I've been trying wrap my head around what is happening to our world right now, and envying people who over-perform under stress. You know the type-- The ones who jump into action, become extra motivated, might slip into workaholic-bulldozer mode when calamity strikes. I am not that person. The grief and anxiety that has shrouded human civilization in the last few weeks has had me a little paralyzed. I'm a low-energy person by nature, and stress makes me feel like I'm trudging through mud. Dishes and laundry have piled up, my sleep has been poor, and my social media platforms have been neglected (sorry, guys). For a while I was starting every morning by googling "coronavirus update" as soon as I woke up, hoping to find some information that would give me back my peace of mind ("It's not as bad as we thought," "We have it under control," "You are safe."), but all I got was more uncertainty as the situation escalated. I was tired before my feet were even on the ground. Can anyone relate?
I'd like to share with you what is helping me get back on track.
After about a week of feeling emotionally exhausted, I realized I had to change my habits if I was going to get through this pandemic in a way that I felt good about and with my mental health in tact. I made some rules for myself around my phone use:
I can check for updates on the coronavirus ONCE a day.
I can only check in the evening.
My only sources will be the World Health Organization and my state's government website (which includes updates from the CDC). Opinion pieces and information that I can't do anything with are forbidden. *This one has been the most important for me. The blame and fear-mongering on one side, dismissal and conspiracy theories on the other, and contempt and disgust on both... All of it was sucking the life out of me every time I looked at my phone. That is no longer allowed. I can't seek knowledge for its own sake when it comes to this. Pertinent information only.
It all comes down to putting away my phone and being extremely intentional about the information I let in. If you, like me, are deeply affected by conflict and susceptible to emotional malaise, I encourage you to take similar steps. Only stay as informed as you must to do the right things.
Once I implemented these new rules for myself, it took about 2 days for my energy to pick back up, and now I am doing my best to maintain it. I have to seek quietude. The TV stays off when it's just me and my son at home. I even stopped listening to music or podcasts while I work and instead open the windows so I can hear the birds outside (or listen to recordings of forest sounds when the windows need to stay shut). I try to make a point to get outside for about an hour every day, weather permitting. I block or snooze or mute any pages on social media that are not in line with my media consumption prerequisites. When my anxiety comes back and I feel my chest tighten and my thoughts turn dark, I pause to meditate on everything I have to be grateful for and pray for those in need, because I know that fear can't share space with gratitude and generosity.
And look, I'm not doing this perfectly. I'm not some enlightened guru. Every couple days, a headline will still catch my eye and my curiosity will get the best of me, and I'll be right back in that anxiety loop. But, because I'm no longer being bombarded and have implemented routines that bring me peace, I can snap out of it and bounce back from the toll it takes much more quickly.
I hope if any of you are feeling weighed down, scared, or bitter right now, that you will read this and decide to slow down. Take time to reset. Think about whether the information you're consuming is actually serving you. Look around you and meditate on what you have that is good. Move your body. Make something. Give someone something. Call someone. Or turn your phone off.
My reset has been getting off my phone and taking as much time as I need to clean up my house and my studio. If I'm being honest, my energy levels are frustrating to me, but I am trying to be kind to myself about it.
When we get to the other side of this, I want to look back and feel proud of the way I navigated this time. I want to have been a source of joy and calmness for my people, and to have used my energy to make beautiful things. I hope to have been generous with my time and resources, and patient with myself and my limitations. We all need extra grace right now, for ourselves and everyone else.
Here are some resources that have been helpful for me lately:
Brené Brown's new podcast, "Unlocking Us"
- I've listened to every episode so far, and every single one has been a well of hope and empathy. You'll feel better for having listened and you'll definitely get some fantastic advice and insight.
@goodgoodgoodco on Instagram
- They post good news stories every day. Follow them! They also send out a weekly GoodNewsletter if you sign up for their emails.
@theblackfairygodmotherofficial on Instagram
- If you are looking for a place to donate where you know your money will be going directly to people who really need it, follow this lady. She raises money for individual women and families who are disabled, are fleeing domestic violence, or are otherwise in desperate need. The money she raises pays for hospital bills, emergency rent/temporary housing, beds for kids, baby formula, etc., and each individual situation has their own fundraiser so you can decide exactly what your money will go to. If you have a little extra in your bank account, follow her and help alleviate someone's suffering. Seeing her posts of testimonials from the women who have received help has been another beautiful reminder to me that good things are still happening in the world.
This YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2G8LAiHSCAs
- I have literally just been listening to nature sounds when I've been painting the last couple of weeks. When I am feeling anxious or stressed, I am extremely distractible. Lately, even classical music has been too much for me to have in the background when I work. Sounds from nature have been the only ones that have been able to quiet my mind and get me in that good flow state. I just put my headphones in, turn on my bird songs, zone out and work. It's the best part of my day.
I hope you find some of this helpful! Take care and stay safe.
Until next time,
"Suspension", 2012, 40"x30", oil on canvas
(one of my first oil paintings, and still one of my favorites)