As the news reports on this outbreak of the coronavirus, feelings of fear, stress, and worry often emerge. These feelings are normal. Lives may be impacted in large and small ways. Social distancing is happening as a way to decrease the risks especially for those with health issues and the elderly. For some people with codependency, this can increase feelings of isolation and separation.
Grounding ourselves with good information on what is happening, keeping things in proper perspective and focusing on what we can reasonably do to keep ourselves physically and emotionally healthy are important ways we can hang onto our serenity in stressful times.
written by Terrie C
As we face a pandemic many people will be unable to stay home from work and public places. One of the best things we can do is to practice kindness to all we come across.
The practice of kindness can reduce the stress of those we meet as well as helping our own stress level. Decreased stress increases immune response.
SElf-compassion and Covid-19
Excerpt from a letter By Drs Chris Germer and Kristin Neff, Co-founders, Center for Mindful Self-Compassion
Self-compassion boosts the immune system, it reduces anxiety, and it’s the easiest way to keep our hearts open to others. Some measure of fear is a healthy response to a contagious virus, of course. We want to respond to the contagion in a wise manner – with preventive measures that benefit ourselves and others.
Self-compassion can help if the virus is causing you unnecessary anxiety, limiting your ability to work or travel, reducing your income, or if you or someone you know has already contracted the virus. A self-compassionate response to the COVID-19 epidemic may look something like this, modeled on the Self-compassion Break:
Mindfulness – Become aware of how you feel about the virus. Are you feeling anxious, disheartened, confused? Can you feel it in your body? If so, where? Is your mind preoccupied with the virus? If so, what are your thoughts? Can you validate for yourself how you think or feel in a kind and understanding manner? For example, “Yes, this is hard.” “This is difficult.” “This is really stressful.” Can you offer yourself a little space around your feelings, knowing that it’s part of the current situation we’re all in?
Common humanity – When you hear news of people struggling with the virus, can you allow this to enhance your sense of being part of a global family rather than feeling separate? Can you imagine yourself in their situation and say, “Just like me.” Or when you reflect on your own distress, can you remind yourself, “Others feel as I do—I am not alone.” “Sickness is part of living.” “This is how it feels to be a human being right now.”
Self-Kindness – Try putting your hand on heart or some other soothing place, helping to calm some of your anxiety through touch. What words do you need to hear to comfort or reassure yourself about the virus right now? Are they realistic? Can you talk to yourself in a warm, compassionate voice? What actions do you need to take to protect yourself, or to provide for yourself? Can you encourage yourself to take these steps, in a supportive manner?
Notice if this practice makes you feel more relaxed and compassionate or encourages you to take positive action. Feel free to find your own way to be compassionate with yourself, perhaps by engaging in everyday self-care behaviors such as enjoying a cup of tea or taking a warm bath.
There are so many tools to help us in our journey of recovery from codependency. Every Tuesday, we hope to post an article highlighting one or more of these tools. Kicking off this new feature, just in time for the holidays, we start with an excerpt written by the CoDA communications committee….
How do codependents take care of themselves during the stress of the holidays? Here are some suggestions:
1. Go to as many meetings as you need.
2. Call other members including your sponsor.
3. Set boundaries that you are willing to observe.
4. Consider reading CoDA literature and reflecting on the Steps and Traditions.
5. Take care of yourself; YOU come first!
There are also daily online and phone meetings which you can look up on coda.org. Others use the meeting phone list to reach out to newcomers with a brief message of reassurance. If needed, choosing to spend a limited time around one’s family of origin may lower holiday stress.
Making sure to take the time for sufficient sleep, and giving ourselves plenty of time to exercise, meditate and read CoDA literature are ways to remind ourselves that in CoDA we may learn to have different priorities than other folks at these sometimes difficult family holiday gatherings.
At times, the difference between having a sad holiday and having a more upbeat one is simply a matter of choosing to use program tools to help, in each challenging moment, to do things differently today, and to decide that right now serenity is your #1 priority. That includes reaching out to your CoDA family!
Have you ever had someone tell you to “be aware of your face”? Have you ever worried that showing your feelings would make someone else feel bad? Have you ever smiled in agreement while silently screaming inside? Have you ever listened to the song, “Put on a Happy Face” and wanted to pull your hair out?
Facial expression is one way we communicate our feelings to others. When someone says or does something that brings joy and you respond with a smile, they know you agree with their message or feel happiness. When someone says or does something that brings up feelings of anger and you respond with a scowl, they see that you don’t agree or dislike what is happening. Perhaps they will stop the behavior or at least observe your disagreement.
Some of us were taught to hide our feelings behind a mask which contradicts them. When I was a kid, I was told to smile and show a happy face even when it didn’t match how I was feeling on the inside. I did that to make other people feel more comfortable. I often pretended to agree with others so they would like me. Before recovery, I didn’t know that it was OK to feel feelings other than “happy” or “fine” and certainly not to show them if I did. Angry feelings weren’t allowed.
Now I’ve been in recovery for several years. I am learning that I can have a wide variety of feelings and that they are ALL okay. I have a right to feel my feelings. All my feelings are valid even the ones that make other people uncomfortable. Now, if someone does something I don’t like such as violating my boundaries and I feel mad about it, I know I don’t have to smile. I don’t even have to hold a “neutral” expression. I can restate my boundary and my face may show my displeasure. When they see my angry expression, they might become uncomfortable. It’s OK. I don’t have to attack the other person. I also don’t have to hide my feelings.
I’m not saying rolling your eyes at your boss is a good idea. I understand the importance of respectful communication. What I am saying is that it is not my responsibility to take care of the feelings of others. I can feel my feelings and let others take care of their feelings. If someone doesn’t like the expression on my face, they can tell me that. I get to choose how I respond to that information. I do not need to change or hide my expression behind a mask to make others comfortable.
When someone pushes past my boundaries, I can feel mad. When I feel mad, I may show it on my face. It’s OK.
Step 10 “offers us not only consistency, but also continued progress in our continued relationships. Continuing to take our personal inventory keeps us ready to change our codependent behaviors. Some of our habits are ingrained.Our goal, however, is to make consistent progress. We look for familiar codependent behaviors and areas where our boundaries with others need strengthening.” ~CoDA Aqua Book page 68
So my daughter is now a teenager and the timing is a bit challenging as I am in menopause. It’s a perfect storm of hormones in our home at times. I’ve been carrying a lot of her feelings for her and projecting my old unhealed teenager yuck onto her as well. When I reflect on my day, often I am seeing how I overreacted out of fear, raged, tried to control, took on her responsibilities and later resented her for it, tried to shield her from consequences, gave unsolicited advice or direction, and of course, shamed and judged myself harshly for my mistakes. I get super frustrated with myself. I want to do it differently with her. Each morning I get in the car with the intention for things to be peaceful and supportive as we drive to school. By the time we get there, one or both of us are in tears.
I have recently learned that habits take much longer to break than one might think and forming new habits can be a long process as well. The info out there that it takes 21 days is actually false. Research has shown it can take between 18 and 256 days to make a habit depending on how complex the behavior and how habitual the person. Yikes. My codependent behaviors are pretty complex! This new perspective does give me more patience with myself as I try to change old behaviors into new healthy ones. Little by little, one day at a time.
The CoDA book lists 10th step questions like: Have we been feeling sorry for ourselves or isolated from others? …check. Did we rage, overreact or passively abuse someone? …check. Did we take on others’ feelings or responsibilities? …check. Have we been controlled or manipulated by people, not said anything, and then resented them? …check, check and triple check.
These and other questions can help us take an honest look at our behaviors and feelings toward God, ourselves and others. Over time, we notice patterns and uncover the roots of our codependency. We can choose to respond differently. My habits are becoming clearer and I am working to change them. It’s progress not perfection. I can see that my lack of healthy boundaries with others is a big part of the problems in my relationships. I allow my daughter to cross my boundaries when she speaks to me harshly or I fail to enact consequences. I trample on her boundaries when I over caretake or demand that she do things my way without hearing her out. Parenting is difficult. Parenting as a codependent is crazy hard. I’m so grateful I have a relationship with a loving Higher Power so that I don’t have to go this alone.
I love the Step 10 prayer. It gives me hope. In this moment, I live my life in a new way… check.
I went hiking on our beautiful Superior Hiking Trail with my husband awhile ago. He is an experienced hiker and I am a novice. There were times I really struggled to keep up and he would have to stop and wait for me to catch up. There were times when it was a lot of uphill and rocky terrain. There were obstacles and twists in the path. As I hiked along I grew tired and had to overcome my desire to “keep up” with him. It was then I started to recognize my Higher Power was whispering recovery wisdom to me. My HP knows how much I love a good analogy! Stopping to make notes in my phone gave me both a pick me up and a needed break. There are many connections between hiking and my recovery:
I can only see as much of the trail as I can handle. If I saw the whole thing at once, I’d get overwhelmed or ahead of myself, or I might not even try.
The forest is dense and it would be easy to get lost unless I stay on the trail. My program of recovery helps me stay on course through the twists and turns in life.
I usually can’t see around the bends and rarely is there a bear waiting…it’s usually safe.
It is always worth the work to get to the vista!
Sometimes it is hard to see the path in front of me. Most of the trails have been walked by many others before me so I know it is doable…difficult but doable.
Sometimes I need or want to repeat the same path again and again and I can always choose to go back the way I came if I am not ready.
I can keep the focus on myself instead of worrying about what the other guy is doing.
Experience counts on the trail so it helps to have a guide.
Practice makes things easier and my skills will improve over time.
It’s always surprising.
I can use tools to help myself when the going gets tough.
Stopping to look around once in awhile allows me to appreciate the view from where I am. I can give myself credit for what I have accomplished so far.
I need to take it at my own pace and be patient with myself. When I think I am stuck, I can choose to stop and rest or to just take the next small step. Every tiny step gets me closer to that beautiful, new view!
It’s about the journey as much as the destination.
Sometimes I feel like I am alone on the trail and that’s okay. I will see others along the way in time.
Hiking stretches muscles I didn’t even know I had. My recovery does that too. It can be painful and I can choose to push through the pain and keep going, knowing that next time it may hurt less as I get stronger and healthier.