Well, it’s no secret that the past few months have been crazy...and that we at Hudson Healing Arts miss you all like crazy!
As we navigate a path through these unprecedented times, the HHA team wants to remind you that you’re not alone— we are all in this together. We remain committed to helping you find balance and a sense of greater wellbeing, and right now, that just looks a little different than usual.
For some expert tips on finding peace, purpose, and connection during this crisis (and general stress relief, of course), we turned to our resident counselor, Andrea Inauen. As usual, she was full of sage advice. Andrea’s greatest message for each and every one of us? Be kind to yourself!
How can people deal with feeling up and down, moment to moment?
Andrea: These times are hard. Whether you’re affected emotionally, financially, and/or physically, there are so many layers to what’s happening right now...and it makes sense to have feelings about that. I would be more worried if people weren’t having any reaction to these circumstances. It's perfectly okay to experience a wide range of emotions on any given day. This can mean a mix of fear, gratitude, restlessness, contentment, guilt, grief, and anger. The hope is that you don't stay stuck in those negative spaces; you acknowledge them, but don't live there.
I’m a big fan of emotional toolboxes, which means helping clients identify things that they can control and work through. Usually, we develop these tools by talking about previous challenges, and we identify strengths that we can build off of. This is a totally different situation. It’s unprecedented, and your “go-tos” for coping with stress may not apply (especially if they require leaving the house!). The most important thing is to not judge yourself for feeling stressed, or whatever it is you’re feeling. All of the uncertainty is understandably exacerbating stress for a lot of people. Above all, the ultimate challenge right now is to be kind to ourselves.
How can we get “unstuck” so we don’t linger in those negative spaces?
Andrea: When you’re feeling challenging emotions like stress or sadness, ask yourself the question: “What do I do when I feel like this?” Hopefully, the answer isn’t, “Put a lid on it and don’t acknowledge it.” That approach will only cause the negative emotions to build up and fester. When you’re feeling sad, maybe that’s a day where you decide to just lay low, read, or sleep. If you’re feeling fear, ask yourself, “What can I do that's within my control?”
At the base level, figure out where you are and how you can be in the driver's seat of your own life. You can't control the news or what's going on across the globe...that’s too far-reaching. But if you’re staying home, that’s one tangible thing that you’re doing already. It’s all about the small self-care wins right now, like putting on some music to change the energy, giving yourself extra sleep, reading a book that makes you feel good, or sipping tea to relax. Your toolbox right now might seem “low level” to you, and again, that’s absolutely nothing to feel guilty about.
As our fast-paced lives slow to a crawl, how can we get more used to the idea of existing as “human beings” instead of “human doings?”
Andrea: One question I usually ask my clients in normal circumstances is, “What’s important to you? What would your ideal day look like?” Right now, given the constraints, this question applies on a more basic level. Your answer might be to get better sleep, stay in shape, or to have gratitude. That gives you a direction to head toward. It doesn’t mean you're going to necessarily arrive at the “destination,” but it can help give you some shape and focus.
The idea that you’re going to be ultra-productive during this time is not really fair. Don’t put your expectations into doing something huge; the idea is to survive this time, and if you can do it with some moments of peace, calm, and gratitude sprinkled in, that’s great. It’s not a time for “optimizing,” “maximizing,” and so on and so forth. When your energy levels are up, it might feel amazing to organize a drawer or pantry, but on other days, maybe just cracking a window and enjoying some fresh air is nourishing to your spirit.
Your productivity isn’t a measure of our self-worth, yet that’s something that’s been ingrained in us. It’s worth repeating: As a human being, your value doesn’t come from how much you accomplish! A few months ago, we were operating on a different plane: One that said, “It’s a good day if I’ve done 27,000 things.” Ask yourself what truly gives a human being value, and pay attention to how you answer. The answer is so much broader than checking things off your to-do list. We’re slowly being forced to reckon with that!
Do you think there’s any growth opportunities to come from this crisis?
Andrea: For those who have lost loved ones during this pandemic, this is a horrible time that I would not wish on anyone. I have worked with kids with life-threatening illnesses, and when I hear the words “getting back to normal,” it sort of makes me cringe because there is no getting back to normal for families who have had a child with cancer. The hope is that there’s a new normal. The same sort of concept applies here, in a way.
Now, we’re aware of the fact now that things can happen. Our world can be turned upside down. We were going so fast, and I think most of us would agree that this much slower pace may not be the answer. However, maybe the idea of “being” is something that we can incorporate into the new normal. Perhaps we won't go back to “100% doing” and there will be greater balance. Before, we were all moving at such a rapid pace that it was hard to find time to check in with ourselves. Now, we are all taking inventory. Each day, ask yourself: How am I doing? What is important? How is my family? Maybe some of those questions will continue down the road, so we’re not running through our days with blinders on.
Is there anything else you’d like to say to the HHA community?
Andrea: Please be kind to yourself! Create really small, manageable portions of structure (“What do I want this morning?”) rather than trying to build out too far. When you do this in brief intervals, you’ll feel more satisfied with that bucket of time; conversely, if sadness or anxiety took over, it was just a small portion of time. Then you can say, “That’s done now, and I feel good about it,” or, “Well, that kind of sucked, but that's not going to define my whole week!” Embracing these digestible moments of time, rather than setting big goals, can help you manage and navigate and replenish and cope. These times are hard and very different from what most of us have ever experienced, so allow yourself to be human. This means having a whole range of successes, challenges, and emotions. That's what it's all about! And of course, it all comes back to being kind to yourself.
Finally, are you still working with clients?
Andrea: I am. Some clients prefer in person sessions and are going to wait, and others are continuing with phone or FaceTime sessions. I miss meeting in person, of course, but I do think it can be helpful to have a space to check in with yourself throughout the course of the day, whether it’s alone, with me, with another counselor, or with a loved one.
Hannah Chenoweth is a Hoboken-based conference producer and freelance writer who enjoys covering all aspects of health and wellness.