It is certainly not business as usual right now. We have protests against police violence and systemic racism going on all around the world, which is occurring in the middle of a global pandemic of epic proportions. It is more than normal to feel stressed and have some anxiety around the future the future right now. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Because each one of us is going through something different – whether you are single or have four kids, are unemployed or overworked with no childcare – life at this moment in time is likely not a cakewalk. But you should know that you are not alone, people all around the world are reporting increased levels of stressed and anxiety.
I went through a mental health crisis when I was critically ill with COVID-19. Starting in early March, my two toddlers, my husband and I were all sick with COVID and then I fell very ill. It was beyond overwhelming on so many levels – the fear, stress, and uncertainty about the future. I know a number of people who also had COVID and many spoke of the mental health battles of having this virus.
I woke up one morning when I was very ill and knew I needed help. Carmen Margaziotis, L.Ac. was introduced to me by a close friend who raved about her ability to facilitate true healing and management of stress. Her combination of listening to my fears and helping me come up with a tangible plan, helped me to heal. Carmen’s tools were so incredibly helpful that I felt that I had to share them with others. I hope this is helpful to someone else on their journey.
I personally did not comprehend the strong connection between mental and physical health until I was sick with COVID-19 and needed mental health support to heal my sick body. In addition to the physical symptoms of COVID-19, and many other serious or terminal diseases, many suffer from mental health issues as well. There is a great deal of fear of dying or never recovering, getting worse and the unknown. Many people are unprepared for the mental stress associated with COVID-19. Please help me to understand the connection between mental and physical health.
Our bodies and minds are not separate entities. They work together and impact each other. Let’s say you are super overwhelmed and stressed out. That stress impacts your body.
Stress creates inflammation in the body and triggers the fight or flight response, which also creates various physiological reactions. So the stress that is in your mind, creates a physical reaction in your body.
Especially when there is inflammation, which is a factor in the majority of diseases, the body cannot heal other areas as well because it’s also focused on fighting the inflammation. This also works in reverse…. When you are sick, there is a lot of fear and stress that comes with that. Which then impacts your healing process as well. So, it can become a cycle that prolongs illness, which further impacts mental health, which prolongs and creates illness, and on and on.
Why is actively engaging in mental health practice (meditating, gratitude, praying, tapping) so important?
In regular daily life we take in a lot of stress. Now with COVID, it’s on a whole other level. Engaging in mental health practices helps you feel less overwhelmed. When you know how to manage and discharge stress, you feel steadier, calmer, and have access to your inner wisdom. It is in this state that life seems to flow more easily. It’s definitely more important than ever because the challenges are bigger. Before the pandemic, my personal mental health practice was not as rigorous as it is now.
I know exactly what you mean when you say a constant mental health practice helps life seem to flow more easily. So, how do you help patients stay positive through this pandemic?
I’ve been helping people create their own wellness routines. So they can have an established practice that helps them start the day and end the day in a grounded place. I give clients tools to help them manage their minds throughout the day. And always the reminder to practice being present. We are usually in a state of fear or anxiety when we are thinking about the future so if we can practice being in this moment, we can get in touch with our ok-ness.
How do you yourself stay positive through this pandemic?
I’ll admit the first couple of weeks were a huge trigger for my anxiety. I was in complete survival mode. But then I remembered I can use the same tools I use all the time. I needed a mental health routine – a SIMPLE one. I created a practice for myself that included mantra and prayer in the morning, being sure I see sunshine early, reading, and taking breaks. I had to limit my news intake because it’s one thing to stay informed, but at some point it becomes overwhelming.
More than anything, I gave up being hard on myself. Some days I felt very productive but the next day I would barely be able to move. I realized that I was underestimating the toll that the pandemic takes, even if it’s just in the background.
There is a lot for our brains to process. So I have been cutting myself some slack. If I feel energy, I use it. If I feel slow, then I take my sweet time. I am not trying to “push” through anything right now.
You are truly a healer. A special person with a unique ability to connect with your clients’ deepest fears and feelings. How would you describe what distinguishes your unique practice from other mental health professionals?
Thank you, that’s very kind of you to say! I think that I am able to get to the root of something very quickly, and then I help you clear the stress reaction equally as fast. That simple process can change patterns that have been with you for decades. I also give you practical, usable tools to help you continue to change and create new patterns that are supportive to your well-being. I think more than anything, it’s important to me to create a safe, non-judgmental space. I want to help you find your way back to you. Not my way or what society thinks is right but what is right for you for where you are in this moment.
How can we start our own mental health practices at home?
I think a good first step is recognizing what’s not working. Is news making you feel stressed? Are you being too demanding of yourself? Becoming connected enough to yourself to see that you are carrying stress and is there anything you can do to soften it. Put a boundary on your intake of things that make you feel bad. See if you can cut yourself some slack, give yourself some room to breathe. I think a very simple thing to do that has a big impact is to start and end your day with gratitude.
My mind tends to race first thing, so it is especially helpful to start my practice before I’ve even opened my eyes for the day. Saying thank you, a prayer that you connect with, or gratitude will alter the direction of your whole day.
So many people are suffering from mental health-related difficulties right now. Why do you think truly talking about these issues doesn’t happen? Why do we see these issues as a weakness when so many are dealing with the same thing?
I think that when we are in survival mode you are only thinking about survival. Humans avoid pain so when we are struggling or in a difficult situation, our nature is to try to push that discomfort away. That is why we see so many people overeating, over-drinking, and over-screening right now. I have no judgment about that, I’ve done my share of numbing out too. The problem is that when we push our feelings away, they need to get stored somewhere. So either they end up bubbling up later in an unhealthy, inappropriate way. Or over time, it can start to manifest as disease (remember how stress causes inflammation in the body?). But, as a society, we are taught to power and push through. That that is the STRONG thing to do. While pushing through sometimes is very necessary, it has long-term negative impacts.
Since seeing you, I’m on a personal campaign for everyone I know to seek mental health support. We often prioritize a nice dinner, new clothes or things for our kids, but never ourselves. What would you tell yourself if you were hesitating on whether to talk to someone? A lot of people say, “oh how can talking to someone really help me?”
First I would say if you aren’t taking care of yourself then who’s going to?
Sometimes it helps to think of taking care of oneself as something we are doing for other people. Because when I am stressed or sick then it affects everyone around me in a negative way. So, me taking care of myself is one of the ways that I contribute positively to those around me.
As for wondering if talking to someone can really help, at a minimum it’s a way of getting your own thoughts organized and clarified. There was a study done that showed that the simple act of naming and acknowledging an emotion helps it dissipate. So often, we don’t even know what we are feeling until we start talking it out. Doing this with someone who is trained to listen to you from a neutral space and knows how to ask you the right questions can have a huge impact. At the end of the day, why wouldn’t you do anything that is going to help you feel better? When you feel better you do better in the world, everything flows more smoothly and you can even experience joy and laughter in the most difficult of circumstances. You deserve that.
You said it right. You deserve that. We all deserve to be healthy and to enjoy the joyful things in our lives. Thank you, Carmen for sharing your wisdom and advice.
Carmen is a mental health advocate and wellness expert with a private acupunture and alternative medicine practice that focuses on helping clients manage stress and anxiety to achieve their best mental health and well-being. Carmen is located in the Los Angeles area. You can find Carmen on Instagram @CarmenMargazi and www.CarmenMargazi.com. Carmen also just published her first book entitled, Unstoppable: The Overwhelmed Girl’s Guide to Life.