Description: This exercise involves each participant conducting his/her own physical and emotional “check-in.” Using myself as an example, I state to the group, “I’m Mark, and I’m checking in.” From there, I close my eyes and acknowledge physical sensations in the body, followed by the various emotions I’m experiencing at that moment. The key to this exercise is that participants should not use any qualifiers (e.g., adjectives – I feel “a little” or I feel “extremely,” etc.), or provide any narrative/elaboration on the various physical and emotional sensations. The goal is to practice acknowledging emotions without judgment or story-telling, thus allowing those sensations to exist as they are. This process is critical in dealing with thoughts and emotions as they occur during meditation and in life. At the end of my check in I state, “I’m Mark, and I’m in.” The group responds: “AH-HO.”
PRACTICE TIPS: This is an excellent exercise for couples or families. For those listening to another individual complete their “check-in,” it is important to simply allow that individual the opportunity to feel what they feel, without asking for clarification or explanation after the fact.
As we navigate a world in the middle of a pandemic, the one constant experience for all of us is... change. What was working yesterday does not work today. What was planned yesterday will not be happening today. How you felt yesterday is not what you feel today. Change. Constant change.
Human beings are not typically big fans of change. Especially change we are not in control of. We all showed up on this planet earth with brains hard-wired to see the negative more than the positive. This obvious lack of control makes every non-verbal warning system in our bodies start firing. The feeling is clear - DANGER!
When it comes to an unknown virus circulating freely in the world, feeling some fear is expected and will likely do what healthy fear is supposed to do. Fear will get us motivated to wash our hands, exercise social distancing, and adapt in a world we did not ask to be in. Fear will remind us to let go of control and adapt to the new normal in front of us.
Fear will also make you tired.
In very over simplified biology, the chemicals released during a fear response are designed to have us fight or run for our life. They are powerful. And exhausting.
You may call your fear something else like anger, sadness, anxiety or depression. It is pretty obvious we are all dealing with the COVID-19 threat differently. But, at the core, this is a time of collective fear. Of universal trauma.
As we have moved into a new way of living via Zoom and technology, most of us have had to make super hard decisions. What is safe and what is not, in a world where no one seems to know for sure? Decision fatigue is exhausting and real.
And, wow, the life changes we are required to accept! The sadness and longing for a life before COVID-19 is also a universal experience. For everyone who:
Had graduation canceled
Postponed a wedding
Closed a business
Cannot be close to loved ones
Is being required to work despite being afraid
Didn’t get to go on the first, second or third date
Is home with family and doesn’t feel safe
Lost a job
Is overwhelmed by the requirement to homeschool
Lost health insurance
Has dipped into the bottom of savings
Lost your retirement in the stock market
Is desperately trying to navigate the unemployment system
Cannot accompany a family member to the hospital as they fight this disease
Cannot have a spouse or partner with them during labor and delivery
Cancelled vacations and conferences and dream experiences
Is home and hungry
Does not have a large enough space outside their home to get fresh air and still be able to social distance
For those in chronic pain that is now considered “elective” and appointments are cancelled
Is afraid for the future of their children
For the cancelled birthday celebrations
For the deaths and funerals that cannot be mourned together
For the cancelled community gatherings, book clubs, yoga classes, pot lucks, girls night out, man cave poker nights, concerts, church services, critical moments of belonging
For the inability to go to the grocery store and buy what we want to buy
For all of us.
Acceptance of this magnitude will leave you spent and fatigued beyond imagination.
We are living a universal experience that has universal requirements. This time, this place, this world we live in, calls us to compassion as never before. Compassion for self, for others, and for our world.
Compassion is simply the desire that we not suffer, combined with genuine concern. This is not pity and it is not a waiving of your own rights. It is, however, a recognition of connectedness and moving forward with an awareness of that belonging.
Compassion gives us the strength to try again, love instead of lashing out, feel instead of stuffing away and denial, accept what we cannot change, and help instead of hurt.
As a defense mechanism, it can become quite common for us to tell others, and even ourselves, to “let it go” and to negate an experience by saying something like “this is ridiculous”, “you are upset over nothing” or “it could have been worse”. No one feels better after hearing those statements, especially if said inside our own head.
Here is an exercise to help:
Allow yourself time to think about how you feel in the midst of the fear, the change, and the fatigue. Notice where your body may ache from carrying the stress, notice where your emotions are high or where you feel irritated or angry, notice the thoughts that may be swirling in your head. Bring to mind the feeling when someone has shown compassion for you before. Then, bring to mind someone or something that is easy for you to to feel compassionate and let that compassion flow from your heart and mind. You can even say “may you not feel ___”, “may you not suffer”, or “may you be ok”. Extend and repeat this exercise to someone else in need, the community in which you live and the world at large. Extend and repeat this over and over again for yourself. You deserve and need your self-compassion as never before.
For all of us, the compassion we extend from Whole Health:
from Rosemary Clark, LPC, LMFT
When we moved into our new office last May we knew we were creating a very special place. We had so many exciting things on the horizon - new groups, workshops, services, and ideas spilling out of our minds. The eagerness and desire to approach mental health under a new light was palpable for all of us who call Whole Health home.
As the time came to dedicate our space with a ceremony we began to think about how to best commemorate what we believe is so special about our approach. I personally spent a great deal of time in reflection about why this growth felt so necessary, so critically important. The question that kept ringing in my mind was “how could we honor our core beliefs with something permanent that would stick around to tell the story again and again”.
Grand openings typically have a ribbon cutting of some sort. Everyone gathers around and the owner of the business cuts a ribbon to say “we did it, we are here”. That approach rang shallow for me as this business has become so much more than just what I envisioned for myself. I may be the name on the lease, but Whole Health has truly become a place where many of us share a belief in the promise of a better way of talking about mental health and an improved way of embodying wellness.
Moving into our new space gave me opportunity to intersect with lots of folks who don’t typically walk through the doors of a business like this. My primary role at Whole Health is to serve as a counselor. As I tried to explain what a counselor does, I realized I am not sure that is an accurate term. “Counselor” seems more appropriate for an attorney who gives counsel and advice. That isn’t what I do. What I do is quite different. I am really more of a historian of someone’s life.
You see, I daily bear witness to someone’s pain, their most shameful moments and beliefs, their trauma, their sadness, fear, and loss. I also bear witness to their beautiful imperfections. I watch them heal and grow. I am privileged to stand alongside someone’s triumphs, love, acceptance, forgiveness and empowerment. I hold their stories in my heart and am impacted by each one of them. I find it to be my greatest honor to know the truth of another person’s soul - their beautiful humanity.
As I sat with the truth of what I do and believe about the normalcy of "mental health”, we all have to manage this, I realized it wasn’t just one ribbon that needed to be cut, but many ribbons.
And so we did. The instructions given were to visit a table filled with cloth and ribbons and to select the one you desired. Then, with intention, give that piece of fabric meaning. Infuse it with the meaning of something you want to leave behind. If there was a pain you did not want to carry, leave it in the ribbon. If there was a shame too heavy to bear, leave it in the ribbon. If there was a gift for another on this journey of life, leave it in the ribbon. Then we wove those ribbons together to signify we need each other and we are all in this together. We heal in relationship with others and Whole Health offers a place of community to do just that.
The art we created, the testament of our humanity, resides in our hallway. It isn’t finished, just as each of our stories is not finished. We will hold this wall of pain and hope and love as a testament to what we offer in each session we conduct, whether it is a counseling session, massage, somatic therapy, meditation lesson, group, or whatever else may be on the horizon. Each provider offers a different approach for this, however, we are all headed in the same direction.
We also still have ribbon. You are invited to stop by and weave a piece of your pain and triumph with ours. We would be honored to hold a piece of your story in our hall.