Let’s get real here for a minute. Life looks a lot different today than it did a week ago. It’s unrecognizable from two weeks ago. And, those two weeks…they feel like six months have passed.
If you live in an epicenter of the outbreak, then my heart is breaking for you and your neighbors. Here in the middle of the country, we are operating differently (hello, social distancing) but without much urgency. The worry that we’re doing too little too slowly is very real.
I function with a low level of anxiety almost all of the time. I didn’t know this wasn’t normal until maybe five years ago. Since then, I’ve been able to keep it mostly in check using well known tactics like meditation and breath regulation. Many of those little life hacks are failing me now.
So what is keeping me sane right now?
Aside from preparing for the apocalypse (kidding…kind of), I have developed some new coping mechanisms.
1. Watercolor painting for play not perfection.
Maybe you saw my Instagram post sharing Ashton’s watercolor paintings? Months ago I broke out my best paints and paper for him to mess around with, but I never really joined in. We’ve been “painting” once or twice every weekend, and it’s one of my favorite things to do together.
Well, recently I’ve been setting out a piece of paper and brush for myself as well, and I’m a little obsessed with abstract color play. I even signed up for a little online class with Laura Horn, whom I’ve been following on Instagram for years.
If you’re interested in artist life and even the business of being an artist, Laura’s podcast is worth tuning into. She’s been keeping me company on all those walks lately.
2. Nature. Specifically watching the birds on our bird feeders.
We have large windows in our living room, and last year, we set up two bird feeders outside. I can easily see them from my favorite spot on the sofa. Keegan teases me, but I really love watching all the different birds who come to visit us.
I’ve spotted cardinals (my favorites), yellow and red finches, sparrows and chickadees. This year two doves have taken up residence in our pine tree, and they visit the feeder together. I can hear them cooing on and off throughout the day.
Watching the birds brings me a lot of peace and a little joy. And, yelling at the squirrels who come to steal their food makes Ashton happy.
3. My dog.
There are several memes about petting your dog making the social media rounds and with good reason. For the last week, I’ve been hanging out in the living room with our Labrador while I work.
He’s a goofy, lazy, very very low key dog, and he is the epitome of calm in these turbulent times. Giving him a big hug or a belly rub, wrestling with him on the floor, or best of all, going for a long walk together always cheers me up.
4. Making things with my hands.
If my hands are busy making something, then they can’t scroll social media on my phone or click through article after article.
Years ago, I started a really colorful granny square afghan but never finished it. I sold most of my yarn when we moved, but I kept the yarn for the quilt and the squares I’d already made.
Last week, I pulled out the basket from the back of my closet and put it under the coffee table where I can easily reach it at night. The only downside is I can’t watch TV and crochet or knit at the same time. But, I can listen, which is sometimes all that I need to keep my mind distracted.
5. Research without overconsumption.
I think the conventional wisdom is to tell someone like me to turn off the news and block out the negativity. I have found that worked in the past, but it’s not working now.
Reading the news religiously is actually helping me because I feel like I understand the worst case scenario and can plan for it – at least mentally. I do not want to be blindsided by optimism. Not in a case of life or death. Not this time.
What doesn’t help…watching the news unfold in real time. I prefer to let trusted journalists parse and disseminate the important information rather than digest it in real time. I have turned off the press conferences and the interviews for now. They send both my anxiety and my anger through the roof.
6. Rampage of appreciation.
I first read about the Rampage of Appreciation technique in Ask and It is Given by Esther and Jerry Hicks four or five years ago now, and I’ve used it on and off ever since.
Recently Jess Lively talked about how she uses the Rampage of Appreciation on her podcast, and it’s worth a listen.
I used to do this on my walks when we lived in our old neighborhood or before bed as I tried to fall asleep. Lately I’ve been turning to it whenever I feel my mood dip too low.
The premise is very simple. Just start listing things, people, experiences, whatever that you’re grateful for. They don’t have to be big things…they shouldn’t be. The trick is in listing as many things, insignificant as they may seem, as quickly as you can for as long as you can. It’s good to do it in your head. It’s better to type it out. It’s best to do it long hand with pen and paper.
It is impossible to stay completely low when you do this. You will feel your mood lift, and everything will look a little bit brighter.
So that’s what’s keeping me sane right now. How are you coping with the uncertainty of these difficult times?