My superpower, empathy, equips me to be highly aware of emotions those around me are experiencing. Empaths see and feel the world differently than other people; they’re keenly aware of others, and what they need emotionally. I think this superpower is both a gift and a curse. A gift, because it helps me have compassion for others, and listen more effectively. A curse, because I can easily feel overwhelmed if I don’t respect the boundaries outlined in THE HELPER’S CREED.
When I feel responsible for others…
- I rescue, manipulate, fix, carry their feelings, and don’t listen.
- I feel tired, stressed, anxious, fearful, and liable.
- I am concerned with the answers, being right, and performance.
- I expect the person to live up to my expectations.
When I feel responsible to others…
- I empathize, encourage, comfort and listen.
- I feel relaxed, aware, and high self-esteem.
- I am concerned with relating feelings, person to person.
- I expect the person to be responsible for him or herself, and his or her actions.
- I believe the other person has enough to make it. I can let go.
My training in Grief & Loss, Critical Incident Stress Management, and Mental Health First Aid, have taught me it’s good to acknowledge your personal loss and then to talk about it with others; when you’re ready. Equally important, is to reflect upon your gains during times of distress and loss. It helps you see things from an alternative perspective.
Since COVID-19, I’ve been feeling a collective loss, including my own. The way I traditionally made my livelihood, providing in-person trainings, has ended for the time being. I’ve lost freedom to do things I once took for granted, like hugging family and friends without fearing a risk to my own health, or theirs. And in April, my elder sister, died. I’m not alone though; we all have experienced significant loss, individually and collectively.
During the same period, I have experienced at least a few gains. The new normal requires that my trainings be delivered online. I’ve adapted two workshops, Personality Dimensions and Stress Busters, for delivery online, and have been providing them. I’ve made connecting with others through phone calls, texting, email, and video chats on Zoom, a daily necessity to remain connected. As a result, my relationships with my inner circle have strengthened.
I’ve also gained reassurance watching others reconnect with Mother Nature. This has confirmed the importance of the work I do as a Horticultural Therapist Registered. Our Provincial Medical Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, has encouraged people to continue going outside for walks, and stated that spending time in parks is important for mental health. As part of my own self-care plan, I’ve been connecting with nature on a daily basis. Tending to my container garden and walking among the trees in the forest have saved me, promoting hopeful thinking and giving my resilience a boost.
Substantiated benefits for connecting with nature on a regular basis include:
- REDUCES…blood pressure, heart rate, anxiety, depression, anger, and stress related hormone production
- INCREASES…brain power, clarity of thought, creativity, and happiness
- RESTORES…focus, and attention
- STRENGTHENS…the immune system by increasing Natural Killer Cells activity
- IMPROVES…energy, vitality, sleep, and sensory awareness
Experiencing spring unfold this year, has reminded me we are not alone when it comes to managing change; in nature, everything is constantly changing and adapting. My intentions moving forward through this crisis are inspired by the poem, “When I Am Among the Trees” by Mary Oliver. My plan is to go easy on myself, to fill myself with sunlight, and to continue shining by helping others with the talents I have been blessed with.
What have your losses and gains been during COVID-19? What will your intensions be?
Try maintaining your own well-being with a walk among the trees.
If you are experiencing a mental health EMERGENCY or CRISIS,
- call 911, go to the nearest emergency room or follow the emergency instructions provided by your doctor, mental health professional or care team. If your community has a mental health car, you can call 911 to request it.
- call 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) to get help right away, any time of day or night. It’s a free call.
If you are in distress,
- call 310-6789 (do not add 604, 778 or 250 before the number) 24 hours a day to connect to a BC crisis line, without a wait or busy signal. The crisis lines linked in through 310-6789 have received advanced training in mental health issues and services by members of the BC Partners for Mental Health and Addictions Information.
For children and youth aged 5 to 20,
- call Kid’s Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868 to speak to a professional counsellor, 24 hours a day. It’s free, confidential, anonymous and available across Canada. They can also refer you to local services and resources. Kid’s Help Phone is available in English and French.
In a mental health NON-EMERGENCY,
- visit heretohelp.bc.ca for info sheets and personal stories about mental illnesses.
- call 811 or visit http://www.healthlinkbc.ca to access free, non-emergency health information for anyone in your family, including mental health information. Through 811, you can also speak to a registered nurse about symptoms you’re worried about, or talk with a pharmacist about medication questions.
- call BC Alcohol and Drug Information and Referral Service at 1-800-663-1441 (or 604-660-9382 in Greater Vancouver) to talk to someone about substance use. They can also connect you with local substance use resources. It’s available 24 hours a day.