Wow…just look at that! Apparently it took a global pandemic for me to find my way back to my blog. A global pandemic and 2 months of adjusting. #silverlinings
Something interesting has happened recently. Yes, of course I’m referring to the complete upending of life as we know it, but I’m also referring to something much more specific. In some ways, the playing field of mental health has been altered as well. Suddenly individuals who may have never particularly struggled with anxiety or depression are experiencing symptoms of helplessness, hopelessness, fear and worry. Suddenly more of us get what if feels like to struggle with these feelings. We are, I would venture to say, all impacted by this…and probably the majority of us are struggling in the face of it. For me it’s been a roller coaster. There are days that I feel immense gratitude for where I live, my family, our health, the relative stability that we are experiencing, the added time we have to spend together, the new found joy of simplicity, un-busyness, un-hurriedness and un-harriedness. There are other days that, quite frankly, I experience intense fear. For my children, our world, my family, my community, my friends. I have friends who have lost dear ones during this time, and I have lost dear ones during this time. Grief is ever-present, and yet also strangely illusive because it is, in some sense, all around us and also so far away. It feels strangely washed out. Perhaps we are becoming numb, or adjusting to this new world order. We are simultaneously regaining normalcy as we cut out the excessive number of activities and commitments we used to try to maintain, and losing all sense of normalcy as we isolate ourselves from others and sink deeper into our couches and Netflix.
How’s a person to manage all this?
I am practicing what I preach lately, so I will share my current formula, which is only my current formula. This is the quick and dirty version. Take it, make it yours.
- Take care of your body. Walk every morning if you can. Think of this as a 3-fold benefit
- Light therapy (in this case, walking in the early morning sunshine) improves depression and helps with insomnia by getting your sleep-wake cycle on track.
- Exercise! To quote an old favorite…”Exercise gives you endorphins, endorphins make you happy!” Walking, while not exactly cross fit, is great exercise and we can basically all do it. And it’s free, so your bank account will be happy as well.
- Finally, it may be a golden opportunity to interact with others – practice smiling all the way up into your eyes (whether you are wearing a mask or not). Get to know a neighbor from 6 feet away. Watch kids drawing on the sidewalk or playing in sprinklers.
- Take care of your mind (okay, these could also fall under taking care of your body, but I’m putting them under mind for reasons I will not take the time to get into here…)
- I’ve been doing my best to do 10 minutes of yoga every morning when I wake up. 10 minutes…that’s it! The difference in my mindset, not to mention how my shoulders, neck and hips feel after only 10 minutes, is unbelievable. I can’t believe I haven’t been doing this my whole life. This is my current favorite morning yoga video, in case you need somewhere to start.
- Breath, dangit! Yes of course this is something you are likely doing all the time, particularly if you are reading this and therefore alive, but there’s a big difference between shallow, anxious breathing and deep, lung-expanding breath. The easiest way to do this is to sit or lie (on your back) comfortably, place a hand over your belly button, and concentrate on making your hand go up and down – ensuring that the air is getting all the way down into the bottom of your lungs instead of getting stuck at the top. Really blow it all out, too. Most of us do a poor job of emptying our lungs and stale air sits around in there (which can also cause side cramps when you’re exercising, btw). Get rid of that old air….who needs it?!? If you want to take this to the next level, try this:4-7-8 Breathing.
- Go easy on yourself already. Yes, seize some moments, find the good, exercise more, cook more, connect with people, and Marie Kondo your closet. But also don’t. Don’t let the FOMO from your “real life” seep into this life. Don’t panic if you’re not embracing this opportunity to learn a new life skill or finally take on that project. Allow yourself time to acknowledge and talk about your struggles, fears and frustrations alongside looking for the #silverlinings. Sure, go for walks in the morning and squeeze in some other exercise too as you can. But if you don’t, okay then. Do it the next day, or the next. Every moment does not have to be a post, tweet, memory or learning opportunity. Some can just be regular old moments. As we emerge from this time, hopefully more of those regular old moments will remain, and we will all find a new type of balance that may have very well been missing in our lives before this.
It’s worth mentioning that another way the field of mental health has been altered during this time is how much more accessible remote, or telehealth, therapy has become. I have jumped on this bandwagon as well and am happy to be able to offer video sessions to clients for as long as necessary, and even longer if it’s convenient to you. If you’re curious or interested or just want to know more about telehealth and what that might mean for you, please reach out to set up a phone call or video session. I’d be happy to chat!
Be well, all of you.