There are a number of things I have done over the last year to help cope with isolation, stay-at-home orders, general anxiety, stress, worry, depression or collective trauma that this pandemic has caused. As I indicated in my last post Are you hitting the wall during COVID-19? I said I would share some things I have done to help navigate this last year in case they may be helpful to others.
1. Watching Webinars
I started the pandemic full of excitement at how many organizations were offering free training and webinars. So I spent some of my free time refreshing my understanding and learning about FASD. There is always something new to learn as new research comes available or simply listening to different people I find I pick up different perspectives. It wasn’t always about FASD. I watched webinars or videos on a variety of topics. I also took a course just for me.
Interestingly I soon became overwhelmed by all the information. There was no way to attend everything that was going on. I reminded myself to spend time on me or just doing nothing. That it was okay to just be.
2. Scheduling My Days
To help manage my time, I created a daily schedule and posted it at my desk as a reminder. I always get up in the morning before anyone else so I have at least an hour to myself. Even when I was working out of the house I made sure I got up early to have that time before I started work. I’m not a morning person, so it wasn’t always easy to get up. But it was the only time, besides being in the car, that I was alone.
I also did something creative. My commute these days is up the stairs, so I don’t need to get up as early but I still make sure I have that hour. I only work part time so unless something prevents it, I spend the entire morning in my upstairs office. I may be in the office for four hours but only work three – thereby giving myself some time to pursue creative outlets. The maiden started connecting with a virtual “respite” worker late last year. She is now up to two hours, twice a week. So I have that time twice a week that I try to use for me. Other afternoons are for appointments, chores, errands (when allowed), doing something with the maiden or volunteer tasks.
3. Taking Care of My Mental Health
I took advantage of free mental health resources. Our provincial government offered free six week session of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) online. I have taken CBT before, but it was a good way to connect with a counsellor to help sort some family stuff that was going on.
There is also a really neat app called WOEBOT. It is a science-based electronic text chat. It doesn’t provide immediate and specific advice, as it is a “digital robot” but it does have online resources for more information. I used it for reminders about skills, to check in with how I was feeling. I also loved that it gave positive feedback. While it is not a replacement for in-person, it is good for people that just need some prompting. I also paid for a self study self-compassion course from a therapist that I had been following on social media.
In some parts of the world, this is Mental Health Week or Month. Check out Mental Health Week, FASD and COVID-19 for more information if you need help or ideas or Day 61 of 99 Days to FASDay: FASD and Mental Health.
4. Curating Social Media and News Feeds
I stopped reading comments on most news posts. Then comments started to turn in groups. I was on one craft group and the comments were so harsh. So I started to unfollow or unfriend people and groups that didn’t align with how I wanted to be. There are still harsh comments on pages and in groups, but if people use the report feature and moderators and admins keep their pages and groups safe spaces, then I stay. If not, I unfollow or leave groups.
Much of my work involves begin online. So it is hard to avoid it. And during the pandemic, online was for many of us, the only way to connect. While groups are meant to be supportive, I found as the pandemic wore on people became much more divisive, argumentative, judgmental and just nasty. There is a difference between saying something that maybe was misinterpreted and a comment which clearly was unkind or not helpful.
Another tip. Have you ever noticed how if you google something, the next thing, if you are on Facebook, it appears in your Facebook Newsfeed.
I read a tip that if you google things you are interested in then those things will start appearing in your newsfeed. I haven’t found it as successful, but I did start seeking out groups and pages that I was interested in or that fed my soul. I curated my newsfeed. Because if I have to be online for work, and I enjoy being online to connect personally, I want more goodness coming my way.
5. Soothing My Soul with Music
Music has always been my go to. When I did have a job outside of the house, I would always listen to music during the drive. When I lived alone, music was always on. When I was going through a tough time, I would make play lists that cheered me up, made me feel strong, brave, confident, heal a broken heart or just brought back great memories.
When you live with other people, it is harder to listen to music. Wearing headphones doesn’t work in this family. We are still working on boundaries. I did come across a YouTube Channel called Mr. Foxx Frequency that plays folk / indie / chill tunes. While it isn’t my usual style, it is relaxing and I’ve found some new artists to follow. I listen to it mostly while working or when no one is around.
6. Making Mood Boards
Another method that has helped me in the past, is creating mood boards on Pinterest. While usually I just pin things of interest, when I was going through a break up a few years ago from a very toxic relationship, I made a private board where I pinned things that helped me understand what happened, made me laugh or taught me how to heal and move forward.
I created another Board during a really rough time stuck in a job that was, for a few different reasons, not working out. It put a dent in my self esteem and confidence in my abilities. This Board continues to sustain me through this last year.
Another thing I do is collect positive messages people say to or about me. While we have to have confidence in ourselves and not rely on others for validation, it does help boost one’s mood when you can see how you do help or make an impact on others and sometimes people notice things in yourself that you didn’t realize. They are my own personal set of confidence boosting or strength reminding cards.
7. Walking in Nature and Watching the Moon
Nature is a big healer. When I became a parent I either didn’t have the time, resources or energy to get out on my own or participate in groups.
I did walk a lot with my last dog. The one I have now is so anxious and reactive that he can’t go anywhere new and if we do, it takes weeks for him to get used to new environments. He is reactive to seeing dogs when on a leash. He is anxious in the car so I am limited where I can walk him. Over the last year I started taking him for a car ride every morning before his walk. I started with very short walks in the neighbourhood when I felt we wouldn’t see another dog. By the end of the year we were walking around the block. We walked on our local trail during the winter because there was less chance of running into a dog. But as the weather has started to get warmer, I am trying to get him used to a couple different country roads we can walk on. It feels good to be outside.
Now Spring is here, I can also get back into my garden. I have let it go over the last few years as my life has been in a bit of turmoil and shifting. It is like a metaphor for my life. I miss it. Being in the garden grounds me.
I also love the moon. I never tire of taking pictures of it. I’ve had a few people say to me, don’t you have enough pictures of the moon? Um, no. Some people watch the sun rise or set – I find a spot to watch the moon rise or set.
The moon is also a metaphor for life. It goes through phases. Sometimes it is a sliver, sometimes full and bright and sometimes dark – but even though we can’t see it, it is still there. Remembering this provides a touch point for me. Some say the sun rises every day – I say the moon rises every night.
8. Creating Ritual and Routine
Creating ritual and routine for myself has been important this year. It is sometimes really hard to do that when you are caregiver of an individual with a complex disability. And when you live with others. But whatever your circumstance, it really is important to find a way to carve out some time for you.
I am still old fashioned and while I do use the calendar in my phone, I also have a desk calendar/diary. I use it to record plans and appointments and reminders. To create daily rituals and routines, I carve space out for me by getting up early, and spending mornings in my office as I spoke above. I also retreat to my bedroom before anyone else. I spend the last hour of the day with myself.
Both my morning and evening routines are boundaries that I created. People still don’t always understand or respect them, but I continue to enforce them.
I used to love to read. But I just can’t seem to get back into that right now. So instead of forcing myself to read, I turn off my social media and most nights watch Netflix. I found some great series over this last year. It was like visiting a friend each night. Always sad when the friendship moved on, but there was always a new one waiting.
9. Rediscovering My Passion and Planning for the Future
I have lost some friendships over the last couple of years and some friendships have faded over this year. Some I’ve let go of and others let go of me. This has been a difficult year for many. All my support has been online.
I also haven’t been as active in my FASD advocacy over the last few years. I have gone through bouts of overwhelm and comparison that robbed me of my joy, so I started to notice things to be grateful for.
In doing that and devoting time to myself, I discovered a few ideas and am now in the process of creating something which I hope will reignite my passion and provide a new direction moving forward.
There are many different ways to help deal with the pandemic and day to day life. If you need professional help, please always connect with services in your community. But there other ways.
If none of the above sparked an interest or don’t work for you, think about ways you can support yourself. Journal. Read. Meditate. Yoga. Colour. Find a good podcast. Exercise. Play games (online or the old fashioned way). Craft. Paint. Decorate. Text or write a friend if you can’t see them. If you don’t have anyone to text or write, leave a kind word on a social media post. Volunteer. Pursue a hobby that brings you joy, happiness or calm.
And it is okay to just be. After all, we are human beings …. not human doings.