Refill your reservoir

September 2020 has been intense. After a challenging year, this last month found many of us on the west coast isolated inside or even to a single room to avoid hazardous air for a week. Like many, I found my resilience reservoir tapped out. Multiple rounds of focused breathing did not loosen the tightness in my core. Overwhelmed by unrelenting politics and news, systemic racism and oppression, Covid-19 fatigue, and loss of life and property due to fires; I had nothing more to give. I needed to get grounded with nature; let my body touch the wild.  I set off with a small pack and some protective covering for the rain. 

Watching the river muddy from showers and glacial melt tumble over rocks, I sat on a cold boulder. The brown water danced over the rapids and reminded me of the danger of the raging river. I was also aware of the breath still constricted weeks after the smoke cleared. The knot between my ribs holding tight, the part of me stuck in the anxious and fearful past.

Respecting the boundaries of the swollen river, I moved to higher ground. Atop a sandy knoll was a bent tree covered in moss, the perfect place to rest a weary  body and soul. I lay on my back looking up.  The sun poked through the tree canopy as the rain fell. Water collected and then dropped into my mouth off my rain protective cover. I laughed out loud when the first drop surprised my tongue. The delight of cool water was an unexpected gift from the heavens.

The sun shone as the rain fell and brought to mind another memory of sunlit rain many years ago. After a few hours of uphill climbing up Handies Peak, my body was tired from the effort and short of breath from the altitude. Suddenly sunlight blinded my eyes and rain soaked my body; the beauty of being on top of a mountain and beholding the bright sun and clean rain is emblazoned in my memory.

Here I was many years later, mesmerized by the sun and the rain again.  I had come though another arduous time and knew nature would sooth my utter weariness.  I went to the wild, knowing that somehow, my reservoir would be filled.

I breathed. I laid. I waited. I would stay all day. Cool water drops fell one by one into my mouth refreshing and grounding me. A bird with a white tail landed on a branch several trees away. It jumped from branch to branch until it looked down on me. Eventually it flew away.

The softness of the moss and perfect curve of the tree cradled my head and back. I was so grateful for the comfort of the earth and being held.

Bit by bit the knot went away. The bound up feeling in under my ribs somehow slowly let go. Eventually I was ready to move on. It was a gift. Feeling refreshed inside and out, I thanked the tree and the bird and the forest and walked out, my reservoir filled again.

The poet Wendell Berry spoke of a similar experience

The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Wildfires and Resilience

Growing up in dry southern Oregon, I spent many hot Augusts and Septembers with smoky skies and red suns. My step father managed land that was afflicted by fire every year. We hardly saw him during fire season due to his long days and nights. People lost homes, livelihoods and even sometimes, their lives.

When I grew up, my family moved up to the Portland area in 2000. I forgot about fire season except for the occasional news report until 2017 during the Eagle Creek Fire. We live at the mouth of the Columbia Gorge with the strong East Wind. Those winds moved the fire 20 miles in a day. Our town was put on Level 1. Here are what the levels mean:

I remember making the phone call to ask my out of state if there was anything she wanted me to pack, that she didn’t want to lose.  All my family and friends were worried yet I was calm. Walking through the house and realizing how little I cared about taking was eye-opening.

Fire Evacuation Level 1 Be ready Monitor the news. Pack a Go Bag.

Fire Evacuation Level 2 Be set to go at a moment’s notice. Or go now.

Fire Evacuation Level 3 GO! Leave immediately.

Thankfully the wind slowed. The fire was eventually contained. There was permanent damage and yet we were thankful. Some trails and areas are still closed and may never open. Driving out I-84 along the Columbia River the first time after the fire was emotional. Sight of standing charred trees and downed burnt logs brought tears to my eyes. Gratitude for the many firefighters who had toiled dangerously to save this beautiful place filled my heart.

Today the resilience of the flora is seen. Only a few areas were completely burned. Many trees caught fire but didn’t die. Plants and trees are growing again out of the black ground. Fireweed is among the first plants to grow after a fire. A dear friend taught me to make tea out of its flowers and leaves this year.

That same mixture of sadness and gratitude fills me today when I look online at the many friends and family from around the state who are on Levels 3, 2 and 1. I realize how my loved ones felt when they were waiting for word that my family and home would be ok.

I am concerned for people’s safety, property, livelihoods and mental health. Knowing what is going on in your area  is important for the first three. Staying tuned to local radio or getting alerts is critical. As far as so. If you must, please practice self-care afterwards. Simple things like deep breaths, drinks of water through a straw or hugs (self-hugs are great too).

If you have children and are impacted by the wildfires, tell them what they need to know in a way they can understand. Try to keep a loose structure to your day. Remember during 9-11, children thought their communities were in danger because of constant replaying of buildings falling on the news. Children may get the idea that the fires are everywhere and uncontrollable if all they see are fire related images and stories.

Click here for a great resource for how to support your child before, during and after a wildfire.

Click here for an App called Help Kids Cope. It “helps parents talk to their kids about the disasters they may face and know how best to support them throughout.”

Click here for information about preparing for a wildfire

Dear friends, know what is going on in your area. Stay safe. As much as you can, limit your stress and protect your children from its harmful effects.  The winds will slow. The fires will eventually be contained. Resilience will rise again.

https://www.ready.gov/wildfires

LGBTQ+ Youth Support Project

Central Oregon Disability Support Network, Matthew Dawson and I are teaming up to support young people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer LGBTQ+ or are questioning their sexuality and gender.

Through online learning opportunities rural people under the age of 26* will connect with others like themselves to talk about finding their people and explore real time stress management activities. The first 50 to register will get a free self-care kit. Parents and the community will be invited to a meeting in which they learn how they can help the LGBTQ young people in their lives.  The series will end with an online resource fair.

Matthew Dawson (they/them) is a recent college graduate focusing their studies on neuroscience.

“Early in my life it became apparent that typical gender roles just weren’t for me. Although full of bumps and turns, my path led to a supportive and understanding community around me.”

Their degree in neuroscience allows for a deeper comprehension of the importance of brain states and how trauma can be held in the body. Matthew is particularly excited about connecting with LGBTQ+ youth and listening to their stories.

I grew up in rural towns. Living in small towns can magnify the feelings of being accepted or rejected because differences are more visible in a tight knit community.  Both of my children now identify as queer. When my daughter first came out, stigma was the basis of what I knew about LGBTQ issues. All I had ever wanted was for my children to be safe, healthy, happy and connected to family. Their sexuality/gender did not affect that. I am grateful for those who shared with me so I could care for my kids in the way they needed. I look forward to working with the young people and parents alike.

Youth
Trainings October 13 and 27, 2020 6-7:30 PM

Parent/Community Member Meeting October 19, 2020 6:00-7:00 PM

LBGTQ+ Resource Fair October 22, 2020 12:00-1:00 pm

Download flyer

Join us and spread the word!

**All ages are welcome

Staying engaged

This has been a historic summer. In addition to the pandemic with its health, financial and even political consequences, many in the United States are struggling to make the world a safer place for everyone, regardless of skin color. I live in the Portland metro area where protests acknowledge Black Lives Matter nightly.

Barbara J Love says:

“All members of a society play a role in keeping a “dis-equal” system in place, whether the system works to their benefit or to their disadvantage.”  https://www.barbarajlove.com/

We are each on our own journey. There is much listening and learning and action to be done.

Some white people say they are tired of all this talk about race. Looking at situations from a different perspective, learning new vocabulary, hearing  stories of injustice, cruelty, and worse, takes emotional resources. Our emotional resources are running scarce in 2020. The work is hard-hard and necessary.

My skin is white, I don’t worry about:

-my safety when I get pulled over
-my husband or son’s safety if they come into contact with law enforcement
-people following me in a store

This is not true for my brothers and sisters of color. As a white person, I have a choice to learn my role in the “dis-equal” system that I have ignorantly benefited from.

There are so many resources. People of color need all of us to examine the role we play in our “dis-equal” system. Please learn and support their work when you can.

Here are a few I use often:

Dr. Sandra Chapman DEI Resources on Google Drive -Dr. Chap has worked in schools for over 30 years and done a lot of equity work including her own lived experience. http://www.chapequity.com/resources.html

103 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice: link provides practical ideas and is updated regularly https://medium.com/equality-includes-you/what-white-people-can-do-for-racial-justice-f2d18b0e0234

21 Day Racial Equity Challenge-“Conventional wisdom says it takes about three weeks to form a new habit, so Dr. Eddie Moore, Dr. Marguerite Penick-Parks and Debby Irving developed the 21-Day Racial Equity Challenge to help all of us cultivate self-awareness and intentionality to effect social change.”
https://mlpp.org/21-day-racial-equity-challenge/

Listen and learn. After careful thought, act. Practice self-care and stay engaged to make the world a safer place for all.

Get Away in Your Own Home-Summer Edition

Keeping our bodies cool goes a long way in keeping our emotions in check. I live in Oregon where a lot of us love the rain and tolerate the sun. Many complain when the sun comes out. We search for sun glasses and suffer on those few days a year when we need home air conditioning.  

Our forecast says it will be over 100* in a few days. Our heat escape plans are harder to make this year. The pools are closed. Swimming holes, beaches and campgrounds are too overcrowded to stay six feet apart.

As one who does not tolerate heat well, there are many things I do to stay cool. I was rattling on Bubba Gump style about wet bandannas and stone beaded bracelets when a colleague recommended writing a blog about it. She may have been joking  but here I am to write about the Box Fan Fort.

The Box Fan Fort may be what we need in August 2020. In addition to keeping us cool, it may be like a mini get away.  While not the vacation or daytrip you would typically consider, it could be the most accessible alternative.  You may already have everything to make one at home.

What is a Box Fan Fort? It is a hallowed cooling hack that has soothed many Portlanders’ un-air-conditioned souls-child and adult alike. Thanks to wiki-how, here are detailed instructions: https://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Fan-Fort .

Making a fort isn’t a real vacation but it will make a memory. Your brain may enjoy the novelty.  Every experienced Box Fan Fort maker I know smiles when the topic comes up.

If the fan would be too much stimulation, perhaps just a fort would do while doing some these other ideas.

Be safe and stay cool.

Ps. if you make one, please be sure to comment below.

Organizational Self-Care Reaps Rewards

In 2010, my mentor, Carrie Leavitt, invited me to collaborate to make a presentation on self-care. She had googled self-nurturing and got the message, “no results found.” She wanted to go deeper than “take a bubble bath” by delving into validation and share real ideas. So we created 5 lunch hour webinars for our colleagues at the Oregon Family Support Network. Combining neurobiology and a gentle approach, we made positive change at little cost.

The pay offs were noticeable from both human and organizational perspectives. Less turn over. Less burn out. More compassion. Carrie and I shared lessons learned at the 2010 national conference for the Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health.

Individual lessons:

  • Self-care isn’t selfish.
  • Self-care is individualized.
  • Self-care can be a mindset as well as activities; both are valid and powerful.

Organizational lessons:

  1. Self-care became a shared value over less healthy work practices
  2. Self-care benefits the organization. There is less turn over, less- burnt out employees with more compassionate humans
  3. Employees didn’t overuse resources devoted to self-care.

What are you doing for self-care at work? How does your organization support you? You and your organization may have it all figured out. If not, contact me for consultation for yourself or your workplace.

Further reading on organizational support of employee self-care and mental health:

SELF-CARE & ORGANIZATIONAL VIDEO
Bruce Perry | Neurosequential Network | COVID Series 7

“This brief (25 min) video highlights the reasons self-care and organizational care are needed for individuals and organizations that work in high stress settings, or with individuals with trauma histories. Examples of integration of regulatory strategies into work-flow are provided.”

ALL THESE VIRTUAL WORK HAPPY HOURS AND TEAM GAMES ARE EXHAUSTING
Alison Green | Slate.com | Human Interest| Work

“In an effort to relieve employees’ stress and build camaraderie, some companies are leaning heavily on things like virtual happy hours, team games on Slack or Zoom, and personal check-ins centered on mental health. But in the process, some are actually increasing employees’ stress rather than easing it.”

Take Care and Reflect

May is National Mental Health Month and it couldn’t come at a better time.  There is so much going on in our lives, even without a world pandemic. I think we should get a free pass from additional everyday worries: no car accidents, no appliances that stop working, no pets getting sick, no ID thefts, no lost house keys or broken computers. However, life goes on.

Getting through our day and coping with Covid-19 is almost more than most of us can do. Yet here we are in the midst of loss of life, jobs, businesses, school, everyday routine, while missing the physical closeness of friends and family. Our go-tos of self care may be out of reach as well: nature, respite or meeting up with a friend to share a warm meal.

Last week I heard Kristie Brandt, CNM. DNP., of the Neurosequential Network share about the neurobiological need for reflection. She wisely shared that our brains need time and space to process what we are going through. And we do. We know that unprocessed traumatic experiences can mess up our physical and mental health. Uncertainty and stress is all around us; our brains need to process this or the residual may affect our bodies and minds. Perhaps you have already noticed your sleep is disturbed or you are more irritable. Processing takes time and requires us to be present and allow our brain to sort what we are experiencing to incorporate it into how we view ourselves and the world.

Making time and space is can be a challenge for most of us. Our homes may not provide the physical space we need to get away from our quarantine roommates. Our favorite spots might be occupied by homeschooling children or work from home partners. Finding time may be an issue as well. Some of us may be busier than ever while others may have so much time, they numb out with technology, food or substances.

Still, we need to reflect, our brains need to reflect.

The Taoist Proverb says:
We cannot see our reflection in running water.
It is only in still water that we can see.

Still water allows us to see our reflection. We are able to begin processing the uncertainty, grief, loss, and those welcome positives that seem to delightfully pop up out of nowhere.

When was the last time you reflected? How long has it been? I encourage you to give yourself some space. If need be, unplug. Be with your breath. Sit with your feelings. Allow your brain to process. Allow the feelings and thoughts to come and if need be, the tears.

You may process creatively through visual arts, music, and dance. You may journal. You may process while walking or exercising. You might meditate. You might take extra time in the shower or that long bubble bath. Listen to yourself. Allow the processing to take place.

Reflection may be overwhelming or too much for you at this time, which is understandable. Please reach out for help. If you need professional help, book that appointment.

Take care, be safe and reflect.

Remember there are free resources with people who would love to connect with you:
Reach Out Oregon 1-833-REACH-OR or 1-833-732-2467
Youth Line CALL 877-968-8491  TEXT ‘teen2teen’ to 839863 24/ help. 4-10 PM with teens
The Trevor Project for LBGTQ youth
Lines for Life 800-273-8255
211info.org CALL 211 or 1-866-698-6155 TEXT your zip code to 898211 (TXT211) help@211info.org
Oregon Coalition https://www.ocadsv.org/find-help

Access Kristie’s entire presentation here:
REFLECTIVE SUPERVISION
Kristie Brandt | Neurosequential Network | COVID Series April, 10, 2020