Sarah-Valin Bloom, LCSW
Quartet Health Clinical Director
April 23, 2020
“How do you leave your work at work?” “How can you listen to such painful stories all day?” These are questions that many mental health providers encounter and are real challenges that must be navigated over the course of one’s career. Regular contact with supportive colleagues, healthy boundaries, and a consistent self-care routine are important components of staying emotionally healthy. The more nuanced question of, “How do you help someone experiencing intense emotion without getting pulled in or overwhelmed in the moment?” is one we must all now consider.
With the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, or any large scale traumatic event, we all (therapist or not!) find ourselves offering support to distraught family, friends, colleagues, and even acquaintances. As each of us manage a plethora of feelings, including uncertainty, fear, grief, or anxiety, we are also exposed to the same feelings in those around us. The ability to be compassionate and empathetic is just as important as regulating one’s own emotional state during these interactions.
Emotional regulation allows someone to be an effective “helper.” If you become overwhelmed by someone else’s intense emotions, it limits your ability to help them calm down. Feelings and emotional states are “contagious.” Imagine spending time with someone who exudes calm and is present in a supportive way. Underlying feelings of fear or sadness may not go away, but being in this calm person’s presence is likely to help reduce the intensity of what you are feeling. Our bodies and brains respond to our environment and the feelings of others.
Right now, our own self-care and keeping ourselves as calm as possible in the face of stress is very important. One effective way to help keep yourself calm and regulate your own emotional states is through the practice of mindfulness. Below you will find some simple information, tips, and resources on mindfulness meditation.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the simple practice of being present, in the current moment, without judgement. We are often caught up with thoughts of the past, anxieties about the future, planning, to do lists, and all kinds of whirling thoughts that can bring us far from being present. Mindfulness practices use sensory information or awareness as an anchor to help ground us in the present moment. The goal is not to make yourself stop thinking, but rather, experience the present moment as it is and allow thoughts to float in and out without becoming attached to them.
What are Some of the Benefits?
When we are able to experience or observe our own thoughts, without becoming attached, we are better able to regulate our own emotional state. Other benefits include:
What are Some Ways I Can Practice Mindfulness?
The more you practice mindfulness, the easier it becomes. Like a muscle, the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets. Mindfulness practice may be done while sitting quietly in mediation but can also be practiced while moving around, in social situations, and even in the busiest of moments. The key is using some aspect of experience to anchor you in the present moment. Below are some of the ways you can begin to integrate mindfulness practice into your daily routine.
Using the Breath
Using an Object
Walking or Standing
Interacting with Others
What are Some Available Resources?
Going to therapy is like opening up a history book about yourself, written by you, and sharing it with a stranger.
They may have the word “micro” in them, but microaggressions are often likened to “death by a thousand cuts.”
Grief is a normal part of the human experience, but we live in a society that has little room for it.