After almost three years…Some suggestions

crick the audio above and listen. Turn down the volume if it is a little too loud.

It is hard to believe it is getting close to 3 years since the Covid-19 pandemic started. As I don’t have any new client opening most of the time, at least I would like to share my thoughts around the “mental health crisis”.

As a mental health counselor/art therapist, as well as a person on the planet earth, I have been working through this difficult time just like you, your family members and friends. I know it is not always easy. The below are very simple suggestions that I would like to make to help you feel OK.

We have been traumatized. There have been so many things we can be fearful about in the world. Unfortunately, fearfulness itself creates more fear. So how can we shake off some of these fearful things?

  • Acknowledge that things are sometimes unpleasant (sad, scary and annoying) and we are OK to feel those emotions. We don’t have quick and happy endings all the time. Validate your and your loved ones’ unpleasant emotions. You may not have solutions to change those feelings, but once you feel and accept those emotions it is easier to let yourself come back to here and now. We live right now, not in the past, regretting what we did not achieve. Worrying about things that have not happened yet does not change your future. Pay attention to when you feel happy, and what helps you to feel that way, such as warm sunshine, or watching joyful moments with your loved ones, including pets.
  • Limit your online time. This is very important and it includes your streaming time, and playing time with video games. Our brains are overloaded and overstimulated. This stimulation is reinforced by the flood of information and we feel like we can’t live without the internet. Remember, people were able to live without the internet and social media once upon the time. Reducing the time you spend with your cell phone gives you more time to do other relaxing or entertaining things and you should be more able to fall asleep naturally.
  • Dr. Cathy Malchiodi and Dr. Elizabeth Warson, my mentors in the expressive art therapy field, encourage us to move, sing and express ourselves in creative ways.

Walk in nature and use all your senses; right now, you may smell the dry leave and ripening berries and rain. Listen to nature, birds singing, water dripping. Observe and notice what is there. You may notice animal tracks, wet bright colored leaves, something you usually don’t pay attention to. You may take a small, unprocessed food item and eat it as if you have not eaten it before. Of course if you know about berries you find in nature, you may pick one and taste it. Your skin is the largest organ in your body; you can feel the wind, rain and temperature changes and use all your senses.

Now you continue to walk in the natural place. Pay attention to feel the gravity. Pretend to be held by the mother Earth. Imagine your feet are glued on the ground. You may feel the texture of the ground; sandy, muddy, gravely. Pay attention to your body. Do you feel any tension in your body? Please try to feel it. Then take a deep breath. A wonderful book about relaxing breath exercise is:

Breath :New Science of lost Art

Keep walking, keep feeling, using all the senses and feeling your body. You might want to investigate movement exercises demonstarated by Donna Eden in her Youtube video , Energy Work.

You can listen to music and move/dance. You may meditate. You can enjoy playing with your pets.

Please remember that it took us near 3 years to feel how we do, so be patient and kind with yourself.


Inner journey after SARS-COV-2

cherry blossom and spring wind blow the darkness away

Today is the first day of April. It is almost 3 months since we heard about the novel Coronavirus in Wuhan. Boy! I don’t even like use the word, “Coronavirus” in my title.

Here in Seattle, Washington we had the first novel coronavirus outbreak in a nursing home in mid to late February. It was followed by the major high tech companies ordering people who can work from home, to stay home, in the first week of March. The schools officially closed on March 13. The governor addressed the stay-home-order starting on March 25.

As I summarized the timeline, I can not believe this change of our life happened this fast. A month ago, I was not remotely aware that we live surrounded by virus and bacteria. We sometimes caught cold and needed to be a little careful of seasonal flu. I was not afraid of invisible danger; virus that could kill me and pass to other people. Now I am afraid of touching the boxes delivered to our house by the Amazon delivery people who risk exposure to the virus. I am afraid to touch the trash can after the weekly garbage collections. I touched my trash can without thinking and realized I had to wash hands and clean the door knob with alcohol because I touched the door knob after touching the trash can! I wore my hand sewn mask to go to the post office to mail the several masks to a family member who needs to go to work instead of staying home. The post office worker with a N95 mask was behind a clear plastic window. Still, as soon as I paid by credit card, I wiped my hand with hand sanitizer.

I wish this was an April fool joke.

Since I heard about the novel Coronavirus before it got the official name by WHO, SARS-COV-2, I read various reliable articles from Japan, UK and U.S and I was taking a position to be calm and prepared. I wiped the tables, chairs, around the sink, door knobs and light switch diligently with soapy water then sprayed alcohol each time my clients left. The building custodian disinfected three times per week. To tell the truth, nothing prepared me to be in the current situation.

As I continue to visit my clients at home online, I noticed everybody’s experience is unique and different in this difficult time. So you may be feeling safe and happy surrounded by your loved ones at home. You may feel isolated. You may be struggling to work while your children are at home. Your loved one may be sick. You may be working with patients with the Coronavirus and unable to stay with your family members. And a lot more….

So how to live with various situations?
This is what I do every day:
I accept things are difficult and different. I kept checking my emotions; fear, sadness and irritation. I allow myself to travel my distressing journey with equanimity. I walk every morning with my dogs. My dogs seem to be happy to be with human family members all the time.The neighborhood is oddly quiet. I see white pink cherry blossoms. The petals are blown by strong winds and the air is cold but very clear. This is a moment I feel joy and feel encouraged that we all go through this.

Let’s acknowledge each moment’s various feelings and let them pass. We feel sad, then experiences a moment of joy. Do not despair. We feel afraid of specific things such as a door knob that somebody just touched. You can wipe the knob and wash your hands. Wash away your fear. Soapy warm water helps us to feel relieved. it even smells good. I understand the worries about financial future but let bring our mind back to now and feel the earth under the bottom of your feet. That helps us to feel grounded.

We can also paint just blending colors. Many suppliers are overwhelmed and off course we need to prioritize the essential goods to be delivered to your home but I hope painting helps us to focus on present and to maintain good enough mental health. The materials I recommend my clients to use are;

Watercolor papers-you can use any paper but this inexpensive watercolor papers suck water and you can enjoy painting more. Unfortunately it will take several weeks to be delivered to you…

This heavyweight construction paper pad is still in Amazon warehouse. I think you can use this for painting.04/02/2020

My favorite water paint set from Pentel. You can let paint dry and use like a typical dry watercolor pan or use just out of tubes to get the mat and strong strokes like tempera paint. For years I was buying those from Japan and am very happy that Pentel started selling them in reasonable price in US. Still in Amazon warehouse. 04/02/2020

You also need paint brushes, watercan and paper towels.