Covid Fatigue and Mental Wellness
by Yufei "Lillian" Xie
W&S Intern from The Madeira School
COVID-19 hit 2020 hard. Although it is already 2021, the long-lasting impact of the pandemic still troubles people in all ways.
I quickly decided to return to China after four days of starting my spring break in the US at the end of March of 2020. My parents immediately booked a flight for me to return home. While I was excited to travel back to Shenzhen, my journey was not easy at all. I spent almost 75 hours on the road, starting from Boston and transferring from San Francisco to Taiwan to Shanghai and finally to Shenzhen. When I arrived, I stepped outside, feeling the heat waves I grew up with, and started my 14 days of life in quarantine.
I spent a whole day receiving various kinds of examinations, which caused me to be dizzy, overburdened, and exhausted. Quarantine life was not easy at all for me. Loneliness is never my good friend, and I put all my hope on ordering food delivery. Whenever the employees knocked on the door and asked me to get my food, I felt butterflies in my stomach. I was anxious, bored, and depressed during the 14 days and kept thinking about the happy memories of hanging out with my friends and being hugged by someone when I needed support. I missed being in a warm community. Since I did not have much work to do, I mostly spent my time chatting with friends online. Time moved so slowly that I could not bear it. Anxiety and sadness took control of me. I believe that lots of people feel the same way. In quarantine and the overall situation, adjustment to a new way of living was extremely challenging. So how can people shift their mindset to alleviate the anxiety and change these uneasy sentiments?
One of the most important strategies for overcoming mental health issues is reaching out to others actively. Being alone and not having others' company raises anxiety levels and may cause some detrimental effects on our bodies. To avoid loneliness, face-timing friends and families online is a good choice. Casually chatting with friends can make you happier and, at the same time, ease the anxiety. Sharing some problems with family can be a good outlet for all the emotions and uneasiness. Since everybody is undergoing these harsh circumstances, people can understand each other.
I also suggest people try mindfulness practices and meditation to alleviate their level of anxiety. Being focused on the present and leaving all those chaotic voices alone for a little while can help when we are overwhelmed by pressure. Mindfulness is a practice and a way of living, which might help us lead a more peaceful life, countering Covid fatigue.
There are some simple and fun exercises that people can practice at home:
Fortunately, in 2021, a vaccination has been researched and developed and is starting to be available to the public. Individuals can get the vaccination depending on their job or condition. Despite the supply of COVID-19 vaccine coming out at a slow but consistent pace, it is believed that the vaccine will be available to more of the public in the near future. Hopes and opportunities are around the corner.
I hope that everyone can have faith in the future and believe that everything will be all right. To try some of the exercises mentioned above might help to relax and relieve the stress of our current situation. However, if you feel strong emotions or something comes up during the exercises, seeking help from a professional therapist or doctor is always a great idea. As the saying goes, the best is yet to come.
Shedding Light on the Mysteries of Art Therapy
by Emma Stone - Madeira Intern
Hi!! If you’re reading this right now, I’m so glad you’re here, because art therapy is an amazing form of therapy that is worth looking into. Coming from someone who has personally seen immense gain in her life because of it, I am happy that you have come to this page and are exploring more about art therapy and it’s amazing benefits.
I asked some people close to me their frequently asked questions or doubts about art therapy, things that would maybe steer them away from giving it a good try.
When asking this, differences between the adults’ concerns vs. the teenagers were clear. The adults had more concrete questions where I could see where their doubt stems from, yet knew that with more information they would be singing a different tune. For the younger, I got an overwhelming amount of one singular response:
“What is art therapy?”
This, I think, is where the problem lies. People simply do not know enough about art therapy to give it a true chance. So, if you’re reading this and have that question as well, this is my answer:
Art therapy is a creative and interesting way of expressing feelings that can be immensely beneficial to the client. Instead of talking and then being told what to do, Water & Stone’s art therapy approach is humanistic in that the therapist and client are truly working together to decipher and express feelings on your journey towards healing and gaining insight.
As far as the adults go, their questions were a little more thorough.
“Will I be judged doing art? Not only for the things expressed in the artwork, but for the art itself?”
Water & Stone therapist Xenia Rybak addressed this as she explained to me that in art therapy, kids are very much about the process: throwing glitter onto a page and trying every color crayon. She has found that adults, however, are more about the results. She explains that adults think that there is a specific set of rules that they must follow, and that their art must be impressive. When, in reality, the therapist is solely there looking to help you shed light on areas in your life that need it. If they wanted to judge your art, they would become an art critic am I right?
On a slightly different wavelength,
“Does art therapy truly work? How can it be effectively applied to multiple issues people are facing?”
It works because it is a collaborative process between a trained professional and yourself. The professional will help the client use materials that allow them to express things in unique ways that can be freeing. The therapist can guide each person in a way that works for them; it is a tailored approach to each individual person to support their journey. Because it is so different than what we do in day to day life, it allows us to discover things that maybe we normally wouldn’t see. The best bit of advice that I have is to go into it open mindedly and see how it might help you!
Thank you so much for reading this and joining me in learning more about art therapy! I hope that this inspires you to give it a try. I have always loved art, but only in recent years have I seen first-hand how it contributes to every individual’s personal healing.
by Emma Stone - Madeira intern
Connections are everything. They create something real, whatever that may be: happiness, growth, success, fulfillment. In a world full of people and things, what can be more beautiful than that!
When talking with Water & Stone therapist Xenia Rybak, we both agreed on this and found it to be true. Connections are fundamental things that run through everything. Specific to what we were talking about, her profession, everyone is more connected than we think. Seeing many people in a journey towards healing, Xenia’s profession has taught her this. She says that if we all knew that, if we all were aware of the connections we maybe cannot see, then it would be easier. Yes, there would still be issues. Sadness, anxiety, confusion, but the difference would be knowing that, however cliché it may seem, you are not alone.
I believe that it is valuable to always be looking for and creating connections, including the ones that we cannot clearly see. In my room, I have a box of letters that I keep under my bed. I have a small black Nikon camera on my bookshelf with videos and pictures of people I have known and places I have been. When I look at these things, I feel completely full. This feeling is euphoric, it is the feeling of being connected. I believe that everyone should search for any opportunity to make a meaningful connection. Waving to someone on the street, reaching out to someone just for the fun of it, exploring all of your curiosity and seizing every opportunity. Because when you feel connected, you feel completely full.
Wisdom comes from experience and curious exploration. There is an openness you need to have in order to learn from different perspectives, remain open to changing your beliefs, and seeing every moment as an opportunity to add to your knowledge or understanding.
We have high school interns spending 5 weeks at a time with us throughout the winter and spring and I can’t wait to be challenged and questioned by them! They will be posting personal reflections and thought on the blog, so I hope you have a chance to read them and see some of the world of Water & Stone and psychology from the vantage point of “Beginner’s Mind”. A wonderful opportunity!
The idea that self care is occasional massages and pampering makes it very difficult to understand how to affordably and regularly access what should be daily wellness practices. Of course, if you enjoy it and can safely and financially do it, get the massage!
So, what is self care?
How you, on a regular basis, support yourself mentally, physically, and energetically. It doesn't have to be doing something big or for hours at a time. Think of it more as small practices and daily rituals that make you feel grounded, present, and able to take a breath.
Have a cup of tea in the morning before picking up your phone for the day.
Take a walk midday around the block or in a park.
Move! - yoga, lifting weights, or getting your body moving in a way that feels good.
Set a time at the end of the day to stop working and take a break from screens.
Take time each day to do something fun (art, reading, listening to music, meditating, juggling, ...)
What is self care during a pandemic?
Safe practices that fulfill your community/social needs.
Taking a walk with a friend (masks and social distancing work!)
Doing an activity with someone (like AcroYoga pictured above!) wear contact happens, but is controlled or limited, then using hand sanitizer and washing hands regularly.
Checking in with a friend everyday
Finding an online group - can be therapy or something like a book club, art making group, etc.
Pick one thing and aim to do it for 5 min each day!
Stay safe and let us know how it goes!
Coping with Emotions
The winter solstice, longest night of the year, has passed and every day we get a little more light in our day. This is an incredible metaphor for finding hope in our lives. We can take this and learn about acknowledging emotions and experiences when they happen in a way that lowers the intensity and allows us to be open to the moment while also shifting into the next in a healthy way.
So, how do you do this?
1 – Focus on the emotion.
Focus on an emotion you have felt recently that challenged you. It might have been sadness, anger, loneliness, anxiety, etc.
2 – Where does it live in your body?
Close your eyes if it helps and take a moment to figure out where this emotion currently lives in your body. Neck, shoulders, stomach, heart are all common, but it could be anywhere. Don’t try to get this right, just check in and see what you feel. It’s okay if it changes.
3 – Be Curious!
Now focus in on the emotion in the area of your body and try to see what it looks like. Is it soft and spacious, tense, spiky? Does it have a color associated with it? Is it small, big, moving, or still? Just be curious and try to get to know what this emotion looks like in this moment.
4 – Give it space to exist.
Once you have an idea of what it looks like, continue focusing on it and with each inhale breathe into that part of your body (even if it’s just the intention and you can’t actually breathe into that space.). Let the area around the emotion expand a little when you breathe in and slowly go back to normal when you exhale. No need to change the emotion, but if it wants to expand, or shift, that’s okay. Do this for several breaths and take your time.
5 – Promise to visit again soon
After you do this for a few mintues, take one more deep breath and make a proise to yourself that you won’t ignore the emotion. Commit to giving it space and time to exist as it is again soon.
These steps can help lower the intensity of an emotion because you are acknowledging it instead of ignoring, trying to change, or being scared of it. By giving it time and attention you will more easily be able to take a breath or break from it. By committing to visit again soon, you are keeping it from building in intensity as it will when it is feeling ignored or unheard.
Now Take a Break!
Whatever you need in this moment. Maybe some quiet time with a cup of tea or possibly a walk outside. Do something that feels relaxing, grounding, or good to you. Take a break from the emotion, as much as you can right now, and be kind to yourself.
If you feel like it only intensified or was overwhelming, that’s okay and is usually a sign that this has been building for a while or that there is a lot more behind this than just this one instance. I am a huge proponent of therapy and your mental health, so if you want support go get it! Asking for support from a professional who can be there just for you is the best thing we can do for ourselves in times that are challenging. The insight, relief, and knowing someone knows what you are going through can make all the difference in the world.
Try this exercise out and I would love to hear how it goes!
Wishing you all a healthy new year!
Emery started Water & Stone in 2015 to bring a more contemplative approach to health and wellness in NYC. She is inspired to combine her love of meditation, creative arts, and psychology to support others in bravely healing or daring to reach for dreams with the goal of living a fully engaged and fulfilling life. Since starting her company, she has gathered a diverse group of women with similar dreams to support people locally, nationally and internationally.