EXPERIENCE A MINDFUL STATE
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KIRA M.  |  CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST

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It’s OK to not feel OK right now.

Meet Kira M.

Last time I looked it up, the population of Washington State was around 7.6 million, give or take, and the most recent data and the numbers that we have from all kinds of survey instruments and all kinds of data that we’ve been collecting and looking at for a year has shown consistently numbers in the three to four and even upwards of four million people in our state who have had clinically significant levels of depression or anxiety.

Four million people in our state have had clinically significant levels of depression or anxiety.

And that includes teenagers and kids. That is an incredible number, that’s an incredibly high percentage of the population. And keep in mind, that’s clinically significant criteria. That means that the symptoms people have are strong enough to interfere with their ability to take care of themselves, take care of their kids or work. That is not considering mild, mild symptoms and mild things that affect, I would say, a significantly bigger portion of the of the population than that.

If half of the population is experiencing something, it’s no longer abnormal.
Part of what we need to do and what we owe it to ourselves about this whole disaster recovery thing is recognizing how normal it is to feel weird, to feel confused and to get mad and feel like you just can’t function sometimes and to recognize that means nothing about what you’re capable of or who you are as a person.

That is how your brain responds to stress. And it couldn’t be more natural and incredibly common. So it’s not a fault. It’s not a weakness. That’s what we have to do to reduce this message that there’s something wrong because, yeah, there’s something wrong. But it’s the circumstances, not you.

Yeah, there’s something wrong. But it’s the circumstances, not you.

The human brain handles stress in a very known way

So in terms of really common experiences that kids and adults alike are experiencing across the state is based on how our brains handle disasters and traumatic events and stress, and that is something we all have in common — no matter what other resources people have access to. The human brain handles stress in a very known way. We know how that affects our bodies, why we eat carbs all the time, why we keep snacking on everything. We know why we get confused so easily.

 Most adults right now feel like they have symptoms of ADHD or early-onset dementia, and it’s terrifying. That’s not to take anything away from either of those two conditions, but the fact that we walk into another room and we have no idea why we went in there and we can never remember the day of the week. Those are normal cognitive and neurological responses for how tired and how much stress we have been under collectively for more than a year now.

 So one of my most favorite parts about my job is to share information with people about how what they are going through is really, really normal, especially that cognitive stuff, because most people think they’re losing it — like it’s just them. You go to the store for bread and vegetables and you come out with ice cream and chocolate. People get distracted and you can’t focus on things, and that’s incredibly normal. And for our kids, too. And to have patience with yourself. Everybody’s emotion regulation is so compromised right now.

Most people think they’re losing it.

It’s very common to snap at your spouse or partner or your kids or another driver on the road — then a minute later, when your brain catches up with itself, you think, “Where did that come from? Why did I just do that?” And it’s normal. That emotional up and down, where you get out of bed like it’s going to be a great day, it’s sunny today. Twenty minutes later, it’s the worst day you’ve ever had.

 And those cycles are just incredibly common right now, as are issues with sleep, dysregulated sleep. It’s either you can’t turn your brain off and you have the hamster wheel spinning again and again, or you fall asleep no problem, and your brain wakes up at 3:00 in the morning ready to go. And you’re not, because you haven’t had enough rest. So disrupted sleep, behavioral stuff, maybe acting out a little bit, maybe swearing or being more aggressive than normal.

 Those are common patterns, too. Not wanting to get out of bed, feeling a little helpless, snacking. I already mentioned the emotion dysregulation. These are all really, really common responses right now.

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