The start of a New Year for me usually is filled with hope, big plans, new goals, and anticipation. When the calendar finally closed the door on 2020, we clinked our champagne glasses and bid good riddance. A year like no other had finally ended. Bring on 2021.
We are on day 10 of this new year and it honestly feels like 6 months have passed. The heaviness is real.
Witnessing what transpired in Washington with the riots at the Capitol incited by hate and falsehoods from a man, who happens to be the President, holds the greatest power, and really should know better (but unfortunately does not) is honestly terrifying.
Meanwhile, COVID-19 cases are surging in our hospitals, daily deaths are increasing, the spread is still rampant and virtual school has been extended for another 2 weeks, possibly longer. Things are not looking great folks.
With the onset of virtual school, still working from home, and the general doom and gloom of daily news feeds, I feel myself having flashbacks from the spring and the overwhelming feeling of anxiety that accompanied early pandemic response and the daily uncertainty. How will I balance it all? How do I wear all these hats without totally losing it? Will things ever get better? Fear dominates and all I want to do is close my eyes and be anywhere but here. Unfortunately, that option is not available.
The only way is through. Damn it.
Deep breath. We are not alone. We are all still in this together and we can do hard things (Thanks, Glennon).
As a wellness advocate, I want to share with you some sanity retention tips for this next lockdown chapter. My wellness is largely aided by creativity and fun and so I thought to “spice” this up some (yeah, I did) I would pair each tip with a beloved 90’s hit. After all music is therapy and if COVID had hit in the nineties I can guarantee that many a coping mix would have been made.
Hopefully, a few pieces will resonate, prove helpful for your wellness kit, and if nothing else entertain you with memories of days gone by.
1. Create Space to Feel –
Good Vibrations, Marky Mark and the Funk Bunch,
Call and Answer- Barenaked Ladies)
Friday night I sobbed into my bath bomb filled tub. The events of the week had been building and needed release. I had been riding the rollercoaster of emotion since Monday doing my best to respond to my kids seemingly endless requests with virtual school and manage my work demands. I was upset, tired, and just downright beaten. Was this sustainable? I let the tears fall. I had been holding them in and when finally, I had a moment to breathe, they fell. They say you feel better after a good cry and you do, a little more tired, but overall better.
It is okay to not be okay and it’s okay to let others know you are not. What is important here is that you connect with your feelings. All of them. The good, the bad, the difficult, and the ugly. They all need to be felt and expressed.
Whether you express them privately through journaling, alone in the woods, or a Friday night bath, with someone in therapy, over whattsapp with a friend, or openly with your family, the point is you make space to feel. Also ensure that you make space for others to feel too.
Ask your partner, kids, friends, and colleagues, how they are feeling? Hold the space for them and listen. We are all adapting and navigating a new normal and if we can be honest with our feelings then they won’t hold as much power. Ride the emotional rollercoaster gently.
2. Choose Kindness, Express Compassion-
(Kind and Generous- Natalie Merchant, You Get What You Give, New Radicals)
What we have been emotionally managing since March has been incredibly hard. We are all doing the best we can given the ever changing COVID climate and restrictions. Each person’s experience is unique and poses its’ own challenges.
Choosing kindness towards others and ourselves can greatly shift a moment. By simply offering up a kind word, thought, or gesture can go a long way. Make time to create kindness in your day. It feels just as good to give as it does to get.
Remember to also direct this kindness and compassion inwards. You are doing the best you can every moment, every day. It’s not easy. It’s not ideal. Cut yourself some slack. Pat yourself on the back.
3. Gratitude (Good Mother- Jann Arden, Show Me Love- Robyn)
We can only control so much. And given that a lot of what is creating stress and anxiety is dictated by the greater situation we can’t do much about it. Instead, look inward at what you can control.
Gratitude is an essential part of happiness. When you take time to reflect daily you shift your focus to the positives in your life. We often look for big things that we can be grateful for, but also think about the small daily things- favourite coffee mug, excellent book you are reading, blooming plant, gentle snow falling, text from a besty.
Make time in your day to jot down a few feelings of gratitude and post them close by. They will act as quick boosts of positivity and reminders for all that you are grateful for.
4. Cultivate Joy- (Joyride- Roxette)
Do things everyday that make you happy and bring you joy. Leave the laundry, the mess, and everything else that you need to do- it can wait. Be intentional and let others know you are spending time filling your cup. Create a healthy balance in how you spend your time. Crank some powerful tunes and jam, read a good book, binge on the latest Netflix, or watch some old classics. Do whatever makes you smile.
Creativity is a huge part of my wellness and if I don’t carve out even a few minutes to spend painting or stitching it affects me. My husband has gotten into puzzles like nothing else. It calms him and brings him joy.
(I’ll Be There for You- The Rembrandts, I’ll Stand by You- The Pretenders)
We are in this together- still. We must find ways to support each other as new challenges present. Watching my kids transition to virtual learning lead by their amazing teachers, who are managing their families needs as well, is truly incredible and I am so grateful for such a wonderful community. The kids are adapting and so are we all with what is required. Not to say it is not without challenge and difficult moments but overall everyone is rising to the occasion and creating what works for their family.
In our local community there is a church that has a sign on the main street with everchanging words of hope and optimism. I drive by it and I am hit with a sense of unity and togetherness. We must stay strong and stay home to help reduce the spread. This too will hopefully pass.
6. Nature- (Earth Song- Michael Jackson)
Get outside. If I can offer only one piece of wellness advice this is it. It is not healthy to stay indoors all day. You need to breathe fresh air, stare at the sky, feel the sun, watch the birds. Be present. No matter how busy you are, please make this a priority. It does wonders for your wellness.
A quick walk around the block, a post-work wander to the mailbox, whatever works for you. Yes, it is winter and it cold so dress warmly. It is worth it.
I have started getting the mail with my kids after work around the same time the sun is setting. This post work activity helps me also transition from work
mode to at home mode. A few times I have even done a pre-work walk to help transition into the mindset that is needed to greet the day. Just get outside.
(Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now) C+C Music Factory, Jump- Kris Kross)
Exercise, bike, jog, dance, do yoga, stretch, lift, clean, whatever your physical calling is do it daily and move your body. Get your heart rate up so those good feeling endorphins can be released. Exercising is an incredible stress reliever so if nothing else do it to feel better even when you don't feel like it.
I find it helpful keeping weights by my desk so I can lift throughout the day and get some solid movement in. It also helps me process the stress that seems to creep in. Also a good rage clean helps shift the mood like nothing else.
9. Simplify- (Step by Step, NKOTB)
Listen to what you need, your family needs, and focus on that. Some days will be harder than others. I already feel the stress of Monday beginning to show but I promise myself to take it moment by moment and not get overwhelmed.
Take it step by step and be kind to yourself and each other in the process.
Remember- we can do hard things, we will get through this.