A Different Kind of Holiday Season

Well, here we are. The holiday season is upon us, and COVID rages on. We certainly aren’t where we hoped we would be at this point in the pandemic – to say the least.

Typically, this time of year is one of a lot of excitement and anticipation, but it’s also tough on a lot of us. Grief, overwhelming busyness, unrealistic expectations, family strife, financial strain – there are just so many reasons why the end of the year is tough on many Americans’ mental health. I’m wondering if this year might be a little different.

Of course, all of the above struggles (and more) are very real, but I’m wondering if the slower pace of life over the next few weeks will be a relief to some? Will taking a break from holiday parties, family get-togethers, and other holiday-related obligations help us experience the holidays in a different way? Will the forced slow-down of life make us more aware of the things that are really important to us, and more willing to let go of the things that aren’t?

This will likely (hopefully!!!) be the only holiday season in our lifetimes like this. Experts are indicating that by Thanksgiving/Holidays 2021, life will look closer to “normal.” Let’s hope so! But in the meantime, what can we learn from the quietness of this season?

Ready for the Election?

Ready or not, the Presidential election is coming up…in 2 months…in the middle of a pandemic. Yikes! Just when we thought life couldn’t get more dramatic and contentious – here it comes.

I’ve written and spoken pretty extensively about Pre and Post-Election Stress Disorder (terms I made up) in the past. And it looks like some of my thoughts and tips are re-surfacing around the internet again. I recently saw this article over at Yahoo!Life:

In the article were a couple of quotes from me, including this one:

The cool thing is, this tip works great for managing COVID-related stress as well.

Long story short: minimize time on your phone/ipad/laptop. Seriously, consider cutting your screen time by drastic amounts. Good luck out there.

Photo credit: LA Johnson and NPR

Anxious About Getting Back Out There?

Been in your house for the last few months? It can be a little scary to get back out into the world. Socializing is a muscle – when we stop using it, it gets a little rusty. And that can lead to worry and anxiety about getting back out into the world after our COVID-induced isolation.

I recently wrote an article over at Health eCareers about how to manage getting back out there: to BBQ’s, the gym, work, and school. **Obviously each community is re-opening at its own pace, please be mindful of local guidance about current COVID precautions**

Here’s one tip:

Friendships in the Midst of a Pandemic

Everyone has an opinion about what is going on in the world these days. Our elected leaders, scientists, medical professionals, our partners, our neighbors, the guy pumping gas next to us, the lady in line in front of us at Walgreen’s. Everyone. So it’s no surprise that not everyone’s opinions line up.

We don’t all have to agree on everything, but we do need to share this world together. So how do we manage when people – especially friends and those close to us – have differing opinions about COVID, masks, closures, politics, etc?

I recently spoke with MEL Magazine about this very thing. Here are a couple of excerpts:

and

Want to check out the entire article? Check it out here:

Minimizing Media Use – Real Tools for Making Change

UGH! Enough of the onslaught of news, “news” and on-line conversations already. It’s too much. Keeping abreast of the latest goings-on and government orders are one thing, spending hours in deep-dive mode on your phone or tablet is another.

I recently wrote an article over at Health eCareers in which I offered real, do-able strategies for decreasing media and screen time. After all, it’s rarely as easy as saying “I’m just going to look at my phone less.” Yea right. Here’s one idea:

One tip I didn’t write about in the article:

Make use of the tools that are already on your phone! For iphone users, go to Settings –> Screen Time –> Then play around with Downtime, App Limits and Communication Limits options. You can also watch your Daily Activity on the Screen Time page. Monitoring this is one way to keep yourself honest.

Check out the entire article, with ideas for managing both social and traditional media here:

Gun Ownership, Suicide and Safety

I recently saw this wonderful, sensitive and informative video clip created by the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment about firearms and suicide in this state. CDPHE partnered with Jimmy Graham, a firearms instructor at Centennial Gun Club to provide some tips and strategies for keeping guns out of the hands of folks considering suicide.

Some important points brought up in the video:

  • Colorado is consistently ranked in the top 10 states in terms of deaths by suicide
  • Suicidal crises and thoughts are often brief in nature – meaning folks often don’t plan their suicide for long periods of time. It is often an impulsive decision
  • Because of the impulsive nature of many of these decisions, it becomes important to “put time and space between a suicidal person and means” by which they can harm themselves (i.e., a gun)
  • It’s OK to ask a loved one directly if they are thinking about suicide. This WILL NOT make them more likely to attempt suicide, instead it will give them an opportunity to share feelings that can be hard to express.

This video offers important information about how to own guns, while also being mindful of the health and safety of those in our families. Check out this awesome resource:

Are You A Pro At Deflection?

Photo credit: Mindful.org

I was recently interviewed for an article about deflection over at Forge. While inspired by political events, like debates, the article offers so much more than the same old commentary about how politicians just say what they want to say and don’t answer the darn questions!

For example, the author describes different types of deflection used in various communications. Check out some of the excerpts from the article:

The Pivot: You recognize the question, then immediately pivot away from it, using a response like, “I understand what you’re saying, but I think the more important point is…” Then shift into the subject you really want to be talking about.

The Spin: “Instead of saying you’re leaving because your job makes you feel like a cog in the wheel, or because your voice isn’t heard, turn it into a positive: ‘That’s exactly why I’m here—because your company offers me a seat at the table and an opportunity to make real change.’

The Attack: It was 1984, and then-73-year-old Ronald Reagan was facing questions about his age in his campaign against a younger opponent. “At the debate against Walter Mondale, when they asked, Reagan said, ‘I won’t make age an issue, or exploit my opponent’s youth and inexperience,’” Bratt says. “It became this really famous deflection.”

Another take away? Deflection can be used in some really positive ways (think: steering the conversation away from politics when talking with a neighbor at the bus stop). But, using it too much can backfire.

Check out the entire article here.

State of Your Life – 2020

Are you a fan of New Year’s Resolutions? It seems like they have fallen out of favor in the last few years. Instead, folks seem to be making “life/relationship/parenting/etc goals.” Perhaps that’s the same thing as making a list of resolutions, but sounds better and more do-able? Who knows.

No matter what you call it, it can be useful to slow down this time of year and spend some time thinking about 2019. How did it go? What did you do? What didn’t you do? Like a State of Your Life recap. I’m thinking about things like:

  • How are you using social media?
  • How do you feel about the words and actions you engage in everyday?
  • What’s the state of the relationships in your life?
  • How’s your self confidence? Overall mental health?
  • What do you do with your free time?
  • Are you taking care of your body in the way you’d like to?
  • Is your work life where you’d like it to be?

You get the idea.

Once you think through the State of Your Life, what are you hoping for in 2020? Are there things you’d like to do differently? Try picking one area and start making some small changes. Not sure where to start? Call an expert, read a book, or listen to a podcast for help.

Happy 2020!

Resources for Farm Stress

I was reading an article recently about Farm Stress, and the overall mental health crisis that is going on within our country’s farming communities. The pain and suffering is real, and very upsetting.

While I am not a farmer or rancher, I can try to understand the extreme conditions of the job: It’s physically dangerous, unpredictable because of weather, crop prices, and international relationships. Farmers are also making up a smaller and smaller portion of our population (less than 2%), and tend to be more geographically spread out than in years past. All of these factors – and others – combine to create a pressure-cooker of stress.

People are taking notice, however, and working hard to help those who are suffering. I discovered some wonderful resources through North Dakota State University. Here’s one:

And another:

For more information on farm stress and how to cope, check out this article: