*this post is a bit messy. I have read through it once or twice but this isn’t as polished as some of my other pieces.
These times are trying. I continue to vacillate between thinking big and wide, quite literally sobbing on my couch. I am alone in my apartment with my cat, something 75% of my time I enjoy, but being physically alone is wearing on me. I know that I am not the only person physically alone or mentally alone. I know that what I am experiencing is not unique to me. I do also know that because I have suffered from mental illness (most notably anxiety, OCD, and depression) for the majority of life I have developed some decent coping skills. Last week I was grasping at my coping skills like someone who is drowning and is looking for anyway to be helped. I grasped at anything that might allow me a moment of relief, some things gave me that moment, many things did not. I am now not frantically grasping and have been utilizing these tools and I thought maybe they might be helpful to share.
The blanket I have is 15 pounds. I know there’s some sort of magic formula based on your weight to figure out what weight is best (I don’t know that formula). I bought the cheapest blanket I could a few years ago when I was having panic attacks. The blanket is my go-to tool when I am feeling overwhelmed and also missing hugs (it definitely doesn’t replace a hug, but it’s helpful). If you don’t have a weighted blanket – I used to just pile on a bunch of blankets or if you have another human around, have them lay on top of you and breathe deeply. Sounds weird, but the pressure does something amazing to your body.
This is a practice I’ve been working on for years. It fixes almost nothing and often reveals how busy my brain really is. But it also is a practice, which means I don’t have to be perfect. It also reminds me that the thoughts are just thoughts and they will pass. I use Headspace to help me with this, but I also have enjoyed using Calm as well. Many many times I just use this video.
This may seem backwards but when I’m overwhelmed I return to the books that have held me or moved me in my core.
Radical Dharma by rev angel kyodo williams, Lama Rod Owens, Jasmine Syedullah, PhD
“Self care, I think, is a way of going against business as usual. It’s a radical route. Learning to love ourselves is hard to do. It’s a fierce kind of self-love that we need to work through – that I need to work through.”Lama Rod Owens Pg 140
“We are not just hungry, we are starving. We could become one rather than scramble to defend our stuff and our families. Together, there are no individual selves to be defended. Together, self-defense is collective transformation.”Pg 88
All About Love by bell hooks
“When we are loving we openly and honestly express care, affection, responsibility, respect, commitment, and trust.”Pg. 14
Emergent Strategy by adrienne maree brown
“We are brilliant at survival but brutal at it. We tend to slip out of togetherness the way we slip out of the womb, bloody and messy and surprised to be alone. And clever – able to learn with our whole bodies the ways of the world.”Pg. 6
Each of these books has something different to offer me and I just open it up to a page and notice what is highlighted and sit with the words.
My normal routine is to listen to a podcast every morning. The first few days of being home I couldn’t bear to have another sound. It was just too much. So I listened to meditation music or Gregorian chants. I am now able to listen to podcasts but only in the morning. Brene Brown has a new podcast which I’ve been enjoying listening to. Throughout the day when I’m not on a Zoom call or emailing teachers I’ve been listening to Serotonin Release music or Alpha Wave Music on youtube. It’s gentle.
I have a diffuser that I have used on and off for years. Lately I’ve been putting an uplifting (mostly citrusy) smell in the morning and then something more relaxing (vanilla, mint, or lavender) in the evening. I also have candles I’ve been burning. Making my place smell more intentional is helpful when I am not leaving this space.
I am not a huge napper. Not because I don’t love a nap- but I love to nap so much that I will often take a 3-4 hour nap. I have been using the Calm app and using their Sleep Stories around Naps, which have been helping. I also have a pretty strict sleep schedule and have been sticking to that. I have a bedtime around 8:30-9:30 and I get up around 6am-7am. I have also been trying to just rest, so I leave my desk and lay on the couch when I need to. These tiny actions have been really helpful in keeping my body from being on complete high alert, but also balanced so I don’t just stay in bed all day.
This is a practice that basically sustains my life. I create a collage upon waking. It is intuitive and a habit, it is not meant to be beautiful although sometimes it is. It is a way for my brain to release. In these times, that practice is helping me continue to feel tethered to the possibilities, rather than to despair. When I am able mentally and emotionally, I also have purchased a paint by number, something that goes against my philosophy of creating without rules. I purchased this knowing that in trying times creation is often something that is needed but due to all the stress cannot be accessed – so a paint by number helps create that access. I also have a few other projects occurring and these I am attempting to chip away a bit each day.
On the weekends or when I do not have structure, I struggle to eat and then I wonder why I’m so lethargic or overly emotional. I have committed to eating 3 meals a day. (Commitments are helpful for me to make for myself in order to make things happen.) I have also committed to making at least one meal a day. Cooking is very therapeutic for me and if I cook, I will eat.
These tiny things are adding up to some sense of structure for me although I have no schedule or hard and fast rules, this hodge podge of coping skills that I’ve built along the way has been serving me. I will also say that I have been leaning hard on my community, my friends. I am so lucky that my therapist is doing virtual therapy and that has been so beneficial already. I am trying to be very gentle with myself as I shift my life into living in the moment, every moment. I am feeling my feelings fully – embracing the tears and the laughter, not shutting anything away or down.
I also have to keep reminding myself that although it feels like I’ve been home for awhile I haven’t been home for that long and I need to stop watering my plants so they don’t drown from over watering.
How are you taking care of yourself?
How are you prioritizing your long term health and well being?