Coping with Grief During a Pandemic

Since the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic, many of us have experienced loss, sadness, anxiety, and grief. You will often hear how losing a loved one changes you for the rest of your life.

You learn to move forward in life carrying with you the cherished memories of this person and the love they brought into this world, into their relationship with you. For many, this is one of the hardest things they will ever experience in their life. It’s never easy, whether you have experienced a sudden loss of a loved one or losing a loved one due to an illness or cancer, that may have included stays in a hospital or hospice setting.

Pre-pandemic, one vital aspect of this process that helped us grieve was being surrounded by our loved ones and friends. Being present with your loved ones as they were in the hospital, being present with loved ones at a viewing or mass, being present with your family and friends at a luncheon after the funeral, just being physically present with others helped us to cope.

Currently, we are almost a year into the isolating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and unfortunately, like everyone, I have felt loss. Like others worldwide, I missed casual visits with friends and family, holiday gatherings, having my children’s education interrupted, struggling to adapt to zoom and other online video tools, fear of contracting COVID-19, etc.

The list can go on! My family also experienced two personal losses within a very short time frame. Both were my uncles; both were my mother’s brothers. One uncle contracted COVID-19 and passed away in under a month, and my other uncle lost his lengthy battle with cancer.

How the Pandemic Impacts the Grieving Process

In any time period, losing a loved one is a very difficult experience. You will hear individuals experience stages of grief and loss, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Maneuvering through these stages is often supported in part by aspects that we are missing because of the pandemic. One of the elements that are different is not being able to hug someone, to give or receive a simple embrace!

People often say that you might not remember what people say, but you will remember how they made you feel. An embrace of love, support, and I am here for you without saying a word is missing these days. Further, visitation limitations in hospitals and nursing homes due to the pandemic have strongly impacted the grieving process.

This deepens the void felt in the time with a loved one who is sick leading up to their passing. This may cause us to feel like we missed out on being there, caring for, and helping our sick loved ones feel like they are not alone. Also, some people are nervous about attending the viewing and funerals. Constraints on large gatherings impact how many people can attend, and even those who attend are spaced far apart.

The purposeful distancing helps to keep it safe in the pandemic but takes away some of the comfort in gathering together to mourn. Some wanted to attend but also wanted to make sure they were safe. In regards to my uncle, one family friend explained, “I really wanted to go, have closure, pay my respects and love to him and all of his loved ones,” but due to COVID-19 and his physical health concerns, was not able to attend.

Recommendations to Help with Loss During a Pandemic

This pandemic has had a huge impact on how we cope with grief, and it may lead us to use some new methods to help us through the tough times. If you or someone you know is dealing with a loss, the recommendations below may help to ease the pain and additional loneliness felt when losing a loved one.

Therapy. Seeing a therapist can help you process your grief and sadness.

Group Therapy (Bereavement groups). Attending a bereavement group can help you connect with others who have lost loved ones. It also may help with feeling like you are not alone and learn coping strategies from others that may better support this extremely difficult time for you.

NAMI or other support groups. Joining a group like the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) or other support groups such as those offered on social media platforms. This will help you broaden your scope of supportive networks. These groups and support networks are often at zero cost and can be extremely beneficial.

Support and Time. There is no specific way to mourn a loved one. For some, it may take a long time to pass through the stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance). For those supporting someone who lost a loved one, just being present with them (virtually or physically distanced) and encouraging them to talk about their loved one is extremely beneficial.

They may not remember what you said, but surely will remember how you made them feel. This is especially true with grief – just knowing that you are there, listening, and offering comfort means so much!

Talk. Continue to talk about your thoughts and feelings related to the frustrations, anxiety, sadness, and grief due to the loss of the loved one. Shutting down, avoiding, and isolating can be an instinctual response with grief and understandable due to the significant loss.

Talk about the good times you had with the person, talk about the anger you have related to your situation, talk about the sadness that you have about the loss. The most important thing is to express yourself.

Pictures of your loved one. Looking through pictures of my uncles really helped me and my family. Remembering good times, funny moments, and speaking about their character, values, and personality was extremely beneficial to my family.

Memorialize the loved one. There are various ways you can memorialize your loved one. Some ideas are dedicating and planting a tree, flower, or garden for your loved one, contributing to a local charity, creating an online memorial, or creating a picture box.

Engage in Self-Care. Take care of yourself. Yoga, meditation, walks, music, exercise, gym, and eating right are a few things that can help you during a time of grieving.

Be kind to yourself. Losing a loved one is one of the hardest situations a person can experience. Self-compassion throughout this experience is one aspect that may help you process your grief. This is also easier said than done.

A beautiful quote by Rick Hanson from his book Just One Thing is “you can have compassion for yourself- which is not self-pity. You’re simply recognizing that ‘this is tough, this hurts,’ and bringing the same warmhearted wish for suffering to lessen or end that you would bring to any dear friend grappling with the same pain, upset, or challenges as you.”

By: Patrick McElwaine Psy.D.

Patrick McElwaine is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and also Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). He is an Assistant Professor of Counseling Psychology at Holy Family University and a faculty member at the Beck Institute.

Source: Coping with Grief During a Pandemic | Psychology Today

More contents:

Water Really Can Provide Some Relief From Anxiety and Help Us See The Glass Half Full

Many Australians can feel overwhelmed at some stage of their life with feelings of tension, nervousness and fear for the worst. A staggering 3.2 million Australians have an anxiety-related condition, with the largest increases over recent years witnessed in those between the ages of 15–24 years.

The growing field of nutritional psychiatry focuses on the effects of foods and drinks on our mental health. Despite water constituting 60–80% of the human body, it is often overlooked as a significant nutrient. A recent tweet by federal health authorities suggesting water could help reduce anxiety was received with some online scepticism.

In fact, the evidence shows water and hydration can play a role in preventing and managing the symptoms of anxiety.

A well-oiled machine

We all enjoy the cooling sensation a cold drink of water provides on a sweltering summer day. Our bodies are masterfully programmed to let us know when it’s time to rehydrate. We may be nourishing our brain too.

Several years ago, a group of researchers undertook a review that focused on the various ways hydration impacts health. The results were promising.

Overall, negative emotions such as anger, hostility, confusion and tension as well as fatigue were found to increase with dehydration. One trial induced mild dehydration and found increased reports of tension or anxiety and fatigue in participants.

Researchers have also found people who usually drink lots of water feel less calm, less content, and more tense when their water intake drops. When researchers increased the participants’ water intake, people in the study felt more happiness, no matter how much water they normally drank.

Another large study found people who drink five cups or more of water per day were at lower risk of depression and anxiety. In comparison, drinking less than two cups per day doubles the risk. This link was less noticeable for anxiety alone (although feelings of depression and anxiety often influence each other).

More recently, researchers found water with electrolytes may prevent anxiety more than plain water, but it was noted that the placebo effect may explain this connection as study participants were aware when they were given the electrolyte drink.

The link between dehydration and anxiety is also observed in children, who are a group at risk of dehydration. Dehydration might also affect how well we sleep. Poor sleep can exacerbate feelings of anxiety.

Water on the brain?

Almost every bodily function relies on water. Because 75% of brain tissue is water, dehydration reduces energy production in the brain and can change brain structure, causing the brain to slow down and not function properly.

At the molecular level, if water levels are too low, our brain cells cannot function properly, with the brain showing signs of working harder to complete tasks.

Our cells recognise a state of dehydration as a threat to survival, leading to a state of anxiety. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter (a chemical messenger between brain cells) that stabilises our mood and regulates emotions. During dehydration, we struggle to get the chemicals required to produce serotonin into our brain.

Being just half a litre dehydrated may also increase the stress hormone cortisol, which has been associated with a range of mental disorders, including anxiety.

So, based on what is currently known and emerging evidence, the government health communication provides some good advice. Addressing lifestyle factors including your water intake in the context of your overall diet, physical activity levels, and sleep are important foundations that can support a person’s mental health. And there is evidence to suggest dehydration can affect our mood.

But it’s important to note there are a wide range of factors that affect an individual’s level of anxiety. No single thing is likely to be responsible for completely resolving those feelings. This is particularly true in people experiencing significant anxiety, where simply drinking more water is unlikely to be helpful on its own.

By:

Dr Nikolaj Travica has a Bachelor in Psychology and Psychophysiology and an Honours degree in Science, majoring in Psychology. Nikolaj Completed his PhD at the Centre for Human Psychopharmacology at Swinburne University, which examined the relationship between vitamin C and cognitive function in healthy adults and post-operative patients.

Source: Water really can provide some relief from anxiety and help us see the glass half full

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Critics:

The key to re-balancing a deficit of fluids is to drink eight glasses of fresh water daily. However You have to spread this intake of water throughout the day and not drink it all in one go. Otherwise you don’t give your body a chance to absorb it and the excess will just pass through your body.

Sip your water throughout the day for maximum absorption. When you are aware that dehydration is a factor that contributes to anxiety and nervousness you start to pay much greater attention to how much you are drinking daily. Personally, I have found that not only does regular intake of water ward off any subtle feelings of anxiety, but it is also incredibly useful for building stamina and avoiding fatigue.

Increasing the amount of fresh water you drink to eight glasses a day is a very easy step to incorporate into your daily routine and can have such a huge impact on the speed of your recovery from anxiety. The easiest way to ensure you are getting enough is to make it easy for yourself by having water placed in strategic locations.

That might mean having bottled water in the car , at your desk or any place you spend time Beside the TV or computer) . If you place it in positions that are visible you will be reminded ot drink it. If the water is out of sight it quickly goes out of mind. With all new habits you want to form you have to make it easy for yourself or else you will drop it after a few days. So most of the effort you have to make is just ensuring there is water around you and that the bottles stay full. The drinking part is easy.

More contents:

How to swap meat for nutritious alternatives – and why it’s a good thing to do

The insect brain: we froze ants and beetles to learn how they remember their way home

Hoarding: people with ADHD are more likely to have problems – new research

Transgender youth on puberty blockers and gender-affirming hormones have lower rates of depression and suicidal thoughts, a new study finds

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Does “Digital Empathy” Work in Virtual Psychotherapy?

Digital empathy is “traditional empathic characteristics such as concern and caring for others expressed through computer-mediated interactions.” A recent study suggests that clients felt their psychotherapist was more empathic and supportive in a remote setting than an in-person setting.

Another study found that virtual group therapy can be as effective as in-person group therapy. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, much of psychotherapy has moved online. Two new studies take a look at whether teletherapy and video conference therapy are helpful. Can empathy connect clients with their therapists despite the virtual divide? Has psychotherapy adapted to moving online? The results may be surprising for some.

In one study, published in Frontiers in Psychology, researchers found that clients felt like their psychotherapist was significantly more empathic and supportive in the remote setting compared to in person. This is important because, depending on the type of psychotherapy, whether a client feels connected to the psychotherapist can be an essential factor in a positive outcome in treatment.

“Digital empathy” has been defined as “traditional empathic characteristics such as concern and caring for others expressed through computer-mediated communications.” Further models of digital empathy have expanded the characteristics of “digital empathy”:

  • Ability to analyze and evaluate another’s internal state (empathy accuracy)
  • A sense of identity and agency (self-empathy)
  • Recognize, understand and predict other’s thoughts and emotions (cognitive empathy)
  • Feel what others feel (affective empathy)
  • Role play (imaginative empathy)
  • Be compassionate to others (empathic concern) via digital media

The study examines online therapy sessions that took place via Skype and WhatsApp video calls. About half the clients used desktops or laptop computers, with the other half using a mix of tablets or smartphones. Almost 90% of the therapists used a computer.

The research found that therapists felt like they could offer the same amount of empathy whether in person or virtually. Surprisingly, patients felt more empathetically connected to and supported by their therapist in the virtual setting, compared to in person. These findings build upon prior therapy research conducted before the pandemic, which found that empathy can indeed reach across virtual borders and be effective in virtual psychotherapy.

Another study from 2021 confirms that group psychotherapy can be done effectively virtually. In fact, some clients found remote group work even more helpful than in person, but that this is not the case for everyone.

These studies do raise the point that personal preference and self-selection may have a lot to do with how comfortable people are with virtual psychotherapy and teletherapy and positive treatment outcomes. Clients who respond well in virtual settings are likely those already at ease with video conferencing technology and are able to feel comfortable and have privacy at home.

The same goes for the therapist. Research has found that therapists who feel most comfortable and effective in offering virtual psychotherapy typically had offered it previously, even before the pandemic.

Psychotherapy has transitioned online effectively for many people, in spite of the limitations of technological issues, sound delays, and the difficulty with perceiving micro-expressions. Clients should feel empowered to assess whether virtual therapy is a good fit for their needs.

It is likely that many clients and therapists will continue to choose to stay online, given the positive results and ability for digital empathy to exist alongside the convenience of scheduling, less commute time, and being able to communicate safely without masks. The good news is that virtual psychotherapy can be offered in a way that clients feel is supportive and effective and will likely remain a mainstay platform for the delivery of psychotherapy.

Dementia a Progressive Loss of Cognitive Function Marked By Memory Problems

Dementia is an umbrella term that refers to age-related cognitive decline caused by a variety of factors as well as by the aging process, in some people. The term is also used to refer to a range of symptoms, from some minor difficulty functioning to severe impairment. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s Disease, a condition that affects more than 5 million Americans. There is currently no cure for most types of dementia, but certain treatments can help alleviate the symptoms temporarily.

What are the warning signs of dementia?

When a person experiences memory and thinking problems that prevent them from functioning normally on an ongoing basis, they have dementia. There are three major red flags for dementia: either the individual, their family, or a doctor gets concerned that there has been a significant decline in memory and thinking ability; their performance on thinking or memory tests is impaired; and/or issues related to thinking and memory problems are interfering with everyday activities, from the complex (cleaning, cooking, taking medicine) to the simple (bathing, dressing, eating, and using the bathroom).

How do you get dementia?

Dementia is not a diagnosis—it says nothing about the underlying cause of thinking and memory impairment. Dementia can be caused by a variety of factors, including thyroid disorders, vitamin deficiencies, side effects of prescriptions, depression, anxiety, infections, strokes, Parkinson’s disease, and other medical problems. In some cases, cognitive impairment may be reversible if diagnosed and treated early enough.

Source: Dementia | Psychology Today

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Related contents:

“Dementia”. medlineplus.gov. Retrieved 20 January 2022.

Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) for the detection of dementia in clinically unevaluated people aged 65 and over in community and primary care populations” (PDF)

“Differential diagnosis dementia”. NICE. Retrieved 20 January 2022.

 The American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook of Psychiatry. American Psychiatric Pub. p. 311. ISBN 978-1-58562-257-3. Archived from the original on 2017-09-08.

Dementia prevention, intervention, and care: 2020 report of the Lancet Commission”. Lancet. 396 (10248): 413–446. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30367-6. PMC 7392084. PMID 32738937.

Global, regional, and national burden of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, 1990-2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016″. Lancet Neurol. 18 (1): 88–106. doi:10.1016/S1474-4422(18)30403-4. PMC 6291454. PMID 30497964.

Olfactory dysfunction in the pathophysiological continuum of dementia” (PDF). Ageing Research Reviews. 55: 100956. doi:10.1016/j.arr.2019.100956. PMID 31479764. S2CID 201742825.

Research criteria for the diagnosis of prodromal dementia with Lewy bodies”. Neurology (Review). 94 (17): 743–55. doi:10.1212/WNL.0000000000009323. PMC 7274845. PMID 32241955.

Memory loss : a practical guide for clinicians. [Edinburgh?]: Elsevier Saunders. ISBN 978-1-4160-3597-8.

Mortality and Morbidity Statistics”. icd.who.int. Retrieved 20 January 2022.

Screening for cognitive impairment in older adults: A systematic review for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force”. Annals of Internal Medicine. 159 (9): 601–12. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-159-9-201311050-00730. PMID 24145578.

Assessment and management of behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia”. BMJ. 350: h369. doi:10.1136/bmj.h369. PMC 4707529. PMID 25731881.

Management of Behavioral and Psychological Symptoms of Dementia”. Noro Psikiyatri Arsivi. 51 (4): 303–12. doi:10.5152/npa.2014.7405. PMC 5353163. PMID 28360647.

Inhibition in Cognition”. http://www.apa.org. Retrieved 7 February 2021.

Psychiatric Comorbidity in Persons With Dementia: Assessment and Treatment

Young People Lying Flat Has Been A Long Time Coming

Millennials. They’re back at it again with their whining and laziness. This time, they’re daring to quit their jobs due to burnout. Don’t they understand the financial ramifications of quitting or “lying flat,” even for a brief stint? Aren’t they rather young to be burned out?

OK, Boomer.

Millennials, of which I am one, and Xennials, the cohort born from the late 1970s to early 1980s, are indeed leading the charge when it comes to the Great Resignation, or the recent increase in people quitting their jobs, according to an analysis by Visier into U.S. Bureau and Labor Statistics data. More than 6 million people quit their jobs between January and August 2021, according to the BLS’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey. That was a quit rate of 2.9%, a series high.

But this shift can’t be entirely chalked up to generational stereotypes. Rather than laziness, it seems like part of what we’re seeing is a fundamental change in how people value work.

After 18 months of pandemic uncertainty altering how we work, it makes sense we’d return to the questions of why we work, and how our jobs affect our quality of life. Is there perhaps another way to earn an income that better aligns with our overall goals? Couldn’t we create a future of no longer using a career as the primary or sole basis of our identity and self-satisfaction? Shouldn’t this be a moment to consider how to work to live instead of live to work?

Granted, many recent resignations have stemmed from need as opposed to choice. For example, women are more likely to have to quit their jobs to be primary caregivers due to shuttered childcare and in-person schooling during COVID. There is also a great deal of stress around returning to work amidst an ongoing pandemic, especially if you don’t have health care. Long COVID is a growing concern. Although some have quit their jobs to hop to new positions, there are undoubtedly many who’ve quit without another job lined up.

But even before the pandemic, burnout was starting to catch up to us. A 2018 Gallup study found 7 in 10 Millennials felt some sort of burnout on the job, with 28% reporting it as frequent or constant. Whereas 21% of older generations reported feeling the same.

We can theorize that this burnout comes from the increasingly blurred boundaries between being on and off the clock. From being conditioned to believe that appearing “always available” is the hallmark of a promotable employee. From jobs that once required a high school diploma suddenly demanding a bachelor’s degree, forcing young people to get mired in never-before-seen levels of student loan debt. Perhaps too from how we were brought up — being over-scheduled as young students to pad our resumes and gain acceptance to colleges.

Millennials reportedly have higher rates of depression, anxiety and suicide compared with our Gen X and Boomer counterparts. For example, 54% of Millennials perceive their mental health as excellent or good compared to 64% of Baby Boomers, according to a 2020 report from Blue Cross Blue Shield. The same study also found a 43% increase in major depression for millennials between the years of 2014 to 2018.

Quitting a job will never be a cure-all for underlying mental health issues, but taking a short-term hiatus from a large stressor and focusing on getting better can be helpful. There may well be financial repercussions of opting out of the workforce — forgoing income is a serious consideration, as is giving up employer-provided health insurance and pressing pause on investing for retirement.

Even so, it seems millions are willing to take the risk. Reducing future earnings potential to focus on mental health may sound ridiculous to some, but figuring out how to live a stable, balanced and healthy life at a young age could reap enormous rewards for the next generation — and for our workplaces.

It’s quite possible that after decades of wealth accumulation being heralded as the route to success, we can start shifting toward a better balanced life — one in which work is just a piece of who you are and ambition and career success needn’t define you nor be what gives your life meaning. This doesn’t mean we’re without ambition, only that our desire to achieve can encompass more than the traditional, work-centric milestones.

By:

Erin Lowry is the author of “Broke Millennial,” “Broke Millennial Takes On Investing” and “Broke Millennial Talks Money: Stories, Scripts and Advice to Navigate Awkward Financial Conversations.” She wrote this column for Bloomberg Opinion.

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Source: Erin Lowry: Young People ‘lying Flat’ Has Been A Long Time Coming

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