Conquering Returning to Work Anxiety

After a year of working from home and creating a new normal with new routines and new boundaries, returning to the workplace can be a scary and unsettling, bringing about anxiety and discomfort. For the past year, we have become used to not being in social settings and being able to do everything virtually and around our families. The thought of having to leave this new “normal” and go back to the “old” can be overwhelming.

Humans are inherently social creatures: the more social we are, the more our brains are able to process emotional responses not only in ourselves, but also in others. The absence of this social interaction and the isolation and loneliness that has been experienced over the past year can not only lead to cognitive decline, but also mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. This means that we have gotten so used to interacting with fewer people and turning inward that a return to meetings, classes and in-person social events can be overwhelming initially and lead to greater anxiety.

Another aspect to consider is fear. There is no question that fear has been a big player in the past year with the uncertainty of what is happening or what will happen. It is an emotion in response to a threat that motivates us to protect ourselves: flee or withdraw. Fear can become anxiety if coping mechanisms fail and the fear remains unresolved. People are coming out of a pandemic in which there are still not a lot of clear answers to questions like “will we be safe to return to work?”, “how will work look?”, “will there be social distancing protocols in place?” There are personal issues that some may be facing as well. Coming back into a world where we will have less time with our families or what we’ve become accustomed to may have you feeling like you want something else or you are unsure if you are still happy where you are. What we need to try and remember while we take this step back into the world is to be kind to ourselves and that other people may be feeling the same challenges and anxieties. We should take this as an opportunity to be more compassionate and empathetic as we collectively struggle to enter back into social settings.

So, how can we reduce feelings of anxiety or fear about returning to work?

  1. Create a new routine. Look ahead to gain a sense of control over the future. Try revisiting your work wardrobe, dusting off your daily planner or looking up some new recipes for lunch on the go. Creating that routine can help you to be more prepared.
  2. Look for the good in returning to work to help quiet that worry and anxiety. Are there old coworkers you have missed? Old routines that will be a welcome relief?
  3. Finally, if all else fails, you can find challenging, engaging activities to absorb your attention — a process called “flow” — and help pass the time pleasantly while you wait for the “old normal” to return.

We need to remember to be patient and kind with ourselves in these times. Just as it took time for us to adjust to the change of being at home, it will take time to adjust to the change of leaving home and reentering the social world. Take time to breath and feel those emotions and remember that you are not alone in your feelings of anxiety and stress while we all navigate these new times and new normal.

This blog was written by Cassidy Peil, Crisis Specialist at Community Reach Center.

Maintaining Healthy Relationships With Your Children

The relationship between a parent and their child is a unique bond that nurtures the holistic growth and development of a child. It lays the foundation for their behavior, personality, traits and values. The COVID-19 pandemic has often tested that bond from the struggle of back and forth learning and not being able to take breaks from constantly being around each other. So why is a positive and healthy parent-child relationship important?

Children who have a healthy relationship with their parents are more likely to develop positive relationships with others around them. They can establish secure bonds and friendships with peers. They are better at regulating their emotions when faced with stress and difficult decisions. A secure attachment with parents helps promote a child’s cognitive, emotional and social development. It helps kids exhibit positive social behaviors. The healthy involvement of parents in their kid’s day to day life helps ensure that their kids can perform better socially and academically. Children who have secure and positive relationships with their parents learn essential skills and values that set them on the path for future success.

So, how can you ensure that you maintain a healthy relationship with your child?

  1. Constantly express your love for your child. It may sound very basic, but it is a must for every parent to tell their kids they love them. Children need to constantly feel loved and secure. Make it a point to tell them you love them as they grow, no matter the age, even amid disagreements and misunderstandings.
  2. Give them attention outside of the busy daily schedule of work and school. Whether they are playing with their toys, watching television or enjoying their snacks, take time to sit with them. Simply talk to them, play with them, engage with them and give them undivided attention.
  3. Eat meals together. It is important to find time to sit as a family and have conversations and share about your days.
  4. Make sure you are validating their feelings. If your child comes to you to share their feelings about anything, be sure to welcome them. Hear them out and make them feel they are understood. Whatever is causing their distress, be there for them. Don’t judge them. Validate their feelings and be open to discuss it with them.
  5. If you have multiple children, make sure you look for those one-on-one opportunities. It is important to make each child feel valued and special individually, even if it is as small as a walk around the neighborhood or going to the park. Look for those moments to create those memories.

Some people may ask what about older kids: how do you maintain a healthy relationship with them?  Your relationship with an older child looks a lot different than one with your younger child. As kids grow up, they don’t want to be treated or talked to as though they are a little kid anymore. Here are some tips on maintaining a healthy relationship with your older kids.

  1. Keep calm in the winds of change. Nothing gets resolved when you are too stressed to think. If you cannot respond rationally to something your teen did, take a break until you can.
  2. Talk less and listen more. Just like us fully-formed humans, teens want to be listened to with respect. Always be a "safe" and available person for your child to talk to. That doesn't mean you have to accept or agree with everything, but letting your teen talk openly (without interrupting), gives them a chance to hear their own ideas played out loud. It also provides a window into their problem-solving strengths and limitations. You can use that to help them.
  3. Respect their boundaries. It can often be challenging for parents to grant their teens increasingly more privacy and autonomy. But, to create good judgements, they need lots of opportunities to make mistakes and learn from them. Encourage their learning.
  4. Try to catch them doing something right. Teens struggle with self-confidence. When they aren't dumping on themselves, their peers may do it for them. Don't add your voice to the chorus of negativity. Actively look for things your kids are doing right. Your praise shows you notice more than their faults. It will also increase their feelings of competency.
  5. Lighten up – humor is a great de-stressor. Try to remember no one stays a teen forever (or the parent of one), so have fun together!

Good and healthy relationships can help kids lead a longer, happy life. It is good for their overall health. It doesn’t matter what the child’s circumstances are, they have the right to a happy, safe home. They need to see different relationships and how to build upon them in a positive way. The only way they can see that is through their parents who they constantly look up to. Make sure that you are taking care of yourself in order to maintain a healthy relationship with your children and make sure you are modeling what a healthy relationship is.

This blog was written by Cassidy Peil, Crisis Specialist at Community Reach Center.

Reducing Stigma: A Client Perspective

Reducing the stigma of living with a mental illness starts with myself. My mental illness is a only small part of who I am. There is so much more to me, but that is another story.

Here are a few ways that I reduce stigma in my life. I hope they inspire you as well.

  1. I don’t identify as my illness, but I don’t ignore it either. I acknowledge and correctly label my symptoms throughout the day. I recognize that my thoughts are just thoughts, not facts, and not all of them deserve my attention.
  2. I watch my language and speech. Phrases are thrown around with ease without really knowing the true struggle and the strength it takes to live with a diagnosis of PTSD, bipolar disorder, OCD, depression, anxiety and many others. It is up to me to reframe these so I do not belittle the struggle of recovery. Some of the phrases include:
    • “You are OCD!!” when I just like my kitchen organized a certain way
    • “You are crazy” when I do/say something unusual for me
    • “You are being manic” when I get a burst of energy and end up cleaning the whole house
    • There are so many more that demonize.
  1. I am capable of learning and teaching others about the truth of living with a mental illness. Lately, it has been hard with mental illness being politized and blamed for some of the recent mass shootings. This continues to misinform the public, teaching that people with mental illnesses are dangerous, violent and unpredictable. That is not the case.
  2. I Advocate for myself so my rights and needs are met, allowing me to be more successful. I also help others to advocate for themselves.

This blog was written by Toma Trujillo, a mental health advocate.

Ask A Therapist: Transitioning Into Teen Years

Question: I feel like my 10-year-old is already acting like a teenager and I’m not ready for that phase yet! She is moody, only wants to be on her phone, and shuts down when I try to talk to her about it. Do you have any tips for parents to make the transition into teen years as smooth as possible? 

Check in with your emotions

Watching childhood come to an end is hard and your feelings about it are natural. Many parents and caregivers approach adolescence and teenagehood with apprehension, resistance and fear. When this happens, our children sense there is something to fear about the world and about themselves. As your child starts to push the boundaries of childhood, try to accept this as a natural process. Try to avoid leading with your emotions, and instead lead with curiosity and openness. 

Listen and be curious.

As your child moves into adolescence, you may find they are closed off or shut down when you try to talk to them. This may sting as you remember the little one who once saw you as their whole world, but it is a normal stage of development as they are learning to form their own identity, separate from you. Remember that the more you talk, the less they talk. When they do open up, remember this acronym: WAIT - Why Am I Talking? Unless they ask you for advice or a specific question, be quiet and listen. When they are able to engage in a conversation, use curious and nonjudgmental language such as: 

  • “I wonder what that’s like for you.”
  • “What does that mean for you?”
  •  “I understand where you’re coming from. Can you tell me more about that?”

Be willing to have uncomfortable conversations.

It is normal to feel afraid to talk about the hard hitters - sex, drugs, relationships, feelings, to name a few - but to avoid doing so does a major disservice to kids. If kids sense these topics are not okay to talk about with you, they will either not learn necessary information, or they will seek it out from unreliable sources, such as the internet or their friends. The good news is that you don’t have to do this alone. Talk to your pediatrician, a therapist, your child’s teachers, family and friends. Use online resources, read books, or watch videos -- anything it takes to put the conversation out into the open.

Trust their wisdom.

When kids feel trusted by their adult, they learn to trust themselves. Adults often feel like it is their job to bestow wisdom upon children and in many ways, it is our job to provide education and teach them how to be good human beings. Still, it's important to remember how much kids know. Our job is to teach them what we know and then help them build their own sense of knowing. Kids develop confidence, security and empowerment when adults trust them.

Embrace the journey.

The transition from childhood into teenagehood will certainly have its challenges, but it doesn’t have to be as bad as its reputation. There will be growing pains, hormones, body changes, heartbreak, an increased desire for autonomy and probably some defiance. But there will also be excitement, curiosity, passion, fun and humor. Teens care a LOT and the perspective of a teenager in today's world is refreshing and hopeful. Embracing the energy of adolescence and teenagehood can make the transition feel less like they are rattling your world and more like you are witnessing the creation of theirs. 

Bottom line.

Your child will make mistakes and get hurt. This is a vital part of development. The single most important thing is that they have a safe, trusted adult to come to when it happens. Through your openness, acceptance, curiosity, and patience, your child will know they can come to you when they mess up or need help. 

This Ask a Therapist column was written by Caley Braun. Caley is eagerly going into her third year as a School-Based Therapist with Community Reach Center. Through her work in elementary schools, Caley is dedicated to helping children and families heal, grow and connect. 

 

How to Support Someone Struggling with Anxiety and Depression

Knowing that someone you love is struggling with mental health is not easy. It takes a lot out of someone to deal with their own illness and ask for help, but it also takes a lot out of their loved ones to support them. It takes time, energy and one’s own mental health to provide support to a loved one struggling with mental health. So how can you safely and correctly support a loved one without jeopardizing your own mental health?

Understand exactly what they are struggling with

What does anxiety or depression typically look like for them? Anxiety and depression manifests differently in everyone who has it, so it is crucial to gear your support towards the specific person and their specific illness. What are their symptoms? What happens on a bad day for them? What happens on a good day? No matter how much research you do on anxiety/depression and how it presents, no one knows their illness better than them. Don’t be afraid to ask them what their illness is like for them specifically. This will let them know that you are committed to supporting them and will allow them to feel comfortable seeking support from you.

Ask what type of support they need

Anxiety and depression can have both emotional and physical effects on someone struggling with the illnesses. So, ask them what type of support they need – emotional or physical?

Emotional support: For some struggling with anxiety and depression, they need to be able to feel like they can talk about what they are feeling safely without being judged. Provide that emotional space for them to talk about their illness. When they need emotional support, ask them if they need advice, or if they just need a listening ear.It makes all the difference in the world to someone struggling with anxiety/depression to know that whoever they are talking to knows what they need out of the conversation and, in turn, helps them feel comfortable talking about it openly.

Physical support: Anxiety and depression can also manifest itself physically. They could be neglecting their hygiene, their physical space, their eating and exercise habits, etc. Look and see if you notice anything that may have been neglected and encourage them to take care of it, and even help them if they need it. If they have been neglecting their immediate surroundings, offer to help them clean up. If they have been neglecting eating, help them cook a healthy meal and sit down to eat it with them. If they haven’t been out of the house in a few days, encourage them to take a walk or just step outside to get the mail. Even the smallest movement can make a big difference.

Don’t make them feel embarrassed or ashamed for struggling

No one likes admitting that they have a mental illness. It is difficult in itself to know you have an illness but admitting it to others takes a different type of strength. So, if a loved one comes to you and tells you that they are struggling with anxiety/depression, be mindful of your language. Avoid telling them things like “Everyone feels that way,” “It could be worse,” or “We’ve all been there.” Phrases like this minimize the importance of their illness and contribute to harmful personal stigma surrounding mental health. Instead, use phrases such as “Thank you for opening up to me,” “How can I support you?” and “I am here for you when you need me.” These phrases let them know that you heard them and that you will not judge them for asking for help.

Take care of your own mental health

It can be triggering to some people to hear that a loved one is struggling with their mental health. So, as important as it is to support them in their own recovery, it is also important to know your own limits and what your mental health can take. Let your own support system know when you are struggling and don’t be afraid to set your own boundaries. Participate in your own forms of self-care and recognize that your mental health is just as important as everyone else’s.

Know that you are doing enough

Progress in mental health does not happen overnight, and it is a rollercoaster – full of ups and downs, twists and turns, and just when you think it’s coming to a stop, it flings you backwards. You have to be patient and understand that however you are supporting them, you are doing enough and they just appreciate having someone there for them who will love them and support them unconditionally as they navigate their mental health. It can be difficult to stay positive when you are not seeing any progress, but over time you will start to notice the little things. Believe in them and believe in yourself that you are doing the right thing.

When in doubt, if you notice that someone you love is struggling with their mental health, ask them what they need. If it is more than you feel you can handle, offer to help them find professional resources, and continue to support them through that journey.

This blog was written by Kayla Pray, a clinician at Community Reach Center.

Happy Pride Month - Struggles and Solutions for LGBTQ Minorities

Homosexual: Si, Pronombre: Elle - Struggles and Solutions for LGBTQ Minorities

“Hola, me llamo ______, y me identifico gay y uso el pronombre elle. Tengo necesidad de unos servicios, me duele la cabeza y oigo las sirenas. ¿Me puede ayudar?”

This is an example of a client with an intersectional identity: homosexual, transgender and a person of color. Due to the stigmas surrounding lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and other queer persons—especially those with intersecting racial identities—these potential clients may not feel comfortable expressing themselves to professionals nor have the lingual and financial resources to gain access to healthcare.

Therefore, it is up to us healthcare professionals to help them access the most effective treatment. We must verbally communicate with respect and compassion to clients of LGBTQ minority backgrounds. Here are some struggles that LGBTQ individuals (as well as LGBTQ individuals of Spanish-speaking origin) encounter and potential solutions for improved healthcare services for clients:

General Information & Combined Struggles

LGBTQ population: Less than 10% of U.S. population (Lim, Brown, & Kim, 2014).

Generally, LGBTQ persons are more likely to suffer from physical and mental illnesses than their heterosexual, cisgender counterparts. (McEwing, 2020; Lim et al., 2014).

Lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals are at increased risk for asthma, obesity, depression, suicidal ideation, attempts for suicide, domestic violence and decreased life satisfaction than heterosexuals (Lim et al., 2014).

Individual struggles

  • Lesbian: Lesbians have a higher probability of obesity than heterosexual and bisexual women, leading to possible osteoarthritis, stroke, coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, colon cancer and breast cancer. Fatal breast cancer risk increases significantly for women in same-sex relationships than women in heterosexual relationships.
  • Gay: Gays are at increased risk for HIV/STD’s, especially for Hispanic and African-American men.
  • Bisexual: Information is limited, and literature suggests that this group may have other disparities (Lim et al., 2014); please see the general LGBTQ statistic above. Bisexual women are more likely to experience an eating disorder than lesbian and heterosexual women.
  • Transgender: HIV infection numbers are four times higher than the overall population for transgenders. There is a decreased likelihood of having medical insurance than their LGBTQ and heterosexual, cisgender counterparts. Transgenders are more likely to experience discrimination from healthcare providers, and these likelihoods may hinder transgender individuals from receiving adequate healthcare services. 19% of transgenders are denied healthcare services due to their identity, and denial is greater than 19% for being a transgender person of color.
  • LGBTQ Spanish speakers: Research is limited on the proportion of LGBTQ Spanish speakers in the U.S. population. By 2030, however, the demand for Spanish speakers will increase by 30% as the proportion of Spanish-speakers increases from 18% to 21% of the U.S. population. Currently, 4.4% of psychologists in the U.S. are of Hispanic descent, and 5.5% can speak Spanish (Bailey, 2020).

Woah, lots of information here. What do we do with it? Here is my interpretation:

It is possible that we will see an increase in the proportion of Spanish speakers who also identify with the LGBTQ community. Elle, as mentioned earlier, is a pronoun used by some Spanish speaking peoples who identify as transgender, gender-nonconforming and/or gender-nonbinary, to name a few. It is clear that LGBTQ individuals, such as those with racial intersectionality, face many physical and mental health challenges, as well as discriminatory barriers from accessing the services they need. While this population is small in proportion to the rest of the U.S. population, declining them services due to language barriers and/or discrimination makes LGBTQ minorities invisible.

 

So, as healthcare professionals, what can we do?

Let’s encourage our collective network of colleagues—social workers, case managers, clinicians, therapists, nurses, psychiatrists—to practice cultural competency. 

In other words, let’s conduct some personal research about members of the LGBTQ population and their cultural influences. Let’s recognize and value their cultural and sexual/gender identities by asking them what their preferred pronouns are and how to pronounce them if lexical difficulty arises.

It might even be beneficial to brush up on your Spanish when addressing individuals of Spanish speaking origin. Find a trusted individual nearby who can translate, or if else fails, take some time to use Google Translate. Some communication is better than none.

When collecting health and personal information, it might be helpful to ask them if they would like to learn more about preventative/contraceptive measures specific to LGBTQ issues. Health stressors for LGBTQ clients may differ greatly from their heterosexual, cisgender counterparts, and may require different treatment approaches.

Reach out to your colleagues that may work with non-insured LGBTQ individuals to see if they qualify for health insurance plans such as Medicaid. Speak to them with the upmost compassion and understanding, giving your best effort in helping them achieve adequate healthcare services. LGBTQ minorities face many disparities in accessing healthcare for their ailments, so let’s work together to provide an inclusive, safe space and qualify services for all who seek mental health services.

References

Bailey, D. (2020). Answering the demand for services. American Psychological Association. 51(1), 68.

Lim, F. A., Brown, D. V., & Justin Kim, S. M. (2014). CE: Addressing health care disparities in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender population: A review of best practices. The American Journal of Nursing, 114(6), 24-34.

McEwing, E. (2020). Delivering culturally competent care to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) population: Education for nursing students. Nurse Education Today, 94, 104573-104573.

This blog was written by Alexander Morales, addiction technician and clinician at Community Reach Center.

A Peer Support Specialist's Journey to Recovery

In January of 2017, for the first time in my life, I experienced complete peace. The depression and anxiety I had lived with my entire life seemed to have finally dissipated, and I felt a connection to the universe that was euphoric.

This change sounds positive, but the events that occurred as a result of this transition soon became catastrophic. Within weeks I would choose to disconnect from consensus reality, and I would be involuntarily placed into my first psychiatric facility.

What happened? How did I go from being an international award-winning photographer, business owner, performer, mother and faithful companion, to a person who was observed as “talking to walls” and labeled as someone needing to be “committed”? The full answer lies within my history, but simply stated – I had enough of feeling worthless and I was deeply misunderstood.

I desperately wanted to cure my feelings of emptiness, self-doubt and heartache. In 2016, I reverted to my younger ways of dealing with these emotions. This came in the form of spiritual practices. For years, I had shut down all paths of spirituality because I had been emotionally damaged by religion. Still, as much damage is there, there is a part of me that will always want there to be validity behind certain aspects of what I was taught.

To try and heal, I started to open up doors of spirituality that felt comfortable to me. This is when my emotions began to shift. I started feeling more whole. I started feeling worthy. I started to feel “happy”. Then something happened. The spiritual paths I turned to, opened my mind in a different way. I started having sensory experiences that I attributed to my newfound spirituality. I began hearing voices and seeing people others could not. I began to engage more and more with this euphoric reality I found. Soon, I would feel my place was with the voices I was hearing. A few of these voices were God, Jesus, Buddha and a spirit I believed to be my “twin flame”. I had very little desire to be in this reality. In a state of complete euphoria, I wanted to die. I wanted to be with the voices who loved me unconditionally.

The voices promised me everything I had ever wanted. They said the right things to make me feel purpose, unconditional love, self-assurance, acceptance and peace. The voices also told me I would need to prove myself to them before I could be with them. I became like a puppet to the voices I was hearing. I began to do everything they told me to do.

Under their command, I wandered the neighborhood. I went into a house uninvited. I threw out my cell phone, threw away my keys, abandoned my car, went missing for three days and so much more. My loved ones were terrified, and to say this caused my family trauma would be an extreme understatement.

I was not acting like myself, but I had never felt better. I had no desire to go back to the way things were, so I continued in this pattern of accepting the voices without using my critical thinking. I thought if I just proved myself to the voices, they would take me. It wasn’t until I landed in my second mental facility that I came to the conclusion that my physical reality was not going to match my mental reality. I started to see a change needed to take place.

I decided the best way to change my physical reality was to disconnect from my voices. This was incredibly difficult for me. I knew it meant I would be giving up my peace. I knew it meant I would feel anxiety and depression again. Still, I didn’t want to continue living in mental facilities, and I knew that was what my future held.

In my hospital room, I had a conversation with the voices. I told them I needed to let them go because engaging with them was not safe for me. The voices replied, “we will always be with you, and it’s okay for you to let go.” After that, voices remained relatively silent for the following year.

During that year, I worked very hard on honoring my needs. I recognized on some level that the only “being” who could take care of me was myself. I began to self-advocate for things I had pushed aside, and I started working on projects that highlighted my strengths. I decided I would not be a puppet to anyone or anything ever again. I would be my own puppet master. I made this quite literal when I chose to start a puppet show and puppet blog that would tell my story under my own terms.

The first year of recovery was difficult. I lost the peace and self-acceptance I once had. The most difficult part was I changed my connection with God. I went from believing I was hearing his voice to stripping myself away from his presence. Still, I felt I had to make this transition in order to be safe and live a full life again.

Further into recovery, I started paying attention to my feelings, thoughts and body. I began to interact with my body as if each part of me was its own individual self with its own unique needs. This introduced me to IFS (Internal Family Systems) therapy. Finding IFS ended up being crucial for my interaction with my feelings, emotions and eventually, new voices.

IFS gave me a safe way to interact with myself. This brought new voices to the surface. These voices felt different than those before. These voices felt like parts of me, rather than outsiders. They didn’t fall under the banner of spirituality, but instead, they were unique portions of myself. Once they began to surface, I realized that any voice I had ever heard was trying to tell me something. Usually metaphorically (although I didn’t recognize them as metaphorical in the beginning), but sometimes directly. This idea and process has allowed me to reintroduce voices in a safe way.

I talk and interact with the voices differently. I do not believe everything they say, and I try to get at the “why” they are communicating. Typically, the voices are trying to tell me I am not taking care of my needs in some way. Often, I have to regulate between the voices, because some voices want things that are not currently beneficial for us as an entire system (or as me as a whole). Still, I make sure they are known they are being heard, and I offer them compromises as I’m able.

Interacting with the voices in this way has given me back some of the comfort I lost. I have redefined their presence in my life. They are not here to prepare me for my afterlife, but rather to help me in this life.

Hearing voices was never the problem. The problem was that I didn’t love myself, and I was desperately seeking peace. I didn’t know how to find that. Therefore, my behaviors, what I was experiencing, and being misunderstood by others, led me to be institutionalized. Although being institutionalized was awful, good did emerge from it. I was given a diagnosis that helped me accept aspects of my former life. This time also taught me to pay attention to my needs, and to be more understanding.

My tools for self-help are much more refined now. I recognize what I need to do for my mental health, and I understand that I have purpose and place in this reality. The process of learning to love myself is on-going, but it’s a process I am willing to work on. All the voices coming from me agree to this process, and they are happy to finally be heard.

My life looks different than it once did. My experiences have not changed who I am, but they have enhanced who I am. I am still an international award-winning photographer, business owner, performer, mom and companion… but now, I am also a voice hearer. I am a puppeteer and speaker for mental health. I am a Peer Support Specialist who helps others on their journeys of healing and recovery. Most importantly, I am someone who is taking charge of her own life. I no longer want to escape my life, but I want to engage in it.

For decades I have been plagued by the idea that “I am not good enough”. Now, I think that it’s not that I’m not good enough, but it’s that I am actually too good for what the world has led me to believe.

This was written by Anginet, a Peer Support Specialist at Community Reach Center.

Level Clear: Both Exciting & Anxiety Inducing

 

The masks are finally off! After what seems to have been a lifetime, counties across Colorado, including Adams, are going to “level clear” and COVID-19 restrictions are fading away. As the number of people who are getting vaccinated increases and the number of COVID cases decrease, the state feels as though it is safe to move forward to open fully. The Tri-County area itself is over 54% vaccinated. Masks will no longer be required to wear everywhere, and other socially distancing restrictions will cease to exist. Moving to “level clear” allows everything to be open at 100% capacity, as lives and businesses carry on as they once did before the pandemic hit. This all is exciting news, free at last! With the excitement of returning to our previous lives, if you are like me and many others, this excitement also comes with some new anxieties.

I have been dreaming of the day when we no longer must wear masks. Now that it is here, I am not sure how to feel about it. Leaving the house the other day with no mask in hand felt wrong and created some anxiety within. I had gotten so used to the wallet, phone, keys, mask check before I walk out the door that when the mask was not there, I felt like I had forgotten something. It caused so much anxiety that I was relieved when I had one in my car that I could take with me.

Throughout the day I still had my mask on and found myself anxious when I attempted to take it off when notified I did not need to wear it. As I looked around me, I noticed and had discussions that many other people felt the same way and were not sure if they still wished to wear it or not. Not wearing the mask felt wrong and unsafe, but the want to no longer use it was also very present. Even the people who are fully vaccinated were sharing the same ideas of guilt and fear. The conclusion for many came to be that just like it took some time to get used to wearing the masks, it would also take some time to get back into the habit of not wearing masks and that it is okay to take your time. Doing what feels most comfortable and safe for you and your loved ones is what is most important. If wearing a mask makes you feel safer, then continue wearing one because there are many other people that feel the same way as you. If on the other hand, you are ready to leave masks behind, that is fine, too. Many of us have done our duties of protecting others with wearing masks and getting vaccinated. Our hard work and sacrifice are beginning to pay off and taking the masks off is now a safe reward.

Wearing or not wearing a mask is one thing, but reopening and rejoining society feels like a whole other ballgame. Many people have been isolated or seeing only a handful of people since the pandemic started that they feel as though they do not even remember what it was like before the world changed. Some feel as though they can barely remember how to socialize and feel strange when they try. I have been out with social distancing not in place, and it was slightly overwhelming. I am fully vaccinated and consider myself an extrovert, so I thought I would be more than elated that I could be back to the places I once loved fully. Instead, I was met with anxiety over the crowds and people being so close to me and to others. I also was surprised with how loud and overstimulating the area had become for me. Then I thought, if I am feeling like this when I once loved people and crowds, the people who did not enjoy crowds of people and loud environments must be feeling even more anxious.

Just like what was stated previously about wearing or not wearing masks, those same ideas can be used for going back out into society. Take your time and go as slow or as fast as you feel comfortable with. Be aware that humans are so adaptable, and over the last year and a half we have had to adapt to being away from other people. Now, we must learn to adapt back to being around others. You may find that at first it feels strange and uncomfortable, but you adjust quickly and begin to enjoy your freedom from social distancing again. You may also find that you feel better not being around crowds like you once did and both of those feelings can exist and hold true. Even with our communities opening back up fully, do not rush yourself to do activities you are not ready to do. You are not alone in what you are feeling, and if you need more support, resources, or tips and tricks to help adjust to another “new normal’ post-pandemic, the Colorado Spirit Program is here to help and listen.

This blog was written by Contessa Young, Crisis Counselor at Community Reach Center.

Colorado Spirit Program: Meeting the Community Where They Are At

Colorado Spirit is a program at Community Reach Center that was created to provide support for the many feelings associated with the Covid-19 pandemic. Through community-based outreach and psychoeducational services, the Colorado Spirit team's mission is to empower Adams County residents. Colorado Spirit has the flexibility to meet the community where they are in dealing with the pandemic, including at local food banks.

The Adams County Food Bank has been our second home every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday for the last three months. As crisis counselors, we saw the food bank as an opportunity to connect and give back to the community we work for. Additionally, it is a high-populated area with high volumes of people seeking assistance, so we wanted to be available to those in need of Covid-19 resources as well.

What I didn't foresee happening was the development of friendships and partnerships with other organizations that strengthen Community Reach Center's network. Showing up every week, we are able to assist individuals out front waiting in line to make sure their needs are met. This is done in many ways, but one unique and special attribute we have brought is our ability to speak and understand Spanish. There have been countless times where that ability to communicate has come in handy in terms of understanding an individual’s needs. I am often praised for my ability to lift heavy things and grab things in high places, I pride myself in going out of my way to help with these tasks because there are a lot of older individuals volunteering.

We have become an important and pivotal piece in regard to the logistics of how things run and operate. The volunteers now feel like friends, they share stories with us, they confide in us and they ask us for help. We talk to them like friends when they want to talk as friends, but we also have the ability to talk to them as crisis counselors when they have something more serious they want to talk with us about. We are able to recognize and flip the switch at a moment’s notice.

We have given out thousands of fliers at this point, putting them in the weekly and monthly carts as they head out to their recipients. In turn, those fliers have turned into referrals and calls from individuals that are interested in what Colorado Spirit can offer them, or occasionally a thank you for what the Adams County Food Bank has done for them.

The Adams County Food Bank has provided us the opportunity to showcase our skills as crisis counselors while also allowing us to deepen relationships within the county we serve.

If you need support or want to learn more about the program, you can call (303) 853-3579 or go to https://www.communityreachcenter.org/colorado-spirit/.

This blog was written by Crisis Counselor James Sheehan with the Colorado Spirit Program.