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.
There’s been so many changes lately and the funny thing is that I started a new job right before everything shut down so it’s been a learning curve adjusting to a new process while navigating policy changes related to patient care as a result of the current client. Yes, that was a mouthful. Everyone is coping in their own way and some better than others. I’m glad to see that there is more attention around mental health and that people are reaching out but as it’s also equally imperative that therapists’ take the time to reset and recharge between providing emotional support to individuals while being (sometimes) in a similar personal situation. I’m finding myself saying “no” more often than I used to due to juggling several responsibilities and taking classes. One clothing brand has given a 50% discount to all healthcare workers and I was so glad to finally get a jacket that would be perfect when I go into work at the crack of dawn and it’s still chilly outside. While I think that a show of support is great, what would be even better would be compliance so that the rates of this virus can come down. But there’s nothing more American than protesting and people don’t like being told what to do regardless of the fact that it’s for the greater good.
I hate moving but I love traveling. There’s always more to think about when you’re relocating and carrying your belongings with you. A little more than a year ago I gave up my apartment, put my stuff in storage, and moved across the country for an adventure. More recently I’ve moved back to my home state and into a new apartment. I love my own space. One thing that’s been helpful in all my moves through the years is that I have a great mother who always wants to help (take over). I’ve flown her in to help me out because I’m on a tight deadline. She’s amazing at being organized but bad at listening to instructions. She likes the moving in process and will inevitably bring in things she likes with the explanation that I don’t have to like them but she’ll use them when she visits. It’s a fair price to pay for the assistance. I don’t know where I’ll be next but maybe soon I’ll put down some roots.
I ran into this article and found the title eye catching. You can read the article here. The term “mentally strong people” isn’t something that I’ve heard commonly used in any circles. The article had some great points and I liked number two the best, “They don’t give away their power.” Power is something that a lot of people have but never realize it or use it. Thus, they give their power away without knowing it. There’s books you can read about it (i.e. 48 Laws of Power). One way that I’ve seen people give up their power is by losing their cool in a situation that they don’t like. Stressful situations are never enjoyable but they get worse when people totally flip out over something that they can’t change in the moment. It’s at that point that you’ve lost control and it’s in those situations that people sometimes have to intervene and make choices for you. Coming from a background in mental health, that choice often meant putting someone in the hospital involuntarily. Needless to say, the article has some great points and I think that they all are true. But by the same token, it’s ok to not be mentally strong all the time and to seek assistance when you need it. Ignoring something doesn’t mean it goes away. Even if you are “mentally strong.”
This song is on repeat this week. I’ve always been a fan of Ariana Grande’s voice. She has range but also a clearness to her tone that is refreshing. The song is pretty retrospective. It talks about spending more time in the rearview mirror instead of looking ahead. One thing that I like is that the words are honest. The song talks about acknowledgement for the good times but also a lot of regret. It’s not overly optimistic but still expresses hope for the future.
It’s once again Monday morning and I have to admit I wish it were Friday. I have a friend social media who calls Monday the root of all evil and I have to agree at times. It’s an abrupt ending to rest and relaxation and the beginning of another five days of stress. While I’ve had this schedule for the past few months it hasn’t gotten easier. However my tolerance has increased so I’m able to get more done when I get home instead of passing out on my couch. There’s an increased sense of dread when Sunday evening comes around because I know that Monday looming on the horizon. This morning I didn’t want to get up but I pushed through and got my 5am workout in. I’ve never been much of a morning person and while I’m forced to be at this point, it’s still not my thing. The Monday feeling is an indication that I need to reevaluate my life and keep my options open. Of course I’m more than ready to retire at this point but that’s not necessarily the most realistic idea. It would be different if the days I worked were equal to the days I got off. Maybe I’m in a “grass is greener” cycle because that was my last job. However the caveat was that it also included 12 hour shifts and a rotating schedule. But at least the countdown to the weekend begins again today.
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.
I saw this CNN article and found it pretty relevant to my life because I work in a crisis type of position. You can read the article here. One thing that was interesting was the fact that many social workers and crisis counselors report that they like their job. This wasn’t surprising to me because despite all the craziness and unpredictability of my job, I don’t mind it. People get into a helping profession for a variety of reasons. In my case, I can’t NOT help people and I figured that I might as well have a job that allows me to do that. I’ve had stressful jobs in the field of social work before, but nothing comes close to the emotional drain from crisis work. It’s the kind of job that make you want to take a month long vacation after every shift. However, it’s also meaningful and you get the chance to encounter people from various walks of life and separate those who truly want help from those who don’t want any help. The article noted some great ways to deal with the stress that comes along from constantly working with people who facing some pretty big life challenges. There was an article I read not too long ago about a email that was intercepted from a social worker to another that contained some inappropriate humor that caused a public outcry. While the things crisis counselors deal with is not a laughing matter, sometimes you have to see the humor in things. It’s similar to the whole idea of laughing instead of crying as you see the dark side of humanity over and over again. It’s the kind of job that has really high highs with lows that are just as dramatic. The ability to disconnect is so important in this kind of field and I think it’s the reason why there’s an abundance of impromptu happy hours between colleagues who work in the field. All that being said, it’s a fun but hard job and I honestly believe that to have longevity in this type of field you have to have a pretty effective way of taking care of yourself so that you don’t get burned out.
I think that almost everyone at some point or time has read, or watched a story on television that centered around the experience of being in a blizzard. Being from the South and also due to mostly mild winters, I had escaped the experience until a few days ago. There are hundreds of rules about what to do when you’re driving in winter and the things that you need to bring along with you and store in your car in order to ensure survival. These rules are all fine and dandy but unfortunately they were disregarded because it was the freaking middle of April. Winter is supposed to be over by this point. The days are getting warmer and snow is melting. Not this weekend. So my friend and I picked the route to drive because we were trying to dodge a severe weather system in Oklahoma and Texas that included a very high chance of tornadoes. Trip started off great. Warm weather (100 degrees) and sunshine. Gradually clouds started to appear that were darker in color. As the sun was setting it started to rain and become extremely windy. This rain continued and then turned into snow. The wind picked up to the point that it was dangerous to drive. The snow was coming down fast and the wind was making it impossible to see more than five feet ahead of the car. Unfortunately we were in the middle of nowhere. Literally. With the nearest town being 60 miles away. The temperature is dropping and we don’t have proper shoes, coats, water, food, or even flashlights if we were to get stuck. There are no houses nearby and even if there were, being in a white-out makes seeing anything else beside blinding snow impossible. It was then that we realized that if we were to stop our chances of surviving in freezing temperatures without any proper equipment and no cell phone signal was pretty darn small. There are so many stories of people who have overcome huge odds and many times their successes are due to the fact that they did what they had to do because they didn’t have a choice. Stopping on the side of the road would have been a very bad decision so we had to press on. And press on we did. Very slowly and carefully. It was like driving while blind. Horrible horrible horrible. But (thank God) we got through driving 60 miles in blinding snow to the nearest town and stopped for the night. I say all this to say that blizzards aren’t any joke. I have absolutely no desire to ever be in one again and I hope to move to warmer regions where snow is very rarely (if ever) in the forecast.