This has been a rough year for millions of people and it can be hard to be optimistic and see the silver lining. A lot of people are working remotely and while it’s great in preventing infection, it can be incredibly isolating. Living and working in the same space just isn’t ideal. But here are some tips to help you cope with 2020 blues.
1. Get centered
I admit that I’ve never been one to recommend mindfulness but that’s changed since I started incorporating various practices into my life. Guided meditation, yoga, and visualization practices can do wonders for helping you to manage depression and anxiety. Many times anxiety tends to be centered around what has happened in the past or something you’re worried about in the future. Staying in the here and now can help to put things in perspective and to consciously gently challenge some of the negative automatic thoughts that precede anxiety.
2. Do something
While there’s nothing wrong with taking a break and having lazy days, there’s nothing like engaging in an activity that brings you joy. It could be an outdoor walk, trying out a new recipe, connecting with an old friend, or just sitting comfortably with an adult coloring book. Make it a priority to do three things every week that bring you joy. You’ll find that it will help you with managing stress and adjusting to change.
3. Take a break
Working remotely can mean that you don’t take as much time off work as you did before. Don’t neglect to take a vacation. Even if it’s just a staycation. PTO is available for a reason and while you might be tempted to save it all up until you can travel again, consider taking a few days off to give your mind a break. Schedule a day where you have nothing to do and stick to it. Step away from screens and stretch your body and eyes for a few moments. Take 5 deep breaths before sitting down to work. Don’t be afraid to make time for you and to step away from work so that you don’t burn out.
These past few weeks have been unusually stressful for me. I feel like everyone has a certain level of stress that they manage and cope with on a daily basis. It’s like a “regular load” of sorts. And then there are the things that can’t really be helped. It’s like Murphy’s Law gone haywire. The past two weeks have been exactly like that. From my job doubling my caseload, to car troubles, to making a decision to separate myself from someone who didn’t have my best interest in mind–it’s been exhausting. I was talking to someone the other day and I said that I felt like building a fort in my house out of blankets and chairs, crawling in and never coming out. Very unreasonable I know. The theme of my life sometimes seems to be this song “You Can’t Win.” But one thing that I’ve learned is the importance of being flexible and resourceful when necessary. I have to admit that times like this make me miss the presence of a significant other in my life. I’m not complaining but it would be nice to have someone as an actual support who had a vested interest in my life and was there because they wanted to be. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family and would do anything for them but it would so clutch to not go to bed alone every night. I’ve never been one to flaunt my single status or to complain about it but there’s something to be said about the power of “we” versus “me.” Normally I would take this time to launch into some Pollyanna-like declaration that everything will be fine. Someone will come into my life who genuinely want to be in it and I’ll experience some degree of happiness in the future. But I’m just not feeling it right now. Yes, I’ll be fine. I’ve been living this way up to this point and a change isn’t anywhere on the horizon. I’ll continue to adapt and make adjustments as necessary but it honestly does just plain suck at times. But that’s my life. At least for now.
That moment when you want to write something profound and prolific and the brightness of your screen and the text box of blankness waiting to be filled just seems to mock your efforts of gathering your thoughts together in a coherent way. That’s how I feel. This past week has been particularly busy as I’ve started school again (oh joy) and started the transitional process on the career front. One thing that has grown during this school experience has been the respect that I have for people with spouses and/or families who are being persistent and completing their degree. Something that is talked about in the social services world is the importance of balance and self care. I’ve gotten the opportunity to talk and dialogue with people who have been therapists and social workers for years and in answer to the question of how they find balance and take care of themselves, they have said that they’re still figuring it out. I think that this is because there’s no one formula. I went to a training this week about working with individuals who have experienced trauma. The main thoughts behind this specific modality was that stress is stored in the body and it need to be expressed in some form in order to reduce symptoms of depression and/or anxiety. The interesting thing about it was that the presenter asserted that one of the reasons why stress is not expressed and stays in our bodies is because we decide to ignore it. We distract ourselves with food, exercise, books, activities, etc that mask our true need of confronting the traumas and experiences that are the sources of our stress. In the therapy world these things are known as coping skills. That being said, I think that a lot of people (including myself at times) have gotten use to artfully dodging their own issues and have instead channeled all that energy to another activity instead of confronting their own past hurts. It’s a hard place to be in and nobody wants to get uncomfortable even if it’s just to heal from past hurts. Uncomfortableness is hard.
One big part of my experience as a social worker who worked with patients in hospice care was provide emotional support to the families as they went through one of the toughest times in their lives. There are literally no words to describe the feeling of going into someone’s room who is surrounded by their family and knowing that they are mere hours or minutes away from death. I say all this to say that many times family and loved ones start to go through some or all of the stages of grief when the person is still alive. This is generally referred to as anticipatory grief. One thing that I’ve seen as a therapist is how people start to demonstrate some of the stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance) when the relationship is about to die or appears to be on life support. However, one thing that has been interesting to me has been the people who are going through the stages of grief over a relationship that does not exist. This is what I mean. Let’s say someone is attracted to someone else but they have not taken the time or the initiative to show their interest to the one they find attractive. This person, having no idea that they are being admired from afar pursues other relationships to the horror of the one who likes them from a distance. The person admiring from a distance can go through the stages of grief because of the rejection that they feel and also at the many thoughts of having this individual and then losing them. But yet, the relationship never existed except in the mind of this individual. It’s funny how our minds can be creative and innovative but can also imprison us. Sometimes we have to get out of our own heads and stop inflicting the emotional wounds on ourselves because of distorted thoughts. Definitely easier said than done, but possible with self awareness and new thought habits.