Another summer is coming to a close, and we’re still in the midst of a pandemic.
Personally, I’m feeling the loss of many activities that could have been part of my summer, had we not all been isolating. Usually I’d have visited the beach, gone kayaking, and hung out in downtown Boston several times. This year, I’d also have visited 2 close friends in Seattle and played around in Provincetown.
Yes, these are difficult times–we’re busy, chronically stressed, weary, and grieving. We need ways to cope.
Fill Your Toolbox with Tools (Plural)
As I speak to my friends, scroll through social media, and talk with potential clients, I’m noticing a concerning trend. THE coping mechanism of choice appears to be self-medicating (or, flat out medicating).
Whether it’s marijuana, alcohol, sleeping pills, or prescriptions for anxiety / depression, more people are turning to substances. I’m not a doctor or therapist, and I’m not discounting that in some cases, prescriptions can be appropriate.
I do take some issue with how it appears to be the preferred, and in some cases seemingly the “only” solution. Where’s the toolbox with all the options?
My intention with this post is not to judge, but rather observe and provide some alternatives for you to consider.
7 Alternatives to Help You Feel More Content
I’ve been in some pretty dark places in my life, and I’ve learned a LOT of stress resilience tools. Still, what I’ve come to understand for myself is that it’s the simple, little things that are getting me through this challenging time.
Here are 7 things I’ve done in the last few days alone, that I credit with keeping me feeling content. It’s my hope that this list will spark some ideas for you.
- Be grateful. Yada yada, yada, I’d heard this one so many times (and dismissed it!) before. But when you lose electricity in the middle of a heat wave, you are definitely going to feel gratitude when that A/C kicks on again. Similarly, my 4+ mile “slogs” (slow-jogs) always remind me of 2015, where un-diagnosed chronic Lyme disease left me being unable to walk 1/4 mile without horrid pain. Feel that warm shower water? That cozy comforter on your bed? That brand of paper towel you weren’t able to get a month ago? Yeah, that’s the gratitude I’m talking about.
- Listen to music you can reminisce by. I find myself listening to Lithium on SiriusXM radio quite a bit. It reminds me of the 90s, when (in hindsight) I’d had some really fun times. It also feels like life was so much simpler then. Some days, you might see me walking the neighborhood belting out a Soundgarden tune. Yes, even those angsty, grungy songs make me smile!
- De-clutter, clean, organize. I’ll admit I’ve always been a bit of a “clean freak”. When we bought a house last September, part of the “deal” was that we had to give up our cleaning service. Cleaning is now officially my job. I won’t lie, it started out as a real chore. But with the pandemic, I found that cleaning, organizing, and de-cluttering the space I was spending so much time in helped me feel focused and mentally uncluttered myself.
- Use your phone to spread goodness. Not a day goes by that I don’t pick up the phone and call–yes actually CALL–and talk to a friend or family member. Checking in on how they’re doing and letting them talk about how they’re managing their life through these times helps me feel useful. When that urge to commiserate on Twitter comes up and you automatically pick up your phone, choose to make some conscious connections instead.
- Savor a treat (but don’t over-indulge). Back when this plague first started, many items I used to enjoy became temporarily unavailable. (See also #1, above.) Now that we’ve all adjusted somewhat, I’ve been able to obtain a particular brand and flavor of gelato I enjoy, as well as real coffee beans that make my machine go whirrrrrr at 6 am. Now when I eat that bowl of gelato or sip that coffee, boy, do I savor them like I might never have them again.
- Let your mind travel. I’ve been to 20 countries so far, and I hope to visit more in the future. While that’s not going to happen soon, I’ve found an easy way to curb my wanderlust. It’s a site called Window-Swap. You can see out windows of people’s spaces all over the world, and even submit your own. Check it out here.
- Download supportive apps. If you know me, you know I’m not into quick fixes, nor am I into more technology. But recently I’ve come across 2 apps I think are potentially supportive. (I don’t receive any kick-backs for these mentions, BTW.)
The first is called Balance. I like this app because it has 5-15 minute meditations designed for specific goals: e.g. anxiety, energize, gratitude, sleep* etc. While I still prefer that people work with a trained meditation teacher, the fact that this app is somewhat customized makes me feel OK about recommending it as a starting point.
The second is called Journify. This is a journaling app that can be useful to those who know that getting thoughts out of their head could clear the mental clutter, but are unlikely / unwilling to take pen to paper.
- Prioritize your sleep. I can’t be a Sleep Wellness Coach and NOT mention this. As some of you know, the NHL (hockey) playoffs are currently underway, and often games don’t start until 8 pm. Guess when I’m in bed? By 10 pm. Every single night. Even though I have to catch up on the end of the game via DVR the next day. Even if it’s an incredibly interesting, intense, fun game. Even if everyone is Twittering about it. I’m in bed by 10 pm, period.
* While Balance has meditations specifically for Sleep, as a Sleep Wellness Coach I still cannot ever recommend having a phone by the bed. For most people, it’s distracting (& too tempting!) Rather, I’d suggest using the meditations for sleep and relaxation during the day to help reset natural rest rhythm.