Mindful Living During a Pandemic

Mindful Living During a Pandemic

Amanda Marshall, Psychology Intern

The Covid-19 pandemic has taken this year from us, and has created a lot of confusion, stress, anxiety, and frustration. Between remembering your PPE while running out to the grocery store, managing online instruction for the kids, working from home or experiencing job loss, and managing all the necessary day-to-day tasks like laundry, cooking, and cleaning – this is getting old quick! It can feel like a bag of bricks that we have been dragging around for months, and if you ask me, this is exhausting. When the world is swirling around us like this, and there are only so many things we can really control, it is important to take a step back. Practicing mindfulness is an effective tool for each of us to have in our back pocket.

Here are some tips for mindful living (especially during the Covid-19 pandemic):

Three Good Things. This practice, promoted in positive psychology, can help you to refocus your mind, build resilience, and encourage feelings of happiness and optimism. As we learn to adapt to living through these unusual times, it may be nice to start or end you day with Three Good Things. There is a lot of flexibility with how you choose to engage with this task as long as you include these main elements: (1) think of something good that you have in your life or that has happened recently; this can be something as simple as an enjoyable conversation with a friend, (2) reflect on how this positive thing impacts you and your life, and (3) take a moment to experience gratitude for the positive thing you have identified. Repeat these steps, identifying Three Good Things in your life. You may even enjoy journaling about these good things to have them to look back on when you are in need of a positive reminder.

Mindful Appreciation. This year, our routines have been dismantled, and many are struggling to find a new normal. As we move through each day, mindfulness and appreciation can help us to build a more positive mindset and provide moments for much needed reflection. To use these tools, allow yourself to have greater awareness of each of your activities throughout the day (eating, getting your kids ready, listening to the rain fall, or even sipping that first cup of coffee!) and allow yourself to acknowledge the significance of each of these small things. Sometimes the repetition of our daily routine can overshadow the simple joys, so try to draw your attention in on these moments and intentionally dedicate a thought to appreciating what is there in front of you. Recognizing the small things in life can help us to gain a more positive outlook and have greater appreciation for where we are today, instead of concern for where we will be tomorrow.

Meditation and Laughter. Sometimes finding much needed balance in life can feel impossible, but meditation and laughter can help us to achieve some of that balance by reclaiming our calm and enjoying life out loud. Meditation is quiet, purposeful, and allows the mind to rest and reduce anxiety. Laughter can be loud, it releases tension in the body and helps to alleviate stress. Laughter has an immediate effect, increasing positive feelings, stimulating the heart and lungs, and releasing endorphins in the brain. I think we could all use a bit more laughter in our lives, especially when life feels uncertain and stressful. Finding ways to incorporate meditation into your day (even if it is only 3 or 5 minutes!) and finding ways to laugh throughout each day can lead to wonderful long-term benefits and are simple ways to engage in self-care.

Life may feel uncertain right now. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but these are just a few small ways that we can encourage a more positive mindset, brighten our day, and engage in some much-needed self-care.

If You’re Still Consumed With Toxic Worry During COVID-19

Written by Dr. Liz Matheis

Featured on TheMighty

COVID-19 came in quickly and rocked all of our worlds — and not in a good way. For many of us, we were already anxious, and this has added a new dimension to our daily life. Nobody wants to feel this tense and scared all the time. Our children, teens and young adults are using us, their parents, as guides for their reactions and interpretations of this pandemic. So, it’s really important that we gain a handle on our reactions in an effort to create a sense of stability in our homes right now.

Why Do We Feel So Scared?

The COVID-19 virus has created a sense of loss of control over our ability to go to work, send our children to school, to walk freely into a supermarket or store and pick up needed (or un-needed) items. Many of our basic routines and freedoms feel like they have been taken from us. We feel vulnerable and vulnerability creates worry and feelings of unsafety. You are not alone in these feelings.

Image by: GettyImages

The Standards of “Shoulds”

The Standards of “Shoulds”

Jennifer Mandato, LAC

As I sit home in the silence of this quarantine, my mind is riddled with “should’s”.

I should be cleaning my house more…. I should be exercising more…. I should be practicing more mindfulness…. Those are only a few that I hear daily.  I felt because I am home more SHOULD be able to get done.  Then one day as I was unwinding after work scrolling through social media, I came across this quote by Jenny Jaffe “You’re only unproductive by the standards of the world we live in two months ago and that world is gone”. Almost instantly I felt myself exhale and a weight lifted off my shoulders.  In that moment with everything going on that was EXACTLY what I needed to hear. I was comparing myself to our previous normal of what I could get done but things are not that way.  I cannot go to stores and go about daily routines as I used to.  Our world is very different now and what I can accomplish in a day is enough.  What we can do on a given day under the circumstances is enough.  This quote has almost become a daily mantra to remind myself of as to know I am doing everything I can and that is enough.  What you are doing is enough and breathe!

 

 

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“My Daily Schedule is in Tatters!” How to Build Routine and Boundaries Now

“My Daily Schedule is in Tatters!” How to Build Routine and Boundaries Now

Written by Dr. Liz Matheis

Without commutes and errands and sports practices, many parents and adults with ADHD feel they should have more time. But instead they just have more work, more distress, and more disorientation — a feeling of being ungrounded and unfocused due to all that unstructured time. Perhaps more than ever before, it’s critical to carve out a schedule that balances work and home life. Here’s how:

Our boundaries are obliterated. We are employees, parents, teachers, house cleaners, personal assistants, and playmates to our children — all at the same time. Each day feels like ‘some’ day; the labels ‘Tuesday’ and ‘Friday’ are just quaint reminders of the schedules we used to keep.

Without commutes and errands and sports practices, many parents and adults with ADHD feel they should have more time. But instead they just have more work, more distress, and more disorientation — a feeling of being ungrounded and unfocused due to all that unstructured time. Perhaps more than ever before, it’s critical for adults with ADHD and parents of children with ADHD to carve out a schedule that balances work and home life. Right now, routine is the secret to giving you back a sense of the time of day as well as the day of the week, not to mention your goals and priorities.

 

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Managing Your Child’s Anxiety during COVID-19 Interview.

Managing Your Child’s Anxiety During COVID
Dr. Liz with Dr. John D’Ambrosio of Structural Chiropractic’

Managing our children’s anxiety during quarantine has been difficult for parents, to say the least. They want to know when the can see their friends, go to park, birthday parties and resume life as they once knew it. As a parent, we don’t have the answers but there are a few things we can do. Watch this interview with Dr. John D’Ambrosio of Structural Chiropractic to hear a few good strategies.

Mama, Take Care of Yourself During COVID-19

Taking Care of Yourself Too

Written by Dr. Liz Matheis 

Now that we’ve been in our “new normal” for a few weeks, our kids are adjusting a bit to distance learning and being home 24/7. A question I’m hearing from parents about their children (and themselves) is, “Is it possible to be adjusting but still feel anxious?” The answer is a resounding yes.

As human beings, we have the ability to adapt to a new schedule, a new environment, a different routine within two weeks. But that still doesn’t take away our adult worry about a few key questions:

  • When will this end?
  • Will my kids be able to go back to school this year?
  • How many people have been diagnosed today?
  • How many in my town/state/country have not survived?
  • Do I have the virus?
  • What if my elderly parents, aunt, uncle, grandparents, neighbors contract the virus?

Worrying can occupy a great deal of your time and energy and drain you both physically and emotionally. Our children need us, right now, to serve as their grounding force, both emotionally and physically.

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How to Manage Your Kid’s Anxiety Over Coronavirus

As fears about coronavirus weigh on our minds, our kids are anxious and full of questions. Even though so much is uncertain, it’s our job as parents to be a source of calm for our children. Reassuring them that they are safe and that medical professionals are working hard to take care of people who need it is a good place to start. It’s also important to remind them that we can do a lot to keep ourselves healthy—everything from washing our hands to not sharing food and drinks to covering a cough or sneeze with a tissue or the inside of our elbow.

If you haven’t already, check the Centers for Disease Control website for important information on how to protect yourself and your family. It has specific guidance on everything from the proper handwashing technique to the most effective way to disinfect household surfaces every day. It’s also crucial to reinforce everyday healthy habits, like making sure the kids get enough sleep and eat healthfully. Doing everything you can to keep the routine inside your house—things maintaining a regular dinner time and bedtime—as normal as possible is also really important.

You may not want to start a conversation about coronavirus because you don’t want to add to your kids’ worries, but it’s important to be proactive by asking them what they’ve heard. This is your opportunity to dispel any rumors. To help guide conversations with your kids, we asked Dr. Liz Matheis, a child psychologist in Livingston and a mom of three kids, ages 13, 11 and 7, for advice on how to manage your children’s stress in the age of coronavirus.

Image by Istockphoto

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by Dina El Nabli, NJ Family

The Effects of Social Media on Our Stress Levels

Social media plays a powerful role in creating a more globalized society. We have the ability to communicate with people on the opposite side of the globe, and we can connect with others in seconds. While maintaining friendships with people who don’t live in close proximity was a challenge before, it has become much easier to stay in each other’s lives thanks to Facebook, Instagram, and the likes.

With social media, the world seems smaller and more connected—but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t significant downsides to be noted. Social media does deserve a lot of praise, but—depending on how we engage with it—it also plays a huge role in elevating our stress levels.

The Addictive Potential of Social Media
With constant access to social media through smartphones and other portable devices, it is easy to become addicted to scrolling through social media.

In a review of 444 participants’ Facebook habits, researchers found that people had an increased likelihood to become addicted to technology.

Researchers found that participants would switch between different activities on the platform (such as scrolling through the news feed, posting updates, or chatting with friends) as each activity became stressful.

This habit could lead to technology addiction, as users would switch to different stress-inducing activities within the platform as a way to cope with stress—rather than log off and turn to something else. This means more time on the platforms that are causing stress in the first place.

The Comparison Effect
Since the emergence of social media, we have been hyper-connected to the people both physically near us and far away. We are constantly aware of the lives of others (or, at least, the curated lives they present), and are prone to entering a cycle of unfair comparisons and jealousy. This can lead to stress, particularly when we feel the social pressure to present a life online that is deemed as exciting or interesting as the lives of others on social media platforms.

A 2017 review found that passive use of social media can lead to this stress. When we mindlessly scroll through feeds, we can harbor feelings of jealousy and stress.

In these instances, we aren’t using social media as a tool to build connections. We are simply passively absorbing whatever shows up on our screen, isolating ourselves from others. On the other hand, when we actively use social media to engage with others, we can feel less lonely and more connected to others.

However, interestingly enough, researchers have argued that more time spent on social media engaging in these detrimental behaviors isn’t actually the major factor when it comes to social media and stress levels.

According to researchers at Pew Research Center, social media most dramatically affects stress when it comes to shared negative information.

Image by: Unsplash

by Kyra Heenan

Anxiety is a Liar!

Anxiety is a liar.. but you already knew that. It puts you down, scares you, and makes you question the very things that you know to be true. Anxiety also stalks you when you are feeling good about yourself and plants small seeds of worry that grow into the “what if’s” that can be haunting.

Call anxiety out on its lies. Build up your cheerleader’s voice and turn up the volume.

"The various psycho-educational testing Dr. Liz conducted on our son gave us critical clues about where his learning strengths and weaknesses lie so that his needs could be better addressed at home and school. Moreover, because of their warm, kindhearted personalities, both Dr. Liz and her associate, Stephanie, formed an immediate bond with my son. He eagerly looks forward to his weekly therapy sessions. We are so lucky Dr. Liz came into our family's lives when she did! For stressed-out families trying to help their children as best they can, she is a calming voice of reason!"
- Julie C.
"Dr. Matheis has a remarkable ability to understand the unique needs of her patients and address them constructively. She builds strong, meaningful relationships with patients and their families, encouraging trust and collaboration. When working with my son who struggles with autism-related anxiety, she created an environment in which he was able to calm down and open up to her in ways I had not seen before. She was able to reach him and helped him work through his crisis/problem. Most importantly, she empowered him to move forward."
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"Dr. Matheis is amazing. She has tremendous resources and loads of energy. She is not willing to accept anything less than the most effective results for her clients. She made me feel as if my son was her top priority throughout the entire process. I would, without reservation, give her my highest recommendations.  Thank you, Dr. Matheis!"
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"Dr. Matheis has an amazing ability to read kids and connect with them. She has been an invaluable resource for our family over the past several years and has helped us with everything from educational consulting, to uncovering diagnoses as well as family therapy. Working with Dr. Matheis never feels clinical and most importantly, our children love and trust her. We can not thank you enough Dr. Liz!"
- Anonymous
"My teenage son had been seeing Dr. Matheis through his senior year of high school, as he was only diagnosed with ADHD at 16 years old.  Dr. Matheis came highly recommended from our pediatrician and she has done wonders for our son as well as our family, navigating new ways for him to deal with his diagnosis without the use of medication.  She taught him ways to organize himself and even when something did not work for him, she patiently continued teaching him new ways to keep himself on track.  She has also helped us as parents to understand how his mind works so that we did not continue to blame his lack of focus on him, rather on his unique way of thinking.  Thank you Dr. Matheis!!!!"
- LG
"Dr. Liz is the best! Our family was directed to her by our Pediatrician to assist with figuring out severe mood changes, severe anxiety, strange new fears and food aversion that had come onto one of our children literally overnight. After just a couple of visits, she suggested that the issues may actually be rooted in a physical issue and suggested we immediately take our child to be swabbed for strep, because Dr. Liz suspected PANDAS (a pediatric autoimmune disorder brought on by strep). The same Pediatrician that suggested Dr. Liz would not do the swab (they do not believe in PANDAS and we no longer go there) but I took my child to my doctor who did the swab and it was positive for strep. When our child went on antibiotics, within 24 hours all symptoms went away and our child was back :-) Dr. Liz then recommended a PANDAS specialist who helped us and our child is in complete remission and is happy and healthy. We are incredibly grateful to Dr. Liz for her knowledge of all things, even the most remote and unusual and for helping us so much! Thank you!"
- Anonymous
"The various psycho-educational testing Dr. Liz conducted on our son gave us critical clues about where his learning strengths and weaknesses lie so that his needs could be better addressed at home and school. Moreover, because of their warm, kindhearted personalities, both Dr. Liz and her associate, Stephanie, formed an immediate bond with my son. He eagerly looks forward to his weekly therapy sessions. We are so lucky Dr. Liz came into our family's lives when she did! For stressed-out families trying to help their children as best they can, she is a calming voice of reason!"
- Anonymous
"Thank you, Dr. Liz. Although we have told you countless times, it will never feel enough. You have listened when J could barely speak and continued to listen when he was sad, angry and confused. You've challenged him and directed us in our roles as parents. You've helped J face his fears while the list evolved and changed, and yet you've stayed committed to 'the course.' We pray that your children realize that time away from them is spent helping children learn and that vulnerability is a sign of strength and bravery."
- June I
"My son was admitted to an Ivy League school when only 2 years ago, you assessed him and saw his struggles, his Dyslexia. We are grateful that he no longer has to carry that deep feeling of inadequacy or shame that must have kept him so self conscious and from reaching his potential. He has the PERFECT program for him. He has A's in high math and economics. He became a Merit Scholar, a Boys State legislature, the HEAD captain of the football team and help a job ALL while studying and managing his classes and disability. I am PROUD of you, a young doctor, who knows and sees the vulnerability of children and helps them recognize "it's NO big deal" God bless."
- Anonymous

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