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Written and Complied Barrington H. Brennen, April 15 & 20, 2020

Video    Social Togetherness is Not Lost

Writer’s Note:  This script was first written for a live video broadcast on April 13, 2020.  Sources for the information in the script are Psychology Today, American Psychological Association, Between Sessions Therapy, World Health Organization and the writer.

--  INTRODUCTION   --   GENERAL TIPS  --   TIPS FOR COUPLES   --

 

These are certainly unprecedented times.  We are in a crisis.  When I say we, I am referring to everyone living in The Bahamas and more broadly, everyone living on planet earth.  This is a crisis, but not one that we cannot overcome.   This is one time when unification of all  residents in The Bahamas, yeh, the entire world is required to crush this pandemic.    Every country in the world has at least one case of COVID19.  COVID19 is spreading like wildfire. 

The purpose of this video (article) is to give some tips to help you through this challenging time.

Crisis can bring out the best or worst in society. Quoting one author:  “There are silver linings we are experiencing through this tragic situation. We have seen the very best in people during times of crisis. Their generosity of spirit is evident in countless ways.”  We’ve seen many who are sharing their time, helping others, responding actively to the lockdown or curfew requirements. 

We know that national crisis can expose the worst in us, also.  During a national crisis like a   hurricane and this terrible pandemic, it is not unusual to have an increase in domestic violence, child abuse, rape, and maybe even birth.  Although birth increase after a national disaster, this has not been empirically proven.

What If?

Right now, there are many who are experiencing a higher level of anxiety, worry and even fear.  Since the immediate future seems unpredictable, people are asking all kinds of questions and these questions are making things worse.  Questions like:  “What if I never can go back to work?”  “What if the company where I am working does not open again?”   “What if I get sick and die?” “What if I and my children die?”  “What if our hotels never re-open?”  Not only are these questions being asked, but they are repeated and repeated in our minds

We can ask many “What If?” questions.   But listen.  Do you realize that “What ifs” can cripple you?   Sometimes they are simply frivolous or stupid.  They freeze us in a position of endless anxiety or allow us to become stagnated.  What ifs can cripple a relationship, family, and nation.  What ifs can even cripple a government.”   When we focus on the “What ifs” even when it appears to be a reality, we rob ourselves in the midst of the crisis of being hopeful and at peace and responding appropriately to ensure survival.  Always questioning “What if” puts us in a worrying state of mind.

Here is a quote from Psychology Today online article entitled ”Fighting Life's "What Ifs"-- Why we worry, fuss, and fret far more than we need to.”   

“Worry is like blood pressure: you need a certain level to live, but too much can kill you. At its worst, worry is insidious, invisible, a relentless scavenger, roaming the corners of your mind, feeding on anything it finds. It sets upon you unwanted and unbidden, feasting on the infinite array of negative possibilities in life, diminishing your enjoyment of friends, family, achievements, and physical being—all because you live in fear of what might go wrong.”

“What ifs” can lead to worry and worry to anxiety.    The great preacher Charles H. Spurgeon who died in 1892 said: “Our anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strengths.”   

You are on lockdown or depending when you watch this video, you are in the midst of a curfew.  You only can go to shop for food on a certain day of the week and the rest of the time you are at home.   Thus, you have fears, worry that causes some level of anxiety.   Some people listening or watching might just be having a mild form of anxiety.  Listen to this:

“The physical symptoms of anxiety are caused by the brain sending messages to parts of the body to prepare for the "fight or flight" response. The heart, lungs and other parts of the body work faster. The brain also releases stress hormones, including adrenaline. The following symptoms can occur as a result:

Physical Symptoms:  abdominal discomfort,  diarrhea,   dry mouth,   rapid heartbeat or palpitations,   tightness or pain in chest,   shortness of breath,   dizziness,   frequent urination,   difficulty swallowing  .

Psychological symptoms can include:   insomnia,  irritability or anger,   inability to concentrate,   fear of madness,   feeling unreal and not in control of your actions (depersonalization). 

TIPS                            Back to the Top    

WHAT CAN YOU DO?
What can you do to have peace of mind while you are in lockdown during this pandemic.   How can you feel hopeful when it seems hopeless?  How can you manage your mood while observing social distancing?  You might feel like the four walls are coming down on you.  

I am going to give some tips, 16 of them, that I hope will be helpful.  Some are very simple but important.

  1. Choose not to ask anymore “What If” questions because they will cripple you.   No matter how the perceived reality is right in your face.

  2. Choose to live one moment at a time and one day at a time. 

  3. Avoid dwelling on what you do not have and what you cannot do.

  4. Accept what's out of your control.  Focusing on that which you have no control over will leave you feeling frustrated and exhausted. There are certain circumstances or decisions that are not in your power to control. Let go of them. Doing so will help you move on and focus your energy more positively. Remember: though you may not be able to change these realities, you can change how your respond to them.

  5. Limit media exposure on the topic, including social media.  Select times when you will keep up to date with the news.   Do not keep the television on all day to the facts about the virus.

  6. Embrace change. There will always be change. Instead of concentrating on the disruptive aspects, take a flexible approach and accept that change is a fundamental part of life that can also bring opportunities and positive outcomes.

  7. Look at what is in your hand.   That is, look around you.  See the opportunities you have never had before.   Clean cluttered closets or attics.   Sort out unused, but good clothing to give away.  Wash walls down. Remove the spider webs you have been wanting to do for years.

  8. If there is a family in the home, plan a routine schedule of doing things.  Set a family mealtime at least once a day.   Designate persons to do chores around the house.  (In other word create a structured environment instead of just sitting around day after day and looking at your toes or the television.)

  9. Have a schedule to call relatives and friends who are close to you.  Laugh with them. Share your hope and fears. 

  10. Dress up.  Instead of staying in the same clothing or sleep attire throughout the day, get a bath, and put on clothing as though you are going out someplace.  Males, shave your faces and comb your hair.  Females, put your hair in a style as though you are expecting someone.  Then sit down for a meal, or play games, or watch a movie, or read a book.   The temptation is not to change clothing and to  keep on the sleeping gowns all day since no one is coming to your house.   This mindset will keep you locked down emotionally.   Get out of the pajamas and dress up—perfume and everything.  Do this every day or at least once every two days.  You should do this whether you are alone or living with family members.

  11. Have a routine exercise or vigorous fun-time with the people in the home.  Play hopscotch, Jack in the box, marbles, volleyball, table games, dominoes, etc.

  12. Home leaders/parents, utilize this time to teach your sons and daughters how to bake or cook something, change a car tire, use a electric saw, etc

  13. Select a time to have a family meeting once a week or so, to talk  about the Coronavirus.  Use age appropriate language.   Here are some of the topics you can share:

    • What are you most concerned about?

    • Are you having any problems with your online schooling?

    • How can we as a family help a neighbor this week without leaving home?

     

  14. Try and keep this world crisis in perspective. Social media and news outlets can amplify misinformation. Keep in mind that there's a concerted global effort to try and contain this virus, and the World Health Organization is maintaining a webpage with answers to common questions. Remind yourself that people are out there fighting this monster for you and with you as you do your part.

  15.  Practice stress and anxiety management. There are many proven ways to reduce stress and anxiety: getting enough sleep, balanced diet and hydration, exercise, talking about your fears with others, meditation, and more. Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate. Find the self-care practice that works for you.

  16. My last tip is this: Follow prevention tips to stay healthy. Wear your mask or face covering whenever you must go out to shop. Wash your hands often and wash them properly. These are the simple most effective ways to stop the spread of disease.
     

Remember to avoid asking the question “What if . .  .?”

Remember to call a doctor, nurse, police officer, media personnel, essential worker you know and encourage them. Thank them for what they are doing.

 

Be calm. Be calm. Be calm.

 

TIPS FOR COUPLES   Back to the Top

The following are specific tips for decreasing strain on your relationship during the pandemic.

Believe it or not, even the healthiest relationship can experience strain during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Being locked down, cannot go out, will have some kind of effect, great or small. Sometimes, small arguments can explode into big ones. To prevent or reduce the stress here are a few tips I sited from Between Sessions Resources 2020 that I know will be helpful.

  • Voice your needs clearly and kindly by remaining calm and resisting the temptation to blame. Pause throughout the day to reflect on how you are feeling and what you need.

  • Listen with respect, patience, and kindness. Identify common ground. Reveal your vulnerability and fears to each other, and soften your stance to stay connected. Schedule 30 minutes each day to focus on your relationship—avoid talking about the pandemic or tomorrow’s plans. Discussing “what ifs” can increase anxiety and fuel fear, leading to more conflict.

  • When things get heated take time to calm down. Identify when you are stressed and take a step back. When you are upset it is normal to resort to less healthy ways of coping and expressing yourself. You might become irritable, critical, short-tempered, or tearful. You might even snap at your partner, or overact to minor misunderstandings. Instead, express how you are feeling and explain that you do not want to say anything you will regret later.

  • Express gratitude. Do not neglect the say "Thank you."  "That's sweet" etc.

  • Take care of yourself and tend to your own needs. Nurture yourself and your body by getting enough sleep, exercising, eating well, and maintaining strong relationships with family and friends (virtually or by phone). Even incorporating small habits like meditating each morning for 5 minutes, doing a 10-minute stretching video before bed, or taking 2 minutes to write in a journal will be helpful.

  • Create separate workspaces. If possible, work in different rooms. Use noise-canceling headphones to focus on your tasks. If you have kids, designate “shifts” for childcare and household tasks.

  • Have your own time and space away from your partner and kids. You each may need to escape to a quiet spot at different times. It might be helpful to plan breaks from your partner, and time to spend together, to avoid hurt feelings.

  • Plan a project together. The more accomplished you feel as a team, the more connected you will feel. Identify household tasks you can tackle together.

  • Rekindle romance. Recreate “date night” at home with candles and soft music, savoring a quiet dinner after the kids have gone to bed.

  • Make small gestures to brighten your partner’s day.

  • Respect differing coping styles. You and your partner most likely cope with stress in very different ways. You might be calm and level-headed, while your partner is anxious or highstrung. Your differing styles can balance each other out – the more grounded partner can offer humor, while the anxious partner can ensure that health and safety guidelines are in place. View the situation from your partner’s point of view and limit your judgment of how he or she copes.
     

Be calm. Be calm. Be calm.

 

I am Barrington Brennen, counseling psychologist from Marriage and Family Counseling Services, Nassau, The Bahamas.

I can be reached at www.soencouragement.org/counseling  or 242 327 1980 or WhatsApp at 242 477 4002

 

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 question@soencouragement.org or barringtonbrennen@gmail.com  Phone contact is 242-327 1980.   
 
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