Posted in anxiety, De-stressing, dealing with stress, happiness, Health, Home, mental health, stress

My Small Bubble

This weekend we had a hectic and stressful time as we considered a home purchase. When the whole thing proved to be impossible I retreated into my small bubble.

I like the idea of a bubble.

I like the idea of my own personal space.

Here is how I define my own personal space, my bubble. It includes immediate family and a few close friends, and their welfare. It excludes media. This is where I retreat when I need a fresh perspective.

In my bubble there are three things I can control, for the most part. I can control my mind–my thoughts and the decisions I make. I can control my setting, which is my home, the place where I live. I can make my home as comfortable as I want. And, finally, I can control my body–what I do, where I go, what I eat.

That is about the extent of my control.

When I retreat into my small bubble, I do homebody things. I bake. I clean. I read. I watch relaxing watercolor painting videos. I listen to soothing music. I do a little piano playing. I watch the birds outside. And I think.

I happen to like to think. I like sorting things out in my mind.

Today I eliminated everything outside of my bubble and pretended I was starting from ground zero. I saw what was most important to me was right inside my bubble. And from there I began to consider if there was anything outside that I wanted, or needed, to attend to.

Whenever I watch the birds I think about the verse that talks about God surely caring for us, if he cares for the birds. Then I think about The Lord’s Prayer, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. And that leads me to the thought of God’s will. What is his will? How do I determine his will? My most simplified answer is the answer Jesus gave his disciples, Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength, and love your neighbour as yourself. This summed up the Ten Commandments, the Law.

But then I get into a difficult place. I ask myself, Does God speak? Does he speak to us today? Who is God? I firmly believe there was some form of great, unfathomable intelligence behind the design of this universe, a universe which we humans have only barely begun to understand. We are observers of what exists and from that we make our estimations and calculations and propose our theories and draw our conclusions. We build on the flawed knowledge passed on to us. We are so ignorant.

Does God speak? Has he spoken in the past? I believe he has. There have been prophetic messages that came to pass. Does he speak today? Many theologians think not. They say revelation ended after the writing of the New Testament portion of the Bible. This is something I don’t understand. I mean, how could God decide to suddenly stop speaking?

Well, enough getting out of my bubble. I’m heading back there now.

Posted in anxiety, Children, Coronavirus, COVID-19, faith, Health

Teachers Return to Work

Teachers are returning to work today in the province of British Columbia. They asked for more time before starting classes, in order to prepare, and were given two extra days before classes open on September 10.

Many, if not all, are filled with trepidation. This is understandable, with their concern for their own safety and that of their students, not to mention the vulnerable people in all of their lives.

It is a great blessing that the coronavirus does not affect children and young people as severely as those who are older and have underlying health issues. But we are still afraid because children can be asymptomatic. They can have no symptoms and yet carry the virus and be capable of spreading it.

Many of us have a faith background and believe in the power of prayer in these times. Some do not. Some may have become cynical after years of unanswered prayer. The truth I have experienced is that my prayers will not always be answered and I will not always get what I pray for. God is not like some magic wish-granting genie in a bottle. We may pray and still not be assured that we will escape harm.

Last week I prayed fervently for someone in need and even asked others to pray. On the weekend I asked this person how their week had gone. It had gone very badly. Much worse than before. I was shocked, because, after all, we had prayed.

Yesterday as we drove along the road we encountered two accidents less than a mile apart. Emergency vehicles blocked portions of the road and first responders stood next to the damaged vehicles, assessing the situation and providing assistance. As we continued on I became anxious. What if we were the next accident victims? In quick succession a couple of drivers made dangerous and unexpected moves in front of us. I was on high alert. The sight of actual damage reminded me of my vulnerability.

We’ve probably all been on high alert for months now. Each day we make choices that we hope will reduce our vulnerability. We decide when we need to wear our masks. We avoid certain high traffic areas. We are conscious of maintaining distance between us and others. We hear of the virus at a place near us, or near our loved ones, or perhaps someone we know has the virus or has died of it and this makes us anxious because we wonder if we are going to be affected next.

As we drove along I had to calm myself and reassure myself that there was no reason to expect we would be accident victims. Yes, the possibility was there, but the probability was low. It was no higher than on any other day and I needed to remain calm.

Anxiety itself has health risks and although we cannot entirely control our anxious response, we can do something about it. I know, because I have tried, and it has worked.

I wish, for the teachers, that they could avoid the situations that are causing them anxiety. But this is not reality for any of us. For months we have cheered on medical staff, first responders and essential workers. They are our heroes. They have worked on our behalf. Maybe you have been one of them. We are intensely grateful for the work of these brave souls. Now it is the teachers’ turn to step up to the plate. And it’s a scary thing to do.

Stepping up to the plate requires bravery. It means taking risk. There is the risk of harm.

All of the essential workers we have acknowledged and thanked during the past months have taken risks. They have been brave in the face of adversity. Somehow they have moved beyond fear to serve the public.

Bravery is what we need in the face of adversity. It is not the absence of fear, but the control of our fear that we need, so that it does not paralyze us.

I don’t want to have the coronavirus and I pray that my loved ones don’t get it. I do the sensible things I know to do to protect myself and them, and I hope this is enough.

As teachers prepare their classes, they are doing the same. They plan how the students and staff will take measures to protect themselves. After preparation, all we can do is hope for the best. The outcome is out of our hands. We have been faithful to implement the protections we know to have in place. The rest is beyond our control.

It’s very difficult to live with a life-threatening virus. It is frightening indeed when we increase our exposure to risk by going back to work. Having studied cognitive behavioral therapy I understand that there are ways in which we can alter our thoughts and our behavior that can make us more calm as we face the things we fear. In other words, we can have rituals and we can talk to ourselves to allay our fears, even if we cannot rid ourselves of them entirely. There are also unhealthy ways of coping that we need to reduce or eliminate.

One unhealthy way of coping is to not be honest about the actual risk. In other words, pretend that the risk does not exist. It is actually healthier to be honest about the risk, but not be overwhelmed by this realization. The reason for this is that then we can prepare ourselves appropriately. This means we take responsibility for seeking out information and get as complete a picture as possible so that we know what to do and what not to do.

Some say that this increased knowledge will also increase fear. If we habitually avoid facing up to hard truths in order to feel safe, then this will be difficult to do, because it can initially increase our fear. Facing up to challenging facts can be very frightening. It is easier to shield ourselves and to live in a protective bubble. Knowledge of the bad things that are happening in the world can overwhelm us. But not knowing certain facts can be dangerous and can put us at risk.

Dealing with disturbing information requires a few basic skills. I’ve already mentioned one—honesty about the truth of the matter. And I’ve alluded to another—limiting how much time we spend thinking about the problem and also limiting how many times we allow the problem to enter our thoughts.

When I think about teachers returning to classes, I think to myself there are probably two groups of people among the teachers. There are the ones who rely entirely on their own understanding of the situation, without any consideration for faith, or prayer or a divine will. For them this is probably the safest way to be, because I don’t think they would willingly choose this path if they did not believe it was best. They don’t want to rely on something or someone they do not understand and cannot see.

The second group opens their minds and hearts to the possibility that there is indeed a divine power or person that operates in the universe, outside of human sight and beyond our understanding. Their belief is in the goodness of this divinity. They may have derived their understanding from teaching in a church, or it may have grown as a result of observing the intricate balance and beauty of all that surrounds us. How could this world exist by accident? It does not seem reasonable to think so. There must be something, someone who is wise, who is insightful behind its design. And it follows that the author of life might ultimately care about matters pertaining to life. Therefore it is reasonable to trust this entity, beyond our comprehension, to actually look out for the good of the earth and its inhabitants.

This thought has brought me comfort. I embrace words I read in my Bible, such as, “The Lord is my light and my salvation—whole shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?” And, “For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling.” And, “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” (Psalm 27)

I find that these messages anchor me. They help me face adversity with courage. I can choose to trust God with the outcome, even when my circumstance is challenging or unpleasant. In the face of sickness, or debilitation, or even death, I draw strength from this knowledge.

There are things in life that can cause us to lose faith. I’ve been tempted to abandon my faith in God when I have not understood how a loving Creator could allow evil, suffering, and decay. Although he allow this, he also promises a remedy that counters the difficulties of life and enables us to endure them. It is not his will for evil and suffering to prevail indefinitely. He is about the business of restoration and we can participate in this.

I prefer to live my life believing that the same God who looks after the intricacies of life and keeps nature in balance, who created the ecosystem, and the biome, whose wisdom is so infinite that we can spend a lifetime of study and still only scratch the surface in understanding the solar system, or microbiology, or human anatomy—this God is worthy of my trust.

As we go forward in the coming months, we can also draw courage from those who serve us daily, those whose services, we are reminded, are essential to our wellbeing. Today I specifically want to acknowledge the significance of the role of teachers in the training and care of our children. Parents need you. We need to work together and support one another as we train the future generation. Thank you for stepping forward in these incredibly challenging times. We wish you well as we entrust our children into your care.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Posted in anxiety, faith

Surviving the Pandemic – Dealing With Anxiety

jochabed
Jochebed, Mother of Moses. Circa 1883. Marble. Franklin B. Simmons

We have more than the pandemic to be anxious about today, with protests and riots going on. Anyone listening to, or reading, or watching the news has plenty to be distressed about.

There are three stress responses, flight, fight, and freeze. Freezing is reflexive, a kind of temporary paralysis. When it comes to flight or fight, we choose one or the other. We have to be in a healthy place where we can think rationally about our response. 

I used to have a dream of being chased by a bear. Suddenly I would turn around and face the bear. The bear stopped running and eventually slinked away from me. This has always been a sign to me. If you can’t outrun your enemy, face him.

  • The first thing I do to relieve stress is to get a comprehensive understanding of what is happening. Knowledge tends to be equipping. I listen to a lot of sources to determine what is going on.
  • The very thing I do to alleviate stress, also causes stress and I need to know when to take a break to calm myself, so it follows that I need to know what calms me. What are calming activities for me that I can do safely? Over-eating or consuming anything that alters my mental state is not what I recommend. This is a time, when, more than ever, we need to have optimum health and be mentally alert. How well we cope depends a lot on whether we can calm ourselves.

I once heard advice in a parenting seminar by Al Friesen who explained that we all have an angry “bear” inside us that rises up from time to time and wants to dominate. It is up to us to keep our “bear” in its cage. If we let him loose to do as he pleases, he can do a lot of damage.

I think it was wise to draw attention to the fact that we struggle with destructive emotions and that there is actually another part of us that can exercise control over these emotions. We are not helpless.

  • Next I ask, What can I do to change the situation? The first answer is always, pray. Many times this will calm me. I have seen remarkable answers to prayer. Even if I had not, prayer is a way of aligning with God’s purposes. If I don’t know what to pray, I simply say, Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
  • My secret weapon is reading the Bible. Does anyone ever ask why communist China is so intent on eradicating the Bible? The Bible is a source of strength. The image above is a carving of Jochebed, the mother of Moses. She dared defy the Egyptian edict that Israelite male babies be destroyed and as a result her son delivered a nation from slavery. The Bible is filled with admonitions not to be afraid. It reassures us that God, who created us, will also watch over us, protect us and bless us. There is a condition, however. We must seek truth and righteousness. The God of the Bible is the enemy of the wicked. We can take comfort in this.

The Bible also does another thing for me. It tells me it is no strange thing to be hated for choosing the good. There is no better example of this than the story of the crucifixion of Christ. People who do good can expect to face opposition. John the Baptist was beheaded because he told Herod that it was unlawful for him to take his brother’s wife.

  • I also read stories of men and women who prevailed through incredible hardship and opposition. While some caved under pressure, others, in the same circumstances, prevailed. We can choose suicide. We can choose escape. We can choose a slow form of dying through addictive behaviors that ruin our health and erode our mental capacity. Or we can choose life. To choose life is difficult and requires courage. It is my firm belief that each person is born with a potential to make a difference. Each life has value. The enemy of our souls wants to steal from us our sense of worth and significance on this earth.

I can’t be sure I would choose life if I didn’t have faith in a living, active, caring God. We are in a battle with a real spiritual adversary that wants us to despair of life itself. We cannot afford to give in and allow him to silence us and make us ineffective and destroy us.

The “politically correct” and “cancel culture” people have been after me for generations, only I didn’t have a name for them back then. Two or three years ago I had an all out confrontation and I was in the grip of fear. I took a few steps back and evaluated how I was going to move forward. I knew I had to move forward, but I needed to take time and decide the best way for me to do this.

  • Each of us must take a moment to assess the situation. This is what a first responder will do at the scene of an accident–assess who can be revived, what can be done to help those who can survive, and what should be done first.
  • It takes faith to believe there is an appropriate action for you to take. Initially you may simply need to go up on a mountain by yourself, figuratively speaking, and clear your mind. You may need to get your own personal vision. It could take awhile, possibly years. At various points you will find yourself engaging, in big and small ways, in a battle for truth and life.
  • Support your family. Support those nearest to you. Don’t neglect them. Make space for them. You are the only person in that unique relationship of brother, sister, mother, father, grandparent, son, or daughter. Or maybe it is a co-worker, boss or friend you need to support, as well. Imagine a world where everyone took care of their family. Make these close relationships as good as you possibly can.

These are things I prioritize. It is vital for us to learn how to remain calm and composed. We also need to know how to find our way back when we get off track. Remember, calm, rational heads will prevail.

And finally….

  • Know your adversary. Know what they stand for. Get a clear picture. Face the fact that we have a real enemy that seeks to destroy all that is good.
  • Embrace faith. I cannot see a way to win this battle without help from above. We need a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of God, and to be able to comprehend the “exceeding greatness of HIS power toward us who believe.” (Read Ephesians 1)

We will find courage and strength if we are convinced that we have a purpose and a vital role here on earth. This requires clarity about our beliefs and priorities.

Do the difficult thing. Take action, small or great. Jordan Peterson, author of Twelve Rules for Life – An Antidote to Chaos, suggests we start by making our bed, daily.

Regroup after battle. Don’t beat yourself up if you fail to get it right the first round. Get up, shake off the dust, and start again. Another day means another opportunity.

Posted in anxiety, Coronavirus, COVID-19, Health

Surviving the Coronavirus Pandemic – Week 9

white rhodos

Note the title change. I’m no longer staying at home. I am venturing out, now. I’m still distancing, but I’m not isolating.

This is the new reality. We will think twice about going out to public places and will reduce the number of times we go, maybe by half or more–one of many adaptations we plan to make.

I bought disposable masks at Canadian Tire this week – 20 masks for $27.99. We went to home Depot and stood in line, distancing. The sign said they were open for urgent needs. I ignored that. After two months at home, it was urgent for me to get back to feeling somewhat normal.

It was finally time to buy toilet paper. We didn’t stock up. A package of thirty rolls lasts three months at our house. I calculated. Walmart’s home brand was still not available, even online. So we bought Costco’s version. I wore a mask because I’d heard Costco required masks in the U.S. Half of the people waiting outside in line were not wearing masks. I saw a burly man of about sixty look around at the line and whip off his mask and stuff it in his pocket. That made me laugh as I thought about how he had probably been “convinced against his will” by someone to wear it.

“To mask, or not to mask. This is the question.” And a big question it is. In B.C. Dr. Bonnie Henry, our Provincial Health Officer who specializes in pandemics, does not think wearing masks is a significant precaution for our setting. In other countries masks are a priority, particularly in densely populated areas. So far the restrictions we have put in place in B.C. have served us well.

Wednesday evening my husband and I went to a track at a local park for our walk. I admit there were more people at the track than I had ever seen there before. They were mostly maintaining distance. A game of cricket was in progress. It looked wholesome to see people outside exercising. As we walked, the smell of freshly cut grass permeated the air while the sun sank behind the trees. It was just cool enough for a light jacket. I found the experience greatly uplifting to my spirit. I felt like I was turning a corner in this pandemic.

horse

I made a brief foray into Michael’s this week. Suddenly nothing in the store tempted me. Michael’s is nearby so I tend to drop in frequently. I wanted to do something normal, after two months, but it was a bit of a letdown. I think these weeks are changing how I see things. It has something to do with the word, essential.

I’ve been browsing articles and watching informational YouTube clips. I’m a bit of an information junkie. I actually email myself links to news and other articles I find interesting. Otherwise they disappear into a dark void and I don’t know if I will find them again. So, I’m a ‘virtual newspaper’ hoarder.

I watched an interesting conversation between Mike Rowe and Dave Rubin on the subject of language and how the current use of the words essential and non-essential might be creating an existential crisis for people who are suddenly hearing their work classified as “non-essential”. This is an unintentional result. But we might want to be thoughtful, moving forward, in our conversations.

Elon Musk just got the go ahead from health authorities to open his business. I don’t advocate carelessness and indifference, but given who Elon Musk is, I don’t think he falls in that category. I actually trust a man of his intelligence to calculate risk and come to a reasonable conclusion.

I still hear people compare the coronavirus to the flu, saying that similar numbers of people die of the flu as die of COVID-19. Well, here is the article I’ve been waiting for that explains the difference.

To demonstrate a more apt comparison of flu and coronavirus deaths, del Rio and Faust looked at numbers from “peak weeks” of seasonal flu outbreaks (not estimated numbers) and a week during the coronavirus outbreak. During the week of April 14 to 21, there were 15,455 COVID-19 deaths in the US, while the average number of counted flu deaths during the peak week of influenza seasons from 2013 to 2020 was 752.

That’s more than a twentyfold difference.

pink rose

Another subject I have seen under discussion is how much risk we can tolerate. Right from the beginning of this shutdown I have been calculating risks. Risks are low if we keep distance between us and others, particularly when we are in conversation. Risks are lower for us if we wash our hands after touching surfaces that might possibly be contaminated. Installing plexiglass shields at cash register is an excellent idea because these workers come into contact with any number of people who may or may not have been exposed to the coronavirus.

Masks? Unless they are the N95 masks, they will not protect us if we are sneezed on, or coughed on or inadvertently spit on. When people open their mouths to speak, or to eat, little spray droplets can squirt out of their mouths onto others nearby. So, this being the case, they could get into our eyes. A mask will not fully protect us. I’m not trying to make people paranoid. I walked by someone in Canadian Tire whom I didn’t see at the end of an isle. He was talking on his cell phone. His spray droplets could have reached me. I was exposed to risk. The truth is, if we want to have a normal life again, we will be exposed to risk from time to time. We now need to develop risk tolerance, while exercising reasonable precautions. It is reasonable to isolate if we have flu-like symptoms and to get tested if we suspect we have the virus.

As I said, I’ve thought a lot about this, as I’m sure my readers have. My sister had to strictly self-isolate for a month because of her cancer surgery. Five days after she came home family went to see her, practicing precautions. I think this was a good thing.

It’s time to see how close to normal we can come. This is why I somewhat forced myself to do things this week. I will not allow myself to become paranoid.

Lonsdale Quay

One afternoon I saw a long strand of some sort of leaf or grass on my balcony. It looked, at first glance, like a snake. For years I’ve been paranoid of snakes. But over time I’ve forced myself to look at them, to watch them when I see them in movies, to become familiar with their movements. Usually I still look away but I left that blade of grass or leaf on my balcony for a couple of days and glanced at it from time to time, thinking, what if it were a snake? How would I feel?

Sometimes I think about disease and death in the same way. I condition myself. I tell myself it has happened to others. I tell myself some people survive, and some don’t. I tell myself that doctors, nurses and paramedics have to expose themselves to known an unknown risk. We are all mortal. Even if I do everything possible to protect myself, there is still the risk that I could die prematurely, of the coronavirus or another disease or accident.

So, I ask myself what kind of life do I want? Do I want a life that is shadowed by fear? Or do I want to live courageously?

We’ve done our part, isolating. Now we need to take the next courageous steps.

Some of us will not be able to go to work for sometime. We can continue to do the things that this unique opportunity affords us the time to do. Below are some of the more common trends I’ve noted.

  • Reflecting and re-evaluating priorities.
  • Working on personal character building.
  • Putting new effort into relationships.
  • Learning skills and attempting new things.
  • Being more intentional about caring and responding to the needs of others.

I’d love it if you would add to this list in the comments below. One thing I want to encourage is for people to think about uplifting artists and other creatives. We know that writers, for instance, put a lot of effort into their work with little or no compensation. Consider clicking “likes” and even posting actual “comments” on blogs you read. If I feel a slight response in my heart to something I’ve read, I take a few moments to consider whether I can say a few words and make a connection with the author. This sometimes makes me feel vulnerable, but I tell myself that’s OK. My generation is not as adept at cheering others on as the younger generation, I’ve noticed. In fact, I was surprised to learn in an assessment that I tend to give few words of affirmation. Changing this is hard work, but it’s very rewarding.

One last thing, if you are reading articles on Reader in WordPress, make the effort to click Visit Site. That way the author will know an actual person stopped by to read their writing when they check their stats!

So, going forward, let’s continue to be cautious, but let’s be courageous too!

knitted sweater

This is the sweater my husband finished knitting during the last two months while he has been off work. It’s made of sheep’s wool and alpaca yarn. He is hopeful that he will soon be called back to work but in the meantime we will spend tomorrow producing another Music with Mr. Sheldon video for children.

Posted in anxiety, Children's Music YouTube, Coronavirus, COVID-19, faith

Surviving Coronavirus Isolation – Week 8 at Home

tulips

We’ve had two months of isolation. In Canada, things are beginning to open up.

This week I have been thinking about the economy and wondering what the impact will be of closing down businesses, schools, etc. We are seeing resistance to closures. We need to find a middle ground, a new normal going forward.

For Mother’s Day we met at the border with our children and grandchildren. It was 28 degrees Celcius which is 82 Farenheit. The sun was beating down as we sat next to the pavement on 0 Avenue. Two roads run parallel to each other, one on each side of the border, with a small ditch between them.

0 avenue

I wanted to pass our umbrellas over to the other side, but we were not allowed to pass anything. This is the border. There is surveillance. However, sitting here is allowed. Marked and unmarked border patrol vehicles constantly drive by. Not ideal, but so nice to see the family after so many weeks.

The grandchildren don’t like coming here, we are told. I don’t blame them. They have seen their cousins and their other grandparents here. There are many families doing the same thing along this stretch of road these days.

As we drove back we got a phone call from our son telling us that his wife’s friend works in border patrol and she said that the Peace Arch Park had just opened. It is a no-man’s land, between Canada and the U.S. A symbol of peace. We decided to see if we could meet there, and to our surprise, we could. What a difference! But so eery to see the closed boarders, normally packed with vehicles, completely empty! Only one lane was open.

empty borders

We need to get back to work. We need to get back to normal, as much as possible. Thank you to everyone who cooperated so well and helped to flatten and lower the curve in B.C. Now that we know what we are up against, as we have seen around the world, I think we can loosen the restraints.

As I said before, I have been trying to picture what this will be like. My imagination fails me as I begin to visualize who has all been put out of work.

I am haunted by homeless tent cities that have been dismantled as people have been placed in motels, locally. Haunted as I think about how many more people will be homeless in coming months.

I am haunted by seniors’ homes that are understaffed, where there is sub-standard care and unacceptable neglect. Haunted as I think of a country that is facing a financial crisis.

I am haunted by playgrounds that have yellow hazard tape around them. Haunted by the thought of how long we will fear this virus.

I am haunted by hearing of a woman being fined for taking her child to a swing in a park.

We will all be scarred.

playground

“Look for the helpers” – Mr. Rogers. Look for the good people.

We are incredibly blessed to have people who continue to put themselves in harm’s way to help. Meanwhile there are those who now do not want to go to work. The “help” our Canadian government has given could turn into a nightmare. I’m concerned about the impact of CERB. There will be some dismantling to do and I know not everyone will be happy.

Sometimes my husband is irritable when I bring up these subjects. I try to strike a balance. I have a bit of an obsession with trying to figure out where we are headed. Yes, it might make me a bit anxious, but this is better for me than not knowing and then being taken by surprise.

In the midst of all this I understand how important it is to keep faith. Faith in people, and faith in God and his goodness. He will carry us through.

Yesterday, Sunday morning, I wanted to drive to a church parking lot and just pray and read a scripture. The lot was empty. We don’t have a home church right now, and the first church we went to had a gate that was closed so we drove on to another church.

After that we went to a small park and had a time of “worship.” That’s how it felt, being out in the fresh air, viewing the beauty of God’s creation. Someone had made a chalk drawing on the sidewalk.

brighter days

Yes, brighter days. My sister is recovering from surgery, and it feels like brighter days. I noticed I was very distracted this week, as she went in for surgery. I did not write anything in my planner. That’s a sign. My mother seems to be doing well, still going for weekly tests. Her calcium is still high, but not so high that she needs treatment. This need for constant monitoring is concerning, though.

I called my mother on Friday and she was doing well. Another thing I failed to do, for the first time ever, was to send Mother’s Day cards. I can scarcely believe it.

One of the centers where my husband teaches notified him that they are opening, however, he has not been called back at this time. He is hopeful that things will open and he will be able to teach again, soon.

Tomorrow we will record another episode of Music with Mr. Sheldon. Last week we sent a package of activities to the grandkids which they will receive any day now. They still had not watched this past week’s “Mr. Sheldon” when we met them yesterday. Maybe our son is distracted too, and forgot.

My heartfelt prayers are for all the various needs of people around the world, and specifically in Canada and the U.S. at this time. I just wrote another article about hope and salvation. I have a site entitled Faith Insights where I write about spirituality.

I hope this is the last “Isolation” article I need to write. I hope we are open for business after this week and I can write about normal life. But of course, we know life will not be normal for sometime. In the meantime, take courage, all of you “helpers” out there!

be calm

Saw this and the end of season tulips on a “distancing” walk in New West on Saturday.

more tulips

 

Posted in anxiety, COVID-19, De-stressing, faith, Health, Home, Marriage & Family, mental health

Surviving Coronavirus Isolation – Week 3 at Home

stevestonI feel like there is little to write about my personal isolation this week. Life continues much the same, with few changes. Perhaps that is the story.

We hear more bad news south of the Canadian border. Our eastern provinces aren’t doing so well. This week we were able to apply for financial assistance from the government and the process went quite smoothly.

What has been on my mind is how Sweden will do in comparison to the rest of the world, since they have decided to embrace the “herd immunity” approach and not put severe restrictions in place. We will wait and see. It might turn out to be a costly experiment.

I’ve been researching various mask designs. It appears we may soon be required to wear masks for going out or grocery shopping.

This week I ventured out to Walmart. It was a dismal experience. I wanted to replenish our SoftSoap but there was none in stock. I went with a bodywash instead. Liquid soaps were limited to one per customer so I bought a large bottle. The toilet paper we usually buy at Walmart was out of stock as well. So were the bagged oranges I was looking for. We walked out with the bodywash, two cans of cranberry sauce and a gallon of milk.

We cooked a turkey dinner for the two of us yesterday and dropped off a bag of “turkey dinner” for one of our kids and his wife. They came outside and picked it up at the car. When we got home we video-chatted with them while we ate our “Easter Dinner.” Our other kids live across the border. The grandkids are getting bored. I feel for their parents who need to look after them 24/7 without options for distractions outside the home. No organized sports, music lessons, playdates, going to the park, shopping, or even playing with kids in the neighborhood.

My mother has gone for repeated tests in the past weeks. There is always a concern when this happens. I can’t fly to visit her, or my sister who had a cancer diagnosis this week. She is anticipating emergency surgery.

My husband talks frequently with his parents on the phone and they are doing well and adjusting to being restricted to their suites in their seniors’ home. His father made a trip to emergency several times regarding his heart just before the lockdown. Thankfully he hasn’t needed to go again. Their biggest concern right now is both needing a haircut.

My husband and I video-taped another episode of Music with Mr. Sheldon. One school that remains open plans to use the video.

We are going for regular walks and enjoying cherry blossoms and spring flowers in bloom. We were scheduled to go to Victoria for a Chess Tournament this weekend but it was cancelled. Ferries are reduced to essential travel and the hotel we were booked to stay at is closed.

I’m trying to imagine how things will begin to open up again and predict when this might happen. In the meantime I try not to worry about things over which I have no control.

Posted in Abuse, addictions, anxiety, domestic violence, Love, Marriage & Family, Self Regulation, women

Reducing the Likeliness of Domestic Violence

horse ridersAs a person with training in counseling, I am writing this for adults in a relationship that tends towards abuse. Tensions rise to a point where there is a real threat of violence.

First I want to explain that violence is not just hitting. It is also shoving and restraining and blocking. Here I will deal with preventing escalation to physical violence. I acknowledge that emotional abuse is occurring in these situations as well. Below are starting points for resolving conflict that escalates. This is by no means a complete anti-dote, but it could provide some help in certain areas.

  1. Triggers. We all have triggers. These are the areas where we are sensitive. We can get angry when someone triggers us. Knowing someone’s triggers can help us to avoid going there. Triggers are areas that need work. However, the work takes a lot of time and effort, usually under the guidance of a counselor. In the short therm, certain confrontations can be avoided if we think ahead about not triggering someone in their sensitive areas.
  2. Bait. If your partner baits you, this is a pathological relationship. This is not normal. This personality actually wants an opportunity to act hostile and feels the need to be abusive. This is a relationship you have to plan to leave. You are dealing with a dangerous person so you will need to plan your exit carefully.
  3. Impatience. A lot of flare-ups can be traced to impatience. Someone reaches the end of their fuse. The answer is to get a longer fuse. The person with the short fuse needs to see this is their problem. Practicing patience can make a big difference. Learn to give the other person more time, more space, more understanding.
  4. Inappropriate Entitlement. We are entitled to respect. But this is not a one-way street. Both are equally entitled. Neither has the right to be demanding.
  5. Competition. A little bit of competition can be healthy. It becomes unhealthy when one person cannot tolerate losing, or being seen as less competent.
  6. Put-downs, insults. Look beneath this kind of behavior. It is a form of non-physical violence that attacks another’s person. Why are you putting the other person down? In some cases this is a bad habit that needs to be broken. It may be how someone was raised, and they don’t know better. They might not even know how their words are effecting the other person. Deflecting by saying you were joking when you hurt someone is a further form of aggression. Ask each other, how much truth is there behind these words? Does the person intend to be cutting? Also examine whether this is in fact a reaction to words or behavior that hurt them earlier? It is not easy to stop any form of aggressive or inappropriate behavior. It requires a person to humbly admit they have a problem and then commit to changing.
  7. Blame. The blame game is never a winning game. Figure out what is the problem, not who is the problem. Focus on solving one problem at a time. Address other issues at a later date.

What are some positive preventative actions to take?

  1. Be kind. Think of considerate things to do for the other person. Do them out of the goodness of your heart, without expecting anything in return.
  2. Give a compliment. People who abuse others tend to have a distorted view of themselves which is often the consequence of how they were treated by others, especially as children. They have developed various forms of coping with feelings of unworthiness. Show you value the person. Compliment good qualities. Start with, I liked how you. I like that you….When you did that it made me happy. People are starved for words of affirmation.
  3. Listen. Listen well. Let the other person finish. Let them express their complete thoughts. Then respond with, Thank you for sharing that. Or, I’m glad you told me how that impacted you.
  4. Empathize. Say things like, That must have been difficult for you to do/witness/go through. Or, I’m sorry that happened to you.

This is only a beginning. Your relationship is at a low point and will take a lot of work to rebuild. It may also be a situation you need to leave, for your own safety.

Understanding how vulnerable your partner may feel, can help you to be supportive. Just because a person is tough on the outside does not mean they feel that way on the inside. If a person is pathological, meaning they do not experience normal feelings of empathy for others and actually gravitate towards violence to get them high then you need to get out of that relationship. However, a lot of progress can be made when two people are willing to work at their relationship by being more open, communicating what you both want in your relationship, and showing you are for the other person.

It must be understood, and expressed to your partner, that violence will not be tolerated. In other words, “I love you and want to be with you, but if you continue to behave in this way, then I will have to leave you.” If you need to say this, then you also mean to follow through.

One last thing, which is by no means the least of problems, is the influence of mind-altering substances like alcohol. Alcohol tends to bring out the worst. If this exacerbates the problem in your relationship you can say, “You lose control of yourself and become a different person when you drink. When you drink to excess, you make me afraid.” In a normal relationship one partner will not want to cause the other person to be afraid and will in fact be willing to take steps to move the relationship in a positive direction.

Harmful behavior must not be allowed to continue. However, moving towards a more consistently loving and caring relationship will require commitment and hard work. It may be well worth it if there is an underlying desire to be together. Your future years together can be better than your past.

Posted in anxiety, Coronavirus, Depression, faith, Self Regulation

My Personal Response to the Coronavirus

 

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We are in early days, here in Canada, with stats going up every day, and drastic measures taken by our provincial and federal government around the coronavirus.

Being in the “over 60” category, I am doing my best to heed the admonition of my family and stay home. I admit I went to a specialist appointment last week and this week I needed to have a lab test and pick up a prescription. I’m now delegating the grocery shopping to my husband who is younger (smile).

Fear can grip us in these times, but fear is not helpful unless it serves a good purpose. I realized a long time ago that I can do much better in life without unreasonable fear. So, I try to put fear in its place.

However, there are some really difficult things we may have to face, and thinking about this can make us anxious and fearful. There is also a “spirit of fear” which is not from God and which we do not have to be subject to. There have been times in my life when I have rebuked the spirit of fear, in the powerful name of Jesus, whom I serve, and it has immediately left me.

Facing the truth can make us fearful, but it also has the ability to empower us, because it means we can take some action and be more prepared for what is to come.

I tend to look at the worst case scenario and work my way backwards from there. The worst case scenario for me is that I would be destitute, without food and shelter, diseased and end up dying as a result of the coronavirus. This is a very tragic scenario, but extremely unlikely.

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In times like this I place a lot of trust in God sustaining me. I keep reminding myself when I see a beautiful flower, or watch a bird flitting about on my balcony, that God cares about me more than he cares about the birds and flowers. I’ve been meditating on the beauty of the design of birds…things like their unique color and shape, the function of their feathers, the fact that they can fly and humans can’t. This is faith-inspiring. None of these birds have a “job” or an “income” yet God provides for them.

I have the advantage of having faced extremely trying financial times and come through them. Remembering my past experiences gives me faith for the future now, while my husband’s job hangs in the balance.

I have endured pain and sickness and loss. I’ve taken it one day at a time. I’ve survived. This is what I plan to do.

I will use this time of seclusion to read material I have not had time to read, to practice piano, and play guitar. Maybe I will pick up language learning again. I will write, and call people. I will paint, and maybe make some cards to send.

I will do some exercises. I will cook a few tasty meals. I’ll watch some YouTube videos and the occasional movie or reality show. I have a few ideas of new things I want to learn, like story telling.

There is no shortage of things I can do with my time. But for me the challenge is keeping my spirits up. It’s OK to get a little bit down. That’s normal. But the real “exercise” is to get back to that good place and then try and maintain it for as long as possible. For me it can prove difficult when I am the one entirely responsible for how I will spend my time.

I think it was actually easier when I had children in the house to distract me and challenge me and bring me joy. This “retirement” stage brings with it the difficulty of regulating myself and my life. One of the ways I have typically helped myself was by planning regular outings and activities outside the home. It looks like I will have a long stretch without this distraction, now, so I need to find out what will work for me during this season. I remind myself, this is temporary and I am very capable of addressing this challenge. I plan to encourage myself with every successful day and learn from what I’ve done.

First and foremost, I will not expend unnecessary energy on being anxious about things over which I do not have any direct control. It will only bring me down, make me more susceptible to health issues, and rob me of enjoyment in my present circumstances.

I can pray, and I will pray for those in deep need, and I will be open to possibilities of how I can be of help and think about what is reasonable for me to do. I will try to speak encouragingly, with understanding.

I will regulate what I watch and listen to, in terms of news updates, and I will monitor my response, so as not go become too anxious. I will tell myself to take things one day at a time. I will remind myself of Who I can trust with my future.

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