Coming out of the “mask” with a bigger smile!

Part 2 of a 2 part series - Kendra Nicks, Adult Physical Therapist

Welcome back and thank you for continuing on this journey with me.  Now let’s dive back in to how to embrace the suck and emerge from the mask with a bigger smile.  In Part 1, we ended with a discussion of how to  reframe the situation by embracing new technology to learn a new skill or task.  Let’s learn how motivation may not be the precursor you need.

Do it anyway!

Keep in mind that you may be feeling depressed or unmotivated to do any of those things from time to time, or even all of the time.  One thing that many people don’t realize is that motivation FOLLOWS action.  Most of the time, when you have motivation, it is short lived and then it fades.  Some people equate this time of feeling motivated as the “honeymoon” phase.  For motivation to continue, further action is required.  Dean Bokhari, a motivational speaker, writes the following: IT’S EASIER TO ACT YOURSELF INTO A BETTER WAY OF FEELING THAN IT IS TO FEEL YOURSELF INTO A BETTER WAY OF ACTINGThis is a profound statement!!  But don’t fret, it does not always have to start with big actions.  Small actions can lead to motivation, that leads to more small actions and so on.  All you need is one little spark of activity.  So whether or not you “FEEL” like doing something, do it anyway!   BUT…. do it quickly. Some research by Mel Robbins shows that if you think about taking action for longer than 5 seconds, your chances of actually doing that will decrease.  If you have a thought of learning a new skill, get up and find a tutorial, right then.  If you think you might go for a walk, put on your shoes and get moving, don’t think too long about it.  Robbins suggests that as soon as you think of acting on something, you should begin a 5 second countdown in your head (or out loud, this might bring some humor if others are listening).  This countdown will distract you from finding excuses as well as setting the timer for you.  So begin the countdown 5….4….3….2….and when you get to 1, you physically move toward your action.

COVID-19 is not the only thing that is contagious!

Anxiety is contagious!!  Have you ever met up with someone who was very anxious or upset about a situation?  They may approach you like this;  “OMG, DID YOU SEE THE NEWS LAST NIGHT?  THERE IS NO TOILET PAPER ANYWHERE!!!  WE WILL HAVE TO SCOOT ACROSS THE YARD LIKE DOGS!!  %F0%9F%98%86  How does this person make you feel?  Like you need to rush out and buy 100 rolls of toilet paper because their anxiety is contagious to you, now you have anxiety also.  Fortunately, calm can also be contagious.  However, it is not as easy to spread.  You can think of them like this: anxiety is to the common cold as calm is to let’s say chicken pox.  Do you remember your parents sending you to the neighbor’s house to try to catch their chicken pox, so you could go ahead and get it over with?  What a different world we live in now.   My point is that in order to spread calm, it requires a bit more contact and time.  You first have to take a slow breath, then respond to your friend with calm words (not in all CAPS), “ok, I have several rolls at home and I am willing to spare a few squares.”  Do not fall into the trap of reacting to anxious friends, the news, posts on social media with more anxiety, it only adds fuel to the fire.  This is why it is important to mind your information diet as discussed in Part 1.

Mind your mind

While minding your information diet, it is also important to mind your mind.  What does this mean?  This is referring to emotional intelligence, ie. recognizing your emotions and being able to regulate them.  Dr. Marc Brackett, founder of the Center for Emotional Intelligence at Yale University created the acronym RULER for helping with this.  The idea is that it is important to Recognize, Understand, Label, Express, and Regulate your emotions.  See image and/or link below for more details.  This also can be done with the practice of mindfulness.  Some people may get mindfulness and meditation confused or believe that they are the same thing.  However, mindfulness is a distinct practice that is about purposefully paying attention to your current state and not making judgements about it.  Here we can learn to pay attention to our emotions and learn more about where they come from and how to regulate them.  Here are some other examples of how to use mindfulness in everyday situations.  It doesn’t take long, but it does take some practice for it to be beneficial. Stop what you are doing( reading this blog), and focus your attention on your breathing.  Do not try to change how you breathe, just pay attention to your breath in and your breath out.  Where do you feel the air going, how long does it take to do each cycle, is your exhale longer or shorter than your inhale?  These are only a few of the things you can try to focus on.  If you feel your mind wander to other things, don’t chide yourself.  This is a normal reaction.  Research shows that most people’s mind begins to lose focus after only about 7 seconds so that is normal at first, but the more you practice, the better you can become.  And it does not take hours of mindfulness to help.  Some research shows that if you only spend 5 minutes, you can still get the benefits.  So no excuses!  For more information on mindfulness, I have included a link to a list of a number of apps and resources to guide you.

I hope that with these points to lead you, you can begin to reframe the unfortunate new reality, at least temporarily and begin to embrace the suck.  May you all come out of your masks with a better outlook and a bigger smile than before.