Oct. 28, 2020

Ep. 50 Dealing with Mental Health During a Pandemic- a Personal Story & Strategies

Sorry about the audio-Mental health, pandemic, lockdown, quarantine. This has been a challenging year.

In this personal episode Daryl talks about the toll that 2020 has had on his professional and personal life as well as shares practical tips and strategies that you can use to navigate the uncertainty that has characterized 2020.


In this personal episode Daryl talks about the toll that 2020 has had on his professional and personal life as well as shares practical tips and strategies that you can use to navigate the uncertainty that has characterized 2020.

Transcript

That's why crisis, sentence and uncertainty causes us stress and what to do about it.<inaudible> The background on this one is a yes. Yes, you do matter. I love it. I love it. So just a little bit of background, you know, 2020 obviously has been a year of trials, tribulations, triumphs opportunities, dangers stress loss in a lot of cases.

And so over the last few weeks in particular, in terms of, of being vulnerable, it's I have had a, a really difficult time, particularly over the last couple of weeks. And there's various reasons for that. But you know, on the, on the professional side, obviously, you know, I've been really, really hamstrung, I guess,

with regard to being able to get my message out for myriad reasons. But so it's, it's been tough on the professional side and on the personal side, for those of you that know, you know, the trials and tribulations of aging parents, and my mom has as dementia. And one thing that's, that's been surprising to me is, and my brother is how quickly it happens.

So, you know, she's deteriorating and then it just absolutely plummets. And so, you know, having, having your mother essentially die before your eyes, you know, that her eyes become more gray and, and lose the fire. And, you know, she she's able to remember everything or a lot of things she acknowledges you. So it's not,

you know, in terms of, she can't remember, but she's, she's definitely, you know, deteriorating to the point where we're starting to make moves to move her into a home and, and all of those other things. And so you've got that and then you have a situation with my, Oh, thank you. Oh geez. Thank you everyone.

No, I appreciate that. And so then, you know, you combine that with the fact that my dad and, and, and, you know, I, I feel for him because there's a lot going on with COVID, there's a lot going on with my mom and, and, you know, and, and I love him to death, but the reality is,

is he's not a really good caregiver because in that generation, so he's 79, he's eight. Yeah. 79. My mom is 76. You know, it just, wasn't kind of that way. And maybe that's an overgeneralization, but I can say, at least with my dad, he was never a nurturing type, necessarily. It wasn't a caregiving type.

He was a provider, you know, very much stuck in that paradigm. And so for him, you know, this is a, this is a tough role to fill for him because it's not something that he's familiar with. And then you combine that with some cognitive decline on his side. So, you know, my brother and I have been, you know,

being very, very diligent and putting in a lot of time and energy with regard to dealing with, you know, the aging parent situation and the analogy that I often use with, with my brother and, and others is life. As it turns out is basically like a bell curve. So you come in at a certain level of competency, which is zero.

You know, you need people to feed you, change, you change your diaper, you know, provide for you. You cry, somebody comes and helps you, you know, whatever that looks like. And then, you know, as, as you progress through life, you start to increase your capability and then you peak. And then somewhere along the line,

and I'm talking mostly well, cognitively and physically, you go through a decline and you start to actually get younger in terms of your ability to take care of yourself. So then it reached to the point where now, you know, towards C end of your life, what I've noticed is that you are essentially an older version on the way out, but from a capabilities perspective,

the ability to take care of yourself and communicate and express emotion and all those things, you're no different than you were when you just came into the world. And so it's been very, very interesting, I think from that perspective. So if anyone has aging parents, you can start to see, you can recognize what I'm going through or what we're going through now.

And I don't say that out of, you know, to gain sympathy by any stretch of the imagination, it's right. In some contexts. And then you have layered onto that, you know, some personal challenges and some loss, for instance, that's been particularly, you know, tough, tough to go through. And it's just been, it's been a shitty few weeks and last couple in particular.

So the point I bring, the reason that I'm bringing that up is because essentially on a personal side, I like so many other people in this world of ours are going through crisis and crisis is defined by any time there's a S a time of uncertainty where the outcome isn't obvious, or it's not, maybe it's in doubt or something like that. And,

and what's interesting is the characteristics of crisis, whether it be personal professional, emergency management related, which I'll talk about here shortly, they're all the same, they're all the same. And so that really got me to thinking, you know, I've always, I've always tried to be self-reflective as much as I can. And, you know, just really asking some questions around why as human beings,

we have this amazing ability, an amazing ability to have it's called metacognition, which is a fancy word for saying that we can think about what we think we can think about how we feel. And its unique metacognition is unique to, to us a wonderful humans because nobody, no other animal has that ability. A deer is scared and it doesn't think to itself,

geez. I wonder why I'm scared or a bear or anything like that. The, the animal kingdom is very literal. If it sees danger, it reacts. But as human beings, we have an incredible ability to think about how we think. And we also have the ability to control our thoughts. And that's what I'm going to be talking about a little bit later.

So from a self-reflection perspective, I've always been very, very diligent with that. And there comes a cost to that, which I'm going to talk about. So essentially you're taking the, the, the personal crisis that a lot of us have been through in 2020 on the personal side, you know, again, loss of jobs and working from home kids at home,

not at home, do we wear a mask? Do we not wear a mask? Is a speak conspiracy, well, pump the brakes, do not do not talk about any of that stuff, please, but it's been tough. It's been tough for every, for a lot of us. I shouldn't say everybody. So then upon reflection, I'm like,

well, you know what, considering I've got like 30 plus years of, of dealing with, you know, hundreds of search and rescue missions. Canada's two largest disasters, hurricane Katrina, hurricane Rita, a whole bunch of other things on the professional side worked. I was project manager for a decade with a large telecommunications company and worked through a strike. I wasn't on strike.

I was in management, but dealing with all of that crisis and dealing with, with all sorts of things on the professional side. And so then that gives me the, the kind of lenses by which to look at myself and my own behavior, my own thoughts. And so I think to myself, all right, so when we respond or when I respond to say two year old kid in Smith,

Alberta, so Northern part of my province, I remember it very, very, it just like it was yesterday. We get the call. It's about it's 10:00 PM at night, and it was from the RCMP up North. And they said that there was a, a two year old that had gone missing from his acreage. And in typical fashion, we got the call at 10 o'clock because the family,

friends and family go out and they search extensively. And then once it starts getting dark, then they call search and rescue in this particular instance. So I remember we got the call at, I think it was 10 o'clock. And of course we mobilize as the president of the group at the time, and it's called a one of the search managers. So we organize the search and tell people what to do and come up with the strategies and last purchase behavior.

So what are, you know, kids that age going to typically do this kid wasn't dressed for the weather. And so we head up to Smith, Alberta, and I remember I was the first one there from search and rescue. And I had to park at the end of this long, long driveway. And it was pitch black, it's pitch black,

and as I'm walking and I'm just by myself, first SAR guy there for search and rescue guy there on either side, there are, you know, friends and family and vehicles lining this, this driveway and some had flashlight, some didn't, but as I'm walking and just the, the, the sound, if you can just picture it the sound of my boots on the gravel,

that was the only sound there was. And that was one of the first times I actually recognized looking back at it. I didn't recognize it at the time for what it was, but just this incredible crushing energy of anxiety. And I think to it, think about that now as kind of walking the gauntlet. And so as I'm walking, it was palpable.

So I get to the end of the driveway, it's long driveway and the RCMP, there's a Constable there he's in his vehicle and the grandmother who was the last to see, and then the parents of this, of this kid. So I walk up, the RCMP member gets out of the vehicle and the, the friends and family been told not to go out and search because we were going out and we didn't want contamination.

And, and people, you know, make it footprints and attracting dog, the canine units that were out and so on and so forth. So they all been told to stand down and wait for us from the city, essentially. So when we got to the end, the RCMP officer said, Oh, great, the expert's here. And instead of being stressed out or having feelings of stress or anxiety or anything like that,

I thought to myself, yes, we are here. And we are the best chance that that two year old kid has of being found alive. That's what I thought. You fast forward that to, you know, whether, whether it be big wildfire in Northern Alberta and going into a situation that is as chaotic, as you can imagine, 88,000 people missing or evacuated fire raging just outside the city that had already impacted the city itself.

And you go in and you're trying to bring order to chaos and flying in. It's not a feeling of stress. And I think I can speak for a lot of my, a lot of my colleagues. I don't get stressed when you would think, are you kidding me? Like that would be so, so stressful, but I don't. I really,

really don't. And in fact, in a odd way, I revel in the opportunity to make a difference. And that's where I see it's an opportunity for me to serve. And so What has really struck me is my, my professional emergency management world, where by all accounts, I should be extremely stressed out going to those situations. I'm not, I'm literally not,

I don't feel levels of stress, but then flipping that around. And I reflect on the last few weeks on the personal side, I've been, I've been feeling a lot of stress. I've been feeling a lot of anxiety, sleepless nights, having trouble sleeping, having trouble, focusing procrastinating like an MF for some days, I just want to stay in bed.

I just want to stay in bed. I don't want to face the world. And so those Complete polar opposites where on one side, this, this incredible energy that comes from crisis. And then on the other side, on the personal side of the crisis, that absolutely trains me. So I was thinking, what is the difference? What is the difference?

Because ultimately it's up, it's me, right? I'm the same person going into emergency management and search and rescues as I am dealing with my personal stuff. So one of the analogies I think, or one of the things, and then I'll get to an analogy that I've arrived upon is maybe, maybe the sense of personal crisis is, is, is you're clinging onto something.

You know, you're clinging onto something that probably no longer serves. You. Maybe it's a memory of the past or memories of the past. Maybe it's a feeling that man, you know, the future that I thought was intact is, is no longer intact. Then it's not going to be realized. Maybe it's, it's the sense of sometimes you actually kind of liked the drama,

right? And I know a lot of people that are actually addicted to drama there, if, and, and there's, there's a whole bunch of issues there, but if there's been some trauma in their life, they actually expect that. And if there isn't trauma, they'll create it and there's, they'll create own Trauma. So yeah, I'm thinking in terms of that,

what am I cleaning too? You know, what is it that, that maybe it's the past, maybe it's the sense of this unrealized future and the analogy. And this is something I would, I would really love for people to remember, and it's an odd analogy, but it's, it's true. And it's very indicative of our life in working with a number of military personnel,

special forces and so on and so forth. And just knowing a lot about behavior in general, there's this story, or not even a story, it's it? Case studies, I suppose, for lack of better word. And so in Africa, okay. In Africa, if somebody wants to catch a monkey or a gorilla or a baboon or something like that,

and you know, whether it be to be a Pat or, you know, as part of the hunting situation, whatever that might be, it's such an incredibly simple thing that people do. And it is exactly a great parallel to us as human beings. So what they do is they make a small hole and then they'll put something, a piece of food into that hole or into a tree trunk or something like that.

But the whole will be really, really small. And so the, you know, the unsuspecting animal will walk by and it will smell, Hey, it smells like food. And of course it will figure out where is it in the tree, or let's say, it's in this hole. Well, what, this is where it gets really, really interesting.

The, the animal will make it have to put its hand, just, it will have to clench, it's hand tight, reach in and grab the piece of food. Whatever that piece of food might be. Here's the catch. It cannot let its hand out of the hole. It cannot take the hand out of the hole because now it's holding onto the food.

And so it will actually die. They're holding on to that piece of food because it is not wired to the, the, the animal's not wired to let go of that. It is just simply incapable of saying, I must drop this, let my hand out and I will survive. And so I use that analogy or that metaphor a lot, because is that what's causing you pain is that what's causing you to go through this crisis.

Are you clinging to something that doesn't serve you? Are you clean to that future? That is no longer the case. And so really being mindful of that, of, of what are you feeling while you're going through this, this particular crisis? And a lot of times it's because you're holding on to something, you know, you're attached to it and you're not able to just like the animal unable to let it go.

And you just simply aren't wired that way. So I've noticed that I've been really reflecting on that and I'd encourage you to use that analogy as well. And one thing I've also noticed is this culture of sometimes toxic positivity. And I am by most accounts, very positive a person for the most part that said, I found myself over the last few weeks,

really railing against positivity and people using a lot of strong, you know, amazing. And this is a great opportunity and so on and so forth. And while I completely understand that I found myself to be extremely sensitive to that. And I'm finding myself, my self-talk saying, sure, easy for you to say easy for you because insert, you know,

whatever it is is there. So I've recognized that that maybe I'm clinging onto some things, maybe I'm being hypersensitive to any positivity, right? So I'm actually being anti positive. I definitely recognize a lack of sense of control, which I call her, which we call locus of control. You see one of the biggest stressors in our lives. And the reason why crisis is so stressful is the lack of control or lack of locus of control because of the human being,

the human organism, the primitive brain, the reptilian part of our brain relies heavily on predictability. And the only way to get be predictable is by having control, which frankly is an illusion, which we'll talk about. So maybe there's, there's a sense of lack of control, whether it be COVID, whether it be finances, all of these things that are outside of my immediate control,

which is very important because we'll talk about that. And the irony around some of this too, is, is that one of the antidotes to, to leave creating your stress and coming out of crisis is actually connecting with people, building, relying on your, on your relationships, you know, and, but for me, and I don't know, and I'm,

I'm just curious too, for some thoughts in that crummy, I, I shut down. I actually shut down, but what I love about my relationships that I've created in my life, and hopefully you have the same is that even with a text, I get an answer phone call back saying, Hey dude, you okay? You okay? And I love that.

I, I am so grateful for the circle that I have created of people that are very mindful of that. And as far as I'm concerned, I'm hiding it, right? And it's just a text, but even energetically, even the words you use can come across very, very obviously. And some days there's no impact for sure. Like, you know,

each day, some days it's like a hundred percent, I'm like fine, I'm fine. Other days, I just, I just don't feel like being fine. And I do find that the nights are, are the hardest. And so that leads me to more conflict where I'm stuck between honoring my feelings and just feeling a certain way and just letting it be,

be present, sit with the anger, the frustration, the sadness, whatever that might be, just be present with it. Because if you don't, if you fight it, it will only get worse. And in order to its love of re opposites, I was going to use like a recipe or paucity, but that's not going to work. So the law of polarity,

where in order to appreciate one thing you have to know about the other. So in order to recognize and appreciate the top of the mountain, you have to realize what it's like to be in the Valley at the bottom of that mountain. So through that contrast, that's where our emotions live. Right. But if we're constantly, you know, just at an even keeled and we'll never,

we won't experience life like we're supposed to. So it's, it's, it's recognizing that, that you need to honor your feelings. You need to be present. And then, but at the same time, at what point do you get out of the woe is me and, and get up and get at her, right? At what point do you stop talking about it and thinking about it and ruminating about it to say,

Hey, okay, you've been there, done that. And I know, say like Tony Robbins has a 15 minute rule, the U S Olympic program. Some of the sports have a 24 hour rule win or loss, win or lose. If you, you can celebrate for 24 hours. So you can wallow for 24 hours. So I'm looking at,

you know, maybe doing something like that, but try, it seems like trying to assign an arbitrary number can be, can be a little bit, can be wrought with, with danger. So with all of that set, all of the things that I've been experiencing, and self-reflecting upon, I can tell you that there are some things that I am doing and that I would encourage you to do as well.

And one of the things is that I, I talked about a lot is halt. So to not make a big decision, if you are hungry, angry, lonely, or tired, okay. Do not make a big decision if possible, if you are hungry, angry, lonely, or tired halt. And that is more of a proactive method to say,

okay, I know that I'm one of those things now is not a good time. And I find that as I've gone through some personal trials and trials and tribulations, I'm, I'm more tired. I'm lonely, I'm maybe more angry. So I've been pumping the brakes, and that has helped me quite a bit. And, but it's amazing to me to see how vulnerable you are when you're not feeling well.

You're vulnerable to, to, you know, the, just, just your emotions essentially. So halt hungry, angry, lonely, or tired, realize that ultimately control is an illusion. There's nothing guaranteed in this life. And so that helps me when I start thinking about, well, the coulda woulda shoulda, you know, be nice if, or too bad,

that is no longer going to be the case because ultimately nothing was guaranteed in the first place. And realizing that I am not my thoughts. You are not your thoughts. You are the thinker of your thoughts. I am the thinker of my thoughts. And through metacognition, we have the ability to control our thoughts. And so I am not depressed. I'm having depressed feelings.

I'm not stressed out. I'm having feelings of stress. I am not angry. I'm having feelings of anger. You kind of get the idea. So if you're using the, I am the thinker of my thoughts, you absolutely do have the ability to switch your thoughts. And from once you switch your thoughts, that will impact your feelings, right? And then there's a self coaching model.

I've talked about. Another thing that I've been really leaning into lately is practicing my five step defeat, the beast process for defeating stress. So it involves five steps. One is just recognize that you're having feelings of stress. Take two deep breaths. Boom. A lot of times that will stop that runaway. What we call it, make Della hijack that will stop it in its tracks.

But if it doesn't, then it's time to do something that we call box breathing. And I'm here to tell you I've been practicing box breathing a lot. If I'm going into a conversation with my dad, or if I'm even just going to my parents or I'm dealing with some other personal things I box breathe. And what box breathing is, is inhale through your nose for four seconds,

hold it for four seconds. Breathe out through your mouth for four seconds and wait for four seconds, inhale for four seconds through your nose, hold it for four, breathe out through your mouth for four, hold it for four and do that. And I found just through my own experience, maybe three or four cycles of box breathing really helps bring my heart rate down.

The other thing I've been focusing on is getting lots of sleep. And I've been now the 900 9:00 PM guy. Normally I'm a night owl, but I've made a concerted effort to get lots of sleep. There's a whole bunch of benefits for that. Now, again, caveat, not too much sleep because then you're now lounging around all day and you're not being productive,

which in turn causes some stress and things like that. To other things I've been doing, moving my body. I've been absolutely psychotic with regard to moving my body, even just for a walk, just to walk, I'm not talking about biking with my son, which we were doing, but now it gets dark at freaking 3:00 PM. It feels like, but even just going out for a walk,

listen to a podcast, an audio books, something like that. And so I just throw my noise, canceling headphones on and I, I walk and it could be a 20 minute walk. It can be a 30 minute walk, but whatever it is, it's out in the fresh air and I'm just moving my body. And last but not least that has been very,

very helpful is journaling journaling, both what I call the five minute journal, also journaling my to-do items. So I get it out of my monkey mind onto paper, but the five minute journal, go ahead and Google it. I strongly strongly recommend picking up a copy of the five minute journal because it involves three things for gratitude, what you're going to do to make today.

Great. There's some affirmations and also an opportunity to reflect on the day. So with the journaling and combining that with meditation, I've been really picking up on the meditation again over the last little while, which has really, really helped. So there's a whole bunch there in this particular conversation. I appreciate everybody<inaudible>.