12 Spoons

Between a daunting pandemic, earthquake tremors, and hurricanes, times are crazy. We are all dealing with new anxieties. Here are a few things therapists are finding helpful. But, if you find this list is creating more stress than it is solving, throw it in the trash!

First: Self-love

I like using Christine Miserandino’s spoon metaphor. Everyone starts off their day with a personal set of 12 (mental and emotional) spoons. As we go about our day, we give these spoons away to stressors, for example, a grueling homework assignment, an out-of-the blue work meeting, or just forgetting where our car is parked. If we give away all our spoons, we are running on empty and will likely need to take some mental health time to get our spoons back. Here’s the kicker. COVID-19 takes at least 5 of our metaphorical spoons every day! So we are all, naturally, more mentally depleted than normal.

Find words to tell yourself that acknowledge your extra burden: “You are figuring it out as you go. You’re still here. You’re trying.” Be kind and forgive yourself. Remind yourself you’re dealing with life with fewer spoons. This is how we show ourselves self-love.

Second: Mindfulness
Anxiety is the body’s natural way of prompting you to stay safe when things are uncertain. Thank you, anxiety, for keeping us alive! The problems begin when anxiety takes over too much of our thoughts and ends up controlling us. Here are some ways to manage anxiety when it is threatening to take over:

Did you know that even thirty seconds of mindfulness can help? Mindfulness is how we tell our brain to pause when anxiety takes over. Pick a time when you’re alone to mindfully observe your feelings. You don’t have to immerse yourself in them. Just notice what you are feeling. This shows respect for what anxiety is trying to tell you. Watch it move through you. Practice R.A.I.N.:

R: Recognize what is happening
A: Allow it to happen
I: Investigate the anxiety. Why is it happening? What does it need?
N: Nurture the anxiety. Comfort it like you would comfort a family member or

Then, once the time is up, respectfully let anxiety leave. If it’s difficult to do, just accept that too. Anxiety doesn’t like being forced or prodded away! Judging that there is something wrong with you usually worsens your anxiety. Pick a regular time to practice mindfulness (when you wake up, when you shower, when you eat), or practice mindfulness when you feel anxiety taking over. And if all this is too much, try doing it in 30-second bursts. Even 30-seconds can be helpful.

Third: Self-care
For me, self-care means eliminating unnecessary stressors from my life. Bubble baths are good too. Painting. Napping. Yoga. Getting your favorite soda. Scheduling a specific time to check the news each day instead of constantly letting it influence the day.

Think of self-care like watering a plant. If you wait until the plant is shriveled, it is often too late. As humans, we sometimes wait to water the plant because we are resilient and know we can do hard things. But if we are kind to ourselves and water the plant every day, the plant thrives, rather than just survives.

Fourth: Connection
Find someone you trust to talk to. Almost everyone has lost something in this COVID-19 crisis. You can talk about this and recognize you are both actually mourning together. Therapists are still accepting clients (by video) these days. So, if you don’t have someone you feel safe sharing with, reach out to a therapist! Connect with yourself by identifying what you’re feeling or being creative. Paint, write, make music. Some of us may need more emotional connection than others during Utah’s quarantine, which is normal, but everyone needs some. You can also listen to a podcast about decreasing anxiety during COVID-19: https://www.tonyoverbay.com/2020/03/20/episode-192-decreasing-anxiety-during-anxious-times-w-dr-mary-wilde/

Then, of course, you can reduce anxiety through exercise, having a routine, eating well,
going outside, etc. These things definitely help, but if you’re paralyzed and aren’t able to
do them, give yourself a pass. It’s OK to snuggle up in a blanket and binge on Netflix

At Flourish Therapy, we think of you and send our love in these troubled times.

In the comments, maybe share with others one thing you’ve enjoyed doing this week.