The COVID-19 pandemic undeniably turned our lives upside down. We slept one night only to wake up in a whole different world where our day to day routines have been disrupted. With all the stress and anxiety we feel in this situation, we then try to rebuild our lives in various ways in order to cope. However, before we lose ourselves through it all, it helps to rethink the ways we are handling this uncertain time. In this episode, Amber Hawley talks to Katie Read, a licensed marriage and family therapist, about coping during the pandemic, especially on how we draw the line when the ways we cope do not do us any favors anymore. They talk about the pressures we put on ourselves, as well as the lack of, to be productive, and impart some advice on staying centered and grounded amidst it all. Katie then shares a couple of great resources that can help you get through these challenging times, reminding you of the now. Ultimately, do what you can to cope, but be mindful of where these things are taking you. Let Amber and Katie help you in this conversation.
Being Mindful Of How We Cope In These Uncertain Times With Katie Read
I have a cool friend with me who is also a licensed therapist and all-around cool girl. We’re going to talk about how you’re coping with COVID might not be doing you any favors. My belief is at the core of it, you do you. You know you best and you know what you need at this moment, you take care of yourself. We’re over a month in, a month and a half for a lot of people who started early. Sometimes that coping isn’t doing us any favors. We thought it would be great to have a chat about that and talk about, “What should we be looking out for?” Besides being a cool chick, can you share with the audience a little bit more about yourself?
I’m Katie Read. I’ve been a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist since the dawn of time. It feels like a long time ago that I got licensed back in California. I’ve done all the jobs in our field. I’ve had private practices in multiple cities. I have directed large community mental health programs and organizations. I’ve supervised over 40 interns clinically. I’ve taught grad school. I love our field. I have been around our field for a long time. I adore our field. Eventually, my love for our field and my need to have more work at home position after I had children with special needs led me to become a consultant and a marketing strategist for other therapists. I had some marketing background. I knew what I was doing in the areas of copywriting, marketing, building websites, and those types of things.
I started growing as a consultant. It became the perfect way for me to diversify my income, but also to be home with my kiddos because I had kids with special needs and I needed to find a way that I could still work, be part of the field that I loved. It changed my life quite a bit so that I could also be home for them and part of their services. That’s what I did. Now, I teach therapists how to grow their practices with my Savvy Practice program, which is super low-priced especially now with COVID. I want to help you guys get all the clients you need to stay afloat. I also teach people to do what I did in my Clinician to Coach program, which is for people who are ready to outgrow the office, diversify their income streams, and go bigger and bolder with how they want to serve the world. Those are the main things that I do. I’ve been buddies with Amber for a while. I met her back early on when I was starting my consulting and just always have so much respect for Amber and Maelisa and their podcast and the work that they do. I’m excited to be here.
You and I had chatted back and forth and we were talking about this because I’m going to put out there what I was seeing and what I was noticing. On one hand, I’ve been doing this series and interviewing people from different areas, genres or industries. We’re talking about things you could be doing to help you cope better, the things that people are going through, or things that you could do to minimize your stress. There are a lot of variants. My thing, if people watch the videos, is I always say, “If you want to do that.”
What I started seeing online, people who weren’t talking about me, they were something else. I felt shaming people who are trying to be productive during this whole thing and acting like, “This is so much we’re going through and you don’t have to be productive.” I personally have those days where I just lay around, I refuse to get out of my pajamas for a couple of days, and I want to watch movies all day long. I’ve openly said that. What was interesting is I agree, I think you shouldn’t push yourself and put pressure on yourself to be productive in this, but I also think it’s okay to be productive. I hate it when people get divisive. I was like, “I want to talk about it.” There are some concerns in if I did that pajama thing watching TV all day long every day, I would end up depressed.
That’s what you and I talked about, and that’s one thing that we have to be aware of our own tolerance for it. Everyone is different. I will definitely feel overwhelmed half the day. I love the idea of that super low-pressure day where you’re like, “If I stay alive today, it’s enough. If I don’t do anything else, if I eat popcorn on the couch all day long, that is fine for today.” I know myself and I know that if I allow that to stretch into 2 or 3 days, I basically am mimicking depression in my behaviors. Therefore, I start creating depression in my mood, attitudes, in all of the ways that I’m interacting with the world.
I give my brain too much time to wander. For me, what I find that when my brain has all that time to wander around and go into all those bad neighborhoods, we have in our brain with anxiety, fear, worry, and self-doubt, all those things. When I am not being productive, I am saying, “Brain, have at it.” I will end up depressed, anxious, or I will end up in a bad space that I don’t want to be in. I don’t know about you, Amber. I’m curious about you. I find for me, I feel anxious now. I’m aware of my anxiety, going like this all day. It’s exhausting to be in that state whenever you get a new hit of the news.
I find for me what works the most to help anxiety, it’s either physical activity or anything creative. If I am using my energy in any creative direction, this does not mean I’m painting the freaking Mona Lisa. I mean creative at the moment. It might even be making up some silly bouncing the ball game with my kids out back, updating some website copy that I’ve been working on. Going back and looking at something I did in the past and looking at it and saying, “How can I make that a little bit better?” It might be super low-level in terms of creative energy, but I have to be using my brain in a way that it’s fully engaged in the task at hand. When I can do that, my brain doesn’t have time to wander off into the bad neighborhoods.
I was cracking up with my kids, this crazy quarantine has made me discover TikTok, which I realized is for fourteen-year-olds. There are all these hilarious dance tutorials on there of hip hop dance challenges. As you can tell, I’m a natural hip hop dancer. We were cracking up trying to do these hip hop dance tutorials and it’s ridiculous and silly but it occupies your brain, it gets your brain out of that state. It gets you laughing. Even that level of silly creativity is enough to boost me up out of that I want to lay on the couch all day state. What’s it like for you?
The TikTok thing, my daughter got on it as well. I agree, it’s physical activity. I love having dance parties. We love having dance parties. Even my five-year-old now, she has this dance routine that she learned on either TikTok or YouTube. She’s doing it all the time for us, it’s cute. I agree, we’re laughing. This is the thing. There were periods where I realized I haven’t laughed, not a chuckle. I haven’t laughed out loud in a while and that’s depressing to me. Every once in a while, I need to do something. I have days that are good, but then things have been happening, work stuff happens, and I start to notice I’m the person who feels that in their throat and their chest a little bit.
I’m feeling a little bit of anxiety. I’m one of those people that I need to do something. Sometimes, I need to calm down and I need some rest. I’m like, “I’m done.” I’m either going to talk to a friend, I’m going to watch a good show, or I’m going to chill out. Often, it is the physical activity. For me, I’m feeling anxious because I’m like, “I was supposed to get six things done now,” which is totally unrealistic, but major things. I need to do that. If I start doing at least one, I’m like, “Remember, you’ll be happy you did this one thing.” When I take action, it helps me calm down. I agree, I have to find that balance for myself because I do go and then all of a sudden I am like, “I’m doing nothing.” I’ve already meal planned. I’ve already done the thing. “Husband, it’s your turn to cook. I’m done.” I am sitting here on this couch and I am claiming this territory as mine. Suddenly, I brought out a show at this point.
Something you said that’s interesting and true. I continue to have these expectations for how much I can get done in a day that is based on pre-quarantine life and they’re different now. Especially for the parents out there, you know what I’m talking about. I have had to look at it and say, “I have to lower my expectations. I have fewer hours to work. I have more hours that I need to spend in entertaining the kids or keeping the household moving. To have some daily expectations makes a tremendous difference in how I feel. Even if I’m lowering my expectations, I still wake up and I have my to-do list. I’m still like, “These things need to get done now.”
It might be a way smaller to-do list and it might not sound as exciting to me as what I could have done a few weeks ago, but it’s still doing those couple of things. I often frontload some successes and what helps a lot of us is working with clients, help people frontload some success early in the day. I think one of the challenges, if I don’t keep to some normal schedule of waking up, getting dressed, working out, whatever I’m going to do around the same time. It doesn’t even have to be you used to get up at 4:30 to go to the gym and you still need to do that now when you’ve lost your commute into work.
If you’re used to working out in the morning or maybe you do a five-minute meditation, or there’s something that you do like reading, something that grounds, keep that up because frontloading those successes gives life that little bit of normalcy. It can also help your mood tremendously and it helps keep you in that mode of being like, “All is not lost. My life still has a lot of the same normal things, even if some of the other things have disappeared.” It’s important to be looking at that and saying, “How can I frontload my day? How can I do something that’s going to make me feel good right there early in the day?”
We have this linchpin habit where one habit can impact our mood. It is great if you can do it first thing. I will attest to one, I am sleeping way later, although I feel proud. It was getting out of hand, I was sleeping until 10:00 because I wasn’t sleeping at night. This is the problem. I need to sleep, so I would sleep until 10:00. I’m going to give myself that. Things are impacting my sleep. I did that. I’ve been waking up at 9:00. I’m like, “I’m adulting.” I do the Facebook thing right in the morning. I know you shouldn’t, but I’m doing it. I need to ease into the day. I’m like, “Let’s not rush into this day.” One thing, for me, it’s sleep. That one habit makes such a difference, which is why I allowed myself to sleep late. We’ll do everything later. Everything’s been pushed back a little bit and I had to give myself that long-term. I know that’s not ideal for me, but my habit has been drinking coffee outside in the morning. I get the sun. I get to be outside. It’s quiet. We have a beautiful view, we’re lucky. It’s little things like that. My to-do list, I can remember the 1st or 2nd week of quarantine that I posted, “I’m going to be more realistic than I’ve ever been. I’m only going to do three things in a day.” I wrote my three things. I can’t even do the three things.
It’s too much because I’m not counting. I don’t count client sessions, meetings with people. I don’t count these things as my things. I can make appointments. I can show up. That’s not a problem. It’s the to-do list things that I’m like, “I do need to do that,” and they genuinely need to be done. I realized I don’t have it in me, post all of this stuff. My energy is much lower. I do think it’s important to give yourself a lot of grace in that and be thoughtful about like, “It’s okay.” The goal of this is not to beat yourself up like you need to be productive. I think that’s bullshit. I do think I’m seeing a lot of people engaging in habits that are probably leading them down a bad path.
I was talking to a friend. She was saying how she had read something and I’m like, “That’s true.” We probably see a lot of alcoholism develop, unfortunately, during this time. The impact of it might not be seen until 3 to 5 years out because that might be the point where people start seeking help for it. There are many funny memes now about how much weight everybody’s going to gain in quarantine and how much everybody’s going to drink in quarantine. The memes are hilarious. Try not to do it, especially now. The challenge is, I can tell you my thought process, in the beginning much like you, I saw what was happening. I saw what was coming down the pike. People need leadership. People are scared. I’m going to jump into action. My natural instinct was like, “How can I help people? How can I lead? How can I give advice? How can I get out there?” I was right away trying to do videos, write blogs, trying to get out there in front of this thing. Help out the therapists who follow me. That felt good for a while. It then got to the point where I was like, “That’s tiring.”
We can only lead and hold up everybody for so long. That in itself, as much as that’s my natural instinct, I have to allow that there are going to be days or weeks where I’m more low energy and then it will pick back up. There’s a reality to that. To your point of the people who, I think Gwyneth Paltrow, everybody should learn seven languages and that’s where a lot of this whole thing started off. The reality is I feel busier than ever because of everybody being home all day. Feeling like I have to be teacher mom and all of these things. I feel busier than ever. I do have friends who are single or don’t have kids, and maybe work has slowed down for them. They are bored to tears. The needs are different. In some ways, posting anything that’s shaming anybody for how they’re reacting is silly because our life situations are going to be different.
That’s the thing, I see many people putting all this pressure on themselves to do all the things, to do everything right, to be the super parent, the super business owner, the super spouse. That’s not it at all. I don’t want that. We want realistic expectations and you need to cut those in half, especially if you’re type-A. Some people would have such high anxiety if they didn’t do something. I love that you point out that our circumstances are so different. My days are full. There are plenty for me to be doing. I know other people who because of their work situation or whatever, they have a lot of free time in the day. Like you’re saying, that’s too much time sitting there with nothing to occupy. You’ve got to figure it out for yourself. I’m not shaming anybody, whatever choice you make, but it’s more about being aware that there are some things we might be doing that aren’t helping ourselves. We know. We’ll say, “I know,” and then we do it anyway. I’m guilty of that.
One of my clients had written a piece, and it was great. Sometimes you just need to hear those things at the moment. I went and I checked it out because it was my client, she’d written it and posted it, put it up on a local group. It was a mindfulness piece, for the moment. Also, it was funny because her first tip was like, “Stop now and take three breaths.” I’m doing my morning thing where I’m zipping through and I read that, and I was like, “When was the last time I took a deep breath?” You have that moment that catches you where you’re like, “I want to be mindful about this.”
This is random but I mean anybody who wants to take up this idea. One of the most creative things any of us can be doing that’s also useful is journaling this time, journaling this unique time in history. What was it like for you, for your family, for your experience? I started a Google Doc where I was doing, it’s nothing fancy. It’s like a summary of what we did that day or that week and what was going on. I’m inserting photos that I’ve taken. I’m like, “Someday, my kids are little. They might not remember much of this, but someday I want them to be able to look back and show to their own kids. I lived through that time and this is what my mom wrote down, these are the pictures that we took. There’s the playground with police tape around it and there are the people in masks.” The unique parts of history are happening right now, whether we like it or not, that we’re all living through. That is the defining moment now for people like you and me of the generation of our lifetime. It will take over as the defining moment of our lifetime.
What I like about that example is it illustrates about knowing who you are. That’s the writer in you. You’re the person in the family, I forgot what they’re called. They’re the historians that hold the history for the family. For me I was like, “That’s not going to help with my level of denial. I’m coming on Facebook to document this stuff for me.” That sounds hard, but that’s the thing, you’ve got to know yourself. I would love somebody to do that for me and then I can be doing something else like coloring in a coloring book or something.
I was watching YouTube. I was trying to get some creative stuff to do with my kids. I was watching videos figuring out like, “What can we do?” where it’s abstract painting type of stuff where you don’t have to be artistic, but you can do it. It’s hard because then you go, “Where can I get the supplies? No supplies will be delivered until May 31st.” I was like, “What can I do, for me at least, that doesn’t require anything except a Google Doc?” Anything that feels creative to you, that gets your brain out of the moment. There are all the basics that people can be doing. There is mindfulness, breathing, limiting your exposure to news. I’ve had to tell people, “Don’t send me all these sad stories.” I have to limit how many sad stories I can consume.
The only thing on the news anywhere is this. It’s an intense time for everybody. I think to be able to honor, “If you need to sit on the couch for a couple of days. If you’re frozen in fear, everybody’s going to go through that at some point during this, and we’re all going to hit it at different points.” To raise the red flag from the therapist’s point of view, you do it too long. You are mimicking the situation of the behaviors of depression and you can run yourself down that road. To me, anything that we can do, the world is a difficult place to live in for the whole world. Anything that we can do to avoid finding ourselves there is powerful.
Going back to this from the therapist’s point of view, what concerns me is this is like when we say, “Limit the amount of news you’re watching.” We know that it does create paranoia and skews negative. As human beings, we already skew negative. We need to be mindful of that. I know you’re still going to do it. Try to find a healthy way to do it. Honestly, if you’re starting to feel low, you have to stop. This is where you have to take responsibility as an adult. You have to stop. The same would go with drinking, it’s hard because it’s a way to numb out, but it also numbs out all the good stuff too. It’s a central nervous system depressant. It will make you depressed. You have to find that balance for you and know like, “Am I in a range that feels okay? Do I need to get on top of this?”
I see a lot of people talking about they’re struggling, feeling low, and feeling overwhelmed and wanting to take a break from social media or other things. You’re not reaching out to therapists. That’s what we’re here for. I know it’s hard, but it’s not like you have to make this long-term commitment. Sometimes, you need to call and talk to somebody. Do these little things to make yourself feel better and to get through this because it is tough? There were days where I had a rough couple of days because work stuff going on and other kinds of stressors. I was like, “I wonder if I should call my therapist again.” I need that tune-up sometimes when you’re having those low days, and then you might go weeks feeling good. Ginger was asking our thoughts on CBD Oil.
I don’t know much about it. I know a lot of people that use it successfully for anxiety. I can’t speak from personal experience, but I definitely know a lot of people use it successfully. I know that there are some reputable companies out there that, as far as I know, are continuing to ship during this time. I suppose that’s always a question mark for any company. I’ve heard anecdotally, people I know who use it and find it helpful. Have they have studied the addictiveness of that at all?
There’s no THC in it. It’s just the CBD oil. It’s not addictive. I was going to say anecdotally, I know many people who use it and it helps them either with physical pain, which causes a lot of stress and anxiety. It helps with anxiety and it’s part of their routine. For people who do these little things that bring down the anxiety a little bit like diffusing essential oils and doing calming things in meditation. These practices help you calm your nervous system. From that standpoint, it seems useful. I’ve had many clients that swear by it. There was one that had chocolate with CBD and melatonin and it helped them sleep when they were struggling with sleep. I have tried the products before, but I’m sensitive to things so I felt weird after. I stick to magnesium and melatonin myself. There was a balm that helped with back pain, so that I did try and I liked that. The ingestibles, for me, I’m super sensitive.
I think I’m going to light my fire pit.
You’re outside and I think there’s something that makes me sound like a pyro. There’s something soothing about fire, there are the elements. I’m from Minnesota. A good bonfire is your happy place.
Anything that you can do that’s going to help you feel more centered and grounded is 100% the way to go. Don’t take any shame or shade from anybody else for doing it.
You do you, except for when making yourself depressed.
Is there anything else that you feel would be helpful for your audience or anybody reading that has questions specifically or things you’re going through or things that you’ve got a couple of therapists here to brainstorm with? We might be able to help you out with.
Anything around how you’re coping, stress management, anxiety, feeling depressed, those behaviors.
I’m exhausted by people making you feel like you have to invent something. It’s like you have to do something super creative and learn a language and all this stuff. I get that feeling of like, “I’m treading water here, so maybe don’t add anything. Maybe don’t give me a weight to carry while I’m doing that.” There are two podcasts that are excellent, one is The Happiness Lab and she’s fantastic. This is the woman who teaches the most popular course ever at Yale and the course itself is free online. I think it’s at Coursera. It’s a podcast that is all about the science of happiness. Her podcast was on break, but she came back because of COVID and she’s doing a whole COVID series. I love the podcast. The ones that she’s doing that are unique to COVID are fascinating, especially if you’re a neuroscience geek like a lot of us therapists are. It’s talking about, “Here is what we have studied that creates lessened anxiety or feelings of joy.” It’s great.
The other person who has gained my respect tremendously during this time is Brooke Castillo. Her podcast is called The Life Coach School podcast and she is a multimillionaire life coach. The first biggie big life coach out there doing it. I always thought her podcast was good. It’s a big podcast. She has started doing a whole COVID series and I have found them to be fantastic, I find myself impressed by the work that she’s doing around helping people manage their thoughts. About the fact that the reality is that most of us, we are feeling anxious because of what we imagine might happen in the future. That is 100% me. I look around. I’m in my house, we’re here, we’re safe, we’re healthy. Everything’s fine. Everything is relatively normal in the grand scheme of things. If I let my brain have twenty minutes to itself, I’m picturing death, destruction, and every possible thing that could possibly go wrong. Her whole thing is about managing your thoughts, which is helpful to have a procedure and a structure for.
Recognizing, that what we’re going through can be solved with a lot of mindfulness because at the moment, you’re probably okay. You’re alive and breathing. You might have a lot of fears about the future, but you’re okay now. Coming back to that moment again and again, I know it’s helpful for me. I’m sure most therapists would tell you the same and we have to keep recognizing it’s fear. It might never even happen. In my case, I can say most of my fears most likely will never even happen. My brain wants to get nervous about things in advance because it’s normal, functioning human brain.
It’s how we’re wired. That’s saying whatever you focus on expands. If you’re focusing on things you’re grateful for and the things that are good and okay for you, that’s what you will focus on. It expands. You start to notice more of that. If you’re focusing on the negative, that’s going to expand and then you’re going to have the anxiety. Those are great resources and I think most therapists would agree with that. We can impact the things we think about. It’s harder to have an impact on your feelings. As you change your thoughts, it changes your feelings. There are other ways to that. That’s a big piece of it. I’m reading another news article that makes me anxious and I start to dwell on that, then I start to think these thoughts and then I start to feel more anxious.
That’s why if you’re exposing yourself to something else, it helps calm you. Going to one of the questions about eating bad foods, absolutely. There’s a reason why you do that because you get little dopamine hits and that makes us feel good. That’s the thing. Some people who are being super healthy, maintaining their healthy diet, and doing great. I’m impressed by them. I tried. I’m going for 90% but I keep saying my best self went shopping. I went to the grocery store and it was all junk food. I was dying. It’s a rough week. I need some cake and wine. It’s a balance. I’m trying to do it 90% but if you understand that’s what’s happening. My brain needs that dopamine hit. There are other ways to get it, but you have to decide how much effort do you want to put into that?
What’s most important to you? Ginger is also saying that maybe some people are putting on a smiling face, focusing on happy things, but it’s not real. All these buff people working out on Instagram are making me crazy. I respect people for trying to step up into roles of leadership at that moment. If you are an Instagram workout person, by all means step up and keep inspiring your people. Go for it. It does help. If you’re not an Instagram workout person and you don’t want to follow that person for a while, you don’t have to. If it’s making you feel bad, click that right off.
I enjoy watching them work out while I’m eating something delicious. That’s part of my rebel personality. I’m going to do it this way, but you are normal. There’s nothing wrong with you, you’re coping. I think a lot of us are going to come out of this with some PTSD because this is a trauma that’s ongoing and yet at the same time, if it doesn’t feel good to label it, you don’t have to think like, “I’m a damaged person now because I’m craving chocolate or I keep eating chocolate chip cookies every night,” or whatever it is. You’re not damaged, you’re normal. It may be that once we start coming out of this and you get back to your natural habits, you’re going to be fine.
I think the reality is that most of us have coping skills that serve us in our everyday lives. We have learned coping skills to keep us out whatever our baseline maintenance level of happiness or okayness is in everyday life. We have now hit a situation in the world where every single one of us has had our coping skills overwhelmed. This is more fear, more anxiety, more unknown than any of us have had to prepare for. Maybe if you were in the Army and in a war zone, you have dealt with this level of stress before, but then to see it on a worldwide scale and to all be going through it at the same time, that changes everything. The reality is maybe you’re eating sugar for the dopamine hit or having some wine because it’s going to help relax you.
That’s because your current coping skills are overwhelmed because you’re normal. Everything about you is working correctly. There is an interesting invitation here for all of us to say, “Here I am. Clearly my coping skills are overwhelmed because I want to lay around, overeat, over-drink, and over-worry all day long.” What would a slightly better version of me choose to do now? I won’t even say the best version of me because I don’t feel that’s accessible in the current everything going on. If there were a slightly better version of me, what would she tell me? If you take that exercise of like, “What would your inner 80-year-old, wise, old crone tell you to do?”
What would she say to you? Would she be like, “Lay on the couch for a month. You’re good, don’t worry, you need this.” Maybe she would say like, “Have a glass of wine every night. You’re good.” Maybe you need that little internal voice that tells you to like, “This is a little bit of self-discipline that I’m going to stick to that is a bumping up of my coping skills. That is a little bit of extra.” I see a lot of therapist posting about self-care. It’s funny, I tend to be like, “Self-care, who has time for that?” like many of us do. The reality is that I have been like, “I am going to be angry and grouchy at everyone if I don’t get a little bit of time alone in a room every day.” When you’re living in a house with people and nobody can leave, a lot of us who are used to a lot of alone time during the day, this is a whole new challenge to our coping skills. We need to figure out like, “Where is the boundary in here where I can still be sane, where I can still be myself, where I can still be pleasant when I’m doing homework with the kids?” Not be like, “Just do it.” What do I need to be able to as bubbly as the kindergarten teacher would normally be?
I have this vision that I’m going to take up smoking and I’m going to be like, “Forget about it. It’s all right. Never mind.” I would say what you were already talking about you’re doing is self-care. I think recognizing you can’t have the to-do list you used to. During this time, it’s not possible. That jumpstart in the morning, those are self-care, having those boundaries and doing things for ourselves. Sometimes self-care is sitting on the couch watching movies all day with your kids or whoever you’re with. If you’re by yourself and enjoying yourself, being chill and not putting pressure on yourself. Sometimes self-care is like, “I’m going to have to do laundry and take that shower because it’s been three days and they’re starting to notice.” It varies. There are days where I’m like, “I’m going to tap into my inner Charles Bukowski and I want to drink a whole bottle of wine.” Anybody who gets that reference, he’s my favorite author.
I’m going to be a total latch. It’s then like, “Now, I’m going to be that super awesome person who meal plans,” but I do that because it reduces my stress. I also love food and I get to fantasize all day like, “I’m going to have prime rib.” I know exactly what’s coming. That makes me feel good, that doesn’t mean I’m trying to be supermom because I meal plan. I meal plan out of necessity because it helps me fantasize all day. Hopefully, people are getting what we’re saying. Do what you need to do. It’s normal for us to feel down because this is a roller coaster. We have those days that are up days or down and sometimes nothing happens. You might not have like, “Why do I feel down now?” You just do. There’s a difference between feeling down and being clinically depressed. Why we wanted to talk about this is do the things that take care of yourself and that feels good to you or right to you. That you don’t end up in that place where you are in a clinical depression, which is a totally different animal than having days where you feel down or low.
It was flashing me back. There’s a book and a lot of people might know it, The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. I used to work with her when I lived in Taos, New Mexico. I worked with her at her Artist’s Way Retreats. They were amazing and wonderful. One of the exercises in that book was something along the lines of writing down a list of maybe twenty things that used to bring you joy even when you were a kid. Things like maybe a swinging on a swing set used to bring you joy or blowing bubbles, those types of small, everyday pleasures. Stuff that brings you joy now that’s a simple everyday pleasure or you can even go back to childhood.
When do you remember laughing the most or having the most fun? Something like that, giving yourself permission to not worry too much, not feel like the state of the world is your responsibility, not feel if you miss a single news article, the world’s going to fall apart because you need to be educated on top of this. A lot of us do have that instinct inside of us. The world is going to fall apart if I don’t stay on top of every bit of new information coming out of the government. It is exhausting AF. Anything you can do to be like, “How can I give myself some pleasure, some fun?” We’ve got Disney+, the channel. Three or four nights a week, we’re watching old Disney movies. The kids have never seen them. I haven’t seen them forever. It’s been that little bit of something joyful to look forward to at the end of the day. Although, I shouldn’t say joyful with Disney movies because the parent always dies, every single one. Seriously, I forgot that another parent died in this movie too.
It’s the basis of the hero’s journey.
There’s pleasure in seeing these 40-year-old, 30-year-old movies. Getting to sit with the kids and show that to them, those little things.
We’ve been doing that too. We love movies as a family, but we’ve been doing those movie nights where I even bought boxes of candy. We’ll make popcorn, have the candy, and we’re all snuggling together. We watch movies. It’s a nice little break from everything. It’s those little things you have to do for yourself. Going back on a different tangent, one of the hard things for me as far as coping goes is I love cleaning the house when no one’s here. I like being able to clean it and then know every inch is perfect, then have people come and destroy it. I don’t want it destroyed as I’m going. It irritates me. I then realized, “If I wait for no one to be in the house to clean the house, the house will never be clean.” I’m in my 40s, so I’ve been doing this for a long time.
To have to change those preferences, those habits, it’s effortful. It’s a little exhausting. There are many reasons why we’re feeling exhausted and we’ve talked about these in many of the series of videos, the trauma we’re feeling, having to be online and the blue lights, being on screens all the time. There are a lot of things that are making this extra exhausting, not having those coping mechanisms and then having to shift the way you typically do things. I do hope that people are being kind to themselves. There’s nothing wrong with you if you’re feeling this. It’s normal. It’s hard and that’s why you have to do those things and reach out to those people. All the people I’m talking to have similar stories. I was having a conference with somebody and I started drinking Diet Coke again after three years. I was like, “Amen.” I know it’s terrible for you. Yet, I need caffeine and a cold beverage. I need some happiness. I need joy.
It’s funny as you’re talking, it’s reminding me that she talks a lot in The Happiness Lab podcast all the science about how we get decision fatigue over the course of the day. When we are in that situation where we’re being forced to make decisions all day, people think of it as your willpower runs out. In a lot of ways, you can call it willpower if you want to. In a lot of ways, it’s decision fatigue. You come to the point in the day where you have made 178 decisions that are way outside the realm of normal because your whole life has flipped upside down. Somebody cracks open a Diet Coke and you’re like, “I cannot make the no-decision. My brain is too fatigued. I can’t make one more decision. Give me the Diet Coke.” You’re too mentally exhausted by it.
Part of why I find for myself that keeping some semblance of my normal morning routine makes a big difference because as soon as I start giving myself choices in that like, “You don’t have your first meeting until noon. You could take your shower, get ready at 11:00.” As soon as I start giving myself choices, I’m mentally wrestling all day and I’m forcing myself to make a lot more decisions, which is going to make me more tired and have less willpower by the afternoon or by the end of the day. We’re all presented with many unusual situations, you’re making extra decisions anyway.
Everything is out of your normal routine and schedule. Anything that you can do to keep it in there and to relieve the number of decisions. You were saying with meal planning. If you know what meals are happening tomorrow, that’s amazing. You have relieved 180 food choices you would have standing in front of your fridge going, “What should I eat? Should I eat that? I don’t know, maybe that.” You’ve gotten rid of that. That eliminates some of the decision fatigue. It makes your day a little smoother and then it gives you the willpower when somebody, whatever your vice of choice is, the Diet Coke, it gives you a little bit more mental energy to make that decision.
I hadn’t been thinking of it that way, but it makes so much sense that when something is nonnegotiable. Before all of this, going to the gym every morning was a nonnegotiable. My husband and I did it. We dropped off the kids and we went. When it’s nonnegotiable, it’s not a decision, it’s something you’d do. It’s your routine. That’s why the routines are helpful. I hadn’t been thinking about it from a decision fatigue standpoint. I love that because I’ve even been talking to people about, depending on your situation or what’s going on. For me, there are times at the end of the night, my husband would ask me, “What do you want to eat? Do you want this?” I’m like, “I can’t make more decisions now. You need to be in charge.” Now I can just say, “What’s on the menu plan?” I did it for three weeks at a time also to minimize shopping. It’s important to communicate that to your partner. I’m at a place where I cannot make any more decisions because I had gotten some new bowls because we had some broken ones. He’s like, “Where are these going to go?” I was like, “I’m not making that decision. I have nothing left.”
Obama, one time, some reporter had asked him like, “Why do you always wear the same suit every day?” He said, “Do you know how many decisions I have to make in a day? What I wear can’t be one of them.” That’s exactly the thing.
Mark Zuckerberg does that. Steve Jobs did. There’s something to that. Limiting it and that’s why not changing out of my pajamas works for me because then I don’t have to think about it.
It’s true though. There are many weird decisions to be made even to the point of as a parent, I get asked for snacks 178 times an hour. Each of those is a decision. “What have they eaten yet? Have they eaten this? Have they eaten that? When is lunch?” Even each of those becomes additional decisions that you’re making all day. It’s the little stuff like that, it adds up. At the end of the day, my friend said to me, it was like two bottles of wine is the new one glass of wine. People are like, “Two bottles, no problem.” We’re all fatigued.
I hadn’t thought of it that way, but I love that. I’m grateful you shared that because that is a component to it. Naturally, I was doing things to help that because I always get to decision fatigue. Between having three children and running a couple of businesses and all this other, it’s a lot. At the end, I’m like, “I’m done.” Even with the kid thing, I think my thing is they’re like, “Can I have this?” donut, snack or chocolate. I’m like, “Have you had lunch?” I always do that and then it’s like, “Have you had dinner?” I’m not going to make that decision. If they say yes, then fine, I don’t care.
“Did you eat something healthy?”
“Here’s a banana. Now, eat that bag of Doritos. That’s second breakfast.”
Even preplanning some stuff like that is amazing. Even if you said, “Kids, while we’re all stuck together, here’s the rule. Before you ask me for a snack, check this list. Have you eaten a banana or an apple?” It will eliminate some of the decisions for you and for them. Anything you can set up to do that is brilliant.
I am grateful that you came on. I knew it’d be fun like, “This will be such a great conversation.” I hope that people take away that we’re honoring. You have to check in with yourself, know thyself, then also be mindful. “Am I in a place where I am starting to do things that I know aren’t helping me to a level that’s detrimental?” Don’t shame yourself for having those days or times where you’re like, “I don’t care. I’m eating Hostess for dinner.” Whatever it is, I don’t care. It’s not about saying you have to do something. You don’t have to, you get to do something. What do you get to do? You get to choose not to learn a language, just survive. You get to do that if you want. You get to organize and clean your house if that’s the thing that you know you want to do. Come out of this feeling like, “I accomplished something and it gave me something to focus on. It helped relieve my stress and anxiety.”
We’ll get to launch a new business if you want to. I have had twelve people join my Clinician to Coach program because they’re looking at it going, “I have extra time. I don’t have all the therapy clients I want. I want to finally use this time to launch my consulting business, my coaching business, or build an online course.” They are using this time to build something. I applaud that because I’m like, “Go you for being conscious of the fact that you need to occupy your brain to be okay, because it’s how I’m wired to. I need something to be doing or else it’s in danger land in my brain.” No matter what you want to do, if you are the person that you’re more typing normally and unplugging is the best thing you can do for yourself, do that. If you are the person who’s like, “I better get busy or I’m going to go crazy,” then do that.
Somebody had asked that and I said, “I think out of all of this, I’m helping clients,” and this is why I even started doing the video series. I had no plan or ideas like, “I just want to talk to great people and hopefully make people feel better or give them something that makes them feel like they’re coping a little bit better with all of this.” I was like, “If I could learn one thing during all of this, what would it be? Maybe I’m going to watch one of those YouTube tutorials and do a smokey eye one day.” That is something I would never make time for in my regular life.
That’s why I was cracking up at the hip hop dancing on TikTok. I would never sit around and watch hip hop dancers.
I would do that. That’s the thing. I still haven’t done it, I still have not watched a YouTube video makeup tutorial. To me, it’s absurd and fun. I was like, “Maybe I’m going to do this. We’ll see. I haven’t done it yet.” It goes back to it can be ridiculous and fun. It doesn’t have to be productive. You don’t have to learn a language, sorry, Gwyneth. Thank you for joining me. I would love to hear from people if there was anything helpful or if you have some hysterical, fun, normal, helpful thing. Whatever it is that you’ve been doing that’s helping you cope. Let us know because I would love to know. If people want to find out more information about you, head on over to KatieRead.com.
ABOUT PATTI PEREZ
Katie Read, LMFT, helps therapists grow…then OUTgrow…their practices! Katie helps clinicians overcome scarcity-mindset, get clear on their most meaningful work, create highly-converting websites, and create additional income streams in coaching, consulting, course creation, and more! Her flagship course, Clinician to Coach, gives therapists a complete website and marketing funnel to launch their Coaching, Consulting, or Course businesses to massive success! www.katieread.com