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Recovery blog

Anchoring in the Present to Cope with Stress

By: Liz Shemory, MA, R-DMT at The Renfrew Center of Southern New Jersey

Posted on November 30, 2020

11.30 blog header Coronavirus. Working and schooling from home. Social isolation. Social unrest and ongoing racism, police brutality, and trauma. And to top it off, a divisive presidential election. We're all living in a really uncertain and stressful world right now, but when I think about maintaining recovery on top of that, I can't imagine how challenging it must be to choose to approach uncomfortable emotions instead of avoid them.

As a creative arts therapist, I'd like to offer some reminders and ideas to help you stay anchored in the present, and in your recovery, while acknowledging the emotions coming up during this time. 2020 has certainly called for increased creativity and flexibility in coping with anxiety and stress, as many of our old ways of doing things aren't possible right now.

Stay connected even if you can't be in the same physical space: Even if you aren't able to connect with friends and family in the same physical space, consider how you might use technology or creativity to connect across the distance. Sometimes non-verbal communication can be just as powerful as having a conversation with a family member or friend. A few ideas: have a Zoom dance party and invite friends/family to move together virtually to a playlist of everyone's favorite music, host a virtual music listening get-together to share your favorite new music, co-create some virtual artwork or create your own artwork together on screen to share how you're feeling.

Check in with your body instead of your social media: Set limits on your exposure to social media and take time to check in with your body. How are you feeling physically today? Are emotions impacting how you see, feel, or care for your body? Sometimes emotions can feel overwhelming and impact how we feel physically. We might be tempted to ignore our body or not put the time or effort into caring for it. Take some time to check in and ask your body what it needs from you today; it can be beneficial to spend some time present in your body instead of present in your thoughts.

Incorporate some mindful movement into your daily routine: Whether you enjoy yoga, stretching, walking, or some form of dance, find a way to incorporate even ten minutes of movement into your daily routine. Pick a time of day when you can dedicate some time to mindfulness through movement and remove all distractions. This should be your time to slow down, take a pause, and really lean into what's coming up for you in the present moment. Regular mindful movement helps maintain the mind-body connection and allows your body to be your resource for anchoring in the present.

Create some artwork, music, or movement to validate how you feel: (this one is especially important if supports are unable to validate your emotions or you don't see eye to eye on current events) Think about how you might use creativity to explore and validate how you're feeling. If you're feeling stuck, try one of these prompts: Where are you at right now in your recovery journey? How are current events impacting you emotionally? What do you need right now? What does support look like today? How can you validate yourself and your feelings in this moment?

And most importantly - breathe! Take some time each day to quiet your body- sitting in stillness and silence and allowing yourself to check in with your breath. The world may seem to be spinning or moving quickly, but you don't always have to be. It's more important than ever to know and stick to your boundaries. If you need some space and time to just breathe, allow yourself to take that space.

liz shemory headshott
Liz Shemory, MA, R-DMT is a full-time Team Lead at The Renfrew Center of Mt. Laurel. She received her bachelor's degree in Dance from DeSales University and her master's degree in Dance/Movement Therapy and Counseling from Drexel University. Liz is passionate about incorporating creativity and movement into Renfrew's Unified Treatment model and supporting those struggling with eating disorders in reconnecting with their bodies.
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