Maranda Barskey

@maranda-barskey | contributor
Medical Expert
Maranda Barskey holds a master's degree in Clinical Psychology and practices individual and couples therapy in Los Angeles. She is the creator of "Lyrically Induced Conversations," which merge new music with psycho-spiritual education in a unique workshop format. Maranda hosts private and corporate mindfulness/wellness talks and workshops. She has a background as a classical ballet dancer, actress, singer, and visual artist and is deeply passionate about creativity, community, and social justice. Instagram & Twitter: @marandabarskey Website: xomaranda.com

49 Tips for Dealing With Self-Destructive Tendencies in Self-Isolation

Self-destruction… it’s not great, but you know this. You also probably know that any unhealthy coping mechanisms you may have developed are, kind of like, your best attempt at trying to handle some deep distress and emotional pain that might feel too big to hold onto. What you might be seeking is an expression of these emotions that maybe you can’t quite find an appropriate, safe outlet for, the words for, or maybe even a firm cerebral grasp of. And now this — a global pandemic … so many un knowns. Ugh! It’s OK and would make sense if you are feeling especially keyed up, confused, or extra triggered, right now. You’ve probably experienced a lot of upheavals, demanding you to completely shift and change your routines. You may have lost your feelings of stability and security. You might be feeling extra lonely since we’ve been asked to isolate from each other or like you can’t find a moment, or any space, for yourself. These challenges are very real. What I am here to remind you is that when, and if, these feelings begin to arise — you have options! I want to share with you a list of possibilities that might help you delay your intended harmful action in real-time and protect you, your beautiful body, and your sweet heart from any self-destructive activities you may be tempted to engage with. If you can delay engagement and buy yourself some time, even if only for a few minutes, often the urge will begin to lessen and fade away. That is what we are going for! I’m asking you to do your best to bravely ride the wave and try to find your way back to shore by using alternative methods of self-soothing and distraction. We want to keep in mind that feelings ebb and flow like the waves, so try not to judge, over-identify, or beat yourself up when in reality you’ve probably experienced hundreds, or thousands, of times before that: “This too shall pass.” So here are some options. I highly recommend taking the time to digest the list when you aren’t feeling particularly upset or overwhelmed. Jot down any of the options that sound like they might be comforting for you, and keep the list handy for hard moments. 49 Alternatives to Hurting Me Write down your “bad” feelings. Then tear them up! Sit outside and breathe fresh air — if that’s not possible, open a window. Aromatherapy: try to enjoy inhaling a scent you find soothing. Foam roll as a means of self-massage/relaxing your muscles. Bake or cook something. Slow down and experience chopping and prepping everything. Write your answer to this question down on paper: If someone asked your best friend about your five greatest qualities, what would they be? Do the dishes. See if you can find pleasure in the feeling of the warm water, soapy sponge, and satisfaction of completing a task. Put on your favorite album and dance to get some of the energy out! Cry. Exercise. (When last I counted there were roughly… a billion workout videos online). Look for bodyweight exercises that don’t require equipment, jump rope, etc. Go for a walk and see if you can sync the rhythm of your breath and steps. Watch a movie…or five! Call/FaceTime someone you care about. (If you don’t feel comfortable talking to them about your hard feelings, ask how they are doing and lean into learning more about them or what is going on in their life. If you do feel comfortable, tell someone how you’re feeling honestly.) Go online and find a message board or group you can communicate with. Take a bath or hot shower and try to really feel and enjoy the warm water on your skin. Alternatively, take a cold shower. Try to learn a new word in the dictionary. Snap a rubber band on your wrist when you’re thinking of hurting yourself. Put on a favorite album, sit or lie down, and see if you can listen to what the different instruments are doing. Make music: sing, play an instrument, mess around with a music app. Play a video game. Cut up a soda bottle, cardboard, an old pair of jeans, etc. Massage your hands or feet. Draw, color, paint. Pop bubble wrap. Deep clean one area in your space. Journal about how you are feeling. (Give your feelings room to express themselves.) Write a poem, story, or song. Experience chewing things like gum, crunchy celery, raisins, pretzels… Taste strong flavors like peppers or peppermint. Do something kind for your body like lathering yourself up in lotion, painting your nails, flossing your teeth, doing a face mask. Call a hotline for support from someone who won’t have a personal stake in your story. Read a book. Scream into or punch a pillow. Hold your own hand. Try to laugh : watch something funny (a comedy special, YouTube videos, a sitcom). Go to bed — sometimes it really does feel better in the morning. Listen to nature sounds and breathe. Track down a guided meditation or guided body scan to relax. Eat something sour like a lemon. Rip paper. Draw in a sketchbook that you want to do to yourself instead of doing it. Draw on your skin or run ice over the area you may be tempted to hurt. Hug or snuggle a stuffed animal, a real animal, a loved one, a blanket or pillow. Write about that last thing you thought was really funny or beautiful! Make a fancy plate of your favorite snacks. Squeeze ice or a stress ball. Make a list of everything you can see in the space you’re in that is one specific color. Pick a subject you’re curious about and do a deep dive on the internet to learn more about it. Resources and related articles about the coronavirus (COVID-19) New Study Suggests Digestive Issues Can Be First Sign of COVID-19 Which Face Masks Prevent Against Coronavirus? How to Make Your Own Hand Sanitizer 8 Soaps You Can Use to Help Prevent the Spread of Illness Coronavirus and Chronic Illness: What You Need to Know What You Should Know About Social Distancing During COVID-19 What Is COVID-19? COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) is a new-in-humans coronavirus that causes respiratory infection. The virus’s most common symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath, and in severe cases, difficulty breathing and pneumonia. Other symptoms may include a loss of smell and taste or digestive issues. The coronavirus is highly contagious and is believed to spread to at least two people for every one person infected. Because it can take days for symptoms to appear, people can spread COVID-19 before they know they’re contagious.

49 Tips for Dealing With Self-Destructive Tendencies in Self-Isolation

Self-destruction… it’s not great, but you know this. You also probably know that any unhealthy coping mechanisms you may have developed are, kind of like, your best attempt at trying to handle some deep distress and emotional pain that might feel too big to hold onto. What you might be seeking is an expression of these emotions that maybe you can’t quite find an appropriate, safe outlet for, the words for, or maybe even a firm cerebral grasp of. And now this — a global pandemic … so many un knowns. Ugh! It’s OK and would make sense if you are feeling especially keyed up, confused, or extra triggered, right now. You’ve probably experienced a lot of upheavals, demanding you to completely shift and change your routines. You may have lost your feelings of stability and security. You might be feeling extra lonely since we’ve been asked to isolate from each other or like you can’t find a moment, or any space, for yourself. These challenges are very real. What I am here to remind you is that when, and if, these feelings begin to arise — you have options! I want to share with you a list of possibilities that might help you delay your intended harmful action in real-time and protect you, your beautiful body, and your sweet heart from any self-destructive activities you may be tempted to engage with. If you can delay engagement and buy yourself some time, even if only for a few minutes, often the urge will begin to lessen and fade away. That is what we are going for! I’m asking you to do your best to bravely ride the wave and try to find your way back to shore by using alternative methods of self-soothing and distraction. We want to keep in mind that feelings ebb and flow like the waves, so try not to judge, over-identify, or beat yourself up when in reality you’ve probably experienced hundreds, or thousands, of times before that: “This too shall pass.” So here are some options. I highly recommend taking the time to digest the list when you aren’t feeling particularly upset or overwhelmed. Jot down any of the options that sound like they might be comforting for you, and keep the list handy for hard moments. 49 Alternatives to Hurting Me Write down your “bad” feelings. Then tear them up! Sit outside and breathe fresh air — if that’s not possible, open a window. Aromatherapy: try to enjoy inhaling a scent you find soothing. Foam roll as a means of self-massage/relaxing your muscles. Bake or cook something. Slow down and experience chopping and prepping everything. Write your answer to this question down on paper: If someone asked your best friend about your five greatest qualities, what would they be? Do the dishes. See if you can find pleasure in the feeling of the warm water, soapy sponge, and satisfaction of completing a task. Put on your favorite album and dance to get some of the energy out! Cry. Exercise. (When last I counted there were roughly… a billion workout videos online). Look for bodyweight exercises that don’t require equipment, jump rope, etc. Go for a walk and see if you can sync the rhythm of your breath and steps. Watch a movie…or five! Call/FaceTime someone you care about. (If you don’t feel comfortable talking to them about your hard feelings, ask how they are doing and lean into learning more about them or what is going on in their life. If you do feel comfortable, tell someone how you’re feeling honestly.) Go online and find a message board or group you can communicate with. Take a bath or hot shower and try to really feel and enjoy the warm water on your skin. Alternatively, take a cold shower. Try to learn a new word in the dictionary. Snap a rubber band on your wrist when you’re thinking of hurting yourself. Put on a favorite album, sit or lie down, and see if you can listen to what the different instruments are doing. Make music: sing, play an instrument, mess around with a music app. Play a video game. Cut up a soda bottle, cardboard, an old pair of jeans, etc. Massage your hands or feet. Draw, color, paint. Pop bubble wrap. Deep clean one area in your space. Journal about how you are feeling. (Give your feelings room to express themselves.) Write a poem, story, or song. Experience chewing things like gum, crunchy celery, raisins, pretzels… Taste strong flavors like peppers or peppermint. Do something kind for your body like lathering yourself up in lotion, painting your nails, flossing your teeth, doing a face mask. Call a hotline for support from someone who won’t have a personal stake in your story. Read a book. Scream into or punch a pillow. Hold your own hand. Try to laugh : watch something funny (a comedy special, YouTube videos, a sitcom). Go to bed — sometimes it really does feel better in the morning. Listen to nature sounds and breathe. Track down a guided meditation or guided body scan to relax. Eat something sour like a lemon. Rip paper. Draw in a sketchbook that you want to do to yourself instead of doing it. Draw on your skin or run ice over the area you may be tempted to hurt. Hug or snuggle a stuffed animal, a real animal, a loved one, a blanket or pillow. Write about that last thing you thought was really funny or beautiful! Make a fancy plate of your favorite snacks. Squeeze ice or a stress ball. Make a list of everything you can see in the space you’re in that is one specific color. Pick a subject you’re curious about and do a deep dive on the internet to learn more about it. Resources and related articles about the coronavirus (COVID-19) New Study Suggests Digestive Issues Can Be First Sign of COVID-19 Which Face Masks Prevent Against Coronavirus? How to Make Your Own Hand Sanitizer 8 Soaps You Can Use to Help Prevent the Spread of Illness Coronavirus and Chronic Illness: What You Need to Know What You Should Know About Social Distancing During COVID-19 What Is COVID-19? COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) is a new-in-humans coronavirus that causes respiratory infection. The virus’s most common symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath, and in severe cases, difficulty breathing and pneumonia. Other symptoms may include a loss of smell and taste or digestive issues. The coronavirus is highly contagious and is believed to spread to at least two people for every one person infected. Because it can take days for symptoms to appear, people can spread COVID-19 before they know they’re contagious.

When the COVID-19 Outbreak Increases Your Sense of Existential Dread

Headlines might as well read, “Whelp, this has been fun. Goodbye, world!” Right now, it’s pretty weird “out there,” and I guess, it’s pretty weird “in here,” too. Even writing about an “out there ” and “in here ” feels surreal and utterly bizarre for me — and I’m a therapist. So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, confused, anxious, numb or doomed because suddenly you can’t leave your house and when you do try to run out because you’re on your last roll of toilet paper you find people outside walking their dogs in hazmat suits and there’s eerily no traffic (I’m in LA, so this one’s major), feelings of existential dread arising would make complete sense to me. Allow me to affirm: it’s OK to feel whatever you’re feeling. There is no right or wrong way to handle your experience of, and reaction to, an unprecedented global pandemic. While I certainly don’t have a solution to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak — and my ego is 100% comfortable with leaving that to others who have dedicated their lives to understanding, studying, and learning how to help us with this one — what I am hoping is maybe I can use my understanding, and interpretation, of existentialism to give us one possible framework for considering why we might be feeling what we’re feeling and what we might be able to do about it. As a therapist, one of the dominant lenses I look through is existential. While existentialism is loosely understood to be about death and our relationship to it — you might be relieved to learn that it’s not all doom and gloom. (Existentialism is not nihilism, which somewhat pessimistically posits existence is senseless and kind of leaves it there.) I appreciate existentialism because it actually promotes freedom, choice, authenticity, and personal responsibility. It’s not about throwing our hands up in the face of an illogical world; it’s about getting up and deciding to continue moving forward while acknowledging the absurdity and irrationality of it all. I find it liberating and exciting. An obstacle on the path to liberation, however, is fear. It is natural and totally normal to feel afraid. Fear is an important survival mechanism. Without fear, the lion eats us, ya know? What I’m suggesting is not to numb out and avoid fear but to risk looking at it. While we may not have control over the circumstances we find ourselves in at the moment and we may not fully understand it all — maybe that’s OK and maybe we are actually still OK. Maybe in the face of this pandemic, there is a profound opportunity awaiting us on the other side of our fear… During what I’ll call “the good old days” — you remember, when we could go out to eat, see movies in a theater, and gather in groups of ten or more people — the opportunity has always been there for us to ask some tough existential questions. Right now, we’re being confronted by the unknown answers to those tough questions more literally, and immediately, than ever before as we sit at home in our best effort to protect each other’s health and wellbeing. Questions like: Who am I? What am I? What is the point of it all? — which is another way of asking: What is the meaning of life? The Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist, Carl Jung, shared a heartening quote that I think sums up this notion so elegantly: “Meaning makes a great many things endurable – perhaps everything.” So is it possible that the meaning of life is to choose to live a life of deep meaning?! I find there to be a poetic and liberating beauty in this idea — the notion that we get to construct our own meaning of, and about, everything! This is not about selfishness and narcissism, it is about self-actualization. Is it possible that there is not one finite “meaning of life” but rather that each of us gets to assign our meaning to our life? At its most distilled, I am suggesting that perhaps the greatest expression of purpose, meaning, and freedom in our lives — even and perhaps especially in times of uncertainty — is to continue courageously choosing each day to uncover, discover, and be who we are. From my perspective, existential angst is an invitation to turn inward — to “go home” — to reconsider our spiritual freedom, to embrace the power we have to decide what we make of our experience and to engage with our personal responsibility. I wonder what happens if instead of putting our hands over our eyes right now, we decide to surrender to the unknown, lean into the moment, and dare to allow ourselves to bloom in the face of it all? Short-term Existential Dread Coping Strategies Breathe, and not those shallow chest breaths either! I’m talking about a deep, full belly, I am inhaling into my fingers and toes kind of breaths. It’s called diaphragmatic breathing, and it’s the way we breathe when we are relaxed, feeling safe and secure. Even if you’re not feeling that right now, let’s fake it and risk that by breathing in this way — we just might feel OK for a bit. It’s possible to trick our brains into a positive outcome sometimes — so why not try it? I suggest a long, slow inhale, holding the breath for about as long as it took for you to inhale, and then exhaling just as slowly. Try to limit how much news you are taking in. Make a commitment to yourself to only read the news twice a day (or something that feels realistic/manageable for you). Get some fresh air. If you can’t go outside — can you at least open a window to bring some fresh energy into your space? Consider self-soothing with comedy! Watch a show you love, give yourself permission to feel lighthearted and playful. Color or doodle your thoughts. Make a list of things that delight you and intentionally do them! (A hot shower, a face mask, reading your favorite book, listening to your favorite album, snuggling up with your pet, wearing those cozy sweatpants… what else?!) Move your body! There are so many incredible workouts and yoga classes available online. Stop moving your body! Find guided meditations and body scans to help ground a wandering mind and comfort a racing heart. Journal to get some of the “noise” out of your head. Talk to a professional who is properly trained and equipped to help you. I’m compelled to close out by highlighting the work of Viktor Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist and neurologist who founded logotherapy (“logos” = Greek for “reason”). Frankl was a Holocaust survivor of not just one concentration camp, but three. He wrote an incredibly poignant book called “Man’s Search for Meaning.” Frankl’s observations and experiences affirm for us that life has meaning under all circumstances, including the most horrific and terrifying ones. He writes, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” What are you going to choose today? Resources and related articles about the coronavirus (COVID-19) New Study Suggests Digestive Issues Can Be First Sign of COVID-19 Which Face Masks Prevent Against Coronavirus? How to Make Your Own Hand Sanitizer 8 Soaps You Can Use to Help Prevent the Spread of Illness Coronavirus and Chronic Illness: What You Need to Know What You Should Know About Social Distancing During COVID-19 What Is COVID-19? COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) is a new-in-humans coronavirus that causes respiratory infection. The virus’s most common symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath, and in severe cases, difficulty breathing and pneumonia. Other symptoms may include a loss of smell and taste or digestive issues. The coronavirus is highly contagious and is believed to spread to at least two people for every one person infected. Because it can take days for symptoms to appear, people can spread COVID-19 before they know they’re contagious.