COVID-19: Managing the Mental Mayhem, a Mental Health Blog
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COVID-19: Managing the Mental Mayhem

What is COVID-19: Managing the Mental Mayhem?

COVID-19: Managing the Mental Mayhem is a series written by Dr. Lori Kleinman and presented by Boulder County Public Health. This series aims to provide easy-to-adopt tips for living a healthier life while dealing with uncertainty, stress, grief, change, restlessness and more during the COVID-19 pandemic. Look for new posts on Facebook, Instagram and here each Monday.

Meet Lori Kleinman, PhD

Lori Kleinman, PhD, is a licensed psychologist, music therapist and founder of LIVIBRANCE. She has over 35 years of experience providing mental health services and consultation. She has a private clinical practice. She also provides immediate disruptive event and critical incident response to organizations. In addition, Dr. Kleinman gives public speaking and keynote presentations on mental health, consults with executives and organizations, and creates customized wellness programs.

Dr. Kleinman has a Doctorate in Counseling Psychology, a Master’s in Counseling and Human Systems, and a Bachelor’s in Music Therapy. She holds certifications and specialized training in many areas such as stress management, trauma psychology, health psychology, work-life management, compassion fatigue, grief, suicide prevention, relationships, communication, executive coaching, leadership development, performance enhancement, hostage negotiation and combat stress mitigation.

While an officer and psychologist in the United States Air Force, Dr. Kleinman implemented numerous prevention programs. She worked directly with joint forces in the aftermath of 9/11. She provided training to leadership and squadrons and coordinated disaster mental health services. She also wrote USAF suicide prevention training manuals and led suicide prevention programs. She helped create and facilitated the Women’s Wellness Conference. In addition, Dr. Kleinman was a member of hostage negotiation teams and was the first psychologist to work directly with USCENTCOM and USAF fire departments.

Read more: Social Kindness

Social Kindness

Social kindness refers to the ways we act when we are with other people, including strangers. It is natural for each of us to focus on our own thoughts and needs in public. We are busy running errands and focused on our own activities. However, following some basic social graces can greatly enhance our experience. It helps us to feel good and can reduce our stress level.

There are numerous terms for social kindness, including social graces, etiquette, and polite behavior. No matter what we call it, social kindness means that we are showing respect for ourselves and for others around us. We show others respect by being considerate. We show ourselves respect by managing our responses and keeping our mood and attitude uplifted.

An easy way to show social kindness is to smile. Smiling is a natural behavior, yet we don’t smile naturally when we feel stressed or annoyed. Did you know that you can lift your mood simply by deciding to smile at people when you pass them in public? One way to do this is by focusing on pleasant thoughts and experiences. Our thoughts influence our mood and behavior, so be aware of your thoughts when in public. Thinking is automatic until we pay attention to our thoughts. Then they become a behavior that we can change. You can choose what you think about and how you respond in public.

Smiling is considered a “nonverbal behavior.” It is often effective in helping other people to feel calm, as well as lifting our own mood. Other nonverbal behaviors that express social kindness are making eye contact and holding the door open for others when entering or exiting.

Verbal behaviors that express social kindness include speaking quietly in public. Keeping our voice at a reasonable level is respectful of the people we are with as well as strangers. In addition, saying “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me” when appropriate create comfort and ease. There are no guarantees, but we are more likely to have pleasant experiences when we use polite language with others.

Our attitude towards others also expresses social kindness. When we apologize for something we’ve done in error, we show respect for those affected. We also reduce our own stress by taking responsibility for our mistakes. Another way to express social kindness and do good for our own mood is to give the benefit of the doubt. There are many reasons why we or others may act in a “rude” way. Of course, there are some people who lack consideration for other people. However, most people make mistakes socially because they are tired, preoccupied, unaware, anxious, or running late. When we give the benefit of the doubt, we release our tension and give them the chance to release some of their tension.

Ultimately, we can’t control what other people do, but we can choose our own attitudes and behaviors. When we make the choice to practice social kindness, we maximize our opportunities for uplifting experiences, improve our mood, and reduce our stress level.

Wishing you ease, comfort and social kindness,

Dr. Lori Kleinman

Read more: Holiday Stress Management

Holiday Stress Management

Here we are at the start of the Holiday Season. Whew. Get Ready!

The Holiday Season means many different things to each of us, yet most of us agree that stress increases during this time of year. As the season begins, it is helpful to set some guidelines to cope with and reduce stressors.

One of the best ways to reduce holiday stress is to plan ahead. Set aside some time specifically for planning. Consider what you want and need to accomplish in the next month or so. Write down action items and then strategize how you will address each task on your list. For example, if you list “get gifts for family”, then follow-up by listing each person’s name, a budget for each gift, ideas for gifts, and where to find the gift.

Setting a budget is always a good idea. It’s especially helpful during the holidays, when we are bombarded with advertising, decorated homes, our children’s requests, and our own expectations. Identify how much money you can spend in total, then separate amounts into categories such as holiday meal, gifts, decorations, etc. Consider gifts that don’t cost money. For example, assemble a digital photo collection or make coupons for acts of service such as a massage or homecooked meal.

Keep it simple. That says it all. Create one or two special experiences and memories instead of trying to do everything. We can easily overload ourselves with expectations. Notice how calming it is to simplify everything from meals to decorations to gifts.

One of the big Holiday stressors is interpersonal relationships. Family gatherings can be fun and stressful, and the pandemic is another potential added stressor. Identify the most important people in your life who will be part of your holiday experiences. Recognize where you may need to set limits. Let important people know how you will and won’t be available. For example, choose to have only immediate family at your holiday dinner. Once you share your plans, focus on manifesting them. Be prepared to kindly explain your choices but remember there’s no need to defend your decisions.

We also benefit from time alone. Our minds and bodies learn how to relax and reset when we appreciate time alone. Consider brief moments as well as long stretches of time. Some of us have reduced options to be alone, and others can feel isolated with many hours alone. Find your own pace, keeping in mind the benefit of deciding to enjoy your time alone.

Children often get quite excited about the holiday season. They may want to do everything possible and ask for many gifts. This is natural. You are the parent, so you get to set the limits for them. Give your children options within clear boundaries. For example, ask them whether they want to go to see Santa at the park or at the mall, or ask them if they want a candy cane or a chocolate Santa. You can let them make a gift wish list, then work with them to narrow down the choices.

Schedule the behaviors that you know keep you and your family healthy. Schedule time for exercise, preparing meals, cleaning your home, resting, and paying bills. It may not sound like fun, but it will calm your nervous system and leave you feeling more in control of your days. Look for ways to make chores more enjoyable. For example, have a race to see who can make their bed the fastest, or go for a walk in your “ugliest” holiday sweater.

There’s a phrase “go with the flow”. Going with the flow means that we control what we can and then let go of the rest. This is a busy time of year, and emotions can be more intense than usual. Know that, accept it, and adjust your expectations to allow for both joy and disappointment. Take it easy, be kind to yourself with your thoughts, and cut others some slack. It will help reduce your stress and increase your pleasure.

Wishing you good health, comfort, and Happy Holidays,

Dr. Lori Kleinman

Read more: Attitude of Gratitude

Attitude of Gratitude

Did you know that being grateful is good for your health? When we recognize what we appreciate, our body and mind relax. This occurs whether we say our grateful thoughts out loud or think them silently. Saying “thank you” to someone, even ourselves, feels good and does good for us.

One way to recognize what we are thankful for is to make a gratitude list. Simply write down things and people and experiences you appreciate. It is a quick way to lift your mood. In addition, as we acknowledge what we appreciate, we begin to focus our lifestyle in ways that bring more appreciation. We begin to attract more uplifting experiences into our life because we are more aware of them.

Another way to feel grateful is to identify something that went well in your life each day. It can be something major or minor. For example, “I’m grateful for having time with a friend today,” or “I appreciate that my boss recognized my work on this project”.

Many of us have difficulty recognizing things we like about ourselves. We can tend to focus on “what’s wrong’ more than “what’s right.” Practice acknowledging things you like about yourself and notice how much better you begin to feel. Be realistic and self-compassionate. If you’re having difficulty identifying things, ask someone who knows and loves you what they like about you. Or you can imagine yourself in their position and recognize why they might like being around you.

Saying “thank you” is a great way to connect with other people. It is also a great way to practice gratitude. When we acknowledge someone else, we let them know we like what they did. This increases the chance that they will do it again. It also helps them feel uplifted. It’s a great way to feel good ourselves while also helping someone else to feel good.

Saying “thank you” to ourselves is also important. Acknowledge things you are doing for your health and wellbeing. Show yourself gratitude for your work ethic, your commitment to your children, putting nutritious food into your body, exercising your body, and anything else you are thankful for in your relationship with yourself.

Wishing you good health, comfort and a Happy Thanksgiving,

Lori Kleinman, PhD

COVID-19 Mental Mayhem Blog: Boundaries for Holiday Gatherings - Asian family: mom and dad help young toddler put reindeer antlers on as daughter sits beside them with a Christmas tree beside them
Read more: Boundaries for Holiday Gatherings

Boundaries for Holiday Gatherings

Planning for the holidays can be both exciting and stressful. As the pandemic continues, we may find it challenging to set boundaries with family and friends. We want to enjoy holiday festivities and gatherings, yet we may have different opinions about staying safe from COVID.

There are many ways to set boundaries while showing respect and caring for others. Be aware of your own concerns about safety. Know your limits regarding physical contact, size of gatherings, etc. Once you know your concerns and limits, think about your needs during the Holiday Season. Be clear with yourself about your priorities. For example, if you value time with family and creating memories together, set that as a priority. Then explore ways to make those experiences happen without compromising your limits.

You may decide to skip dinner with extended family and instead recommend everyone go caroling around your neighborhood together. Afterward, you can serve hot chocolate outdoors before saying goodnight. This brings everyone together while allowing for physical distancing as needed.

Encourage others in your group to make suggestions as well. As you share your preferences directly, it allows others to share their preferences, too. Personalize your preferences instead of quoting scientists or newscasters. For example, you could say, “it’s so important to me to limit in-person contact because I believe that will help me to stay as healthy as possible.” You could also say, “There are different perspectives, and I accept that. I’m also asking you to accept my perspective, even if you disagree.” Or, “there are so many ways we can make memories, let’s do so where each of us can have our concerns respected.”

When we share what matters to us personally, it encourages others to feel compassion and acceptance. This is different than “lecturing” each other, which usually increases feelings of separation and even resentment. Also, when we show respect for differing viewpoints, it encourages others to do the same. Rather than arguing, we can say, “I understand that we may have different beliefs and knowledge about covid. I accept our differences and hope that each of us are willing to adjust to whatever decisions work for everyone involved.”

Think about creative ways to interact during the Holidays that allow everyone to feel comfortable. You may experience different opinions in your family about wearing masks during your gathering. You might suggest a Holiday mask contest with fun prizes, or you might have Holiday masks available and as each guest to wear one as part of the Holiday cheer. It can be awkward, so acknowledge that. Know that everyone is doing their best to cope. If you absolutely cannot agree to a plan that feels good to everyone involved, consider using virtual methods to connect socially while keeping physically distanced. Your goal is to have enjoyable experiences and reduce tension by acknowledging and accepting each other, including your differences.

Wishing you good health, comfort and Happy Holidays,

Dr. Lori Kleinman

Helping your Child with Vaccination: summary of main points image; young child sleds with his moms outside in the snow
Read more: Helping your Child with Vaccination

Now that COVID-19 vaccines have been approved for children ages 5-11, you may be wondering how to help your child with the vaccination process. It is natural for all of us to feel some nervousness or anxiety about getting a “shot”.

Did you know that inoculation has existed for thousands of years? What we now call vaccines, a more specific type of inoculation, have existed for hundreds of years. Although the COVID-19 vaccine is new, methods of developing effective vaccines are longstanding.

We strive to protect our children, and vaccination is a very effective way of protecting them from harmful, and possibly lethal, viruses and diseases. There are many things we can do to help our children feel safe and secure as they get vaccinated.

So, how can we help our children with vaccinations?

  1. Speak with them in a soothing voice tone. Children respond to the sound of our voice even more than the words we are saying. Approach them with a soft voice, simple phrases and a moderate pace of words. Your goal is to provide a relaxed atmosphere as you talk with them.
  2. Share with them the benefits of being vaccinated. For example, it will help their body to be strong on the inside, and it will help them keep other people safe. For young children, you can even suggest that the vaccine gives them superpowers against the virus.
  3. Call it a “vaccine” rather than a “shot”. The words we use carry images for each of us. The word “shot” can sound alarming, especially if our child associates it with a gunshot. The word “vaccine” is very specific, so you can help your child develop meaning for that word. The meaning of “vaccine” relates to good health, keeping our body-safe, etc.
  4. Teach your child how to use deep breathing and other relaxation techniques. Slow deep breaths and relaxed muscles tell our body and mind to relax. We can model deep breathing by doing it with our children. We can also have them imagine blowing bubbles through a small bubble wand.
  5. Distract your child from seeing the needle during the vaccination. Continue talking to them in a soothing voice, suggest they look at various items around the room, or bring something to show them to occupy their interest.
  6. Bring a comfort item for them to hold before, during, and after the vaccination. This can be a stuffed animal, small blanket or another soft item. Soft textures can help us feel soothed, which also results in relaxation and comfort.
  7. Praise and encourage your child for getting vaccinated. Children thrive on acknowledgment and encouragement. Smile, hug, kiss the vaccine spot and let them know you are proud of them.
  8. Manage your own stress throughout the process. We are all examples to one another. Children notice our example and tend to mimic us. We can’t be stressed in a relaxed body or mind, so take a moment to reassure yourself as well. You are a good parent for attending to your child’s health and wellbeing.

Wishing you good health and comfort,

Dr. Lori Kleinman

Read more: Reduce and Manage Loneliness

Reduce and Manage Loneliness

As we continue coping with COVID-19, we may find ourselves feeling more and more isolated. We can reach out by phone, videoconference, or physically distanced outings, yet we may still feel lonely.

Loneliness is different than isolation. Isolation means we are physically separated from others. Loneliness means we feel sadness because we are without friends or companionship. We may also feel lonely because our relationships do not seem meaningful. In fact, research has shown that frequent loneliness is most often associated with dissatisfaction with one’s family, social and/or community life.

Remember that loneliness is a natural response to ongoing isolation and social uncertainty. This is especially true when we are missing meaningful relationships and life experiences.

Try these tips to help reduce and manage loneliness:

  1. Take a moment and identify the people in your life who are meaningful to you. How often are you in contact with them? What methods of contact do you have with them? (phone, video, in-person, email, text, letters) Which methods of contact leave you feeling most connected to them? Now, make a schedule for yourself that includes regular contact with each of the people you have identified. When you reach out, utilize the answers to these questions to guide your experience together.
  2. Take a moment and identify the activities in your life that bring you fulfillment and satisfaction. Make a list or menu of the activities that you could still pursue during the pandemic. You may need to be creative and rework some of your activities to fit current safety needs.
  3. Re-connect with friends from your past or lookup relatives that you do not yet know or have not seen for a long time. This is a great time to reach out because we are all adjusting to new life demands.
  4. Learn something new. Occupy and nourish your mind by learning a new hobby, skill, language or concept. Take advantage of a little extra time to yourself.
  5. Change the idea of “social distancing” to “physical distancing.” We can be physically apart yet socially connected.
  6. Acknowledge your strengths and accomplishments. You’ve done a lot to make it this far, and that deserves some positive thinking.

Wishing you good health, comfort and connection,

Dr. Lori Kleinman

Mental Health Blog Archive

If you’d like to read past posts, take a look here!

Welcome & Dealing with Uncertainty

Welcome & Dealing with Uncertainty

Welcome to the Boulder County Public Health mental and behavioral health blog for coping with COVID-19. Our purpose is to help our community members best manage the stress, anxiety, and uncertainty that is a natural part of our experience during this pandemic. Please know that although the current situation is “abnormal” for all of us, it is “normal” to be experiencing thoughts and feelings that are more alarming than usual. The posts on this page will utilize our best knowledge in psychology, medicine, science and even the arts to help you and your loved ones through the coming days and weeks. You will be able to learn about sound psychological principles that keep us healthy and thriving day-to-day. You will also be given ideas and activities that can help make each day feel more meaningful and purposeful to you. We are living under difficult circumstances, and we have the ability to choose how we will respond to those circumstances. Psychology gives us tools to respond in ways that are good for us – good mentally, good emotionally, good physically, good spiritually, good relationally.

So, let’s get started!

First, accurate knowledge helps to lessen our fear and anxiety. It’s important that we focus on accurate knowledge from reliable sources, for example the Boulder County Public Health and Centers for Disease Control websites about the disease. One of the initial things first responders do in an emergency is take account of the facts of a situation using the most accurate knowledge available. It is essential to know what we’re dealing with without distraction, so our emotional responses don’t get in the way of our thinking and coping responses.

Fear is a natural emotional response when we perceive that we are in immediate danger. That fear response leads us to fight the danger or flee from it. In fact, it is called the “fight-flight” response. It helps us to survive when we are in immediate danger. There is much we can do now to reduce any chance of personal danger from this virus, such as self-quarantine to reduce possible exposure and spread. Anxiety is also an emotional response. However, anxiety can interfere with our ability to respond to danger or choose how we will solve problems. The anxiety response can get in the way of our ability to manage a situation. An example of anxiety getting in the way is when we start worrying about what might happen. Instead of being able to recognize a problem, access resources, think about possible solutions, and take purposeful action, we can become emotionally distracted and nervous. Then we have even more difficulty finding a solution, and our anxiety increases.

It’s not unusual to worry when we are faced with ongoing uncertainty. The key is that we need to recognize it and take action to change the anxiety and worry into something productive. Fortunately, what we can do is rather simple. We need to ask ourselves one question: “Is there anything I can do about this thing I’m worried about?” If our answer is “yes”, we can plan what we can do and get started doing it. If our answer is “no”, then we need to start accessing accurate knowledge and resources to help us change the answer to “yes”. Or, we need to recognize that sometimes we can’t do anything, so we need to focus on something else. This takes practice, and the worrying may seep in, but we are starting to learn to self-regulate our responses and use our mental and emotional strength to feel more in control of our life.

Let’s look at the idea of self-quarantine or stay-at-home orders. For most of us, these ideas are in stark contrast to the ways we usually live. We can begin to worry about what might happen, or even what is happening. But if we want to feel more in control of our life, we can use the worry question. “Is there anything I can do about self-quarantine or a stay-at-home order?” Or even better, “What can I do about self-quarantine or stay-at-home order?” Now we’re getting somewhere. Whether it’s voluntary or mandated stay at home, I can choose to comply so that I keep myself and others as safe as possible at this time. Whew…Next, I need to problem solve how I will comply without losing quality of life. I will tell myself, “This is a time for prevention. That means I will do the things that experts say will help us. It also means I won’t do the things that experts say may likely hurt us.” In addition, I will plan for my days at home, including meals, exercise, activities, checking in with reliable news for accurate knowledge, and social contact by phone, text, email, social media.

Remember, COVID-19 is real and important and is having a huge effect. We may feel uncertain and even scared. Yet we have the best scientists and medical researchers searching for solutions. We are in a country that has been resilient throughout our history. We are also resilient, and these situations remind us of that. This too shall pass, and in the meantime, we will help and support each other. You have knowledge, skills, abilities, talents that will help you through. Be gentle with yourself and others as we move through this one day at a time.

Wishing you good health,

Dr. Lori Kleinman

How to Connect in Times of Isolation and Uncertainty

How to Connect in Times of Isolation and Uncertainty — June 29

As the experience of “social distancing” continues, it is natural to feel awkward or uncomfortable around other people. Between self-quarantine periods, isolation, and uncertainty about COVID-19, we may feel like we are losing a sense of socialization.

The fact is, we are still quite capable of feeling connected. We just need to recognize new ways to connect. Did you know that human culture has experienced social connections in a variety of ways throughout history? In some areas, a head nod and wave is considered a warm way of greeting someone. There was a time when curtsies and bows were the preferred methods of demonstrating interest and respect for another person.

We are living through a period when we are called upon to develop ways of connecting and communicating with diminished facial expressions. Most of our communication is expressed through body language, for example, posture, eye contact, facial expression, tone and volume of voice. With the opportunity to see most of each other’s faces and touch each other restricted, we can intensify other methods of connecting and communicating.

So, let’s look at some ways to feel less awkward and instead feel more comfortable with social distancing:

  1. Let’s rename “social distancing” to “physical distancing.” It is a more accurate phrase because moving our bodies apart and covering our mouths and noses does not prevent us from socially interacting. For example, visiting via videoconference or singing with neighbors on our front porches can be very social.
  2. Consider ways to acknowledge other people when in public besides smiling or hugging. Make your neighbors laugh by bowing or curtsying when you see them. Nod and wave to strangers when you are waiting in line or passing each other in public. Tell the grocery cashier that you are smiling under your mask (I do this regularly with people, and it usually brings positive responses). Say out loud what we are all probably thinking, for example, “Wow, isn’t it strange that we’re all standing in line on these 6-foot marks on the floor?” Say “hi” or “hello” to people and use an uplifting tone of voice.
  3. If you have children (or just want to make this more fun and less restrictive for yourself), let them decorate their masks. They may want to pretend that they are a superhero. Draw smiles or other fun and pleasant facial expressions on your mask. Also help your children to practice wearing their masks before they go out. It can take getting used to breathing through the mask and having our faces covered. At the same time, be sure to breathe fresh air when you are in safe areas to take your mask off.
  4. Remind yourself that following safe practices is an act of altruism. You are doing something actively to help prevent other people from getting infected. You are also helping others feel more comfortable if they are afraid of contracting the virus. This is a time when we can all benefit ourselves from thinking kindly of others. Altruism is a positive psychological trait, and it has been shown to reduce feelings of anxiety, depression, and loneliness.
  5. Remind yourself that the distance may feel uncomfortable, yet when we are able to be close to someone or touch them again, it is even more meaningful.
  6. If you are uncomfortable doing some usual public gestures, like holding a door for someone, let them know that you are apologetic for not holding the door. You can reinforce the fact that you are upholding 6-foot distancing for both of you, for example “sorry I’m not going to hold the door – I want to respect us keeping a safe distance”.
  7. Create reasonable goals to practice connecting in new ways in public. For example, you may decide that you will make “small talk” with three people each time you are in public, while following distancing recommendations. Or you may decide to nod and wave to each person you pass.
  8. Allow yourself and others to express thoughts and feelings without judgement. This experience is powerful to each of us in a variety of ways. We will have a variety of responses. At the same time, allow yourself to respectfully exit a conversation if it becomes anxiety-provoking or divisive. Acknowledgment of the challenges of these cultural changes from covid19 is healthy. It is also healthy for each of us to have clear boundaries regarding topics and the direction of conversations. Be gentle with yourself and others. We are all striving to adjust and manage.

These are a few ideas to get you started. My next posting will continue the discussion of this topic in hopes of helping all of us feel more comfortable and less awkward with the changes we are making to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Wishing you good health, comfort, and connection,

Dr. Lori Kleinman

Reaching Out and Responding to Others

Reaching Out and Responding to Others

An important part of our daily life is interaction and communication. The COVID-19 pandemic has presented us with new challenges in this area. Many of us are mostly limited to virtual forms of personal interaction, and we are likely spending more time alone or on video conferencing platforms. In addition, life events continue, including things that are uplifting as well as disappointments and losses. One of the best ways to celebrate uplifts and cope with sad and disappointing events is by communicating with supportive others. The importance of connecting and sharing support effectively is even greater when we are physically distanced and experiencing uncertainty. Even if the outcome of a life event cannot be changed, talking about it and sharing our thoughts and feelings is good for our mental health. One of the challenges to reaching out or responding to others is that we may not know how to approach the subject or respond to someone who is having difficulty with a life event.

So, what do we say when we don’t know what to say?

  1. If you are the one reaching out, preface your conversation by letting the other person know that you need their opinion, support, or simply for them to hear what you have to say. This interim step can be helpful in giving the other person a chance to make themselves present for you. We all have ongoing life events and personal struggles, so it helps to make certain the person you are speaking with is mentally and emotionally available.
  2. If you are being approached by a friend, family member, or colleague who needs to talk, focus on active listening first. This means that you are there to listen, reflect on what you are hearing, summarize what the other person says, and ask questions for clarification only. It is tempting to give advice or interpret what is said, yet that does not convey support and acceptance. When people are struggling and reach out for support, they usually want to be heard, not advised.
  3. As a follow-up to #2 above, once we have actively listened and shown support by reflecting, summarizing, and/or clarifying, we may have some ideas that we want to share. A good way to let the other person know we want to engage further is to say something like “It sounds like you have a lot going on with this. How can I help?” Or “I’m not sure what to suggest to you but I want you to know I care.” Or, “I have a few ideas that have worked for me. Can I share them with you?” This demonstrates compassion and gives you a chance to give input in a supportive and non-threatening way.
  4. We may feel overwhelmed by the idea of hearing other people’s distress. That is natural, especially when we are also experiencing life stressors. However, altruism is good for our mental and emotional health. By actively listening to someone else and reflecting what we heard to them, we show and experience empathy. Empathy means we show someone that we are present and seeking to understand them. It does not mean that we take on their problems. Keeping this boundary helps us to keep focused and able to manage whatever is happening in the moment. We get to practice separating our own stress and needs from those of others. It is also important to apply this altruistic and empathetic attitude with ourselves in coping with life events.
  5. Showing empathy can help us manage life stressors while enhancing communication with others. When we show empathy, we do not absorb other people’s stress or concerns. Empathy does show people that we are listening and hearing them, and we validate their concerns, which is a sign of respect and understanding. For example, “I hear how upsetting this is for you.” Or, “Wow, that was so disappointing for you,” allows the other person to feel support without pressure. We can be fully present for them without becoming stressed ourselves. Everyone “wins” because both people can feel support, altruism, empathy, and connection.

Wishing you good health, comfort, and good communication,

Dr. Lori Kleinman

Reconnecting When We are Physically Apart

Did you know that this is the perfect time to reconnect with friends, family, acquaintances, and colleagues? We are all learning how to cope with ongoing change and uncertainty. We are all living new types of lifestyles. We are all cut-off from many usual activities and social gatherings. Most of us are feeling some loneliness, experiencing isolation, and missing the ease of uplifting conversation and connections.

Psychological research demonstrates that connection with others is good for our nervous system and overall mental health. When we experience meaningful interpersonal connections, our anxiety reduces, our mood lifts, and our nervous system relaxes. If positive memories, humor, and laughter are part of the connection, it is even better for our well-being. This is not a matter of how many contacts we have; it is a matter of the quality of our contacts. Fewer and more meaningful is much better than many and superficial.

So, how do we experience meaningful connection when we are physically distancing?

  1. Think over your life history and list people you have known who have mattered to you.
  2. Select one or two of them and look up their phone number, email, or street address.
  3. Have a few memories in mind when you connect with them. Also, think about what you would like to hear them talk about and have a few questions in mind.
  4. First try calling them or writing them a letter. Those are more personal ways of connecting than email or social media.
  5. If you are nervous about calling after a long period of no contact, use the pandemic as a reason. For example, “Since the pandemic and ongoing uncertainty, I’ve been recalling special life experiences and have been thinking of our past friendship.” Or, “It’s been so long since we’ve seen each other. What’s been happening in your life?” Or even, “This pandemic has been such a strange experience. Remember when we ______.”
  6. Remember that there are no guarantees how someone will respond to you. The key is that you are reaching out to reconnect. That takes courage and interest and a good attitude, all of which are good for our health. If the other person responds, it is even better for us and also for them.
  7. You can also use the same approach with people who are currently in your life. Explore new and different ways of interacting with your partner, family members, friends, and co-workers. Think about new things to talk about or things to ask them about. For example, “We’ve been together for so long, yet I realize I don’t know much about the hobbies you had as a child”. Or, “I was trying to remember what you told me about the trip you took to ___. Would you tell me about that trip again?” Of course, you will say things in ways you feel comfortable. These are just a few sentences to get you started.
  8. Suspend any expectations of the outcome and focus on the idea of reaching out to connect. Have fun with it, and if someone doesn’t respond, so be it. Move on to someone else. Some people may respond for a moment, and others may be interested in reconnecting long-term. Enjoy the process and see what happens.

Wishing you good health, comfort, and meaningful connections,

Dr. Lori Kleinman

Review How Things Are Going at Home

Review How Things Are Going at Home

When was the last time you gave yourself the opportunity to review how things are going at home during the pandemic? We have been living with the “new normal for now” for over a year. Most people developed ways of living and working from home early in the pandemic, and those ways have become the model for daily living.

You might find it helpful to pause a moment and think about ways to increase comfort and a more fulfilling lifestyle at this point. There are multiple ways to do so, many of which are backed by research as well as practical problem-solving.

When we must quickly respond to change, especially change that we did not choose, it can take time to adjust. This is natural. This is also healthy; we need to take time to review the facts of the situation, understand the adaptations that need to occur, and implement the changes in our behavior and thinking. Reviewing our progress is helpful in feeling more in control of our lives. It also gives us the opportunity to find solutions that are more useful to our needs.

So, what can we do to increase comfort and fulfillment at home?

  1. Plan some meetings to discuss living and working arrangements with others in your household. It is best to do this in a non-threatening and even fun way. For example, each person can write ideas of what would improve home life on separate pieces of paper. Then those pieces of paper can be put in a bowl. Next, each person can pull out a piece of paper and read the idea, and everyone can participate in discussion of how to implement it. If you live alone, take time to review what is and is not working, and identify solutions that work for you.
  2. Separate work from leisure space and time. Set up your day for each activity in helpful ways. For example, if you use the same laptop for work and leisure, have two separate places where you setup the laptop for each function. If you do not have space for this, then change the items on your desk, table, et cetera, between activities. You could stack work items when finished with work and add a beverage/snack to the table, a pillow for your back, et cetera.
  3. Review how your tech items are arranged. Keep chargers in handy places. Setup your tech functionally for entertainment purposes, including comfort for your body while watching movies, et cetera.
  4. Select an area to organize or make more functional now that you have had time to live with new circumstances. Explore ways of rearranging furniture or line of sight to increase uplifting views and comfortable living.
  5. Make your bed and straighten up your room when you get up. This is a basic and uplifting task. Notice how good it feels at the end of your workday when your room is neat and inviting.
  6. Plan some meals that you especially like to prepare and eat. Give yourself time to enjoy the experience of having a meal. You can do the same with any activity: plan it, prepare for it, enjoy it.

Wishing you good health, comfort, and a fulfilling home life,

Dr. Lori Kleinman

Dealing with the Aftermath of Tragedy

Dealing with the Aftermath of Tragedy

On March 22, Boulder experienced a tragic event, while still living through the pandemic. Today’s posting is focused on coping with the aftermath. Part of the healing process after a mass shooting involves recognizing that your reactions and responses are natural, and it is the event that is unnatural. There are some ways to move more effectively through the natural process of recovering from a tragic mass casualty event.

Know that you are having natural reactions to an abnormal event. It is natural to feel shock, disbelief, sadness, anger, frustration, and survivor guilt, among other responses. This will subside in time, and for now, acknowledge your reactions as a natural part of living through a tragic event.

Also, you may find some changes in the ways you usually experience your days. These changes may involve decreased concentration, decreased focus, altered sleep patterns, alterations in appetite, decreased interest, decreased or increased energy, feelings of guilt, and/or feeling slowed down or agitated. These are natural responses as your body and mind are striving to incorporate this event into your life experiences.

As you move through this process, there are some things that you can do to help yourself and others. Keep things as simple as possible for now, using the following as guidelines to support your recovery.

  1. Keep in contact with others and check-in by voice.
  2. Keep hydrated with water and limit alcohol and other drugs.
  3. Eat nutritious foods – in small portions if your appetite is reduced – and at regular intervals.
  4. Keep to a daily schedule, including multiple short-term breaks, as routine calms the nervous system.
  5. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
  6. Limit exposure to news feeds about the event so your mind can rest.
  7. Talk with others about your thoughts and reactions.
  8. Do things you would usually enjoy.
  9. Try some relaxation exercises – deep breathing, muscle relaxation, guided visualization.
  10. Recognize and acknowledge your strengths, talents, skills, abilities.
  11. Recognize that you are healthy and will get through this experience.
  12. Expect recovery and accept support.
  13. Remember that there is no timeframe for your recovery. You will move through this at your pace, gently and effectively. Your strengths are intact through this experience.
  14. Keep connected with others to express and receive support and comfort.
  15. Seek assistance from a credentialed mental health professional if needed to support your recovery.

Sending you good health, comfort, and support,

Lori Kleinman, PhD

Experience the Process of Grieving a Significant Loss

Experience the Process of Grieving a Significant Loss

One of the realities of these uncertain times is that life goes on, with or without COVID-19. Many life events may need to be adjusted to meet our needs for safety, yet those events still demand our attention. We can use videoconferencing and other technology to bring friends and loved ones together for celebrations and for losses. We can set future celebratory and anniversary dates, and revisit important times in the future. I envision a day of acknowledgment for the entire world to recognize how we moved through this pandemic with stress-hardiness and resilience!

As we continue through this pandemic and our various adjustments, many of us are also coping with significant losses. Whether the loss is death of a loved one, loss of a job, or loss of a planned lifestyle, we may experience profound grief. It is important to know that grief is a natural and healthy response to loss. There is no one correct way to grieve, but what is correct is that our mind and body need to experience the process of grieving when we have experienced a significant loss.

So, what can we do to grieve a significant loss?

  1. Know that grief may include feelings of numbness, disbelief, anxiety, despair, sadness, and loneliness. Although these reactions may initially seem extreme, they do typically decrease as time passes. One who is grieving may experience roller-coaster like periods where reactions and emotions fluctuate. It is important to remember that this is a “natural” response.
  2. We can minimize the impact of death or other losses by accessing the support of others and by managing our reactions with proper nutrition, exercise, and stress management. When we are ready, focusing our thoughts on acceptance and gratitude for the time we had with the deceased can also help us manage the pain of significant loss.
  3. There is no specific order to the grief process. There are also not specific “stages” of grief, though many of us have similar experiences though the process of grieving losses. Some experiences when processing grief may include denial, isolation, regret, guilt, anger, bargaining, depression, and ultimately acceptance. Recognize your experience and allow yourself to process through it naturally (and with assistance if needed).
  4. Reactions may be more extreme than those experienced under other circumstances. Let those around you know that you are grieving, so they can support you and better understand your reactions. As we process our grief, reactions become responses. This means that our painful feelings become more manageable and our uplifting memories gain more attention from us.
  5. Allowing ourselves to process and express grief in our own way is best for our health. It also reduces the possibility of long-term impact or interference. Sometimes we may have difficulty moving through the grieving process, and this is an especially good time to seek assistance from a qualified professional.
  6. Be mindful of physical, emotional, behavioral, and cognitive symptoms that may appear temporarily. Physical responses that are related to the stress response of unexpected death may include muscle tension, appetite changes, sleep changes, energy changes, dry mouth, digestion changes, nausea, and fatigue. Emotional responses may include sadness, anger, guilt, anxiety, loneliness, helplessness, hopelessness, shock, yearning, relief, and numbness. Behavioral responses may include social withdrawal, changes in activity level, avoidance of places or reminders of the deceased, focus on reminders of the deceased, and increase in use of stimulant or depressant substances. Cognitive, or thinking, responses may include disbelief, confusion, preoccupation with death, dreams of the deceased, and difficulty concentrating. Please access professional help or call 911 if you find yourself having thoughts of self-harm.

Coping with Grief is greatly related to one’s willingness to mourn and work toward acceptance of the loss. Talking about your reactions and memories of the deceased person or other significant loss may help as well as continuing with your normal daily activities as much as possible. Also, exercise is a great way to release physical and cognitive stress. Following proper nutritional guidelines will also assist your body and mind in remaining strong and healthy. Deep breathing and muscle relaxation exercises are also great and quick ways to reduce stress and keep the body and mind healthy. Over time, our acceptance and sense of meaning will unfold, allowing us to integrate our memories and relationship our deceased loved one into our daily life.

Wishing you good health and comfort,

Dr. Lori Kleinman

It’s the End of the World as We Know it

It’s the End of the World as We Know it

There is a popular song by REM that says: “It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.” I have been thinking about that phrase quite a lot recently. If you listen to the whole song, you soon realize that the phrase is quite cynical. You see, we often respond “I’m fine” when asked how we are doing, regardless of our circumstances.

The mental health field is well-aware of the dangers of denial, suppressing feelings, and excess stress. We can develop a variety of symptoms, such as emotional reactivity, headaches, upset stomach, sleep difficulties, poor concentration, to name a few. The mental health field is also well-aware of the dangers of amplifying concerns or catastrophizing problems. This can result in us feeling “stuck” and “paralyzed” rather than capable of finding solutions to our worries.

So, how do we identify and express ourselves in ways that support our well-being?

  1. Be honest about your feelings about the pandemic. Acknowledge that you may be sad, angry, lonely, fearful, etc. Recognize that your feelings are reasonable and are related to living through a challenging time. Notice “living through” and “challenging” as descriptors. We are keeping the description realistic. We are living through this, with access to information, scientists striving to develop a vaccine, public health initiatives, access to food, water, shelter, and safety.
  2. Identify one or two people that you can talk with honestly about your feelings. It may be as simple as saying “I’m having a hard time with this COVID-19 stuff. It’s scary and uncertain.” Allow the other person to express their thoughts and feelings as well. Then brainstorm ways you will cope with those feelings – actively follow Public Health and CDPHE guidelines for safety, do something creative and/or fun, get some exercise, make a delicious meal and take time to enjoy eating it, reconnect with an old friend or family member, complete a project, play with your kids or pet, and even cry if needed.
  3. Limit your exposure to news feeds and social media that focus on alarming topics. Once you have been updated on current events, move on to something else that is a direct part of your life. “Negative” events and comments often draw us in and pull us down. Be aware of when and how you get updates.
  4. Actively look for uplifts in your day. Actively create uplifts in your day. Consider how you are interacting with those in your household, work environment, neighborhood, grocery store, and strive to connect. Remember that we are all experiencing uncertainty and new demands on our lifestyle.
  5. As REM says, it is, at least for now, the end of the world as we know it. However, many of our daily activities have not changed. Basic self-care, nurturing and supporting each other, engaging in meaningful work (professional, volunteer, projects), maintaining our homes and cars and bodies, exercising, eating, sleeping, learning, creating, and many other daily activities are still available to us. We can choose to go through our days effectively, safely, and gently.
  6. Access assistance if you are having difficulty coping with daily life, feeling depressed, or struggling with excess anxiety. Sometimes, the stressors can be more than we can handle. Contact a credentialed mental health professional if needed.

Additional Resources

Wishing you good health, comfort, and well-being,

Dr. Lori Kleinman

Ways to Improve Your Mood During Uncertain Times

Ways to Improve Your Mood During Uncertain Times — May 29

It is natural to experience mood changes during uncertain times. Usually, these mood changes resolve naturally as move through our day. However, there are times when a “low mood” or “funk” can linger, making it difficult for us to focus or do the things we want or need to do..

We have power to change our mood using best practices from the field of psychology. These best practices are based on both scientific research and clinical observation. There is a better chance of getting the outcomes we want when we use best practices.

So, let’s see what we can do to improve our mood and get back to the lifestyle and activities that bring us joy and comfort, using best practices from psychology.

  1. Moderate exercise is a great way to reduce mild to moderate depression symptoms, especially with regard to low energy and low mood. Moderate means we are really moving our body but not to the point of getting winded or having any strain. Moderate exercise can include taking a brisk walk, jogging, riding a bike, jumping rope, marching in place, dancing, and many other forms of movement. Remember to also stretch gently after moderate exercise, and drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration. Moderate exercise has been found to help improve our energy and lift our mood. Check with your doctor if you may have any medical reasons to use caution when exercising.
  2. Getting enough sleep seems like an obvious need because we feel fatigued when we have not slept. Did you know that getting enough sleep also improves our mood? Enough sleep means 7-8 hours for most adults, about 12 hours for toddlers, 10-12 hours for children up to the age of 12, and 8-9 hours for teenagers. When we sleep, our brain and nervous system reset, memories consolidate, and several other physical and mental processes take place. If you are having difficulty sleeping, check out my blog from April 23 “The Importance of Sleep” or look-up sleep hygiene guidelines on the Internet. If you continue to have difficulty sleeping, contact your healthcare provider.
  3. Make a list of things you would do if your mood were improved. In fact, it is good to do this when you are already in a fairly good mood. List activities that bring you joy, happiness, interest, connection, creative expression. Then use this as a menu of activities when your mood drops. Often, we feel mildly depressed because we are not living purposefully and are just waiting for time to go by. We also can feel mildly depressed because our time is only spent on work and housework and we need a purposeful break. We may feel bored or we may be reacting to stressors in our environment. Many of us are frequently listening to news or reading updates about the Covid19 pandemic and we get compassion fatigued because we feel powerless. There is a clear difference between getting needed updates and information from Boulder County Public Health or the Centers for Disease Control versus listening to dramatic reports of other people’s pain over and over.
  4. Recognize the difference between guilt and shame, and work to resolve the guilt and release the shame. Guilt means “I made a mistake”. So, if that is the case, choose what you will do to correct the mistake, if possible. Shame means “I am a mistake”. That has no room in our lives. There is no reason to feel shame. We all make mistakes, and some are quite impactful. Making restitution can ease our burdens and help to make-up for our transgressions, but shame only paralyzes us and can lead to unhealthy behaviors.
  5. Set a clear schedule for your day that includes meaningful tasks and purposeful breaks. Then, follow your schedule. Structure in our day can help break-apart the depressed mood and give us a sense of variety and interest. It also helps us to focus and concentrate better. Making and following a daily schedule increases our opportunities to get things done, whether work or play, which helps us to feel like our time was well-spent.
  6. Eat nutritious meals or snacks throughout the day. Often, our mood drops because we are not getting the protein, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that we need to stay energized, focused, interested, and uplifted. Minimize or eliminate the use of alcohol or other drugs, as they greatly contribute to depression and low mood..
  7. Pay attention to your thoughts and adjust them as needed. Notice if you are spending more time on “negative” topics than those that are realistic and reassuring. Our thoughts and feelings are connected, so negative thoughts can create low mood. There is a difference between realistically recognizing a concern (for example, “Things are uncertain and I need to watch my spending”) versus negatively interpreting a situation (for example, “Everything’s falling apart and I can’t handle it”). Notice that the realistic thought includes something you can do (watch spending). The negative thought only includes extreme alarming statements, which can leave us feeling helpless and hopeless.
  8. Utilize your support system and connect with others daily on a friendly level. Balance your conversation about troubles with talk about uplifting topics and pleasant memories. Allow your friends and loved ones to comfort you and provide suggestions. Also let them know what you need from them, within reason. Consider what you can offer to them as well. Helping others can also reduce mild to moderate depressive symptoms.
  9. Seek additional assistance if your low mood is interfering with your ability to perform basic life functions and is causing impairment. Utilize your primary care provider or local mental health resources as needed, especially if you are having thoughts of hurting yourself or others. Some community resources include:
    • Colorado State Crisis Hotline (844-893-8255)
    • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-784-2433)
    • National Domestic Violence Helpline (800-799-7233)
    • Sources of Strength (youth suicide prevention assistance)

Wishing you good health and an uplifted mood,

Dr. Lori Kleinman

The Importance of Sleep

Good Sleep GuidelinesThe Importance of Sleep

Today’s posting is about one of the most important lifestyle topics: sleep. Did you know that infants are experts in sleep? Think about it. We begin our life knowing one of the basics of good health and self-care without anyone telling us about it. Infants sleep when then need to, breathe deeply and slowly, rest without distractions, and wake when they are rested. Sometimes they wake up crying in the middle of the night. Their caregivers may not know why their infant is crying, but it’s clear that something is wrong, and it has disrupted the infant’s (and caregiver’s) sleep. By the time we reach adulthood, we have mostly forgotten what we already knew – that sleep is essential and important. It is often upsetting to wake up in the middle of the night. Plus, we simply feel better when we get enough good sleep.

Let’s review what experts know will assist us in getting good quality sleep.

Following are guidelines that were developed for people who have chronic sleep problems, such as insomnia. We have found that these guidelines are good for all of us, because they help the body and mind prepare for and maintain sleep. As adults, we may not wake up crying as infants do, but we can have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. We also often stay up too late and press the snooze button too many times. As we continue to lose quality and quantity of sleep, we become “sleep deprived”. Since we want to focus on good self-care to support our health and well-being, the last thing we would want is to be “sleep deprived.” As you follow these guidelines, notice how you feel upon waking and how your energy is throughout your day. If you find you are continuing to have sleep difficulties even if following these guidelines, consider checking with your physician in case you need more assistance.

Good Sleep Guidelines

  1. Actively commit to improving your sleep quality and to getting 7-8 hours sleep most nights. The number of hours we sleep actually does matter.
  2. Use your bedroom for sleep and sex only – no reading, tv, computers, eating, working. This may be more challenging during self-quarantine, so be creative in transitioning between other activities in your bedroom and when you get in bed to sleep. I like to “put the house to bed”, meaning that I dim lights, pull down the bed covers, play soft music, etc. about 30-45 minutes before bedtime.
  3. Get up at the same time every morning, even on weekends, as much as possible. It can help to have something to get up for, such as making a good breakfast, calling a friend, etc.
  4. Get out of bed if you’ve not fallen asleep after 20-30 minutes. Do a quiet but uninteresting activity until you are tired. Then go back to bed. Keep cellphones, tablets, laptops out of your bedroom so you are not tempted to use them during sleep hours. If your mind is racing, journal or make a list of your thoughts. Remember, if you can’t do anything about a concern until morning, it’s better to get some rest and wake up ready to address the concern.
  5. Plan your day before you get out of bed in the morning. Reflect on positive experiences from your day before you go to sleep
  6. Utilize relaxation exercises daily and before sleep. This is a great way to transition to bedtime. Take some slow deep breaths like infants do when they are sleeping. Scan your body and release any tense muscles. Imagine some pleasant experiences, especially those in nature.

Wishing you good health, comfort, and quality sleep, Dr. Lori Kleinma

Organizing Your Time

Organize your timeOrganizing Your Time

Have you ever said to yourself, “If I had more time I would…?” Or have your ever thought, “Someday, I’ll…?” Dreaming about the future and wishing for things in life is perfectly natural. In fact, our psychological research tells us that optimism and future-focusing are healthy traits. Optimism can be thought of as realistic hopefulness. It can also be viewed as having expectations of successful outcomes. Future-focusing means we can see beyond the past and this moment, and are able to create a vision of the future. I like to think of it as. “the past has passed, the present is me in this exact moment, and the future is filled with possibilities that await my choices.” The choices I make and the behaviors I do will give me a sense of control of my future. Even when things are difficult and uncertain, making choices about how we will manage can make the difference between feeling in control or out of control. Another way to think of this is to think of feeling powerful. You know, like a superhero!

Be Your Own Superhero

Superheroes have to deal with a lot of danger and uncertainty. They usually win. And that’s because they are powerful. They keep moving forward even though things are difficult. They use their strengths and resources to solve problems. We humans don’t need special powers to do this. We just need to realize that we have strengths and resources. We need to recognize that we’ve coped with difficulties before and will do so again. We need to trust in ourselves and our resiliency. We need to ask for help when we need it. We need to remember that there is a future and our healthy choices today will make us more powerful. And let’s face it, we all want to feel more powerful – in a good way, like a superhero!

We are in a difficult and uncertain time. However, we still have power over many of the hours in our day and how we use them. We may even be able to start to do some of the things that complete the statements “If I had more time I would…? and “Someday, I’ll…”. We all have 24 hours in a day. Even if we can’t control all of those hours, we can choose our attitude and sense of optimism. Even if we feel uncertain or fearful, we can make choices to do healthy behaviors and think healthy thoughts to reduce the intensity and severity of that uncertainty and fear.

Powerful Tip — Make a Schedule

One of the things we can do that will help us feel more powerful in each 24-hour day is to make a daily schedule. It sounds so very simple: Make A Schedule. Yet, many of us let the day go by without intentional behavior. This is more likely when things are uncertain. Our motivation lessens and we feel helpless. Then we give in to those feelings, and before we know it, hours have gone by without anything enjoyable or purposeful. That cycle continues, and we can begin to feel mildly depressed. We can do something to prevent and change this cycle. We have power to change this cycle! The power comes from our behavior. Behavior is what we do. We can feel unmotivated and depressed while we get up and go for a walk. We can feel uncertain and fearful as we make ourselves a healthy snack. As we do behaviors that are good for us, we begin to feel some relief. As we feel relief, we continue to do behaviors that are good for us, and our day begins to have purpose. Our mood begins to improve, and we feel motivated to do more. We have used our own power to feel more powerful.

So, how do we make a daily schedule?

First, make a list of the things you have to do in a day. For example, work hours, personal hygiene, sleep, meals. Next, make a list of the things that support your health and wellbeing. For example, exercise, relaxation, social contact, learning something new, hobbies/interests, time in nature/fresh air, cleaning your home or car, etc. Then, use a calendar with half-hour increments to fill-in these activities. Start with the “have-tos” and then add from the second list. Also include open time – 15-20 minutes that is unscheduled at various times. It’s important that we have time to rest and reset between some of our activities in the day.

Although we may have restrictions like a Stay-at-Home order or the closing of some our usual hangouts, we still have a lot of power over our day. Following are ideas to get you started with some of the categories listed above. Be creative in your pursuit of a schedule that supports your health and wellbeing. Each day may be different and altogether they add up to a healthy lifestyle. Optimistic, Future-Focused, Powerful!

Where You Can Focus

Work hours

Follow your employment schedule. If you need to work but don’t have a set schedule, make one. Create a space in your home where you will work without distractions. (when I work at home, I often wear 30db construction headphones so I am not interrupted by other noise in my household).

Personal hygiene

Even if you’re staying home, clean your body, brush and floss your teeth, comb your hair, trim your nails. This shows respect and caring for yourself


Experts recommend at least 6 hours and preferably 8 hours each night. Keep your bedroom for sleep and sex only – no tech or tv! If you must work in your bedroom, cover your desk with a sheet before you go to bed and turn off the computer. Put your phone in another room, do quiet tech-free activities 30 minutes before you go to bed to help you relax before sleep.


Experts recommend mostly vegetables, lean proteins, fruit, whole grains as tolerated. It’s important to limit alcohol and other drug intake and limit sugar and saturated fat.


Three areas of fitness: stretching, cardio, strength training. Move your body everyday: take walks, use an online fitness video (many are free online), play upbeat music and dance, do pushups or sit-ups or jump rope or jog in place or whatever you are safely capable of (in agreement with your doctor’s recommendations).


Take breaks through the day, take slow and deep breaths, visualize images of comfort and peace, take a nap if you are tired, take tech breaks and news breaks

Social contact

Use your voice to connect with friends and family, tech platforms that let us see each other are great as well, smile at others as you pass one another or checkout at the grocery. If you are more isolated, look at photo albums and hold pictures in your hands if possible while enjoying memories

Learn something new

There are all kinds of free educational options online and possibly on your bookshelf. This can be a formal subject like science or astronomy. This can also be something fun, like music or cooking or a foreign language.


Hobbies and interests support our creativity, elevate our mood, distract us from life’s difficulties, give us purpose and meaning. Choose something that really interests you. It’s wonderful to get lost in something that makes us feel interested and uplifted.

Time in nature/fresh air

We benefit physically, psychologically, spiritually by spending time in nature. It can be as simple as going outside and breathing or looking at trees. Even passively sitting in a natural setting has benefits for us. Interacting with nature makes it even better.

Clean your home or car

Even if we don’t want to do it — we will feel better if we are in a clean and neat environment. Select one area of your home and get it clean or organized. Clear out the junk in your car, vacuum the seats and floor, wipe down the dashboard.

Enjoy this process as part of your powerful approach to coping with the COVID-19 pandemic. Recognize your strengths and resources and feel your resilience!

Wishing you good health, Dr. Lori Kleinman

An Activity to Help You Regain Balance & Control

An Activity to Help You Regain Balance & Control

Continuing to thrive in uncertain times is challenging for all of us. We may feel like we are continually having to adjust to new information and new experiences. That adjustment can be difficult because we lose our sense of balance and grounding.

There is a basic activity that can greatly help with this sense of balance and grounding. If we practice it consistently, we can begin to thrive again, even in uncertain times. Things may be different and changing, but we can have a better awareness of our position and how we will cope. It is important to remember that we do have control, or power, over our responses and behaviors. As we seize that power, we regain control over our lifestyle and can better adjust to changes.

So, here is what you can do – basic and useful – to regain control:

This activity is called “Grounding”. You can also think of it as a mindfulness exercise. It involves a series of questions that you will ask yourself and answer. Those questions are:

  1. Where am I at this moment?
  2. Am I safe at this moment?
  3. What am I doing?
  4. What is happening around me at this moment?
  5. What do I see?
  6. What do I hear?
  7. What do I smell?
  8. What do I taste?
  9. What am I touching?

Next, take some slow deep breaths, really recognize this moment, and then ask yourself

  1. What do I want to do from here?

If you really are unsafe in the moment, it is essential to get yourself to a safe place, either on your own or by utilizing resources in your environment. Most often, we are safe, but we are feeling overwhelmed by the larger problems outside of our immediate environment. For example, we know the numbers of COVID-19 cases, but we may not know anyone in our immediate environment who has been infected by the virus. The more we focus on our immediate experience, the more grounded we will feel. Then we can better cope with the larger problems.

As you ask yourself the sensing questions (what do I see, hear, smell, taste, & touch), you can use items in your immediate environment to activate those senses. For example, smell some cologne or a fresh cut orange, take a sip of tea or lemonade, or listen to a favorite song. This will help you to better experience the moment and get more grounded.

This is a simple and basic activity, yet it can have great effect in bringing us to a place of calm. From that place of calm, we can access our best resources to problem-solve.

Wishing you good health, comfort, and grounding, Dr. Lori Kleinman

Creating Your “New Normal for Now”

Creating Your “New Normal for Now”

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, many of us thought it would be short-lived. We probably expected that things would be “back to normal” by now. Yet, they are not. We continue to wear masks in public, spend most of our time at home, and adjust to ongoing uncertainty and change.

So, how do we manage the possibility that we may not go “back to normal?”

The phrase “back to normal” is a common phrase in human language. Throughout history, when we have been on the front end of any major transition, we think about going back to how things were. However, there is really no going back. In fact, many major historical events resulted in humanity being propelled forward into new territory and new technologies. For example, World War II, which lasted about six years and saw tremendous devastation of life and property, resulted in tremendous industrial growth and new inventions. The entire country came together to work toward the war effort and armistice.

Also, adolescence and mid-life are two phases in our individual lives when we may wish things could go “back to normal,” yet getting through those phases can bring wonderful new opportunities and experiences. It is impossible to “go back” to an earlier age, and maturing into new ways of being is the natural order of life.

Now, I am in no way comparing the COVID-19 pandemic to a world war or to natural developmental phases. Certainly, we are experiencing unique times with unique circumstances. At the same time, the idea that we are moving forward and developing new ways of interacting and living means we are in a developmental transition. While in this transition, there are some ways to better manage the stressors and challenges that we face.

  1. This is the “new normal for now” (or N3 as I am calling it). Some adjustments will be temporary, and others will become a new way of life. Focus on your “N3 experience” as a time to consider creative solutions and experimenting with changes. Keep in mind that a small change in one area can make profound changes in others. The same applies to our lifestyle. Make small adjustments and check the results, then make other adjustments as needed to reach your desired outcome.
  2. Place boundaries, or a framework, around your tasks and physical environment. You are literally creating a lifestyle for yourself and your household. If you live with other people, utilize signs, headphones, even silly hats (!) to denote when you are or are not available to interact. Schedule meaningful breaks into your day. Get some fresh air and move your body throughout the day. Our brain and mind need the space to focus. Think single-task, switch, single-task, not multi-task.
  3. Identify your 3 most important values and infuse them into your daily activities. The more purposeful or meaningful we make our daily activities, the more refreshed and uplifted we will feel. For example, if you value friendship, schedule time to contact friends as part of your week. If you value doing your best work, create a workspace (if doing work from home) and work hours.
  4. Have fun every day. Yes, every day! That means meaningful diversions, humor, play, hobbies. Busy days may mean you only have time for a honey badger YouTube video (they are great, I promise!) and other days may allow for more meaningful options. Again, you are developing a lifestyle, not just waiting for COVID-19 to pass. Remember the activities you used to think about doing “someday?” See if you can start some of them now.
  5. Connect with other people with your voice and/or in person. Instead ofsocial distancing,” think of “physical distancing.” We need to keep physical distance because that is our best knowledge for reducing COVID-19 spread. But we can connect socially no matter how far apart we are. Pick up the phone and call someone. Check in on old friends or distant relatives. Everyone is feeling the effects of isolation. Yes, everyone! Someone must be first to reach out. Give it a try and enjoy the feelings of goodwill when the other party responds.
  6. Listen to your self-talk. When we are under stress, we tend to think more alarming and catastrophic thoughts. Those thoughts are not reality, they are reactive. Pause those thoughts and seek to replace them with more realistic and reassuring thoughts. Treat yourself as if you are your own best friend and best parent. We are in transition, so things may not go as smoothly as we would like. So be it. Allow for flexibility and change. Experiment with new ways of managing your life and see what works best for you.
  7. Do the basics of good health: eat nutritious foods, exercise your body, create 7-9 hours each night for sleep. Those three things, done consistently, can greatly improve mood as well as keep your body in good shape. This is true whether we are dealing with uncertainty or stability.
  8. Know that this too shall pass. Uncertainty is certain right now. We are learning along the way. This is a developmental transition in our worldwide community. Transitions can be challenging and stressful, and we are not yet seeing the outcome of our efforts. Be gentle with yourself and each other. Talk with trusted others about your concerns, successes, interests. If the challenges becoming so overwhelming that they are interfering with your life, seek counseling from a credentialed expert. There are always solutions, and sometimes we must wait a bit, adjust a bit, ask for help a bit, and trust in our strength and resilience a whole lot.

Wishing you good health and comfort, Dr. Lori Kleinman

Don’t Give COVID-19 Your Power

Don’t Give COVID-19 Your Power

Today’s article has a remarkably simple message: DON’T GIVE COVID-19 YOUR POWER!

We continue to live with uncertainty in multiple life areas. This can increase our feelings of stress, frustration, or sadness. Yet, there is much we can be certain of: who we like, who we love, what we value, that we will eat healthy food, that we will exercise and move our body, what music we like, what movies we want to watch, how we will greet friends or strangers when wearing a mask, et cetera. When we live according to what we can do, instead of being stressed by uncertainty, we keep our power. We are stronger and do not become a victim of our circumstances.

Optimism is an important and helpful trait that can get us through uncertain times (see my previous article below about optimism). Creating a hopeful mindset is good for us. There is something else that is good for us, even when we are striving to be optimistic.

So, what else can we do when dealing with uncertain times?

Be honest about your thoughts and feelings about the pandemic. When we acknowledge that we are “tired of this” or “frustrated” or can say “this really stinks!”, we release some of the stress in our body and mind. Now, it is important that we do not get “stuck” in this place. We want to acknowledge, express, and then move back into a more optimistic attitude. For example, we might acknowledge “this really stinks, and I hate it” followed by “and I know I’ll get through it. In the meantime, I will build healthy and uplifting moments into my days”.

Our mind and nervous system recovers from stress more effectively when we can be both honest and optimistic. Trying to keep positive without acknowledging what is upsetting us can greatly increase stress. Choosing to be honest about our thoughts and feelings while realistically looking to a better future can reduce stress.

An activity that can make this even more effective is called “petals and thorns”. This can be fun to do with others, especially if you have children. Each person takes a turn sharing the “thorns” of their day and the “petals” of their day. Think of a rose. The thorns are prickly and sharp and can hurt. The petals are soft and velvety and can soothe. This is a calm and safe way to share thoughts and feelings and include uplifts at the end of sharing.

Keeping your power does not mean that everything is always easy and uplifting. It means that you choose your response and focus on solutions and optimistic thoughts. Covid-10 does not deserve to be in control of our lives. We will practice healthy behaviors – physical distancing, wearing a mask, washing, and sanitizing – but will not live in worry and pain. You get to keep your power and make healthy and uplifting decisions.

Wishing you good health, comfort and abundant power, Dr. Lori Kleinman

Exercise & Restructured Thinking Can Energize You Toward Action & Solution

Exercise & Restructured Thinking Can Energize You Toward Action & Solution

Have you ever found yourself feeling down or frustrated with or without apparent reason? If you have, you are a true normal human being. Our moods and feelings are naturally changeable, which can help us identify what is and is not acceptable to us. Another way to look at it is that feelings act as a barometer of the pressure we may be experiencing in our lives. That pressure may be external (work, finances, COVID-19 pandemic, etc.) or internal (self-expectations, fatigue, etc.). Once we learn to work with our feeling responses, those responses may seem less distracting and more helpful. For example, we may ask ourselves, “What is going on that needs my direct attention or different behavior to create a solution?”

In addition to feelings acting as a barometer of our perceived life pressure, some research suggests that feelings may change simply as a response to biological processes. In other words, sometimes a feeling is just a feeling. Give it some time, and it will pass. If it does not, then maybe something else is going on. The good news is that regardless of the cause of our feelings, we can act to increase or decrease the intensity of feeling as well as possibly change the feeling. If we feel happy, we most likely want to maintain or increase the feeling. If we feel “down-in-the-dumps,” we would likely want to change or decrease the feeling.

So, what do we do to influence our feelings in the direction of happiness, comfort, peace? First, we do things that have been shown to be effective in research and practice. Fortunately, we have a variety of interventions that have been experimentally and clinically (and practically) proven to improve mood and feelings. Two of those areas of intervention include exercise and restructuring our thinking.

Yes, once again, exercise shows itself to have tremendous benefits. Research in health psychology and medicine demonstrates the positive effects of exercise in reducing mild to moderate depression. We now know that exercise improves mood in a variety of ways. The act of exercising focuses our attention on something healthful to us rather than on negative thoughts. Our method of exercise may include stretching, weight training, or cardiovascular conditioning. Some specific examples include yoga, dance, push-ups, jumping jacks, biking, walking, running, or pilates.

Exercise also causes chemical changes in the brain. The most widely known of these is referred to as “runners’ high” or “endorphin rush.” We don’t have to be marathon runners to experience the benefits of chemical changes from exercise, however. Even moderate cardiovascular or weight-training activity has neurochemical benefits that can improve mood. We see the positive changes in our body in terms of appearance, energy and strength. We feel the positive changes as we feel relaxed with an uplifted mood.

Another way to improve our mood and feelings is by using our thoughts, or cognition. Whether or not we are aware of it, we are always thinking. Much of this thinking becomes automatic, like a recording running in the background of our lives. Some research suggests that many of us may have “negative” thoughts over 80% of the time. We may say horrible things to ourselves that we would never accept from a friend, stranger or loved one. These thoughts are not just psychological, they are also biological. Chemical changes occur in our brains in relation to our thoughts. Thoughts also can be affected by changes in our brain chemistry due to other causes, such as from certain illnesses.

We can be passive listeners, or we can learn to think actively. Here are some ways to think actively and improve your mood:

  1. Focus on the facts of a situation and keep your thoughts oriented toward possible solutions. Create realistic, reassuring thoughts that are self-encouraging and help move you toward effective solutions.
  2. When you recognize a negative thought about yourself or someone else, counteract it with three positive thoughts about yourself or that person. This helps reduce the intensity of frustration or disappointment, so you can process those thoughts more easily.
  3. If you feel trapped in a problem without solution, think about a past problem that you solved and apply those strategies to your present situation. It is not about positive thinking alone; it is about identifying possible solutions.
  4. Communicate with others directly rather than assuming what they mean or intended. Misunderstandings are natural, and we need to continue the conversation to seek better understanding. Use good communication strategies like clarification, summarizing, and asking for more information before drawing conclusions.

These methods are worth using if you experience yourself in a low mood. They are not a substitute for dealing with your problems, only a way to reduce possible interference toward finding solutions. Both exercise and restructured thinking can energize you toward action and solution. Also remember that some problems and persistent low moods may require additional intervention and/or professional help. Be open to possibilities that may enhance your life experience and let you enjoy each moment.

Wishing you good health and uplifting thoughts,

Dr. Lori Kleinman

How do we live with courage, respect, compassion, and perseverance in these times?

How do we live with courage, respect, compassion, and perseverance in these times?

It is time for all of us to pause and recommit to good health behaviors and respect for one another. We are numerous months into the COVID-19 pandemic, and each day we are closer to a vaccine and effective cures. Our lifestyles have changed quickly and to a great degree. We are wearing masks and keeping physical distance to reduce the spread of the virus. Families and individuals are learning how to live, work, and play from home. We are experiencing deep and sometimes painful feelings that may linger. Isolation and loneliness are part of many of our days.

And yet, this is a time of growth and self-awareness. We are finding new strength, we are acting with courage, we are seeing one another with compassion, we are persevering. We may feel fear and anxiety related to the uncertainty of these times. Yet we do not have to behave in fearful ways. We can, and must, choose to behave in ways that support health, well-being, and positive relationships.

So, how do we live with courage, respect, compassion, and perseverance in these challenging times?

  1. Accept that we may differ in our beliefs and viewpoints, yet we can agree to follow best practices in healthy living. This includes wearing our mask, keeping physical distance as the CDC recommends, eating healthy foods, limiting alcohol/tobacco/sugar intake, exercising regularly, connecting with supportive friends and family, getting 7-9 hours of sleep daily, practicing stress management strategies, keeping a sense of humor, and experiencing joyful moments.
  2. Consider other people’s opinions and seek to understand their point of view. We do not have to agree on all topics. It is good for our mental and emotional health to show interest and appreciation in one another, even if we disagree. It is the foundation of respect. It also gives us an opportunity to think about our own beliefs and what we value.
  3. Practice kindness when out in public. Wave, nod, say hello to others. Do your best to avoid shunning others or turning your back to other people when passing them. If someone is not wearing a mask, ask them to put it on in a kind voice. Use words like “please” and “thank you.” We are all in this together. We are all struggling to adapt and adjust to many changes.
  4. Remember that life is a marathon, not a sprint. Life is “a great bundle of little things,” as Oliver Wendell Holmes said. Keep things in perspective. It is challenging now, yet we have many moments throughout our days to feel some ease, connection, fulfillment. Commit to building your strengths and resilience, knowing that things will change, and the pandemic will end. In the meantime, build your lifestyle to support your health and well-being. Trust in your ability to become stronger and move through challenges.

Living a Meaningful Life in Times of Disappointment and Fear

Living a Meaningful Life in Times of Disappointment and Fear

After a much different 4th of July weekend than in years past, we may be more aware of lifestyle and societal changes since the COVID19 pandemic began. Earlier this year, we would have expected to see fireworks, enjoy a bar-b-que with friends, go to a parade, or head out to a music festival. Yet, this year was different. Our Independence Day celebrations were largely virtual or did not occur at all. This may have been disappointing, especially as we may also be seeing news reports of increasing conflict and aggression in our society.

There are certainly challenges to living through this pandemic and the additional stressors in our world these days. However, we also have opportunities to recognize our strengths and build our resilience. We are learning how to connect while isolated. We are learning how to respond with compassion and solution-focus while fearful and frustrated. We must do things differently, even if it is not our preference. The consequences of not doing so can be great, even life-threatening. Wow, that is a lot to manage.

So, how do we manage our disappointment and fear while still living a meaningful life?

  1. We can look to history and other times when societies were struggling, fearful, and uncertain. For example, in 1941, in the midst of World War II and only five weeks before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Winston Churchill, then Britain’s Prime Minister, gave the following speech: “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” Powerful words for difficult times.
  2. Focus on interactions with other people as opportunities to practice respect, interest, compassion, openness, empathy. We are all challenged now, and we are all doing the best we can. Even when someone acts in an unkind manner, we can choose how we respond. Consider making the decision to hold to your values and intentions, regardless of other people’s behavior. Why let someone else decide how you will act or feel?
  3. Recognize times when you are feeling uncomfortable in public and protect yourself while treating others with kindness. For example, if you believe someone is standing too close to you, gently step away or ask them, respectfully, if they would give you more space. Tone and volume of voice, eye contact, body posture, and the words we choose to say can soften an otherwise awkward situation. Most humans have a natural tendency to gravitate towards one another. We are learning how to create more physical space.
  4. Choose one or two goals or areas of interest rather than a long list of things to do. While we are adjusting to new behaviors and living conditions, it helps to reduce unnecessary expectations. For example, when we first began to shelter-in-place, many of us had ideas of everything we would get done while we were home. It is time to re-evaluate those ideas and adjust our lifestyle and demands to match the reality of our living situation. Many of us are still working long hours and have home responsibilities. It is more motivating to engage in one or two hobbies and diversions than try to get many things done at once.
  5. Balance talking to others about the pandemic and distressing current events with topics that are uplifting and encouraging. Laugh every day. Really – it is good for our mind, body, and spirit. Watch comedy videos or tell jokes with friends. Look at funny pictures. Read cartoons. Allow yourself to let go a bit and relax into the joys of living.
  6. Take breaks throughout the day. Even 10 to 15 minutes doing something you enjoy, eating a healthy snack, sipping a cup of tea, going for a walk, calling a friend, etc. can make a profound difference in your overall mood and energy level.
  7. Know that humankind has been through wars, plagues, natural disasters, famines, and lots of uncertainty. We will get through this. It may not be easy, but it is manageable. Learn about resilience, stress-hardiness, coping skills, and practice them on a regular basis. (Check out some of my prior articles below – many of these topics are covered)
  8. Be gentle with yourself and others. This is a time when we can practice new skills in empathy and self-compassion. We can respond rather than react. We can choose rather than avoid. We can cope and continue to move forward through our day with determination and goodwill.

Wishing you good health and comfort,

Dr. Lori Kleinman

New Year's Re-Solutions

Here we are at the dawn of a New Year. For many of us, entering 2021 has more importance than any previous Jan. 1. We may be exhausted and frustrated from the events of 2020, mainly COVID-19. We are ready for life to change and for things to be better. These thoughts and feelings are reasonable. However, marking another day on the calendar will not change our life.

Fortunately, we can do much to enter the New Year with optimism and even joyfulness. Rather than focusing on the calendar, let’s focus on our decision to live with realistic hope. Let’s decide to create a healthy and fulfilling lifestyle to the best of our abilities. Rather than sitting alone and lonely, call someone or set up a video visit. Create an interesting meal at home or participate in a hobby to make the day more special.

Traditions tell us to make New Year’s Resolutions. Instead, begin a tradition of New Year’s Re-solutions. This means we look at existing problems or difficulties and identify new ways to solve them. Rather than making a list of demands of ourselves, we choose a few things that we can do to increase our optimism and joyfulness.

So, how can we make New Year’s Re-solutions?

  1. Commit to the following statements: This year I will create resolutions that are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely. I am making firm decisions with enthusiasm and passion. I will be an active participant in re-solving areas of concern or limitation.
  2. Set a specific goal or area to re-solve.
  3. Break down the goal into smaller steps.
  4. Identify tools and strategies to achieve the steps
  5. Set target dates to check progress and rewards to keep you motivated along the way. Also, share your plan with someone you trust to help keep you accountable for your progress.

Consider using the following worksheet to help you with your re-solutions:

  • I re-solve to _________________________________________________________________
  • My steps along the way to complete resolution are:
    • ___________________________________________________
    • ___________________________________________________
  • The tools/strategies I will use to achieve this are:
    • ___________________________________________________
    • ___________________________________________________
  • I will recheck my progress on the following dates: _____________________________
  • And modify my resolution as needed at each recheck. I will also give myself intermittent rewards for keeping my resolution, including:
    • _______________________________________________
  • I commit to keeping this resolution and will share it with a trusted and supportive person in my life. That person:
    • ___________________________________________
  • I will know that I am making progress on my resolution when the following happens:
    • ____________________________________________________
    • ____________________________________________________
  • This resolution matters to me because keeping it means:
    • _____________________________________________________________________

Wishing you good health, comfort, and fulfilling solutions, Dr. Lori Kleinman

Remaining Optimistic and Hopeful

Remaining Optimistic and Hopeful

As we continue to deal with concerns about COVID-19, it is important that we remain optimistic. Optimism is not the same as positive thinking, though optimistic thoughts usually result in uplifted feelings. Optimism refers to hopefulness the outcome of something will be favorable and even pleasant. It is a mental attitude or way of thinking that looks at possibilities and solutions.

When we are in a stressful or uncertain situation, we may experience fear, worry, and think about the “bad” things that are happening or “bad” things that can happen. This is because our brain and entire nervous system is designed to focus on survival. When we perceive danger, our nervous system goes into survival mode. In that state, we can lose sight of those behaviors and resources that help us move toward solutions. When we are in imminent danger, meaning it’s happening right now, this survival system is fantastic. It really can save our life. But when the danger is “out there,” we’re better off if we remain optimistic.

So, what does optimism look like with regards to the COVID-19 pandemic?

Here are some specific examples for you. In addition, see if you can come up with your own optimistic thoughts. If you have children or others in your household, you could have a fun contest: who can come up with the most optimistic thoughts or sayings?

Optimistic Thoughts

  • I’ve been through difficult times in life before and got through them. I will get through this too.
  • I’m not sure how to get through this financially, so I’m going to access some resources in my community or nationally. It’s good to reach out for help when needed.
  • There are things I can do right now to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and reduce the chances of my contracting the virus. I will wear a mask in public. I will maintain at least six feet of social distancing. I will work and play from home as much as possible. When I do go outside for fresh air and to move my body, I’ll choose places where it’s easy to maintain distance.
  • This is difficult. I know that. At the same time, there are lots of scientists, researchers, and health care professionals working to find global solutions to this pandemic. We’ve solved other pandemics and we can solve this one, too.
  • While the uncertainty continues, I will participate in uplifting activities, even if I don’t feel like it, so that I keep my mind and body as healthy as possible. For example, I can listen to music I like, call a friend and share a happy memory, make a gratitude list, dance, watch a favorite movie, draw or paint, go for a walk in nature, or eat something nourishing that tastes good.”

I optimistically wish you good health and comfort,

Dr. Lori Kleinman

Staying Safe & Healthy as Our Communities Start to Reopen

Staying Safe & Healthy as Our Communities Start to Reopen

Here we are getting ready to reopen our County. It’s exciting to see people going back out into the community — to work and interact more publicly than we have been for the past numerous weeks. At the same time, we are still developing solutions to the COVID-19 virus outbreak.

As we prepare to be around more people, there are strategies that will help keep us safe and healthy. Following are some tips to help you safely transition as our communities reopen.

  1. Continue to follow Centers for Disease Control and Boulder County Public Health guidelines. Check for updates regularly as we adjust to the changes.
  2. Keep your masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer close and clean. If you have multiples of those items, keep them in various convenient places. For example, keep a set in your car, near your front or garage door, in your desk at work, etc. Put a note on your steering wheel or doorknob as a reminder.
  3. Practice social distancing and consider what we psychologists call “successive approximations.” That means we don’t jump to a complete change; we do so gradually, in successive steps, until we reach our final goal. Since we are still in the process of reopening, it is important to move in steps, following expert guidelines. Successive approximations is what elite athletes, professional musicians, ballerinas, and others use to get to their performance goals. It is a way to work gradually towards sinking a basketball from center court, playing a difficult musical phrase, turning multiple pirouettes, or in our case, reopening the County and our communities. We move in stages, check our progress, adjust and adapt, and continue to move forward while staying safe.
  4. Encourage your friends and family to follow CDC and BCPH guidelines. Help them to understand the concepts in this posting and support each other through this process.
  5. Review the previous blog postings, and continue to utilize the ideas in them to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Much of what is in these postings are concepts that are good for us whether we are in a pandemic or not.
  6. Add a few fun and safe activities to your lifestyle as we reopen. For example, since many of us are or will continue to work from home, consider some fun ways to let others in your household know you’d like to be left alone. You might pick an item in your home to wear or carry, such as a silly hat, to let others know you want to be “invisible” so they don’t disturb you. You also might want to put a large piece of paper somewhere in your house and start a gratitude list. Everyone can participate in adding to it and recognizing what you’ve all done to stay safe and healthy. If you live alone, your gratitude list might include supports in your environment and activities you enjoy and will continue or begin again.

Life brings moments of joy and of challenge. The key is to look at each phase as one part of a larger experience. We have come together as a community although we have been separated by social distancing. We are getting through this. Stay safe and healthy, and recognize those moments of joy as we all move forward.

Wishing you good health, comfort, and community,

Dr. Lori Kleinman

Using Gratitude to Support Our Well-Being

Gratitude is defined as “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness” Gratitude allows us to acknowledge and feel the goodness in our life. As we continue to manage and adapt to the continuing pandemic, we may not naturally feel thankful. However, as we begin to receive vaccines and scientists continue to learn more about the novel coronavirus, we may be in a good position to feel and express gratitude.

Did you know that research on gratitude shows that it is good for our health? When we feel and/or express gratitude, we reach outside of ourselves and connect with something greater than ourselves and our own difficulties. We recognize moments of positivity and relief, experiences of pleasure and connection, feelings of happiness and hopefulness. Research studies have found that people who write about gratitude tend to be more optimistic, see the good in their lives, and even have fewer visits to their doctors. Although we don’t know if gratitude causes optimism or if optimistic people feel more gratitude, we do see that they are related. Simply put, studies find an association between gratitude and well-being.

So, how can we increase our gratitude to support our well-being?

  1. Write a thank you letter to someone who has helped you or added to your life in some way. Try using paper and pen rather than email if possible.
  2. Call someone who has done something that mattered to you in a positive way and thank them directly.
  3. Think about someone whom you can appreciate for a past or recent experience.
  4. Make a list of things that you are grateful for. Examples are things like having a place to live, being able to go hiking, having certain people in your life, your music collection, or anything else that you can acknowledge and feel thankful for.
  5. Acknowledge your own contributions to your well-being and to others and/or the world. Recognize and thank yourself for coping with the pandemic, committing to following recommendations for safety and health, and finding ways to work, connect, and relax during challenging times.

Gratitude helps us to focus on moments of uplift and pleasure, bringing more joy to our lives.

Wishing you good health, comfort, and thankfulness, Dr. Lori Kleinman

Wisdom Over Fear

Wisdom Over Fear

This is truly a time for wisdom over fear. The uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on our lives continues. As researchers and scientists continue working on vaccines, we must continue working on living fulfilling lives. Fulfillment does not mean that we are happy-go-lucky; fulfillment means that we are living with meaning and purpose. We are clear on our priorities and values. We are connecting with those we love. We are keeping our bodies and minds healthy. We are finding moments of joy and pleasure. We are completing work tasks and maintaining our homes.

Life goes on, regardless of the pandemic. This is where wisdom comes in. Fear can take hold of us and leave us feeling paralyzed, helpless, scared. Wisdom is our antidote. Wisdom helps us to think about our concerns with the intention of finding solutions and accessing supports. Wisdom also helps us to keep moving forward, doing what is necessary to be safe, healthy, secure, even if it is not the easiest path.

So, how do we wisely live a fulfilling life?

  1. Know that problems will arise in daily life, whether there is a pandemic or not. Utilize your coping skills and supports to solve those daily problems. Keep focused on specific concerns that you can do something about. Take action when possible and allow yourself to feel good about what you are accomplishing.
  2. Stress is stressful. Certainly, there are different causes of stress and different levels of stress. However, our bodies and minds respond to stress in predictable ways: muscles may tense, concentration may decrease, appetite may change, sleep may be affected, breathing may become shallow, digestion may be sluggish, etc. We can utilize well-tested stress management strategies to reduce the level of stress in our body and give our mind a rest. We can practice relaxation exercises or meditation. We can exercise or take a brisk walk. We can talk to a supportive friend or family member. We can scan our bodies and actively relax our muscles. We can practice sleep hygiene. These are just a few ideas to get you started. (See my previous blogs on stress management and getting better sleep)
  3. Build a lifestyle framework that includes recreation and meaningful diversions. Have some fun in your day. Laugh and play. Wise people know that moments of joy and happiness help us to get through challenging times.
  4. Connect with people you care about. There is so much we can do to connect virtually. Make a phone call. Schedule a videoconference. Plan dinners together or game nights with the people in your household. Reach out to someone you have lost contact with. Wise people know that connection and social support bring fulfillment
  5. Think about the bigger picture. What really matters to you? What can you do to amplify that in your life? What can you learn or apply to your life to bring more meaning? How can you be nurturing and compassionate to yourself as well as others?

Wishing you good health, comfort, and fulfillment, Dr. Lori Kleinman

Read more: Calming Your Thoughts and Body

Calming Your Thoughts and Body

Continuing to thrive in uncertain times is challenging for all of us. We may feel like we are continually having to adjust to new information and new experiences. That adjustment can be difficult because we lose our sense of self-control and balance.
Did you know that you can quickly regain a sense of self-control and balance? There is a basic activity that can calm your thoughts and calm your body. It can help you feel “grounded”. This means that we are back in this moment and not distracted by worries or anxieties.
If we practice this activity consistently, we can begin to thrive again, even in uncertain times. Things may be different and changing, but we gain better awareness of our position and how we will cope. It is important to remember that we do have control, or power, over our responses and behaviors. As we seize that power, we regain control over our lifestyle and can better adjust to changes.
So, here is what you can do – basic and useful – to regain control: this exercise is called Grounding, and you can also think of it as a mindfulness exercise. It involves a series of questions that you will ask yourself and answer.
Those questions are:
  1. Where am I right now?
  2. Am I safe right now?
  3. What am I doing?
  4. What do I see right now?
  5. What do I hear right now?
  6. What do I smell right now?
  7. What do I taste right now?
  8. What am I touching right now?
Next, take some slow deep breaths, really recognize this moment, and then ask yourself:
What do I want to do from here?
If you really are unsafe in the moment, it is essential to get yourself to a safe place, either on your own or by utilizing resources in your environment. Most often, we are safe, but we are feeling overwhelmed by the larger problems outside of our immediate environment. The more we focus on our immediate experience, the more grounded we will feel. Then we can better cope with the larger problems.
As you ask yourself the sensing questions (what do I see, hear, smell, taste & touch), you can use items in your immediate environment to activate those senses. For example, look at a tree, listen to a favorite song 🎼, smell some cologne or a fresh cut orange, take a sip of tea or lemonade 🍋, gently rub lotion onto your hands. This will help you to better experience the moment and get more grounded.
This simple activity can have a great effect in bringing us to a place of calm. From that place of calm, we can access our best resources to problem-solve.
Wishing you good health, comfort and grounding,
Dr. Lori Kleinman
Quick & Easy Stress Busters

Close your eyes for a few minutes; take 5-10 slow, deep breaths; listen to one of your favorite songs; stand up and stretch; drink a glass of water...slowly; eat a healthy snack

Quick & Easy Stress Busters

We are moving forward with boosters, seeing the potential for expanded age ranges for vaccines, and beginning to feel hopeful about the future after the pandemic is over. We also continue to adjust and adapt to the current circumstances. It is important to continue following BCPH guidelines and know that our need to manage and reduce stress continues.

This is a great time to recognize your stress management skills and acknowledge the healthy ways that you are coping with these unusual times. Remember, whatever you practice gets stronger, and that includes practicing healthy coping and stress management.

So, below are some quick-and-easy “Stress-Busters and Refreshers” for you. These are relatively simple strategies, so you can easily strengthen your coping skills. I encourage to practice them through the day and whenever you feel stressed or fatigued.

Quick & Easy Stress Busters and Refreshers:

  • Close your eyes for a few minutes and give your visual sense a break
  • Take 5-10 slow deep breaths and allow your nervous system to restore
  • Listen to one of your favorite songs for a quick uplift
  • Stand up, stretch your arms out to your sides, up over your head, and down behind your back
  • Do a few shoulder rolls forward and then back
  • Drink a glass of water… slowly
  • Eat a healthy snack (e.g., almonds, apple, celery sticks, protein shake,)
  • Stretch your body
  • Look at photos from a fun experience or of someone you love

Less Quick But Equally Easy Stress Busters and Refreshers:

  • Take a walk
  • Do some calisthenics
  • Follow a 20–45-minute exercise video
  • Dance
  • Read a book (turning actual pages!)
  • Call a friend (with your actual voice!)
  • Write a letter or postcard to someone (yep, stamp/pen/snail mail)
  • Prep your dinner (e.g., chop vegetables, trim meat)
  • Meditate
  • Organize one small area in your home (yes, this will calm your mind and nervous system)
  • Take a bubble bath
  • Do a hobby
  • Play a musical instrument

Wishing you good health, comfort, and ease,

Dr. Lori Kleinman

Music Soothes the Soul

Don't Dream It's Over - Crowded House, I Can See Clearly Now - Johnny Nash; Lean on Me - Bill Withers; Walking on Sunshine - Katrina and the Waves; What a Wonderful World - Louis Armstrong

Music Soothes the Soul

“Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.” This phrase dates back a 1697 poem, “The Mourning Bride” by William Congreave. Fast forward to our current times, and we have abundant research in music therapy and the psychology of music to know that the phrase is true. Well, maybe we can’t soften rocks or bend a tree with a song, but we certainly can lift our mood and energize our body with music.

Rather than me “lecture-writing” you about the power of music, I am giving you a list of songs that are likely to bring a smile to your face, hopefulness to your mind and heart, and joy to your life. Explore these tunes or create your own playlist of songs that uplift you. I’m including songs that have lyrics, though there is a lot of instrumental music across all genres that uplifts, too.

So, enjoy the sounds of music and enjoy the joyful moments of your day.

Wishing you good health and comfort, Dr. Lori Kleinman, Licensed Psychologist & Music Therapist

Alphabetized Song list to bring you joy, hope, and vitality:

  • Don’t Dream It’s Over – Crowded House
  • Don’t Worry, Be Happy – Bobby McFerrin
  • Drive – Incubus
  • Forever Young – Bob Dylan or Rod Stewart
  • Hold On – Shawn Mendes
  • I Can See Clearly Now – Johnny Nash
  • I Got You (I Feel Good) – James Brown
  • I Hope You Dance – Lee Ann Womack
  • I’ll Be There for You – The Rembrandts
  • I’m Still Standing – Elton John
  • I Won’t Back Down – Tom Petty
  • Lean on Me – Bill Withers
  • Somewhere Over the Rainbow – Judy Garland or Israel Kamakawiwo’ole
  • Stand by Me – Ben E. King
  • Three Little Birds – Bob Marley and the Wailers
  • Twist and Shout – The Isley Brothers
  • Unwritten – Natasha Bedingfield
  • Walking on Sunshine – Katrina and the Waves
  • We Are Family – Sister Sledge
  • What a Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong

Enduring Uncertainty

Enduring Uncertainty

What is it that keeps us going toward our life goals when gratification seems to wait in the distant future? Humans are over 99% genetically identical, yet some of us remain optimistic and find joyful moments while others cannot seem to find a reason to get out of bed. We may say the difference is biology, though current science says that accounts for only 40-50% of our total make-up. What are we doing with the other 50-60% of what makes us a complete human being?

There are no simple answers to these questions. However, the potential impact of our environment, experiences, and especially our interpretations and beliefs about ourselves and our world cannot be disputed. Cognitive psychologists suggest that it is not what happens to us but how we respond to it that matters. In terms of endurance, I would add that it is not what is in our life but what we do with it that matters. Regardless of our circumstances, we can learn to create opportunities that increase our chances of living joyfully.

So, what can we do to increase our ability to endure uncertainty and delayed gratification?

  1. Break down specific goals. Identify what action is needed and develop a plan/schedule that is integrated into your daily life.
  2. Make a plan and monitor your progress. When you follow your plan, describe what helped you stay on track so you can repeat and/or increase it.
  3. Be aware that progress may also involve apparent slow periods where you do not notice much change.
  4. Adjust your plan as needed.
  5. Continue to learn in relation to the goal. Read about and speak with others who have effectively met similar goals.
  6. Balance ideals with reality. It is great to overshoot a goal if you can still be satisfied with your outcome.
  7. Fake it till you make it. Act as if you are already living joyfully and managing uncertainty. It may help to propel you toward your goal. Focus on where you are headed rather than old habits or hazards.

Begin with some of the above suggestions and expand them as you are willing and able. Even if you do not initially believe you can reach some of your goals, with the behavioral strategies described above you may find your thinking and beliefs about your abilities change. It can work both ways – if you believe you can, it gives you motivation toward your goal; if you act motivated toward your goal, your belief in possible achievement increases. Enjoy the process as well as the accomplishments as you practice holding on for the long haul.

Wishing you good health, comfort, and endurance, Dr. Lori Kleinman

Managing Stress and the Power of Music

Managing Stress and the Power of Music

As we continue learning to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, you may find moments of increased stress. You may even find that you’re feeling continuous low-level stress while adjusting to this new, if temporary, lifestyle. Although we know that “This Too Shall Pass,” it hasn’t yet, so our stress responses are natural and even healthy. The natural part is that our body and mind is responding in-kind to our circumstances. The healthy part is that we can become aware of our level of stress, also known as physical and emotional tension, which puts us in position to decide how we will manage that stress.

We now have a lot of adjusting and managing to do. While we are problem-solving, creating new schedules, and following healthy lifestyle guidelines, there is something we can do that requires little to no effort yet gives us great stress relief. Did you know that simply listening to music can relieve stress without the pressure of learning an entirely new set of skills? We all know that music helps set the mood. Why else do gyms pulse with upbeat tunes and elegant restaurants favor soothing melodies? With just a moment of thought and attention, you can mobilize music into a powerful stress reliever and mood booster. In a previous posting I spoke about being your own superhero. Well, here’s another part of the superhero life; they usually have a theme song! There is power in music and we can use it to empower our own coping and relief during these uncertain times.

Music Therapy

Here’s a little background about music therapy, which is a field that focuses on music for healing. Music therapy began as a formal profession in the 1950’s with the discovery that music and music-based activities could help people with mental handicaps and psychiatric disorders. But the use of music in healing dates to ancient times. Ancient Egyptian and Greek artifacts depict music used in healing rituals. Music is embedded in cultural rituals around the world — in healing, celebration, transformation and spiritual and religious practice. Music therapy draws from this rich history, while also using modern science and psychology to improve physical, emotional, and mental health. But you don’t have to have a clinical diagnosis to enjoy the benefits of music therapy. The key is learning how to use music most effectively to improve our health and well-being.

So, let’s get started really listening to music.

Reducing the Intensity of Our Responses

Most of us can think of moments when a song has evoked memories and emotions. Pay attention to songs that bring feelings of joy, pleasure or hope. Listen to these songs when you are feeling stressed or in a low mood — or really, anytime. The songs you choose may be from any genre — popular, alternative, folk, jazz, classical, country, bluegrass or New Age music. Remember, it is not only the lyrics that matter; the energy or soothing nature of the music itself can bring comfort and relief.

Maybe you are feeling particularly angry or frustrated. These emotions are signals that we’re feeling threatened, vulnerable, fearful or possibly out of control. What if you can’t do anything about the source of the trouble? That’s when it’s crucial to reduce the intensity of our response. Music can be used to “vent” some of the overwhelming emotion and bring us to a more moderate emotional state. Then we’re in a better place to find solutions. Here’s where you put away the soothing New Age music and pull out tunes that match your anger and frustration in intensity. You will want to avoid songs with destructive or violent lyrics, as they can intensify rather than reduce your anger or frustration. As you listen to the music — it will probably have a fast beat, loud bass or percussion, heavier lyrics — really pay attention to how the music feels in your body. Focus your breathing and acknowledge the intense thoughts or body sensations you’re experiencing. Then start switching to songs that are a little less intense, gradually moving toward selections that are more and more soothing and upbeat. It may be helpful to create a playlist for yourself ahead of time, especially if you tend to experience frequent excess stress, anger or frustration.

Focus & Energy

Music also can help increase mental focus and concentration. In studies, classical Baroque music, such as chamber or orchestral pieces by Handel, have been found to help people focus on tasks even more than when those tasks are performed in silence. It seems that the ordered nature and pacing of this style of music are compatible with keeping attention to detail. Even if you are not a classical music fan, it may be helpful to play Baroque music at times when you seem distracted and need to concentrate.

Sometimes we want to increase or decrease our energy. Anyone who has cranked up their favorite music during exercise knows that rhythmic and percussive music is great for increasing energy. Conversely, non-melodic, slow-paced music, such as that in the New Age genre, can greatly enhance relaxation and meditation. Studies have also shown that listening to soothing music, even without practicing deep breathing or meditation, can bring about a relaxation response in the body.

Allow yourself to explore your own responses to the music you choose. Whether you are actively or passively listening to music, you can greatly benefit from the effects of the rhythms, melodies, lyrics, and instrumentation of the songs. Give yourself the opportunity to have moments of joy as you listen to songs that connect you to uplifting memories or hope for the future, along with enjoying the sounds in the present moment. Happy listening! (Please also refer to my previous posting for a song-list to get you started in your music listening adventure).

Wishing you good health and comfort, Dr. Lori Kleinman, Licensed Psychologist & Music Therapist

Navigating the Statewide Mask Order with a Healthy Approach

Navigating the Statewide Mask Order with a Healthy Approach

We have now received the Statewide mask order. You may have a variety of responses, all of which are likely natural considering our current circumstances. At the same time, each of us can continue to make healthy choices that support our basic values and needs.

So, here are some ideas to continue helping you follow the mask and social distance guidelines:

  1. Enjoy your home life. Schedule some time to really focus on organizing your living space in a way that supports work, leisure, hobbies, private time, socializing with others in your household. Place meaningful photos around your home, select a few items that represent special moments in your life and keep them in view. Our nervous system responds strongly to our environment. Surrounding ourselves with meaning, beauty, comfort helps to bring a sense of calm and even optimism.
  2. Follow hand washing with a good moisturizing lotion or cream. Consider choosing something with a scent that you enjoy. Think of this whole process as self-care and self-nurturance, which also brings us a sense of calmness and can lift our mood.
  3. Masks are in! They are the new fashion trend! Okay, I am exaggerating since they are meant to help reduce the spread of covid19. However, why not make them fashionable? Decorate your mask in a way that personalizes it. Have a virtual mask-erade (masquerade) party.
  4. Communicate with other parts of your body since people cannot see your mouth or nose in public places. Our eyes convey much emotion, so smiling under your mask will still show to some extent. Also, use your voice to say “hi” to people, use your hand to wave, use your body posture to demonstrate openness (uncrossed arms, moving aside gently as others pass you, etc.)
  5. Think realistic and reassuring thoughts. This makes a huge difference in the way we feel and the ways others perceive us. Instead of “I hate wearing this mask”, think “this is uncomfortable, but I’ll manage it to help keep myself and others safe”. Instead of “I’m so tired of all of this”, think “we’re all working together to reassure each other during uncertain times”. Also, one of my favorite realistic and reassuring thoughts is “every day, we’re one day closer to a vaccine and possible cure,”
  6. Have some fun. There are so many things we can do in our communities in Boulder County and everywhere. Nature, games, music, art, photography, movies, sports, walks, biking, hiking, calling friends, etc. etc. etc.

Remember that “life is a great bundle of little things” as Oliver Wendell Holmes once said. Also, “the woman {or man} who challenges herself {or himself} to invent herself {or himself} daily displays sublime creativity”, as Maya Angelou once said. Create your own meaningful perspective on these experiences and be gentle with yourself and others.

Wishing you good health and comfort,

Dr. Lori Kleinman

Optimism, or Realistic Hopefulness

Optimism, or Realistic Hopefulness

We have been told about the power of positive thinking. We have repeated countless affirmations. We have written our gratitude lists and filled our journals with goals and desires. And yet…it may not be enough to get us through the really tough times.

If this has been your experience, you are quite normal. Though some of us may attest to positive thinking’s positive effects, most of us find that it is not enough to create positive change in our lives. The good news is that positive thinking is a great idea, and coupled with additional strategies, you can create those positive changes. In addition, you can learn how to use your thinking to better cope with negative experiences, too.

Positive thinking usually involves a statement that everything is or will be alright. “It’s all good” is one that is popular. If you really can believe that and act accordingly, more power to you. However, most of us may say “it’s all good” and then argue with our partner, drink too much alcohol, or call a friend to complain about our boss. You see, positive thinking in and of itself is usually not enough.

Pessimism is another option. An occasional pessimistic thought may be useful when you are facing a situation that is outside your area of knowledge, skills, abilities, and/or experience. “Expect the worst and be pleasantly surprised” may motivate you to work harder at preparation and be realistic about possible outcomes. However, this perspective tends to be unhelpful and even detrimental if you use it all the time.

Pessimists tend to view the “worst-case scenario” and hold it as true. They tend to believe that negative events and consequences will last a long time. They are more prone to depression, poor physical health, and feel lousy whether or not they are correct about a situation’s outcome. Though pessimists may seem to see “reality” clearly, they may miss vital points about a situation. For example, they may ignore actions that can improve a situation, and instead, their attitude leads to the negative outcome they predicted. Psychologists call this “self-fulfilling prophecy”.

Optimism, which may be best viewed as “realistic hopefulness”, gives you the most control in many situations. Optimism is not positive thinking; it is non-negative thinking based on accuracy. Put more simply, when you are using an optimistic perspective, you are viewing reality in a way that motivates you toward solutions. You see not only what is, but also what is possible, and you put thoughts and behavior in the direction of the possibilities you choose. Optimists do not react to situations; they respond and choose.

Whether you are mostly an optimist or mostly a pessimist, the key is to use your thinking to find solutions and keep moving forward. Finding solutions may mean that you change something within yourself, change something in your environment, or accept things as they are and move on. Keep in mind that optimism is the most motivating perspective. Whereas pessimism may leave you feeling stuck, and positive thinking may set you up for disappointment, optimism helps you to focus on what is possible and take action. Optimism tells us that we can finish the marathon. Optimism reminds us that cancer can go into remission. Optimism allows us to ignore distractions and keep moving toward our goals. It is a wonderful balance between looking at things as they are and believing in something better. And it has no negative side effects.

Wishing you good health, comfort, and realistic hopefulness, Dr. Lori Kleinman

Relaxation Exercises

Relaxation Exercises

As we begin to hear about our communities re-opening, we may experience a variety of responses. For some of us, the re-opening may be energizing, but others may begin feeling overwhelmed and stressed. The overwhelmed feeling is natural when we experience stressors that seem out of our control. However, it can interfere with our ability to manage those stressors. We can begin to feel anxious or depressed, and then our healthy behaviors and habits can go by the wayside. We can feel “frozen” instead of energized. In order to prevent or reduce these reactions, we need to mobilize our inner resources that help us to reduce the stress. That will help to give us a sense of reasonable control as things change in our environment and community.

So, how do we reduce feeling overwhelmed and instead feel energized?

We can gain the sense of reasonable control with a basic relaxation exercise that takes only minutes to do. Using the following relaxation exercise daily or as needed can help you refocus your energy and attention. It will also help your body to reduce stress hormones and create more balance, thereby improving your mood, energy, and even immunity.

First, sit or lay in a comfortable position.
If sitting, uncross your legs, put your feet flat on the floor, sit up straight with your back against the chair, shoulders back without strain, head up straight, hands resting in your lap. If laying down, lay on your back with legs uncrossed, arms at your side, and neck and head straight from your shoulders. You may want to use a small towel roll to support the base of your neck. Once you learn the breathing exercise, you may use it in any position and still receive benefits.

Next, close your eyes and clear your mind of any distractions.
One way to do this is to focus on an image that is pleasant and calming (e.g. a quiet beach or stream, a mountain view, a beautiful flower). Begin to focus on your breathing, allowing the muscles in your body to relax. Slow your breathing and allow even more air to enter and exit your lungs. Begin to expand your stomach and abdomen as you breathe, bringing the air even deeper into your lungs. As you exhale, breathe out all of the air and then inhale into your abdomen.

Breathe so that your stomach rises and falls.
You may place one hand on your abdomen as you practice this. You are moving the focus of breathing from your chest to your abdomen. As you fill your lungs with air, count to five, then count to two as you hold your breath, then count to seven as you exhale. Notice changes in your body as you do this; your breathing becomes slower and deeper, your shoulders release, your legs become loose and flexible, and your jaw and forehead relax.

As you continue to breathe deeply, repeat the word “calm” to yourself.
Use this word to recognize the relaxation flowing through your body; “c” for open chest, “a” for relaxed arms and shoulders, “l” for loose and flexible legs, and “m” for mouth slightly open and relaxed.

Relaxation through diaphragmatic breathing is a wonderful resource that is easy to access. It assists us in focusing our energy and mind on our priorities without distraction. You can easily and quickly incorporate this into your day; begin with ten minutes and expand or reduce the time as you choose. Even three or four deep breaths when something unexpected and stressful occurs can make a significant difference. You will be in a better position to address the unexpected as you better regulate your stress level.

Wishing you good health, comfort, and energy, Dr. Lori Kleinman

Stress Hardiness – Bouncing Back from Difficulties

Stress Hardiness – Bouncing Back from Difficulties

One of the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic is the continued stress that many of us are feeling. This stress, by definition, means that we may feel strain or pressure on our body, mind, and spirit that seems to be throwing us off balance. That stress is the result of stressors, or things that cause the strain or pressure, such as changes in work or home life. Stress management is a means of managing and relieving stressors so we can get back in balance.

There are many ways to manage stress. In fact, each of these “Managing the Mental Mayhem” blog posts address various ways to manage the stressors related to COVID19. There are also countless lists of stress management activities on the Internet and thousands of books and workbooks about managing stress. Stress is part of life, and the strain or pressure we feel gives us the message that something is off and needs our attention. The key is paying attention and taking effective action so you can reduce, or manage, stress.

Bouncing Back

There are three basic concepts that will help you manage stress, no matter what specific stress management techniques you choose. These three concepts describe what experts call “stress-hardiness.” Stress-hardiness means that we believe that we can find ways to effectively manage stressors and be resilient, or ‘bounce back” from difficulties.

So, let’s identify the three concepts that help us to have stress-hardiness, and then I will get you started with some fun and helpful stress management techniques.

  1. Control — We have an optimistic view, believing we can learn how to manage and solve problems. Also, we focus on things we can control and take responsibility for our part in the solution.
  2. Challenge — We accept challenges as opportunities for us to use our own knowledge, skills, abilities, and talents to solve problems. We also see problems as puzzles and opportunities to grow and learn how to effectively ask for help.
  3. Commitment — We believe that what we are doing in our life matters. We are aware of our values and strive to live accordingly, bringing meaning and purpose to our lifestyle.

These three concepts create a foundation, and from there we can choose stress management techniques to help us restore and refresh as we’re striving to solve our problems. Below are some examples of stress management techniques to get you on your way to a joyful, healthy, balanced lifestyle.

Tips to Balance Body-Mind-Spirit and Enhance Well-Being

  • Take some slow deep belly breaths, meditate and/or pray
  • Look for multiple perspectives on a problem (and multiple solutions!)
  • Select an easy-to-achieve task and do it!
  • Listen to uplifting music and/or Read something inspiring
  • Think about the “big picture” – What’s really important?
  • Sing, Laugh, Dance, Draw, Play, Smile 🙂
  • Eat something nutritious and hydrate
  • Call someone you like
  • Ask for help and/or help someone else
  • Practice Compassion, Empathy, and Tolerance; Forgive yourself & others
  • Make a gratitude list
  • Identify three supports – and use one now
  • Look at a picture of someone or something you love
  • Rest, Sleep, Be Peaceful
  • Write in a journal; keep the good stuff; dump the junk
  • Pick a favorite activity you would do if feeling good – and do it!
  • Recognize at least three wonderful qualities about yourself
  • Visualize something that makes you smile
  • Watch a funny movie
  • Spend some time in nature… without your cell phone
  • Be Proactive, not Reactive

Remember: You are not your problems. Difficulties are just some of your many life experiences.

Wishing you good health and comfort,

Dr. Lori Kleinman, Licensed Psychologist

This too Shall Pass

This Too Shall Pass

These are four simple words that can change the course of our lives right now. Let’s break it down:

This = The COVID-19 virus effects on our individual lives and society..

Too = There have been other large-scale difficulties in our individual lives and society. There will be again in varying ways. That is part of life and part of what brings us together to solve problems and build resilience.

Shall = We are designed to be resilient. Resilience means we can recover from difficulties and bounce back while becoming stronger through the process of recovery. Along with resilience, we have the capacity for stress hardiness. Stress hardiness means we utilize good coping skills during the difficult times to maximize our recovery and resilience. We, as individuals and as a society, can be realistically hopeful that we will survive and even grow stronger through this. In addition, we will cope with the sad and painful parts of this process by using our own strengths as well as reaching out for support and assistance with one another.

Pass = We will move through and beyond this. Stronger. More aware. Closer as individuals and as a society. There will be ease again, and in the meantime, we will actively look for and create moments of joy and relief as we soldier on toward solutions.

Managing Uncertainty

Now, on to the process of how we shall and will manage while times are uncertain:

  1. Schedule your time and include breaks
  2. Maintain healthy eating and limit sugar, saturated fats, empty calories
  3. Keep alcohol use to one or less drinks per day (yes, really!)
  4. Move your body and exercise at least an average of 30 minutes per day most days
  5. Practice relaxation exercises including deep belly breathing and releasing muscles, especially jaw, shoulders, back, hands
  6. Play and laugh, no matter your age, and schedule time for fun experiences into your day
  7. Maintain personal hygiene with an attitude of appreciation for your body
  8. Stay connected and reach out by voice to friends every day, even if only for a few minutes

Reach Out & Resources

These are challenging and uncertain times. Be gentle and compassionate with yourself and others. Sometimes the demands on us are greater than our existing resources to manage those demands. Please, if you need help, reach out. Below are some resources for you and your loved ones. Keep these numbers available, just in case.

  • Colorado State Crisis Hotline: 844-493-8255 (844-493-TALK) or text “TALK” to 38255
  • National Disaster Distress Hotline: 800-985-5990 (if emotional distress related to pandemic/disasters)
  • Veterans Crisis Line: 800-273-8255, ext 1
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-784-2433 (800-SUICIDE)
  • National Domestic Violence Helpline: 800-799-7233 (800-799-SAFE)
  • Safe 2 Tell: 877-542-7233 (877-542-SAFE) (anonymous reporting if someone in danger)
  • Youth Suicide Prevention Assistance:
  • Boulder County Public Health COVID-19 Information

Wishing you good health and comfort, Dr. Lori Kleinman

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