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    Managing the Grouchies

    Dr. Candi Vincent, PsyD Deaconess Clinic Psychologist 05/12/2020
    Let’s face it - even in the best of times, life throws many obstacles at us that challenge our attitude and mood.  But now, during this unprecedented time of a pandemic, we are facing more than we could have possibly imagined in many facets of our lives.  Maybe you are on the front lines caring for people, or maybe you or a loved one has been infected with the virus, or maybe you have been impacted financially, and most likely your daily routine has been turned upside down- simply put…"we are all in this together" means no one is spared the challenges of this coronavirus pandemic.
    It would be completely unfair for anyone to expect--including yourself-- that your mood, attitude, concentration and motivation will not be impacted at some point throughout this ordeal.  So when the "grouchies" do rear their head, it can be an extra challenging and stressful situation. It is hard because we don’t want to feel this way, plus we are also concerned about what we are outwardly portraying.  It is a self-perpetuating cycle, which, if not identified and managed, can pull our entire perception into a negative state.
    So...when the “grouchies” appear, what do we do?
    • Avoid comparing our experiences to others' experiences. Comparing ourselves to others is a definite way to sabotage our joy. Work to identify the feelings you are having, and then reframe them to not focus on the negative experiences we are having around us. 
      • Reducing the use of social media will help. It is easy to look to social media - even our own network of friends and family - to see many complaints and outpourings of negativity, thus justifying our own gloomy outlook. Social media can also be a place that sets up unrealistic expectations and we are often only seeing the highlight reel, not the whole movie.
    • Start with the positives…your positives!  Even in the most challenging of circumstances, what still claws through the muck is your own positive thoughts.  If you are overwhelmed, but you can still feel joy thinking about the hike you took a few weeks ago or a funny moment you’ve shared with a colleague - hold on to those positives!
    • Set achievable goals throughout your day.  Overall, setting goals is important. It can help you feel more in control of your day, which can lead to a more positive outlook.
      • We are becoming more short-tempered because we are struggling to see an end to this situation. As humans, we like to be able to predict or know the outcome, and nothing about our current situation is predictable or controllable!  With so much unknown about the “new normal”, strive for smaller manageable goals. Think of each day as a new journey, and look for those things which are novel and interesting that you might have missed if you were only focused on a larger goal.
      • Maybe it starts with walking the dog first thing in the morning and noticing the way the air feels on your skin, or even the sounds around you? In this way, you are practicing mindfulness without heavy duty meditation and helping your brain take a much needed break.
      • Be purposeful about your day - whatever your day entails -and set mini goals you can achieve that will both bring you some joy while giving you a feeling of accomplishment.
    • Always be gracious to yourself and others. We are all struggling with new situations, experiences, feelings and stressors that we couldn’t have imagined a few months ago. We have lost our sense of normalcy, so we can expect that there will be moments in which we struggle.
      • We are human, and we have real emotions which we are allowed to feel. Own your feelings. Allow yourself to recognize they are there, then take a deep breath and pause before you react. Know that you will get through this time and that you are competent and capable of dealing with whatever life throws at you. We cannot control the things going on around us, but we can control our reactions.
    The “grouchies” will come - but don’t fret, they will go too! Own them. Identify the feelings that are causing them, and accept those feelings. Validate yourself (and yes, this is hard) but then work to change your focus towards different ways to think about the situation.  Above all, be kind and compassionate to yourself and others….we really are all in this together.

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