media surrounding the situation can be a constant buzz, if you let it. Now is a good time to limit our screen time and decipher what is essential news and what news is that is just reporting on Covid-19 because it’s a hot topic. Important news would be information that is provided by trusted professionals in the field, direct information from government officials, and updates from the World Health Organization. To ease our minds from the constant ring of media, allow yourself to designate times to check the news and times to walk away from it all completely. We must remember that the information being released is ongoing and consistent. Find truth and block the noise.

Yes, we are stuck in our homes, but we get the opportunity to be with our families and slow down. Instead of letting negative energy consume our thoughts, we have been granted the spaces to practice making a mindset shift!

Businesses are closing their doors, but you have what we need and when you don’t, in due diligence, you can go shopping for those items. 

Social distancing feels like isolation, but it makes contacting the people we love most more often and more creatively! 

There is a lot of uncertainty right now, but you know what is in your control and what is out of your control. You have the power to make this situation amazing.

If we change our mindset to be positive, then opportunities for growth are endless. There are two kinds of anxiety: productive anxiety and unproductive anxiety. We can turn our anxiety into something productive. Moments like this also bring greif. That’s right, greif. Greif requires us to feel a kind of sadness that makes many of us so uncomfortable that we try to get rid of it. As much as there is collective anxiety surrounding Covid-19, but there’s also collective loss. Cognitive approaches for mindfulness will be vital in finding a balance in your life. You’ve been given an opportunity to focus on activities that you love, regardless of the things you may be losing. 

Take a moment to stop and think about the passions in your life you may have neglected due to busy schedules. These are the tasks that you wish you could invest more time in and feel accomplished when you do pursue these passions wholeheartedly! Remember that book you wanted to dive into? Do you have a jigsaw puzzle laying around the house? Maybe this spring is the spring you start your garden back up? Fueling your joys can lead to positive emotions that keep the anxiousness away. Allow yourself to pour energy into yourself and hobbies, without the stress/obligations you may have otherwise had. 

I also am a big encourager of trying a practice that is way outside your comfort zone. These are practices that you may have tried in the past or just figured it “wouldn’t be your thing.” It turns out, with more free time, you can try something new, and that is focused solely on bettering yourself! Even if they sound silly, or maybe uncomfortable at first, there is no harm in trying something new.  If you open your mind and embrace the challenge, you might find a new practice that enhances your headspace. Here are some fun ideas to consider: 

  • In recent years, adult coloring books, paint by numbers, or even diamond by numbers have grown in popularity! They stimulate creativity and focus, but can be relaxing and meditative. Don’t have access to a bookstore? Apps like Colorfy allow you to be artistic on any device. 
  • Jogging/walking. Physical activity is allowed and encouraged during these times. Start with a lap around the block and increase each day. 
  • Meditation is a great practice for slowing down racing thoughts and being present. If you are new to meditation, apps such as Calm and Headspace, can guide you through the process. 

What’s great about being home and trying something new is that you are in a low stakes situation. You have control over the energy and effort. If you do try something new, give it a change and allow yourself to feel a little uncomfortable outside of your comfort zone. It’s ok if it doesn’t go to plan or you draw something messy. You are simply trying to better yourself and that is admirable! 

As great as these practices can work for an at-home activity, remember that mental health professionals are still available for our patients. We have not left you and can accommodate. Virtual meeting programs can be scheduled for your convenience. To anyone that has paused their sessions or hasn’t yet scheduled an initial appointment, this might be the perfect time to move forward in your mental health journey.

For my colleagues, this is the time to be encouraging more and more patients to connect with you, even if it is not in person. It has been our duty to protect and serve those struggling with their mental health, and COVID-19 cannot take that spirit to save others away from us. 

This is a great time to adapt, promote, and destigmatize the taboo around mental health because we know that globalized fear and uncertainty are affecting more than just our patients. Together we can make a push to encourage those in need to seek mental health professionals through social media, advertisements, and newsletters.

In times like these, we are reminded of the things that we have taken for granted: the people in our lives we love, our careers, going grocery shopping after work, and so forth. We can stand together and find creative solutions to the responses that are in our control. The pandemic canceling my father’s 90th birthday party, after months of organizing and planning? Out of my control. But my family members all attending our virtual, online video conference to celebrate made me realize that this pandemic cannot take away our ability to love and lean on those who make us feel safe and secure. Never could we have thought that a moment like this would encourage us all to reevaluate our priorities, be mindful of what matters most for the greater good, or lay rest our ability to be a provider of service that is needed more than ever. We all have moments of surprise, that catch us off guard and throw a wrench in plans, but a pandemic? We’ve all got this. We can do this together with love, kindness, and support from one another.

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5 Foods to Keep Your Immune System Strong

As the events of COVID-19 continue to unfold, many of us are focusing on how we can keep ourselves and our families as healthy as possible. While social distancing and increased hand washing can be very effective at stopping the spreading of the Corona virus, it is equally important to keep our immune systems strong.

With this in mind, here are some of the absolute best foods you can eat to help support your immune system:

1. Blueberries

Blueberries are loaded with powerful antioxidants. In fact, they contain a type of flavonoid called anthocyanin, which has antioxidant properties that can boost your immune system. A 2016 study found that flavonoids play an essential role in the respiratory tract’s immune defense system. The researchers found that people who ate foods rich in flavonoids were less likely to get sick with respiratory tract infections and the common cold.

2. Turmeric

Turmeric is the aromatic spice that makes curry yellow. It is also often used in alternative medicine thanks to its active compound curcumin. Curcumin has been shown to improve a person’s immune response because of its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.

3. Spinach

Popeye knew that spinach would help him be stronger. But I wonder if he knew how good it was for his immune system. Spinach contains vitamin C & E, as well as beneficial flavonoids and carotenoids. Not only are vitamin C & E great for the immune system, but research shows flavonoids may help prevent common colds in otherwise healthy people. So, it stands to reason it may help protect against other viruses as well.

4. Citrus Fruits

Most of us, when we feel an illness coming on, reach for more vitamin C-rich foods. But what is it about vitamin C specifically that makes it so good for our immune systems?

Vitamin C is believed to increase the production of white blood cells. These are the cells responsible for attacking foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses.

Some popular citrus fruits high in vitamin C include:

  • grapefruit
  • oranges
  • tangerines
  • lemons
  • limes
  • clementines

Unlike other animals whose bodies do produce vitamin C, humans must get their vitamin C from the foods they eat or through supplementation. So be sure to add more citrus fruits to your diet.

5. Red Bell Peppers

We can’t talk about vitamin C without mentioning that ounce for ounce, red bell peppers contain even more vitamin C than most citrus fruits. So if you prefer veggies to fruits, then be sure to eat more red bell peppers.

While this is not an exhaustive list of immune-boosting foods, it will get you started eating right so you can stay healthy during this pandemic. It’s also important to stay hydrated and eliminate sugars and trans fats from your diet as well.


SOURCES:

https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/foods-that-boost-the-immune-system

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322412

Handling Infertility During the Holiday Season: A Timeline to Best Prepare Yourself

Posted By Elana Klemm, MA, LPC, NCC 12-1-2019

It always seems as if the holiday season sneaks up on us so quickly. The holiday months consist of multiple family-oriented gatherings to celebrate, show love, and catch up with relatives you haven’t seen since the previous year. The harsh reality? Unfortunately, these times can be stressful to a family facing infertility. Regardless of where you are in your fertility journey, you deserve to feel at ease and enjoy this time with family without feeling marginalized. 

Preparing Yourself Before Holiday Events

It’s inevitable—you will most likely have a holiday event to attend this season. First, remember you get to pick and choose whether you want to go. If you know something or someone will be a trigger, you can choose not to attend. If you want to go, preparing yourself before these events will allow you to enter be confident and mindful about the situation. Here are some of my suggestions.

Take Extra Care of Yourself in the Days Before an Event

 Holiday events are a lot of work in general, even more so when you’re balancing your emotions. Before an event, be extra mindful of getting rest, water, and nutrients. Take a few moments to treat yourself and take a hot bath, read a book you’ve wanted, or watch a movie with your spouse or friend.

Have Conversations With Trusted Friends and Family Members

Grab a hot tea or call someone you trust and who knows what you are going through with infertility. They could help you sort out your thoughts and worries. During the event you can then think back to what your friend said over tea and take a deep breath. Just because they may not be at your holiday event does not mean they are not in your corner. If the person you confide in will be at the party, decide together how this situation could be most comfortable for you. 

Make a Plan

Go into the event with the knowledge of who might be in attendance. If you know there will be some who is vexatious to your happiness or who does understand the situation you are facing with infertility—simply acknowledge them and move on. You do not need to purposefully seek out a conversation with those who may not be empathetic. If the conversation happens to occur, decide how much you feel comfortable sharing about your fertility journey. You are not obligated to share details you don’t want to. Simply saying, “We are dealing with fertility experts to begin a family of our own one day, and we ask that you respect our privacy in this matter,” is more than enough. Or better yet, have a little fun with those who always ask you when you are going to have kids. Here are a couple of my favorite replies:

“God hasn’t told me yet.”

“That is a great question; I wish I had the answer.”

“I don’t know, but I am starting my list of babysitters. Can I count you in?”

Situations During the Holiday Event

Ok—you’ve taken care of yourself. You’ve communicated with trusted members of your support circle. You have a plan. Making it this far is very courageous, and you should be proud. Yet, you can’t prepare for everything that may happen. Remember that your journey with infertility is unique to you, and some days are better than others. That is normal.

Find a space in the house where you can take a moment for yourself! If you just experienced an uncomfortable conversation or a triggering event, find some space where you can go and collect yourself for a few moments. It may be the bathroom, the basement, an unoccupied office, outside on the porch, etc. Take a few minutes. Cry if you need to. Take a deep breath. Reflect. Communicate with your friend or partner as they might be the voice of reason to help bring you back to a more peaceful state of mind. You can even create a code word for your spouse/trusted supporter that indicates that you need a moment and their help to regain your thoughts. It is critical to remain mindful in this situation. This means you are staying present in the moment, evaluating it for what it actually is, and calmly acknowledging and accepting your thoughts and feelings.

It’s Time to Leave the Holiday Event

Congratulations! You made it through! Now, you have the rest of the night to focus on you. Holiday events can be overly stimulating, so consider having a post-event event! That’s right. Have a plan for your own afterparty. It will give you something to look forward to, or it could be your excuse to leave the event. 

Post-Events to Consider

Take a trip around town to check out the holiday lights or decorations. It’s a great way to calm down or vent to your partner.

Have a movie date! Maybe you watch your favorite holiday movie, or perhaps you are so over the holidays that you watch another movie on your list. Take a bath, make hot cocoa, cuddle up in a blanket, relax! 

Try Therapeutic Techniques

If you had a couple of uncomfortable moments, reflect on why they made you feel uncomfortable, how you reacted, and what you learned from it. Try to let it go. In fact, try using some cognitive-behavioral strategies. When you experience worry and/or negative thoughts, picture a stop sign. Tell yourself to stop! Replace the stressful thought with a positive thought. Replace thoughts of “I cannot” or “will not” with a more positive version. Then take a deep breath or use a breathing technique to take away the anxiety. Complete these steps every time you have a negative thought. 

Take a moment to reflect on the good things that happened, too! Maybe someone made a funny joke, or spilled the gravy, or gifted you something you had been hoping for. Those are the moments you are grateful for. Those are the moments that help keep you grounded and know that whatever challenges you are facing are temporary. Life has a great ability to challenge you, but you have the power to keep the goodness of the situation.

Prioritize and Consider Your Next Event

You might have a couple of other holiday events on the calendar, but just because you were invited does not mean you have to go. Always put your mental health first, and if another holiday dinner is not helpful—don’t go. The hosts may miss your company, but honestly, they will get over it. They will still have their party and mingle if you are there or not. Or if you genuinely do want to be surrounded by company during the holiday season, consider hosting a party. It’s a lot of work, but the event and attendees are in your control. 

Final Thoughts

It’s not going to be easy. Recognize that the holiday season can trigger feelings of sadness, shame, guilt, and isolation, but you have nothing to be ashamed of. It’s ok to be selfish. The holiday season comes and goes, but your mental health and emotional balance while facing infertility is something that you must make a priority. Be prepared for the situations you are attending. Have a plan with your partner and stay true to your boundaries. Walk away from hurtful conversations. Collect your thoughts. Cry if you need it. Take back control and center yourself. You are a human being that is facing a difficult time, and you are obligated to take care of yourself regardless of the season. Using mindful practices can help, but don’t be afraid to reach out to infertility support groups to connect with others.