Mental Health Training Free webinars from NAMI: Including QPR training, and Coping With Depression During COVID-19
Tips and Tools to Navigate COVID-19 Joy Hensel, Project Coordinator for the NE MN Synod Mental Health Initiative, answers question and offers tips and tools to navigate COVID-19. Joy Hensel (MA, LADC, ADC-MN, Mental Health First Aid Instructor) is the Project Coordinator for the NE MN Synod Mental Health Initiative.
Anxiety and Grief with Joy Hensel This video was recorded for the ELCA network of Synodical Leaders in Children, Youth and Family Ministry as an overview of anxiety and grief in response to COVID-19. It incorporates most of the videos below, along with PowerPoint slides supporting her talk. (Video length is 1:17)
Mental Health Moment These “Mental Health Moments” come from Joy Hensel and the NE MN Synod Mental Health Initiative Team to encourage and support you as you address the mental health needs of youth, families and all ages during COVID-19. Click here for archived Mental Health Moments
April 6, 2020 This week’s words come from Ryan Jagim, PhD Licensed Psychologist and member of the NE MN Synod Mental Health Initiative Team.
In my work as a clinical psychologist, I spent most of my time talking to children and families. I explained that a psychologist is a “talking doctor” who helped families deal with worries and problems. In our world today, we are faced with significant stress and worries related to the COVID-19 epidemic. It has changed our daily routines in significant ways as school is canceled, jobs are in limbo, and social activities with teammates, friends, and neighbors are restricted due to social distancing requirements.
I want to share some thoughts on how to talk about and understand stress and anxiety: how we understand how anxiety affects us physically, how we understand how to identify and name our worry, and how we find ways to cope with our anxieties.
Anxiety Can Be Both Good and Bad At times we think about anxiety as being bad, and yet it is the way our body tries to protect us. Just like fire can be bad when it can burn us, destroy buildings, and cause forest fires, fire can also keep our houses warm in our fireplaces or furnaces, it powers our gas engines so we can go places, and it can cook our food so it is safe to eat and tastes better. So too, anxiety can feel uncomfortable but it is our body’s way of signaling “lookout”.
Our Amazing Built in Nervous System Radars We have amazing bodies with a built-in radar. Weathermen use radar to help predict what weather is coming our way, and our body has a built-in radar that tells us when we might be in danger. This radar signal (lookout something is different) then will trigger physical changes in our bodies that help us prepare for an upcoming danger. You may have heard of the “flight” (running away) or “fight” (standing our ground and fighting) response. That describes our body’s way trying to help us when we experience stress or danger. I tend to add one more response and that is “freeze”. This is when we just feel like we don’t know what to do and we tend to feel stuck and frozen. The physical reaction to stress and worry includes an increased heart rate (we feel our heart beating faster), our breathing gets faster, and our muscles get ready to work. Our body is saying get ready, “I’m not sure what is happening but I don’t feel safe”.
Unique Radars Because We Are All Unique Each of us is different and so we each have a different kind of radar. Some of us have a very sensitive radar and as a result we can be “expert worriers”. Expert worriers are very good at predicting dangers ahead. Some of us have radars that do not pick up anxiety signals very well or until the signals are very strong (and even then, we can ignore the signal). You may recognize these individuals as the daredevils who do things that are really risky. So, using the Goldilocks example of too hot, too cold, just right, it’s important to figure out what type of nervous system we each have in response to stress. In our families it is good to know what type of radar we have so that we can deal with those differences in a caring loving way. Do we have a stress radar that is very sensitive or do we have a stress radar that doesn’t pick up any worry, or do we have a stress radar that is just right? Long Term Stress is Difficult We have also found that our bodies are built to deal better with short-term stresses. So, like now with the Covid-19 epidemic, we are faced with serious long-term stress. It is important to learn how our bodies work and how to cope with this long-term stress. With long-term stress, our radar can be going off all the time as our body keeps trying to protect us by trying to be ready for danger all the time. In some ways, the current situation gives us an idea how an “expert worriers” feel a lot of the time. So, one of the first things to do when feeling stress is to identify the stress or worry and to name it. This may sound easy, but learning to identify and name our feelings is a skill that takes practice, just like learning to dance, read, or sing. Last week Joy Hensel talked about the importance of pausing and taking a deep breath. Slow breathing interrupts the fight/flight/freeze responses and is the way that we remind our body to calm down, so we can name how we are feeling. On the Synod website for mental health resources, you can find information on how to deal with the emotional impact of Covid-19. I hope that you have found this information helpful and look forward to sharing more in the future.