Month: May 2020

Staying Connected While Social Distancing

The term “Social Distancing” seems to be in our daily vocabulary these days. I prefer to use the term “Physical Distancing.” Although we must stay physically distanced from each other, we can still stay socially connected to our friends and family. It may take a little extra effort to reach out, but it is so important for both ourselves and others!

Ourselves and others – we all share our common humanity, which is one of the 3 elements of Self-Compassion. This is a difficult time for all of us, and we can all acknowledge that suffering is present. Take a moment and say to yourself “This is really hard right now.” “It is hard to not be able to give a loved one a hug right now.” It is important to acknowledge your feelings; how you are feeling is valid no matter your situation. Try not to place judgement on your feelings. You may have seen the meme about how we are all in different ships, but are in the same storm. No matter what your individual circumstances, anxiety and stress are a common occurrence during these difficult times. Whether you are an introvert or an extravert, you have likely experienced some disappointments since the pandemic started affecting all of our lives. We can cultivate optimism and hope by sharing in our situations.

We as humans like to have control over our situation. By reaching out to our friends and loved ones, staying in contact can be something we can control in our lives. By coming up with creative solutions to stay connected, we are making a conscious effort to maintain control in our lives and continue in our shared experience as humans – even if we are not physically together. Take a look at this article from Cleveland Clinic for some more ideas on how to stay connected: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/how-to-stay-connected-to-loved-ones-despite-social-distancing/


Incorporating Self-Care into Your Summer Schedule

You have just completed the semester. Congratulations! You made it! You overcame life’s uncertainties and pushed through while giving it your best! How did you do it? Well, I would guess that many of you had to implement self-care into your schedule whether you realize it or not. Did you take the time to take a break from your studies and go for a walk? Or maybe you really enjoy art and made time to draw or paint. 

There are two times when self-care seems to become most difficult – when we are really busy or when we have a lot of unstructured free time.  You have just made it through finals week, and I am sure many of you pushed yourself to your limits, studying late or working double time to finish that big project. Maybe you skipped that reinvigorating walk or told yourself that you did not have time to draw anything that week. It happens to all of us, but how do we overcome this competition for our time? Now summer break is upon us and it can be hard to keep a routine. It’s great to have a break, but how do we use this time for both relaxation and rejuvenation while still utilizing the self-care strategies that work for us even when most of our schedules aren’t booked with studying and classes?

Now is the time to make the most of your self-care routine, whether you are just getting started or are well-versed in your self-care needs. Make a self-care plan and implement it over the summer so that it will become second nature to you when the fall semester starts. We’ve all heard that it takes a while to form a habit, so coming up with a plan now when your academic stress may lower is a good idea. In addition, it is important to train your brain to recognize that sleep, exercise, eating habits, and other self-care activities are just as important as the time you put in studying for your classes. Take a look at this article from Psychology Today on Self-Care: 12 Ways to Take Better Care of Yourself.


Self-Compassion Through the Pandemic

In American culture, it has always been easier for us to be compassionate towards others than it is to ourselves, whether it be a close friend or someone we don’t even know. We feel immense compassion even for people that we do not know that we see on the news that are suffering from this horrible virus.  It is important that we don’t forget to be compassionate towards ourselves as we go through this crisis. You might be saying to yourself, “Well, that sounds selfish, I don’t have it as bad as some people…think of the people in New York or Detroit.” Actually, being compassionate to ourselves is the opposite of selfishness. Self-compassion is the antidote to self-pity and while self-pity says “poor me,” self-compassion recognizes that life is hard for everyone. While it is true that certain people and places will be more harshly affected by this virus and we feel terrible about what they are going through, it is important to remember our common humanity.

Common humanity involves recognizing that suffering is part of the shared human experience and is something that we all go through rather than something that just happens to “you” or “them.” You may experience a sense of isolation through this crisis, such as thinking that you are the only one having a hard time in Calculus during online classes. When a family member is at home and not able to see their loved one in the hospital, they may feel a sense of pervasive isolation and worry. No matter the situation, try not to judge our situations as “It’s not that bad compared to others” or “Wow, things are terrible for me.” Instead, we need to recognize that we are all in this together – as Michigan Tech students, faculty and staff, as Americans, and as a world full of humans. The good news is that we are not alone even if we are not together in person in this day in age. All emotions are real to each and every one of us. We can all relate to the emotions of fear, happiness, anger, and the list goes on. This is something we all share as humans no matter what our situation is.

Take the time to focus on a person, pet, thought or object that stirs up some positivity within you. FaceTime a friend or family member. Our sense of hope, happiness, fun and creativity can continue on even through the pandemic because we are all in this together.

Be kind to yourself. Say to yourself “May I be kind to myself in this moment” and support bringing kindness to yourself. Talk to yourself as you would talk to a friend in a compassionate voice, saying “It’s going to be okay,” “I can get through this,” and “I am doing the best I can given the circumstances.” It is okay to be just as you are in this moment. Mindfully allow your thoughts, emotions, and sensations enter your awareness without resistance or avoidance. It is common to feel anxious, confused, overwhelmed, and powerless about this pandemic.

Research shows that people who practice self-compassion are more likely to engage in broadening their perspectives instead of focusing on their distress. Practicing self-compassion by using mindfulness, being kind to ourselves, and recognizing our common humanity makes us less likely to ruminate on “how bad things are.” This is why self-compassionate people generally have better mental health.