Acceptance & Awareness: Coping With Stress During A Pandemic

I will be honest…last week, I totally fell apart!

I feel like I went through the Five Stages of Grief denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.  

I am not sure if anyone else has experienced this lately; if so, please feel free to share with us your thoughts and opinions too.

My downward spiral of emotions began when the media started reporting different facts regarding the CoVid-19 pandemic, causing great panic and fear in everyone.

As a scientist at heart <3, I question the world around me, not only to gain better understanding, but also to better accept the unknown.  However, when information is incorrect or contradicting, it is difficult to make an accurate assessment to build a solid game plan.  As human beings, if we cannot accurately assess a serious situation, our Fight or Flight Response System kicks into high gear, creating panic and fear.

Of course, with the help of my OCD brain, my rational questions turned into stinking thinking, which not only created panic and fear, but also a physical pain in my ribs due to the build up of stress caused by panic and fear.  In short, I had a really really bad panic attack!

Denial
My emotions started with denial.  With all the confusing, contradicting, false information circulating around, I started to think, perhaps things are not as bad as it seems.  Then our community got serious, with shut-downs and testing.

Anger
Then, I got super angry.  Angry, that I am high-risk for complications due to my asthma.  Angry, that my family might lose me.  Angry, that I never finished my Biology degree to be one of the scientists who can help cure this awful disease.  Angry, that the world may change forever for my girls.  Angry, about so much stuff.  

Bargaining & Depression
After the anger subsided, I began a stage known as bargaining…where the “what if” thinking really started to get me down.  Mostly, I became overly concerned about the welfare of my kids…in which, I can’t even bring myself to talk about without the waterworks starting up again.  I started organizing my affairs and gathering information my family would need, in the event, I get really sick.

This was the stage, where I began to feel the pain in my ribs.  The part where depression kicked in and I cried a lot.

Acceptance
Today, I am feeling much better, except for my ribs; they feel like they were beaten by a baseball bat.  But, my heart-rate is down, I am calm, cool, collected, and ready to take on the world again.

I am currently working on acceptance and I think acceptance is very important when having to cope with stress; especially, a lot of stress.

I have accepted that the situation going on today is out of my control.
However, I can certainly control how I respond to this situation.
I can respond by…

1) Keeping myself informed and up-to-date
2) Doing my best to practice good hygiene and taking the necessary precautions to prevent illness and help flatten the curve to help others.
3) Worrying only when it is time to worry.
4) Having hope and never giving up on hope.
5) Continuing to enjoy Life with a grateful heart and a positive mind. 


Practicing Awareness
With everything going on in the world right now, it is super easy to forget about the present moment.  For many of us, we are wasting the present moment by dwelling on the past as we worry about the future.  But, in the grand-scheme of things, the present is all that really matters.  Even when the world is not tumbling into chaos, enjoying the present is far more important than our past and future.

Don’t get me wrong, our future is important too.  However, focusing on the present allows us to pave the way for a better future, a more enjoyable future, rather than a future spent on regretting the past.  I am not sure if that makes any sense, but basically, I am just saying, make good decisions and fantastic memories now, so that you end up having an amazing life later.

Also, practicing awareness for the present moment, gives us a break from all the chaos around us.  It has the potential to reduce panic and fear.  Being aware of the present moment, reminds you that at this very moment in time, you are okay.   Focusing on the present moment, removes a vast majority of fears and anxiety; especially, those associated with time and space.  It can eliminate fears and anxiety regarding the past and future (time).  It can also eliminate fears and anxiety caused by situations that are in your life, such as work, school, home, etc (space).  Self-awareness allows you to block out everything else and only focus on yourself…your existence.  This allows you to reprioritize your thoughts, worries, and emotions.  It also allows you to heal and recharge from overwhelming emotions.   A mental break.

Thank You To All The Amazing Brains 
I just wanted to take a moment to thank all the amazing brains out there taking the time to check out my blog, reading my posts, and posting comments.  You guys are awesome!  We will get through this together.  I wish everyone the best of physical and mental health!  Positive vibes too ❤

 

 

 

Getting To Sleep With A Chatter-Box Brain

Sometimes I lie in bed, anxiously waiting for my brain to shut up.  My brain goes on and on with random thoughts; chatting away excitedly, all while I just sit there, silently  watching the minutes pass by on the clock.  My brain often times doesn’t get the hint that I want to go to sleep.

I have an arsenal of sleep techniques, which include taking a warm bath, reading the words most boring books, playing audio-books & sleep stories, watching “Moving Art” on Netflix, and/or listening to white-noise apps.  In worst case scenarios, possibly taking Melatonin.  But, for me, the most effective way to get to sleep has been guided mediations.

Guided mediation is like a sleep-story, but instead of just listening to the narrator tell you a story, you focus on the narrator as he/she guides you into relaxation.  Basically, helping you obtain self-awareness.  Sometimes is a visual guide (like relaxing on a beach) or a basic guide to breathing and relaxing the body.  The entire point is to calm your busy brain and relax the body.

I may have shared this before, but I tell ya, I love these guys!  The Honest Guys, on YouTube.  They have amazing guided mediation videos and if you aren’t much of a visual person, just the sounds alone are peaceful enough to induce relaxation.

Below is one of my favorite videos I listen to that help me go to sleep.  I love it for several reasons:

  1. It’s a short video, only 30 minutes, but for whatever reason, I am out like a light before it’s over!
  2. The deep breathing exercise, in this particular video, is different than some of their other videos.   Instead of just taking in a few deep breaths, this video guides you along a breathing technique called “4-7-8 breathing,” in which, studies have shown to help the nervous system relax.
  3. This video also guides you through your noisy brain, by helping you return to the present moment, rather than floating off into the future or dwelling behind in the past.I have noticed that if I truly focus on listening to the guided mediation, my noisy brain does fade away into the background.
  4. The guide (Rick Clarke) speaks with a slow, whispered deep voice.  It is the whispering of his voice that seems to produce a feeling of relaxation, which is an interesting phenomenon, known as ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response).  This is actually a new trend that is supposedly therapeutic for those with depression, insomnia, and anxiety.Even the popular App, Calm, has ASMR “sleep” stories, in which their sleep stories are narrated with a whisper.  For me, I personally prefer listening to Calm’s Sleep Stories narrated by Matthew McConaughey. 🙂
  5. The sounds are of really good quality and thus, I totally recommend a pair of headphones.  The sounds are perfectly balanced and serene.  The music is calming and the nature sounds are not distorted, too loud, or fake.I mean, to me,  there are some videos (and apps) out there where ocean waves just sound like tv static.   It’s terrible!

However, I have learned, that for this guided meditation to be most effective, you must put forth some effort, especially, if you have a really chatty brain, in listening to the guided mediation and doing the breathing exercises – otherwise, it’s no different than having a radio station playing in the background.

Last night, my brain was super chatty and I kept wandering away from the guided meditation.  So, I re-started the guided mediation with the full intent to focus on the sounds of the meditation and without even realizing it, my brain shut up (or faded in the background) and I eventually fell asleep.

If you suffer from insomnia or anxiety, please give this a try.  I know it may not work for everyone, but it never hurts to try, especially, if nothing else seems to help.  Please have an open mind and hope you enjoy.  ❤

Oh, another thing… The Honest Guys are so cool, they have visual guided mediations that are Lord of the Rings themed!

Change Is Not Without Challenges: Stay-At-Home Orders

How has your daily life changed since the coronavirus pandemic?

It is my understanding that the entire United States is under “Stay-At-Home” Orders (restrictions may vary state-to-state), where the only places open are those that are “essential” and “necessary,” like the grocery store, pharmacy, doctors, and a couple of restaurants that offer “drive-thru” only.

Where I live, we can still go outside, drive around, but social gatherings of 10 people or more are not allowed and we must keep a distance of 6 feet or more away from each other.  I don’t know about you, but I have no idea what 6 feet looks like; however, I gather it would be the length of my daughter X2.  In my opinion, that isn’t much, for that not everyone sneezes the same.  I’ve seen some gross sneezes in my lifetime! 

Life At Home
As a stay-at-home mom/housewife, my life hasn’t changed very much.  I mean, I still wake up every morning, enjoy a cup of coffee on the patio, read the horrifying news and check emails & stuff.  Then, I embark on my daily mommy/housewife duties.  The significant change to my daily life, is that my husband is working from home now, my Kindergartner has online schooling, and I must cook every night.  Yay me!

Our Place Is Too Small For Messes
We live in a very small space, in which, is more difficult to keep clean now that the entire family is constantly home.

Generally, I deep clean on Sunday and the rest of the week just requires a bit of tidying up, because it’s really just me and a pre-schooler hanging out all day.  But now, our place is a constant disaster zone!

Everyone is bored.  Projects come out, every toy imaginable comes out, and food crumbs everywhere.  Every couple of hours, we have to stop, pick-up, vacuum, and then resume.  Not fun.  Of course, that’s all part of adjusting to change and eventually, we’ll get into a better routine.

Online Schooling Is New
How does a Kindergartner do online schooling?  Well, we (including the teachers) are about to find out!

Last night, I was sent the schedule for daily lessons.  It’s a bit overwhelming.  I felt like I was in college all over again!   Good thing, I am not the one who has to do all this school work, but I can tell you, it sure is going to take a huge amount of work to convince a Kindergartner to do all this school work!

Creative Cooking
Due to people excessively hoarding food at the grocery store, we are pretty much limited on what to cook every night.  It’s always an interesting surprise!

Mostly, I try to do casseroles, so that I can stretch a meal for a couple of days.  Unfortunately, there is only so many casseroles you can throw together with just a few ingredients.

My husband went shopping yesterday and he brought home ground “chuck.”  I am not exactly sure what to do with ground chuck.   Is it like ground beef?  Is it even beef at all?

Although cooking is an adventure, I absolutely, hate doing dishes!  Everyday there are piles of dirty dishes and everyday I have to clean those piles of dishes, so that I can cook again the next day.  For me, dishes are the most dreadful part of my day!   

OCD Moments
My OCD isn’t going crazy.
I really thought I would be a super clean freak, but instead I am pretty 
comfortable in my own home.  However, every so often, I do disinfect our entry-way.  I wash the jackets hanging up, disinfect the floor and doorknobs, spray the shoes too, and then, spray the air with disinfectant just as an extra precaution.  It makes me feel better.  

So far, my largest OCD quirk has been the shoes.  I have this irrational fear that viruses and bacteria hitch rides on shoes and it drives me crazy whenever family forgets to kick off their shoes at the front door when they come home.  They are great at washing their hands as soon as we get home, but they are always so eager to play in water, they forget to take off their shoes.   And for some reason, our youngest doesn’t want to take off her shoes at all.  I couldn’t even get her to relinquish her shoes at bed-time the other day.  So, sometimes, even when OCD is at it’s worse, you still have to pick your battles with a pre-schooler.  At that point, you either wipe the shoes off with a wet cloth or suck it up and face your OCD fears (exposure therapy).

This Is The First Week
Anyway, this is our first week together!  There will be challenges here and there as we try to adjust to this new way of living.  It’s going to be interesting!   It’s going to be an adventure! 

I hope everyone is well and I wish everyone the best of physical and mental health!

How are you holding up?  Are you stuck at home too?   How is your OCD doing?  

 

 

How Viruses Work: Show Concern, Not Fear

This post is an OPINION.  Although the author tries to provide content based on facts, every reader is strongly encouraged  to do their own research.  The author is not an expert.         


On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declares COVID-19 a pandemic.

I am staring at the world in disbelief, as everyone races to stockpile hand-sanitizer, wash their hands excessively, cover themselves in gloves and masks, as well as distant themselves socially.  It’s as if the entire world has Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder!

Screen Shot 2019-10-26 at 11.00.03 PM

Hi Brains!!  How are you holding up?  Hope all is well!  

As a person with OCD, who has asthma, with children with asthma….
I am extremely concern, but not technically afraid.  Which is strange…

Generally, my OCD contamination fears would be kicking in about right now, but for the moment, I am okay.  Maybe, it’s the mom in me, overriding my OCD brain.  For that mom’s have a super-power of not showing fear in times of crisis.   Perhaps it’s knowing a bit of biology and having an understanding about how viruses work that ease my OCD brain, allowing me to reassure others that the world will be okay.

To be honest, I am more afraid of people irrationally panicking than I am of the actual virus.

Why Is The Public In A Panic

It is unsettling to a person with an OCD brain, to see those (normal brains) who we rely on for reassurance, go into panic mode.

In my opinion, the public is in a panic, because we are being told facts that are difficult to understand without a medical or science degree.  Scientists are notorious for not explaining things in layman’s terms (simple, to the point, easy to understand terms).

Unfortunately, the experts don’t have to time to explain it and the media doesn’t have time to understand it – they just report the facts.  And facts and statistics without further explanation can be scary and often times misunderstood, potentially, creating panic and fear.

If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.

-Albert Einstein

Show Concern, Not Fear

I totally agree with the experts, that we should show concern, not fear. In my opinion, based on personal experiences battling OCD contamination fears, is that knowledge is a strong foundation for reassurance.  

Unfortunately, the media seems to be pushing statistical facts, without providing further information, onto a society who lacks general knowledge of viruses.  I mean, it’s not like everyone took high-school biology.  In fact, most of our knowledge about viruses come from apocalyptic movies that deal with zombies or spy movies.  Last night, I watched Hobbs & Shaw (Fast & Furious) movie, which was entirely about saving the world from a deadly virus that, Ryan Reynolds, so elegantly put it, “melts your insides.”

So, in effort to reduce fear, I want to share with you what I know about viruses.  Of course, I am not an expert and I do encourage you to do your own research.

Our Bodies Got An Impressive Defense System

There is no doubt that COVID-19 is a serious and “potentially” dangerous disease and like any other virus, we should still take necessary precautions to stay healthy.  

Not to worsen fears, but did you know that viruses are the most abundant microbes on the planet (like billions of them) and that there is an estimate of 320,000 viruses that can infect mammals (that includes us humans)?

If that is true, why are we not constantly sick?
Well, although my microbiology is a bit rusty,  the simple answer is that the human body is AMAZING!

Although some viruses spread much easier than others, it still takes a lot of work for viruses to make healthy individuals sick, especially, if we take precautions like practicing good hygiene, washing our hands, and keeping ourselves distant from sick people.  In the event, we do get sick, symptoms are generally mild, even if we feel absolutely horrible, which is all thanks to our bad-ass immune system!!

Many people think when the body gets sick, it just gave up and the immune system is compromised, but that is FAR from the truth.  In fact, all viruses have the potential to do some pretty nasty harm, but it is our amazing immune system that often has the ability to ensure symptoms are not as bad as they could be…

Keep in mind, that a completely new virus could catch our immune system off guard and hit us hard; thus why, it is still very important to take necessary precautions to stay healthy.

What Is A Virus:  Extremely Short Basic General Version

The following is my understanding regarding viruses based on biology classes taken many-many moons ago…okay, throw in an extra moon or two in there for good measure. 

Viruses are non-living things, meaning, they cannot live or reproduce (spread) on their own.

Viruses need to infect the cells of living organisms (such as us) to survive.  This is because, living cells are metabolic power-houses that constantly produce cells within the body.  Our body is made up of trillions upon trillions of cells which are constantly making new cells to replace old cells.  It’s absolutely fascinating!

If a virus cannot get inside a living organism, they slowly die or basically become “inactive.”  Scientists use the word “inactive” instead of “dead,” because viruses are non-living things and only living things can technically die.  I know, scientists are so technical.

So, viruses pretty much lay around all day waiting for a host (us) to pick it up and IF and only IF (because the body has lots of different defense mechanisms) they do get inside, they must then face an army of fierce defenders called, white blood cells.  Good luck! 

White-blood cells (among other things) play a major role in our immune system, for that they attack and destroy foreign invaders, such as viruses and bacteria.  Unfortunately, not all first attacks are successful, for that a virus may overwhelm our immune system and become successful in attaching to our cells.  Once they attach to our cells, they assume full control of the cell and start to make copies of themselves (reproduce and spread)- which then, makes us sick.

However, even then, it is short lived (duration of illness), as the body has many other defense mechanisms in place to help fight against a virus attack.  Such a cool defense mechanism is a fever, where the body purposely heats up in attempt to fry the suckers (the virus).  That essentially, levels the playing field, eliminating enough of the virus, for the white-blood cells to finish off the job.  This is when we start to feel better.

 

Antibodies & Vaccines

Now, although we are feeling amazing, getting back to work, and enjoying life again, our body isn’t finished yet with the virus- no way!  

Our body then, produces antibodies, which are like little battle ships that lay and wait for the next attack from the same virus.

Antibodies contain specific indentification information (like a warrant poster) that helps them quickly identify and destroy the virus in the event it comes back.

It is my understanding that antibodies become the first line of defense against an old enemy (a previous virus), where they fight off the virus while the calvary (white blood cells) make their way to the battle field.  This is why, symptoms are generally less severe the second go around with a virus.  The more times a virus attacks the more antibodies are produced to prevent future infection- eventually producing immunity.  Essentially, this is how vaccines work.

Vaccines contain a tiny bit of “inactive” or super-duper weak viruses that signals the body to create antibodies to help boost the immune system.  If your body has ever encountered the virus before, additional antibodies from the vaccine, generally do a good job at preventing having the illness again.  However, if your body encounters the virus for the first time after getting a vaccine, you may still get sick, but the symptoms will always be less severe than it would be without antibodies (vaccines).

Because many people do not understand how antibodies produced by vaccines work, they often refuse to get a flu vaccine, because they have heard of people still getting sick despite being vaccinated.

To them, they believe vaccines don’t work.  However, those who do get sick after being vaccinated, may have never been infected with the virus before, so they don’t have the extra antibodies from a previous encounter to join ranks with the antibodies produced from the vaccine.  Also, not all antibodies stick around forever either.  Some vaccines offer a life-time immunity whereas others are just good for about +/- 10 years.

In short, it takes a lot for a virus to get us down.  In fact, our body does all the hard work.  It is our job to take the necessary (don’t go crazy) precautions to avoid getting sick.

COVID-19

Now, that we know a little bit about viruses in general, lets talk about COVID-19…..

First, COVID-19 is not a zombie apocalypse virus.  According to the CDC, which by the way, I believe to be the most accurate source of information regarding all kinds of viruses, states COVID-19 is a “respiratory virus” that may (not always) cause pneumonia, similar to the flu.  Ugh, the yucky flu!

Viruses often mutate into different versions of itself, producing different “strains,” in effort to survive.  Not all mutations are successful for that some mutations are weaker than others, but occasionally, they may mutate into a strain that has the potential to pack a powerful punch (such as COVID-19).

COVID-19 is 1 of 7 different strains of the virus called, “coronavirus.”

Although 4 strains of the coronavirus are nothing more than a common-cold (which everyone is expected to get at some point during their lifetime), it also has 3 other nastier versions of itself: MERS, SARS, and now COVID-19, which is a version of the first SARS outbreak.  These nastier versions (mutations/strains) of the coronavirus, cause severe respiratory issues; thus, it is important to try to stop the spread of them.

It is my understanding and opinion, that COVID-19 is extremely serious, because it poses a large health risk to those who have weak immune systems and/or underlying conditions that may cause complications.   The word “complication,” generally means, “making symptoms worse.”   The more severe that symptoms become, the more difficult it is for the body to fight off the virus.

Those who are generally healthy, may experience (if any) mild symptoms similar to the flu.

COVID-19 GAME PLAN

How do we stop the spread of a virus (whether it be COVID-19 or any other virus)?   Well, we quarantine, practice social distancing, and practice good hygiene.

The general idea is to not spread the virus to others.  The virus that is left hanging around on surfaces and people’s hands, are either washed away, disinfected, or left alone long enough to become “inactive,” and thus, not able to reproduce and spread.  However, that is quite a challenge for large populations.  I mean, Life still moves on.    

So, really the ultimate goal is to SLOW down the spread of the virus so that hospitals are not overwhelmed and become short of supplies.  This will make our health care system better manageable and reduce the mortality rate, until an effective and safe vaccine becomes available.

"Flattening the Curve for COVID-19"

Also, because COVID-19 is a virus that quickly and easily spreads, there is a good change that herd immunity will take effect and pretty much wipe out the virus out.

When a large portion of the population becomes immune, the virus has a less chance of survival.  Herd immunity is what often protects our elderly, our children, and those who may have trouble fighting off a virus.  Herd immunity also plays a major role in eliminating viruses – such as smallpox.

 

So, That’s My 2 Cents 

I am not sure if explaining the basics of viruses was helpful, but I do wish everyone the best of health, including your mental health!

If you are experiencing OCD contamination fears over COVID-19…BREATHE, learn the facts, and if you don’t understand something, ask questions.  Knowledge is extremely helpful when dealing with OCD fears.

Stay informed, follow health guidelines, and practice good hygiene 🙂