Taking Care of Ourselves

Taking Care of Ourselves

Simone Biles, Michael Phelps and Naomi Osaka have something in common. They each made the decision to bow out of competition to protect their mental health. Phelps took time off from swimming after winning innumerable gold medals at the Olympics. Osaka pulled out of a tennis competition because she could not handle the obligation to go through press interviews. Biles pulled out of Olympic competition because she was overwrought emotionally. There are those who consider this behavior unacceptable. There are those who consider these people heroes.

We are able to be evaluated by our behavior or performance. We are also able to be evaluated by how we are doing emotionally. We know what we see, but we do not always know the underpinnings of how a person is doing. The pandemic has certainly highlighted how we have all been affected by the change in our lifestyles.

As I have mentioned in past articles, most children have been affected emotionally. The school format changed a few times. Parents became teachers. Computers became necessary. Help was not readily available. Interaction with peers and teachers was not possible. Individual help in class was gone. Lab work was either diminished or did not exist. Play time was different. Getting together with friends had to be choreographed. Parents were around more.

How were these children doing emotionally? Reports were that depression and anxiety increased dramatically and the professional community said there were not enough therapists available. Those therapists who were working, were not seeing clients in person. Teletherapy was less than ideal for children, as was true for many adults.

Adults worked virtually. Adults were around their homes and their families nonstop. It was not easy.

Our routines changed dramatically. We gradually acclimated, but it continued to change in minimal ways. The reaction to the changing recommendations regarding mask wearing shows how people were affected. I had a client who happily decided to return to his office and then told me how the steps of getting ready were not as routine as they had been before the pandemic. He needed to relearn the routine that he had done for years.

How we are emotionally affects how we are in all ways. Our bodies react to stress. We become tense. We get headaches, migraines, upset stomachs. Our shoulders or backs hurt. Our eating patterns change. Weight increase occurred for most during the pandemic. Consumption of alcohol increased significantly. Our moods changed. Reports of confrontation in the family increased. Reactive behavior occurred.

There is great value in recognizing how we are emotionally and learning ways to take care of ourselves. I applaud the public personalities who have role-modeled this for us. To see what they were willing to sacrifice to feel better tells the story. I hope everyone will take some time to think about themselves and take some steps to feel better. No one can do it for us.

Dr. Natalie Gelman is an Alameda-based therapist. Submit questions to drnataliegelman@gmail.com or through her website, www.drnataliegelman.com.