Hanna's Helpful Hints

Gratitude

Gratitude

According to Dr. Brene Brown, Gratitude is one of the key ingredients to joy. She found in her largescale research on what makes people joyful or happy, that those who are joyful have an intentional practice of gratitude. See her speak about it here.

Practicing Gratitude does not mean denying the difficult times or only focusing on the positive; In fact it is important to be self-compassionate and allow ourselves to feel sadness and other negative emotions when they come.  However, finding moments to notice what we can enjoy and be grateful for, alongside feelings of sadness, help us build up a reservoir of resilience, and allows us to feel moments of joy amidst the hardest of times, and helps us maintain hope. 

There are many ways to practice gratitude, but it is important that it is intentional and practiced as an activity. Some ideas are:

  • Take a deep breathe in your nose to the count of 4, and out your mouth to the count of 8 and say in your mind or out loud “I am grateful for the air coming into my lungs. I am grateful for this moment.” Set a time in the day to do this.
  • Make a list of things you have to be grateful for. Nothing is too small to include. Examples could be the air you breathe, the food you eat that sustains your body, the taste of coffee in the morning, the softness of the sheets on your bed, the love and support of friend and/or family, the way the sun looks in the sky, the opportunity to go to school and learn, the opportunity to teach others a new skill, having a source of income to support you, laughter, a sunny day etc. etc.
  • Writing out what you are grateful for at the end or the beginning of the day can be a good way to make a habit of it.
  • Use a gratitude app to list enter things you are grateful for in the moment.
  • Gratitude journals – have a journal set aside to write in regularly what you are grateful for.
  • Start a gratitude jar. This can be a fun activity for the whole family, if you have small children as well. You find a jar (mason jar or others) and decorate it. On small pieces of paper, you write something you are grateful for. Set a goal to put one gratitude paper in the jar a day, or a different goal that works for you.
  • Set a gratitude meditation practice. Set 10-15 minutes aside in a day to practice focusing and meditating on the things you have to be grateful for.

It is my belief that one of the most precious gifts of being human, is that even in the hardest times, we can cultivate purpose, meaning and hope. Practicing gratitude is one way of doing that. 

Contact

Hanna Culbertson - Contact
MSW CSWA, UCC Life Coach, Student Services
Phone: 541-440-7896

Mindfulness Strategies - Meditation

Guided Meditation

Meditation is a practice that can be very beneficial for your mental, physical and overall health. While meditation has been utilized for thousands of years, it is now utilized regularly, and recognized as a research based stress reduction technique. There are many kinds of meditation, but most of them involve spending time tuning in to yourself, your thoughts, physical sensations and emotions and observing them without judgement, or tuning in mindfully to the present moment. In our busy society, it may often feel like we don't have time to meditate or to slow down, but even taking 5-10 minutes out of your day to meditate, has been found to lower stress levels. Meditation can also boost self awareness, promote relaxation, offer a balanced perspectives on stressful situations, help focus on the present, reduce negative emotions, increase patience, tolerance and productivity overall. It has been found to be effective in managing symptoms of an array of mental, emotional and physical ailments. It may not feel natural or easy at first, since we are often used to moving quickly from task to task, and our minds are often full of scattered thoughts, emotions and physical sensations, but over time, and with practice, it often leads to very positive results. There are some very simple forms of meditation that can be practiced day to day. Some examples are:

  • Deep Breathing - A good place to start for meditation beginners. Sit for 1-2 minutes (setting a timer can be helpful) and focus all your attention of your breathing. Setting an intention to breath in through your nose to the count of 4, and out of your mouth to the count of 6-8. Focus all your attention on the way the air feels going in our nose and out your mouth. Whenever you have wandering thoughts or sensations, you gently set your focus back on your breathing. As you get used to this practice, increase the amount of time spent focusing on your breathing.
  • Body Scan - This meditation involves focusing in on your breathe, and intentionally relaxing muscles in your body, bringing awareness to your whole body.
  • Walk and Meditate -This is a practice in which you intentionally meditate on the act of walking.
  • Guided Meditation/Visualization Exercises - Guided Meditations are those that are done with a guide, whether it is an in person facilitator or a recorded voice. Guided meditations often direct individuals to turn inward and meditate on their breathe, thoughts or physical sensations, or sometimes visualizing a calming relaxing image or scene.
    • Leaves on a Stream Meditation - This is a guided meditation exercise that promotes cognitive diffusion, or creating separation between ourselves and our thoughts, to help them have less hold over us and cause us less stress. This can be a very helpful exercise to help with racing thoughts through out the day or at night time.
    • Peaceful Place Meditation/VisualizationThis is a guided meditation exercise that walks you through imagining your own personal "peaceful place," a place that feels relaxing, peaceful and calm. This is a practice that you can utilize daily or when needed to promote calm, relaxation and stress relief.

Free Meditation Apps can be found here

Contact

Hanna Culbertson - Contact
MSW CSWA, UCC Life Coach, Student Services
Phone: 541-440-7896

Happiness Chemicals and how to hack them: make time for joy over the break

happiness chemicals

The winter break is hopefully a time we can all rest and revitalize ourselves before the winter term begins. I hope everyone makes some intentional time over the break to find activities big or small that bring them joy, peace and rest and relaxation. See the above graphic for some ideas of activities that kick start some of our natural "feel good" hormone: dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphin.

Remember, if you need support over the break, UCC may be closed, but support is available in the community. National and Local 24/7 virtual and phone supports that allow connection to a trained counselor for emotional support 365 days a year:

  • SAMHSA’s Disaster Distress Helpline provides 24/7, 365-day-a-year crisis counseling and support to people experiencing emotional distress related to natural or human-caused disasters (incidents of violence, COVID 19, wildfires, etc.). Call SAMHSA’s Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to speak to a trained crisis counselor. This line is available in 100 languages
  • National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741-741 to connect with counselors at the Crisis Text Line
  • Lines for Life: 1-800-923-HELP (4357) is now available for both COVID-19 and for those who have been impacted by the fires, as well as general emotional support
  • Compass Behavioral Health 24/7 Crisis Line provides connection to local therapists 24/7, 365 days a year. Call 800-866-9780

Remember, many local community mental health agencies offer ongoing support to members of the community. Counseling is available for UCC employees through the EAP as well, whose number is 866-750-1327 Contact EAP for information about emotional support resources.

Contact

Hanna Culbertson - Contact
MSW CSWA, UCC Life Coach, Student Services
Phone: 541-440-7896

Coping with Grief, Loss and COVID stress – Survival Strategies

To say that 2020 has been difficult would be an understatement. The disruption, stress, and change that have occurred over the last year have been immense. What is less often acknowledged is the grief and loss that has been constant and compounding since the beginning of the pandemic.

When grief is discussed, it is often connected with a loss of a loved one. And while these losses are often felt the mostly deeply and profoundly, we as humans can grieve more ambiguous losses that are less tangible. These may be: loss of a job, loss of financial security, loss of health, loss of a sense of safety, a loss of stability and routine, a loss of what we thought our life would be, and of the idea that we know how to predict what will come next.

Take a moment to reflect upon the last months. We have all dealt with the trauma and grief associated with COVID-19 and its impacts:

  • Closures of schools and businesses that have led to parents juggling work, school and distance learning of their children
  • Closures of businesses that provided financial support and stable employment
  • The obvious health and life impacts on those contracting the illness

Along with COVID, we have also experienced devastating wildfires, have witnessed massive social unrest, and protests fighting for social justice and equity. The election came and went, and the change and sense of loss and uncertainty it may have caused individuals at different points, regardless of political affiliation, has been felt deeply.  This time has been experienced by many as one activating stressful event after another, with little time to process the feelings of grief, loss, anxiety, and pain that each on their own may have caused. This does not even take into account the individual losses that each person may have had during this time or pre-existing challenges and struggles with ill health, depression, and anxiety. The graphic below visually shows how this has been experienced by many.

covid anxiety balls

The way humans experience grief, loss, and complex stress is very individualized. There is no universal way of experiencing it. It may be a journey of weeks, months, or a lifelong process. It may be experienced with any combination of shock and disbelief, sadness, guilt, anger, helplessness, fear, along with physical symptoms of aches, pains, difficulty with appetite or motivation, feelings of sickness, and nausea.

Just as there is no universal presentation of what grief, loss, and complex stress looks like and is experienced, there is no universal way that is helpful in moving through and coping with it. However, there are  ways that help many people to cope with this process:

  • Acknowledge the grief and the distressing emotions that you are experiencing and give yourself permission to feel them. Pain and hurt do not go away by ignoring or invalidating their importance. Pain indicates a need, and often that need is to allow yourself to feel it. That may mean allowing yourself to cry or expressing your emotions in other ways; through journaling or other creative outlets, engaging in a support group or therapy, or engaging in a self-compassion break. We too often mistakenly believe that burying our pain makes it go away; however this often only causes it to fester. Noticing our pain, naming it, and honoring our need to feel it helps us move through it; honoring that it is painful means it matters. Accepting that grief and loss may show up for you in different ways each day, activating many different kind of emotions from day to day, allows us space to prepare for them.

Pain is healing

  • Allow yourself to prioritize your self in times of need, and lower expectations for yourself in some areas of your life, even if only temporarily.
  • Seek out support – through friends, family, colleagues, and professionals if needed.
  • Find a self-care routine that supports you mentally and physically. Alongside allowing yourself to feel the distressing emotions that come as you grieve, it is just as important to allow yourself to fill your everyday life with the things that help you rejuvenate and give you moments of rest and joy.
  • Take care of your physical health, Making sure you eat regularly and healthily, start a sleep routine that supports adequate rest, exercise and move your body often, get out in nature when you can, visiting medical professionals when needed are all examples of important physical self care, but are not exhaustive. When you take care of yourself physically, you support your mental health, as our bodies and minds are intricately connected.

Practice both emergency self-care strategies that help you in the moment when distressing emotions arise and you need to cope, as well as long term self care strategies you can integrate into your daily life. Some examples might be:

  • A self-compassion moment (described above).
  • Deep Breathing (taking a deep breath in through your nose to the count of 4 out through your mouth to count of 6-8).
  • Grounding in the present moment (name 5 things you can see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, 1 thing you can taste).
  • Listening to a uplifting song or watching a movie.
  • Taking a mental health day/break if you need one.
  • Reaching out to a loved one.
  • Reaching out to a professional.
  • Starting a gratitude practice such as a gratitude journal. Becoming intentional about noticing what we are grateful for, in the best of times and the most difficult, is connected with overall higher wellbeing and ability to experience joy.

Below is the Trauma Stewardship Institutes ideas for self-care and ways to survive and thrive amid stress, grief and loss.

  tiny survival guide

Always remember you are not alone. If you are a student, reach out to the UCC Life Coach if you would like to engage in personal counseling through Zoom or a phone call. If you are staff, reach out to your EAP for assistance with connection to professional support (866-750-1327).

Emergency assistance is also available 24/7 via Compass Behavioral Health 24-hour crisis line at 800-866-9780 or the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741-741 to connect with counselors at the Crisis Text Line. 

If you would like to connect with a counselor because you are experiencing trauma, stress, and grief related to racism and discrimination, The Racial Equity Support Line, through Lines for Life, is available Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., at 503-575-3764.

References/Links for further learning:

Contact

Hanna Culbertson - Contact
MSW CSWA, UCC Life Coach, Student Services
Phone: 541-440-7896

More Articles ...