I must confess: the past two weeks have been really hard.
As the days get shorter, darker, and more dreary, the long winter ahead is quickly becoming a reality.
We will soon lose the respite that the outdoors has provided over the summer months. When we do, the reality of Corona will be inescapable.
My husband and I have joked that we will have to bundle up in our snow pants and warmest winter gear to venture outside like Wisconsinites, who fearlessly brave the coldest temperatures to snow mobile, ice fish, and do whatever else it is that rural mid-westerners do in cold weather. Of course, we will just be walking in the forest preserve, but the spirit will be the same.
Anyway, I feel there is a heaviness and a mourning surrounding us all right now. Maybe it’s because the reality is setting in that things won’t be “normal” for a while; maybe it’s a fatigue that things haven’t been normal for so long.
We are weary because of all that has been, all that hasn’t been, all that will be and all that might not be. It’s a very weird time.
For a while there, I was bumping along just fine, but once I finished running my virtual marathon two weeks ago, I felt like I hit a wall. And ever since, I’ve felt like I’m running on empty.
Therefore, I’ve been vigilant about finding things that make me feel better, and today, I’m going to share three of them with you.
Meditate or Take Quiet Moments for Yourself
I’ve always wanted to be someone who meditates regularly. And sometimes I have. It’s a habit that has come in and out of my life, and when I do it, it feels great. But I have found that sitting in stillness and silence for 30 minutes every day is a practice that is difficult for me to sustain.
As such, I’ve started to experiment with meditation in ways that are more accessible and enjoyable. For me, this means there are fewer rules and parameters about how to do it “right.”
Now, I don’t need to meditate for a set amount of time, nor do I have to do it in any certain way.
Sometimes, I lie in bed and listen to soothing music before I get up. Other times, I get a cup of coffee and listen to a guided meditation in a quiet room. When I’m feeling particularly exhausted, I just close my eyes for 5-10 minutes and take a little rest.
Now that I’ve dropped all the rules and expectations, the only important thing that matters is that it feels good.
That’s so important because we all need more things in our lives right now that simply feel good.
I know I just said that it’s cold and dreary and dark, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t still need the fresh air and exercise. It just means that it’s harder to make yourself do it.
In fact, because COVID cases are rising, there are more restrictions on what you can do and where you can go. Therefore, it’s important to take advantage of the options that remain. Because getting out is important for your physical healthy, but even more so for your mental health.
A short walk around the neighborhood can help to calm and soothe you. When you stay inside, focused on remote learning or work for too long, it can be easy to lose perspective.
When you start to feel overwhelmed or stressed, you surrender to the more emotional or primitive parts of your brain. By hitting the refresh button with a little exercise and some fresh air, you can reset yourself to prefrontal cortex thought.
This is positive because the prefrontal cortex is where your higher order problem solving and most evolved thought occurs. We want to try to spend as much time as we can in that part of our brains if we are trying to be effective and productive.
So bundle up. Maybe even put on a raincoat, rain boots, and take an umbrella if it is sprinkling. I know, it sounds terrible. But it’s an adventure, and I guarantee you’ll feel better, at least mentally, when you get home.
Put your phone down
Put it down. Turn it off. Put it away. Take a break from being connected. Even if only for a few minutes. But even better if you can do it for more than a few minutes.
We are all feeling a little lonely and isolated right now, and it’s only natural to seek connection by way of your phone. Unfortunately, the internet really isn’t built for connection.
Instead, social media platforms are places where your friends, frenemies, and that girl you met that one time at that party in 2009 post their highlight reels. None of it is real, or at least, none of it is the whole story.
Social media platforms are also where publications post articles with infuriating headlines because anger drives internet clicks. And all the publications want as many clicks as possible, so even incredibly benign stories run under the most controversial headlines. If all you’re doing is headline surfing, you’re in trouble.
Finally, the platforms are designed to keep you on so they show you more and more of the stuff that you click on, which, it turns out, is stuff that convinces you the world is going to hell, if it isn’t already there.
What should you do about it?
GET OFF THE FREAKING INTERNET.
If you must pick up your phone for work, do the task at hand. Otherwise, put your phone down and spend time meditating, going for a walk, or ANYTHING other than being on the internet.
If what you really need is human connection (and who doesn’t right now), you have my permission to pick up your phone to call a friend and have a real conversation.
Or better yet, go hug your kids. Because let’s be real – what we all REALLY need right now is just more hugs.