Archive for the ‘Health’ category

Mindful breathing

June 16, 2020

When I woke up this morning. I realized that I didn’t write today’s post. I had lost track of the days, and panic set in.

Then I reminded myself to take a breath. Just breathe.

Or as Candy Crush players might say, Swipe the stress away.

By focusing attention on our breath, we can help reduce anxiety increase calm, and sharpen focus. The Greater Good Science Center has a 15-minute mindful breathing practice that helped.

  1. Find a relaxed, comfortable position.
  2. Notice and relax your body.
  3. Feel the natural flow of your breath, in and out.
  4. Gently bring your attention back to your breath if your mind starts to wander.

Take a breath. Just breathe.

Have you tried breathing meditation, and if so, how does it make you feel? How do you cope with anxiety and stress?

Coping with stress during a pandemic

April 21, 2020

In these challenging times, it’s especially important to find ways to cope with anxiety and stress that work for us. We need to identify the practices resonate with us, and make them part of our daily or weekly routines.


So I was enthusiastic about participating in a “talk story” about “Coping with Stress During a Pandemic” with Anisa Wiseman, Program Director at NAMI Hawaii, in partnership with Samaritan Counseling Center Hawaii. It was very much a participatory webinar – Wiseman encouraged us to have paper and pen in hand, and gave us time to reflect and write down our thoughts.


Wiseman’s presentation focused on emotional intelligence – being aware of and able to manage our emotions and the emotions of others – and building our “tool kit” of self-care practices. She began by reminding us that we need to make ourselves vulnerable and dig deep to find the truth, and asked us to make sure that this “talk story” is a safe place for everyone.


Imagine that everyone has a stress bucket filled with worries, fears, and hardships. If your bucket starts to overflow, you risk getting sick, injured, and depressed.


Here are just three of the journaling exercises she shared that can help us take charge of our mental health:


Journal #1: Set intentions. By making a statement of your intentions, you are giving yourself a purpose. By putting it in writing and visualizing it, you will start looking for ways to make it a success. For example, you might set an intention for a long-term goal, the steps to get there, possible obstacles, and why you want to achieve this goal. Or you might set an intention for this time at home, what you want to learn or learn about yourself, what resources you have at home, and who you can ask to support you.


Journal #2: Write a love letter to yourself. Thinking about a day when you felt your worst – what would you have needed to hear? Tell yourself you’re beautiful, remind yourself of who you are and what your values are. Give yourself permission to feel, process, and grow. Be there for your future self by using the lessons of your past.


Journal #3: Create a gratitude inventory. In moments of crisis, we often can’t remember the things we are grateful for. Make a list of the people and things you are grateful for, including basic needs like food and shelter, and specific things like a hug from a family member or a dog’s exuberant greeting.


I learned a little about the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) Tapping technique, that involves identifying and naming your emotion and then tapping on acupressure points. This gets you out of your head and into your body.


At the end of the webinar, Wiseman shared ideas to put together our personal coping “tool box,” things that evoke all the senses. We might include things that give us a quick boost such as a gift card to a favorite restaurant, a favorite food, a photo, or letter; things that make us feel good like essential oils or a scented candle; and things that ground us, such as a leaf or shell.


How are you coping with stress right now? What works for you, and what will you keep doing when the crisis is over?

5 bright spots about self-quarantine

March 31, 2020

In these challenging times, we are all coping with uncertainty and new routines. I hope that you and your family are well­.

I work for a mental health counseling center. Mental health is an essential service, and some of our clients need that face-to-face contact with counselors. Right now, the best way that I can help, as office staff, is by not being there.

With a little preparation, most of my work can be done remotely, and this is the seventh day of my self-quarantine. I have a desk, a computer, a printer, and a private spot to work.

For me, the key to being productive is sticking to my daily routine. That means following my morning routine, looking at my daily tasks, and prioritizing what is important. Then, at the end of the day, I make a list of the important things for the next day.

The transition to working remotely has been easier than I expected. Here are 5 of my bright spots about self-quarantine:

* 5 hours of extra sleep. Before, I woke up when it was still dark to get ready to go to work. Now, I can sleep and wake up when it is light outside, making it easier to convince myself that it is morning.

* 7.5 hours not in traffic. Before, my commute was about 45 minutes one way, depending on traffic. Now, that is extra time I can spend watching a webinar, reading a book, checking on my son’s homework for the day, or just starting work early.

* Taking a lunch break. Before, I ate at my desk, working through lunch, or sometimes just snacking. Now, I take a break and eat with my family. We each have out own “space” but it’s good to see each other throughout the day.

* Faster technology adoption. Usually, adopting new technology takes time. For example, when our nonprofit switched to electronic medical records, it took over two years before the system was accepted. Now, we were able to set up and get trained on a video conferencing system in one week. And no one complained about learning new technology.

* Realizing that we’ll get through this together. Before, I sometimes felt overwhelmed by my responsibilities and the things that needed to get done. Now, I realize that we are all acting in the best way that we can to this crisis. We are facing these challenges together.

Mental health is more important than ever. It’s normal to feel stressed, anxious, and lonely. If you need to talk to someone, please reach out. Whether you are in self-quarantine or still going into work, thank you for helping to keep us healthy.

Are you in self-quarantine or are you working at an essential service? What bright spots have you discovered?

How to cope with coronavirus anxiety

March 17, 2020

I hope that you are healthy and well.

Frank Herbert wrote, “What you cannot control, you must accept.” In this time of crisis, here are a few articles to help you cope with the anxiety and stress of the coronavirus.

For you: manage your anxiety. In “7 science-based strategies to cope with coronavirus anxiety” (3/10/20), an article posted on The Conversation, psychologist Jelena Kecmanovic reminds us that feeling anxiety is a normal human reaction, and offers suggestions to deal with our anxiety. One of the hardest science-based suggestions is to tackle the uncertainty paradox, allowing our anxious thoughts to wash over us and “accepting anxiety as an integral part of human experience.” One strategy that you can start right away is to strengthen your self-care. “Get adequate sleep, exercise regularly, practice mindfulness, spend time in nature and employ relaxation techniques when stressed.”

For kids: think like a life-long learner. With Hawaii public schools extending their spring break, think of it as a chance to start a project you are passionate about. You could film your own music video, read a book (or series) you’ve been waiting for, write a time travel story, finish a jigsaw puzzle, or conduct science experiments with household items (and parental supervision). To keep you organized, the Shining Mom blog has cheerful free printables, like a daily planner, reading list, and to-do list.


For parents: help children cope. Rachel Ehmke’s article, “Talking to kids about the coronavirus” on the Child Mind Institute website, offers 8 tips for reassuring kids and helping them work through their anxiety. Don’t be afraid to talk about it, Ehmke says, because “Not talking about something can actually make kids worry more.” One of the first things to do is deal with your own anxiety before having a conversation with a child.

For businesses: keep the doors open. The US Chamber of Commerce offers resources and guidelines for businesses to protect their customers, employees, and partners, and prepare for the impacts of the coronavirus. The Business Preparedness Checklist identifies five action items: prioritize critical operations, create a communication plan, establish possible teleworking policies, prepare for school closings, and coordinate with state and local health officials. There’s also a free Coronavirus Response Toolkit that includes social media graphics and a customizable flyer.

For nonprofits: continue serving clients. Businesses and schools may be closing, but nonprofits still have clients and patients who need their services. In the Network for Good article, “Coronavirus Impacting Your Nonprofit? Here’s What to Do” (3/12/20), Kimberly O’Donnell offers 6 ideas to help nonprofits keep their operations running and their fundraising on track. The most intriguing suggestion is “Dinner with a twist,” a virtual event where gala-dressed volunteers deliver meals to local ticket holders.

For investors: deal with stock market volatility. In the article, “7 Essential Investor Coping Strategies for the Coronavirus Market” (3/13/20), Barnet Sherman and Intelligent Investing remind us that sometimes the best thing to do is to do nothing. “The value of your portfolio has already declined,” Barnet writes. “Don’t convert those paper losses to real losses by selling.” The best tip: remember that you cannot pick the market bottom – or the market peak.

“Instead of shaking each other’s hands, we can look each other in the eye and send loving-kindness—wishing each other health, safety and peace,” writes Kelly Barron in an article on

Be healthy and be compassionate to one another.

Have you changed the way that you interact socially? What is your best advice for coping with anxiety during an emergency?

Learning about ourselves from the coronavirus

March 10, 2020

We are facing an outbreak of respiratory disease caused by a novel (new) coronavirus, COVID-19. The immediate health risk to Hawaii is low, but the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) warn that “current circumstances suggest it is likely that this virus will cause a pandemic” (updated 3/7/2020).

Many businesses, schools, and organizations are sending emails assuring their customers and partners about the steps they are taking to keep the public safe, such as basic hygiene, travel warnings, and canceling events. Schools are cancelling trips, sports teams are playing without fans, and retailers are cancelling workshops.

In times of crisis, we learn a little more about ourselves and how we react to uncertainty.

Be prepared vs. accept that some things are out of our control. As I listened to two brothers argue, it was clear that we can react to the same situation very differently. One brother was alarmed and focused on preparation, buying supplies and starting to limit contact with other people (no handshakes or hugs). The other brother didn’t want to over-react and focused on taking reasonable precautions.

Take personal responsibility for our health. Whether it’s the coronavirus or a common cold, we all have a responsibility to take care of ourselves and stay home if we are ill. I spoke with two people who had very different ideas about taking health precautions: one person was unconcerned about traveling outside Hawaii, as long as he is careful; another person, who is in a high-risk group, decided to practically self-quarantine themselves to remain healthy.

Guarantee trust, privacy, and security. Some companies are encouraging people to work from home. I think it’s a great opportunity if you’re able to do so.  There’s less traffic, lower spending on gas, and more time for family and doing things we enjoy. We just need to remember our responsibility to our employers and customers. It’s important to ensure trust (are people who they claim to be?), privacy (is confidentiality assured?), and security (is the data or communication secure?).

Plan for the best outcome. It can be tempting to concentrate on the crisis, but we also need to plan for the best outcome — enjoying today and planning events, projects, and vacations for the future.

How do you prepare for a health emergency or natural disaster? How do you react in a crisis?