I recently had the opportunity to have a Zoom call with Dr. Jacob Cooper, the sports psychologist for Appalachian State University Athletics. The WFTDI felt we should address the topic of isolation, what it has done to our psyche, and as we slowly return to socialization, what that looks like. The first thing Dr. Cooper said was, “It should have been called ‘Physical Distancing’ not ‘Social Distancing.’” This statement is so simple yet so complicated. He is correct; we need human contact and socializing, even if it requires six feet. Dr. Cooper then said, “We need social connections like we need food and water. If we do not have social interactions, or they have been greatly reduced/changed, it will set off survival mechanisms. We have all been in the fight-or-flight state for over a year now. That is a long time to be separated from friends, family, sports, routines, etc. I know I am not alone when I express to you that my anxiety has reached all-time highs this past year. The uncertainties, the worry, and the stress is all too much for any one human.”
Dr. Cooper discussed that we need to cope with uncertainty. He was clever to say, “Treat it like a muscle.” As an athlete and massage therapist, I immediately responded to this method. So, this whole year and its mind f@#$ is now in rehab!
Just as if I have an injury, I will set small achievable goals for myself. Mini workouts for my brain/psyche. These mini workouts will make me stronger.
Avoiding the emotions is as if we skipped leg day. I guess you can say, I have skipped a lot of workouts since March of 2020. We need to intentionally engage the uncertainty. Click this link for how to do just that https://cardinalatwork.stanford.edu/manager-toolkit/engage/leading-through-change/engage-during-times-uncertainty
These basic practices can be worked on daily. You can pick and choose which ones are appropriate for that moment. Remember, we are trying to create calm; do not overwhelm yourself anymore than you already are.
Dr.Cooper went on to state that avoidance behaviours are shape-shifters, and you will not get better by constantly ignoring your emotions. (I was a huge X-Files fan, so I loved the term shape-shifter.) We have all created avoidance behaviours without even realizing what we have done. Who wouldn’t want to try and escape difficult thoughts and feelings? Here is a very scientific article on avoidance. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5879019/
Like I mentioned earlier, small achievable goals are key to one’s success. I am going to make sure I set myself up for success and not failure. Post-traumatic growth means we find positivity through adversity. It will take time. The pandemic has been around for over a year and still continues to influence our lives. It will take time to get used to the difference, adapt to our new ways of life, and never forget what we all experienced.
-Jenn Rolli Cannoli Pillow