1710-1712 E. Michigan Avenue, Lansing, MI 48912 womenscentergl@gmail.com (517) 372-9163

This Lockdown is a Mental Health Crisis in the Making

During this unprecedented and peculiar time of COVID-19 and sheltering-in-place, I have seen more than a few people talking about settling into this space to read, meditate, sing, dance and remember how to find sacredness in the simplest of things. They talk about the world slowing down; humanity healing.

The kinds of practices that the so-called “positivity movement” suggest may not be helpful to everyone–at least not in the form we typically find them on Google or YouTube. Many of us need much more careful guidance.

I believe in much of this sentiment. It is important to uplift ourselves and each other during this difficult time. There is value in making the most of this unusual moment.

But, and as often happens in life, our obsession with staying positive–both individually and culturally–means that we do not create space for the complex, real, raw human experience. We fail to create the space for people to feel safe in speaking their struggles. This failure has the potential to silence and shame those who are suffering alone, inside their homes. This will make them feel that there is something wrong with them because of their inability to emotionally cope.

I believe we need to stop romanticizing this lockdown, because, quite simply, it is a mental health crisis in the making. Here are some things I would like us all to have in our minds during this time, so maybe we can hold space for both ourselves and each other in a more complete and loving way.

First, being safe and secure in your home is a privilege. Many people in our community are still working to make ends meet and are struggling to buy food. Some people cannot buy food because by the time their benefits come in people have stockpiled everything first.

Second, many of us, knowingly or unknowingly, are coping with childhood trauma. In effective trauma work, the last thing we ever want to do is unleash a tidal wave of old emotions all at one time. The already overloaded nervous system cannot handle it. To feel it all at once would be too much.

And that is exactly what is happening to many people right now.

Add to this that our health is under threat. Add to this that some of us are losing loved ones. Add to this that there are clearly other unknown political agendas at play. Add to this the fact that many people are under enormous financial pressure. Add to this that many people with children are now unable to access any personal space at all. Add to this that many people are unable to get out into nature and are being suffocated by four walls around the clock.

Many people are going to be feeling agitated, angry, depressed, anxious, and afraid. Many people will be feeling confused, trapped, and alone.

I want you to know that if you feel these things, regardless of your history, there is nothing wrong with you and it is not shameful. This situation is overwhelming. It is traumatic in and of its own right and re-traumatizing for those of with unhealthy histories.

We will learn much during this time. Some of us will learn to be quieter or to need less. Many of us will get precious hours with our loved ones that will be treasured and remembered forever. But most of us will also suffer. Some will end up in serious emotional crisis because of it. Not everyone will have access to the help they both need and deserve.

Let us understand that each of our experiences will differ greatly, and be equally valid. It is okay if you are enjoying your time away from work. It is okay if you feel completely panicked by your sudden loss of income. It is okay if you are enjoying singing along to old music whilst spring cleaning your home. It is okay if you feel all of these things or sit somewhere in between. It is okay if how you feel seems to swing back and forth from day to day or even moment to moment.

No one is failing. We are all doing our best.

So let us please hold one another softly in the harsh reality of this unprecedented moment. Because if we can do that above all else, humanity really will heal.

The Women’s Center of Greater Lansing is still serving the community in this time of uncertainty. Please feel free to reach out to us via email, Facebook, or phone call if you have any questions.

Melina Brann, Executive Director

Relaxation Techniques

We all face stressful situations throughout our lives, ranging from minor annoyances like traffic jams to more serious worries, such as a loved one’s grave illness. No matter what the cause, stress floods your body with hormones. Your heart pounds, your breathing speeds up, and your muscles tense.

This so-called “stress response” is a normal reaction to threatening situations, formed in our prehistory to help us survive threats like an animal attack or a flood. Today, we rarely face these physical dangers, but challenging situations in daily life can set off the stress response. We can’t avoid all sources of stress in our lives, nor would we want to. But we can develop healthier ways of responding to them.

One way is to invoke the “relaxation response.” The relaxation response is the opposite of the stress response. It’s a state of profound rest that can be elicited in many ways. With regular practice, you create a well of calm to dip into as the need arises.

Following are six relaxation techniques that can help you evoke the relaxation response and reduce stress.

1. Breath focus. In this simple, powerful technique, you take long, slow, deep breaths (also known as abdominal or belly breathing). As you breathe, you gently disengage your mind from distracting thoughts and sensations. Breath focus can be especially helpful for people with eating disorders to help them focus on their bodies in a more positive way. However, this technique may not be appropriate for those with health problems that make breathing difficult, such as respiratory ailments or heart failure.

2. Body scan. This technique blends breath focus with progressive muscle relaxation. After a few minutes of deep breathing, you focus on one part of the body or group of muscles at a time and mentally releasing any physical tension you feel there. A body scan can help boost your awareness of the mind-body connection. If you have had a recent surgery that affects your body image or other difficulties with body image, this technique may be less helpful for you.

3. Guided imagery. For this technique, you conjure up soothing scenes, places, or experiences in your mind to help you relax and focus. You can find free apps and online recordings of calming scenes—just make sure to choose imagery you find soothing and that has personal significance. Guided imagery may help you reinforce a positive vision of yourself, but it can be difficult for those who have intrusive thoughts or find it hard to conjure up mental images.

4. Mindfulness meditation. This practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing, and bringing your mind’s attention to the present moment without drifting into concerns about the past or the future. This form of meditation has enjoyed increasing popularity in recent years. Research suggests it may be helpful for people with anxiety, depression, and pain.

5. Yoga, tai chi, and qigong. These three ancient arts combine rhythmic breathing with a series of postures or flowing movements. The physical aspects of these practices offer a mental focus that can help distract you from racing thoughts. They can also enhance your flexibility and balance. But if you are not normally active, have health problems, or a painful or disabling condition, these relaxation techniques might be too challenging. Check with your doctor before starting them.

6. Repetitive prayer. For this technique, you silently repeat a short prayer or phrase from a prayer while practicing breath focus. This method may be especially appealing if religion or spirituality is meaningful to you.

Rather than choosing just one technique, experts recommend sampling several to see which one works best for you.

Try to practice for at least 20 minutes a day, although even just a few minutes can help. But the longer and the more often you practice these relaxation techniques, the greater the benefits and the more you can reduce stress.

Updates & Information on COVID-19

As Michigan has declared a state of emergency, the Women’s Center of Greater Lansing is still working to address the safety, health, and well-being of survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.

We know health, economic, and natural crises can add to the pressures and inequities facing survivors and others who are already more vulnerable to economic and health insecurity. People who are surviving violence in their relationships and families may be experiencing increased isolation and danger due to the current outbreak of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Survivors may have specific needs around safety and health, and it is crucial to take those needs into consideration. It is also important to share accurate information and resources with your community to make sure that friends + family, survivors and service providers have the tools they need to respond in ways that are safe and supportive for survivors.

We recognize that many of the strategies discussed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, such as self-quarantine and social distancing, may be dangerous for survivors and their families.  Additionally, fleeing unsafe situations may become more complicated and remaining in close proximity to abusive partners more dangerous. Domestic violence organizations are often working in difficult situations and responding to crisis; we are working to make sure that we can continue to provide counseling services, including support and safety planning, while following best practices in healthcare.

Resources and Information for Survivors:

  • Remember that you are not alone and there are supports available to you at all times, including this health crisis.
    • The National Domestic Violence Hotline provides free confidential, around-the-clock information and referrals for survivors. To contact the Victim Hotline, dial 1-800-799-7233 or through online chat.
    • The National Sexual Assault Hotline is 24/7, confidential and free: 800.656.HOPE (4673) and through chat.
    • The Trans LifeLine for peer support for trans folks 9am-3am CT: 877-330-6366. This hotline is staffed exclusively by trans operators is the only crisis line with a policy against non-consensual active rescue.

Resources for Communities:

Social distancing may not always be safe for people who are surviving violence in their relationships or in their families. Our response to this virus must include taking care of each other and reaching out to make sure that loved ones, friends, and colleagues have the care and support they need and if they feel safe at home. The following resources and articles may be useful for communities:

Remember to visit the following websites regularly for updates:

The Power of Art

By: Brianna Arnold 

I came across a fascinating article the other day regarding a Women’s art exhibit at the Wyoming Valley Art League’s Centre for the Arts. This exhibit was called “HERSTORY – Then and Now,”; there were pieces from 12 different female artists that all entailed stories from their lives and their ancestor’s lives. The displays were so powerful that they left viewers in tears. 

One of the collections found on the Wyoming Valley Art League / Circle Centre for the Arts Facebook page was called, “It was ‘We, the people’; not ‘We, the white male citizens.” This piece was a tribute to the 19th amendment, giving women the right to vote and included actual artifacts from this era. Another project found at the exhibit was a dream catcher filled with photos of women and their triumphs.

Some of the takeaways gathered from this article are listed below:

  • Our stories and our traumas are our own, but they can connect us with the rest of the world when we are ready to share them.  
  • Creativity is healing. 
  • “Every woman you pass is a survivor” 

Art is such a powerful form of expression. From poetry to pottery, the creativity that flows through a human when they are expressing their story can only ever be beautiful. Art is recognized to bring profound healing to those that utilize it for this purpose. Listed below are different art projects that may allow you to heal or at least tap into your creative energy. 

  • Vision board
  • Journaling 
  • Drawing
  • Coloring
  • Painting 
  • Sculpting 

These are just a few ideas in the scheme of things. But, when you are creating this art, think about your story. Think about what you have overcome and what you are yet to master. What color is triumph? What does a setback look like? Think about what healing looks like to you, and what you see in your future. You can never do art wrong. Who knows, maybe your story could inspire someone else. 

Join us at the Women’s Center every Wednesday at noon for a Women’s Social Group that includes crafting!

The article and Facebook page are linked below:

Thank you to everyone who came out last night for the opening! And thank you to all the artists who said yes to taking…

Posted by Circle Centre for the Arts, home of the Wyoming Valley Art League on Saturday, February 22, 2020

Citation:

Biebel, Mary Therese. “Telling Their Stories through Art: ‘HERSTORY’ Exhibit Celebrates Women’s History.” Times Leader, 22 Feb. 2020, www.timesleader.com/news/773757/telling-their-stories-through-art-herstory-exhibit-celebrates-womens-history.

Women & Financial Literacy

Today, we see women leading at every possible front, from CEO to Head Physicians to Governor.

We are now more informed, educated, and confident to make our own decisions than ever. We are masters of multi-tasking with juggling careers and households at the same time.

Financial literacy is important for all people, but especially for women because we earn less, we go in and out of the workforce, we make up the majority of caregivers, and since we live longer, we face additional costs including more long-term and overall healthcare expenses. Financial literacy and planning for women is a critical aspect for us to reach our personal as well as professional objectives, without being dependent on anyone.

Financial literacy is an essential ingredient for every women’s life-skills toolkit. The capacity to assess and understand what will have positive or negative financial outcomes in a fast-paced consumer society is crucial. Ensuring that women have the knowledge to manage our money and financial risks effectively will not only help women to avoid financial pitfalls, it will give us a solid foundation to make confident choices about how you live your life.

One of the biggest reasons why women need financial education is to be financially independent. With a sound plan, we can march confidently towards our personal and professional objectives without worrying about the financial implications. Also, it prepares us for any crisis in the future as well as saving for retirement.

It is high time for all women to take an active role in financial planning and take control of our finances. It is the first step towards achieving financial independence.

You can take action today in changing your financial trajectory by starting with a few simple steps:

  • Learn your credit score by getting a free annual credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com.
  • Keep a record of your personal debt; by writing down paid debts, you can track your progress and celebrate small victories.
  • Make a budget; paying off debt will be easier once you start setting limits for yourself.

The Women’s Center of Greater Lansing hosts a variety of financial literacy workshops. Join us on Thursday, February 20th at 6 pm to discuss the importance of credit. Click here to learn more about it!

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