However you’re coping – even if it includes overeating or binging – do not judge yourself. Grace is defined as “courteous goodwill.” If you go to your default behavior of binging on cookies or stress management by chocolate, be kind to yourself, recognize this is a tough time and even those of us who are the strongest are struggling, so you may struggle too. It’s okay. Observe what is happening, just don’t judge it.
Hi everyone it’s Dr. Carolyn Coker Ross and this is Episode # 51 of the Dr. Carolyn Coker Ross Podcast and today I’m asking and hopefully answering some questions about how are you coping during Covid-19? Stay tuned
So we’re talking about coping during the Covid-19 pandemic. The other day I was in my kitchen eating oatmeal for the what seemed like the umpteenth time since the quarantine. You know how you have to buy food that won’t spoil too much because it’s hard to go to the grocery store right now, especially for me, because I as you may have heard from a previous podcast, I did have presumptive Covid-19. I was sicker than I’ve ever been in my life.
And it has lasted. Off and on for almost a month. So I’ve been had to be very careful about going outside of my home until I could finally get one of the more effective facemask. So as I was saying, even though I’m feeling better, I’m getting tired of eating oatmeal. And this thought occurred to me. I wish I had gotten more dried fruit at the grocery store. Now, I don’t think I’ve ever had that particular thought.
Those words have never come out of my mouth. Dried fruit is in on the top of my list of things to buy in the grocery store.
But I think it’s emblematic of how our food can become so important when we’re isolated, when we’re stressed, emotionally upset, etc.. I’m eating oatmeal every day and all I want is just to have some apricots in it, some dried apricots in it in the beginning of the quarantine. You know, I was getting up and getting dressed. And most days, except for the couple of weeks when I was really sick in bed and every day I would try to find something positive to do, you know, try to lift my mood.
Try to use my skills as I teach all of my patients in the anchor program. First, I tried new recipes. For example, I had really good success with the recipe for lentil soup, which made such a large part of lentil soup that I was eating lentil soup for at least two weeks and I think longer.
And then I tried, you know, just doing the normal things I would do, but making them feel better, like drinking my morning cup of chai tea in my yard. If it was a sunny day or dancing to a Bruno Mars song in my living room. So I’ve done all of those things and more. I think I’ve done the best I could to use my skills. But now, like many of you, as the quarantine drags on, I find myself having more bon-bon days.
That’s if you don’t know it. Bonbons are. That’s basically stress management by chocolate or just needing to have a few more sugar cookies after dinner. I don’t know what your default behavior is under stress, but those are a couple of mine. So what is your default behavior? Send me in the comment box so I can see the wide range and or let me know that I’m not the only one who uses stress management by chocolate. So you know what determines how we cope with stress?
I mean, the biggest thing is usually social support, which is one of the most important factors in how you cope with stress, and that can mitigate the negative effects and stress of stress in our lives. And, you know, maybe you like me in this time period. We don’t have in some ways the same kind of access to social support. Now, obviously, in other ways, we have more like we have face time. We can do zoom calls with our families, etc.
But we can’t really negate the benefits of seeing people face to face, you know, having lunch with a friend, going out for coffee with with your son or your spouse. All of those things are not available to us right now. So we have to make the best of it. And tap into our sources of social support that we do have available to us. But what causes stress and what is the source of the biggest stress right now, I think is just fear of the unknown.
We call events our situation, our lives, it cost stress are called stressors, and they can include so many different things loss, separation, divorce, work stress, personal injury or illness being fired at work. There’s, you know, there’s a whole long list. But I think for most of us right now, the focus is on feelings of isolation, fears about the future, financial stressors, uncertainty about whether we’ll have a job or be able to pay our rent, or fears about our family members hoping that they won’t get sick with the virus.
So what what? And I think so. All of that is that the focus of stress is on change. And what is it about change that causes stress? Well, if you think about it, change is most stressful. If we resisted or try to avoid it or if it’s really unexpected and we don’t have any control over it like now. So the biggest thing we can do at this point is try not to have a judgment about what’s happening.
You know, it’s good or bad or right or wrong. There’s so many political components to the pandemic that it makes your head swim. So we know that change is part of what it means to be human. Nothing ever stays the same. However, obviously, this is one of the biggest changes we’ve seen in the world in our lifetimes. So to talk about change a little more fully. Stress from change. And then we act, we have emotions and judgments and either accept the situation or not.
If you choose to surrender to the reality of the situation, there may be pain, but not as much suffering. So in other words, if you are able to remind yourself. And sometimes it takes a daily reminder. You know, this is just what it is. It’s not going to last for ever. I’m just going to get through today in the best way that I can.
When we resist, when we don’t accept what is that causes more suffering and that makes the situation worse, much, much worse. So what should we be doing? Well, the first thing that I found that helps is to admit to myself that I am struggling, that this isn’t easy for any of us. You know, I can be as rah rah cheerleader as the next person or the you know, I can be the one who says, hey, we’re all in this together.
And I have said that even on my podcast. But at some point, this isolation, this stress, this uncertainty just sucks. You know, I didn’t get to celebrate my big birthday with my family in the beginning of April. And it looks like I probably won’t get to celebrate Mother’s Day with anyone either. So I’m just saying it’s straight. I doubt anyone finds this easy. It’s tough all the way around and therefore, it’s no mystery. When we turn to food, it’s no mystery that I had that thought of.
If I could just have an apricot with my oatmeal. Everything would be better.
But it’s not going to be better for a while. So again, going back to accepting this is what’s happening and doing the best every day to get through it. But despite my struggle, I’m real clear about how lucky I am to. As I mentioned, I was so sick at the beginning of the month, the end of March, the beginning of April. And now that I’m not as sick, even though I still have some symptoms, I’m more able to do the things I want to do.
I feel really grateful. So while I’m being honest that things are tough. I also have to remind myself that, you know, I didn’t have to go to the hospital. I wasn’t one of those people that was put on a ventilator. And by the way, none of my family is sick. And so I’m so grateful that my health is improving.
So what does it mean to be grateful and why should we even try during all of this? Well. With the possible exception of the practice of forgiveness, no spiritual practice enriches our spirits more than the practice of gratitude. You know, when we’re busy working and our lives are so often overfilled with busyness and pain and difficulty and stress. Gratitude is something we can easily forget. However we know from studies that people who embrace gratitude as a positive way of life rather than just something to think about during Thanksgiving, may actually enjoy better health and well-being.
So practicing gratitude could actually be one of the ways that you stay healthy. So recent research has found that individuals who keep weakly gratitude journals, who literally people who literally count their blessings, are more likely to exercise regularly. Well, maybe not during the pandemic unless you can do it from home, but they could also more likely to experience fewer negative physical symptoms and enjoy a better quality of life. On a productivity level, they’re more actually more likely to achieve more of their personal goals than those who are more negative or neutral about being grateful.
So people who report being grateful also tend to experience a greater number of positive emotions. So during this time of extreme stress, I’m not saying that I’m forcing myself to be grateful and I’m not recommending that to anyone. But if I had to dig even a little deep, I’m so grateful. For my health right now, I’m so grateful that I have a decent place to be in quarantine. So there’s there are things even in the midst of this crisis that I think most of us can find in our hearts to be grateful for.
And it doesn’t mean denying that things are difficult or unpleasant. As a matter of fact, just the opposite. I’m saying. I had to admit to myself. Things suck. So you can still recognize that things are tough and still find other aspects in your life to be thankful for. And it is also a way to feel more connected with others. So that’s something you can do on your facetime. Time is to express gratitude to people who have been supportive of you.
And I want to express gratitude to all of the people who responded when I said on my podcast or in my email newsletter that I was sick and so many people were responded with good wishes and that felt really good. So I’m I’m grateful for that, too. So, you know, you may not have the traditional ways of returning favors to people, but we can still express our gratitude. So I also cry a little bit every day. Another fact to knowledge is that many people have lost their lives and continue to lose their lives and many more are ill.
Just like after 9/11, even though no one I knew personally had died, I felt an enormous sense of grief and loss that my fellow Americans had died or had lost loved ones. When I see stories about my colleagues in the medical profession who were on the frontlines risking their own lives to help other people. I just feel a tremendous sense of gratitude towards them and also concern for them. And I cry a little bit every day whether or not you’ve been directly affected by Covid-19.
Your emotions are valid, whatever those are. And that’s why it’s so important to acknowledge what you’re feeling and allow yourself to feel those feelings to cry, to punch a pillow, kick a ball around or whatever you need to do to express your emotions.
Another thing that I think is really important is to give yourself some grace, however you’re coping. Even if it includes over eating or bingeing, do not judge yourself. Just think of it as remember last time I said whatever happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Whatever happens during Covid- 19, stays in Covid-19. You can define Grace as courteous. Goodwill. So give yourself some courteous goodwill. Now, it’s not surprising that all of us may be going to our default behavior of using food to numb our emotions or to help ourselves feel better during and during and right after 9/11. When studies were done retrospectively, it was shown that consumption of comfort foods, whether it be meat loaf or big mashed potatoes or peanut butter or chocolate, what really increased. And that’s normal.
But what’s important is to be stay observant of what is happening and don’t judge it. So whatever happens, even if you’re overeating or bingeing, don’t judge yourself and don’t go into unconsciousness where you’re eating. Unconsciously, mindfully, eat what you’re going to eat. Observe what’s happening and move on to the next day. Don’t judge. And finally, don’t let your ships sink. What I mean by that is trying to. To do so much damage to yourself because you’re trying to keep from feeling and using food to stuff or numb your motions.
That when the quarantine is finally over, you feel a lot worse about yourself than before. Just minimize the damage by staying woke, as the kids say. If you stay aware of what you’re doing, you’re less likely to let things get completely out of control. So just remember, I’ve talked about these multiple occasions that. Vicious cycle that we can get ourselves into where, you know, we have bad feelings, were fearful about finances or we’re afraid that our parents will get sick or we’re worried about our businesses failing, whatever those are.
You have those fears and you have feelings associated with them and then you over eat or binge. And before you know it, then you’re now feeling. Upset and embarrassed and angry at yourself for the binge, and at that point you start may start thinking, well, I’ve already screwed up. I might as well just not pay attention to what I’m eating. I might as well just eat whatever I want. And that’s that’s one way of approaching it.
But if you can stop judging yourself and just allow those little episodes of unwanted behaviors to be in the past when they’re in the past, and then start each day with a clean slate. You may be able to minimize the damage. That’s what staying WOAK is about. So if you’re struggling, just remember to reach out for whatever support is available to you.
I hope this podcast has been helpful in helping you to soothe some of the fears that you’re having or give you some options of things that you can do to make things better for yourself. I look forward to talking with you next week. Please stay home. Please stay safe. I wish you all the best.