No one can deny that as 2020 began to unfold, most of our worlds were radically changed. No need to review the details of the dramatic changes flowing from this pandemic; we are all very aware of how our lives have been affected. Previously, we have talked about the levels of grief that have resulted from the changes. Another common reaction especially in caregivers is an ongoing hypervigilance.
What Is Hypervigilance?
- Hypervigilance is the state of living in a constant elevated state of readiness to deal with, or respond to a perceived threat real or imagined.
- For caregivers, the threat has been very real.
- The danger of living in a constant state of hypervigilance is elevated stress levels, and the tendency for caregivers to ignore their own needs in order to remain in the constant state of readiness to deal whatever threat unfolds.
- In such a state, self-care is often the last thing a person would or could think about.
- How often do I find myself thinking, or worrying about my present situation?
- Do I often feel too anxious to relax and take a break?
- Am I so busy taking care of the needs of others that I am often unaware of how I am doing?
- Do I find myself over-reacting emotionally to even the smallest things?
- All of these can be signs of hypervigilance.
- This, along with the grief we might be feeling, make self-care even more important.
1. JUST BREATHE!
- And breathe deeply even if only for just a minute in-between the tasks of a busy day.
- Sit down if you can, or just lean against a wall, and focus on deep inhalations and exhalations for about a minute.
- You will notice an immediate difference.
- This is also a great exercise to help you to transition from one situation to the next.
2. REMEMBER THE BASICS
Food: It’s important to make sure one is getting enough nutrition even when one doesn’t feel like eating. It takes energy to do physical and emotional work.
Sleep: When we are tired, our emotions feel more intense and exaggerated. Rest is important.
3. ENGAGE IN MINDFUL ACTIVITIES
This can be any activity that helps you to set aside the memories of the past or worries about the future in order to be present and enjoy whatever task you are doing. It’s important for you to remember the activities that you enjoy, and have always looked forward to doing.
4. ACUPRESSURE FOR OUR HANDS
Whenever you have a minute, massage your fingers and palm with your other hand. This graphic indicates the benefits of massaging the parts of your hand.
5. ACUPRESSURE FOR OUR FEET
Use a rubber ball or wooden roller to roll under your foot to give yourself a foot massage.
6. ACUPRESSURE FOR OUR BODY
Take a rubber ball and lie on the floor, placing the ball between these places on your body and floor. Let your weight drop onto the ball and breathe deeply, leaving the ball at each sport for several deep breaths.
Or knit. Or do puzzles. Or crochet.
9. TAKE A MENTAL HOLIDAY
By looking at photos, or finding your favourite spot on YouTube and remembering the times you have enjoyed there.
10. USE TECHNOLOGY
A variety of apps are available to promote stress reduction and relaxation.
14. LIMIT YOUR NEWS INTAKE
15. CENSOR YOUR MEDIA EXPOSURE
16. ENGAGE IN RITUALS
A ritual is simply an activity or action that we give meaning to for a specific purpose. Maybe changing out of your work clothes or washing your hands at the end of your day could mean you are leaving the stress of the day behind. Think about how using rituals in your life could work for you.
17. USE AVAILABLE RESOURCES
Use your Employee Assistance Program to schedule regular check-ups with a counselor as a form of regular maintenance. No need to wait until you are in a crisis. If you’ve had a terrible day, it is OK to phone a crisis line, say you work in health care and you just need them to listen to you while you vent your frustrations.
Written by Blair Collins, BA, B.Th., RSW, Calgary. Presented at the AHPCA Virtual Roadshow Spring 2020