Our very own therapist, Cami Beauregard, was interviewed by ASweatLife on all things mental health and quarantine. Check out the transcription below!
ASweatLife: Many of us are feeling pressure to be productive—excel at work, learn a new language, write the great American novel—and then being hard on ourselves when those efforts don't pan out or feel way too overwhelming. Where does this pressure come from, and how can we be aware of it and gentle with ourselves?
Cami: Great question. The pressure is REAL. I feel it, too. It comes from all over the place - may it be your culture, your community, your friends, your parents, your coworkers - or the scent seeping through your walls from women next store baking every type of bread there is. I wish anyone who responds to the pressure a tremendous amount of luck. It’s important to note that just because we are now at home, the hours in the day remain the same. And in fact, it’s hard enough to find the time during our best days to do some of these things - how the hell are we supposed to accomplish them during a global pandemic? Let’s start there. PAN - dem - IC. I mean, the word literally has panic in it.
Panic is an overwhelming sense of fear or dread in response to an imminent threat. . . if someone was having a panic attack, would you blow a horn and tell them to begin the marathon? Probably not so how does this time differ? Although we may not be experiencing the somatic symptoms of a panic attack . . . unconsciously, we are using our bodies fight or flight response to this collective crisis. If learning a new language or writing a book feels good for you - that is amazing! I encourage you to try it out. But if it doesn’t, that is okay too.
This is no small feat. We don’t know when or how or if things will return to normal. I believe the first step of becoming aware of these pressures is as simple as recognizing that we are all responding to a trauma.
Many of us likely haven’t thought of this as a trauma - because on the surface - what’s so bad about being asked to sit at home and watch tv? We may deem it an ‘annoying’ or ‘frustrating’ experience but not a trauma. The heavy reality is we are sitting at home, binging netflix to preserve lives. Even if we find ourselves not directly impacted, we are still receiving information surrounding us and experiencing trauma vicariously.
Our nervous systems have been designed to help us survive. It’s important to note that some of our brain has shut down in order for us to get through this. Feeling out of touch is normal - and for people with a history of trauma you may be more apt to feel anxious depending on your predisposition to dealing with extreme stress.
Ask yourself: What do I need to do to care for my mental and emotional health? Can I do those things without judgment? Can I give myself permission to feel?
Here is my reminder: there is no such thing as a normal response to this global pandemic. Just go with it. Give yourself a larger margin of error. Find grace in the hard, messy times.
ASweatLife: What advice can we give to people sheltering alone? In cramped quarters with a roommate or partner? With family?
Cami: Yes. Another great question. A lot of clients are struggling with this. Conversations of feeling lonely and isolated all by themselves - moving back into the family home after years of being on their own or spending much more time at home with your roommate. There are pros and cons to all situations, right?
I will answer this question generally because I believe at the base of it, we need to do the same things. It is natural to feel like your life is spiraling out of control. Annnnnd, guess what - unfortunately, we are not in control of the outcome of COVID-19. We have no control over when we will be able to move freely again. Suffering usually comes from trying to take control of things that are out of our control. So the question is not what CAN'T we control, but what CAN we?
The first thing that comes to mind here is our routine. We MUST have some sort of structure to our days. Wake up, wash your face, brush your teeth, change out of your night time pjs into your day time pjs. . . . . stick to your patterns as much as you can. And on the days where it feels too overwhelming, remember that that's okay too. You didn’t wake up everyday before this peppy and excited to go to work, did you?
Next --- boundaries. This applies to both living alone and living with others. Just because you may not be “busy” does not mean that you have to say yes to virtual happy hours, chats, work outs or walks, cooking, conversations around the house. My suggestion on boundaries is similar to structure - create it! From this time to this time, I will be working. From this time to this time, I will be exercising. From this time to this time, I am available to hang out and “be social”. AND from this time to this time, I will be laying on the floor, looking at the ceiling……...and I will be busy.
I probably sound like a broken record at this point but give yourself some grace. Your roommate is probably annoying you, your parents are likely driving you up a wall, or you may feel extremely lonely and frustrated with your thoughts. We don’t have control of how we are going to feel but we do have control of how we will respond to those feelings. Be honest with yourself. What’s coming up for me right now? Am I responding or am I reacting to the uncomfortable emotion? Can I adjust this behavior? Just remember that your “empty space” doesn’t mean “open space”
ASweatLife: How can we manage our anxiety right now, when our current strategies might be inaccessible (i.e., hitting your favorite workout class) or not pack their usual punch?
Cami: Yeah, work out studios are shut down, favorite restaurants are no longer open, museums, or simply just hanging out with others on your couch! It’s likely the majority of our self care strategies have been halted. Which --- there's no other way to say it --- really stinks. Remember, this is a WEIRD time. Before your stressors were different, so your coping strategies were different too. We are faced with a new situation --- uncharted territory --- we have to have some trial and error, some wiggle room.
ASweatLife: How does uncertainty exacerbate our anxiety? How can we learn to be comfortable with discomfort?
Cami: Anxiety - yes, hello good friend. How can we learn to be comfortable in discomfort? I always explain anxiety to my clients something like this. . . . . . ANXIETY IS A NORMAL AND HEALTHY EMOTION. It’s the gut reaction we have to make choices between danger and safety. But it’s when we feel excessive worry or fear that it becomes a problem. So how can we have anxiety sit next to us rather than in front of us.
Our brains are designed to a certain degree to be able to predict what’s going to happen next and try to prepare for it. For example, a deer is in the road - our reaction is to slow the car down. The ceiling appears low, we duck as we walk under it.
But in the case of COVID-19, the response isn’t that clear. But the reminder here is ---- certainty is an illusion. Think about going to work - you have a normal routine of how you are going to get there and you can likely predict that it’ll take you 30 minutes yet you come across an accident and are delayed an hour. The routine provided you comfort but now what that you’ve been stopped - you likely get frustrated, anxious, say things like ‘i should have left earlier’ ‘my boss is going to be so mad’..... But things happen and how were you to know? You were launched into the present moment when the bus stopped - and that is really the only thing you can ever be certain of. What is happening right here. Right now. That’s hard to accept.
I believe we can learn to be comfortable with discomfort when we release our expectations. It is when we release those expectations that we find gratitude and grounding in each and every moment.
Interested in working with Cami? Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org