Photo by Maria Teneva on Unsplash
I had a rough couple of days last week. I’m sure I’m not the only one! These are crazy times, and while I’ve got decent coping mechanisms, there’s a LOT to cope with. So after a few days of kinda spiraling, I had to give myself a bit of a talking to. What was I doing that wasn’t helping me, as I confronted all this craziness we’re living in? The answers, it turns out, were pretty obvious. Here are some of the things I was NOT doing, that was exacerbating—rather than alleviating—my anxieties.
Letting my evening routine slip
It seemed silly to stress about having an ideal morning, now that I don’t have to commute to work and am practicing social distancing. So I stopped doing the evening routine that I usually do in order to have a stress-free morning. Every night, I make sure my dishes are washed and put away. I set my coffee maker. I make sure my planner and journal are open next to my computer, so I can immediately scan my day and see where I need to be and when. I also lay out clothes for the next day and try to get away from work/screens about an hour before I go to bed.
All of these seemed silly during a pandemic. Who cares what I’m wearing, or if the coffee is made, or if my planner is shut and across the room? I have loads of time to make the coffee, find my planner, and dig out my clothes. Or so I thought.
The fact is that not smelling coffee brewing when I woke up meant I had zero incentive to leave my warm bed on a chilly morning. Not knowing what I was going to wear meant I stayed in my pajamas. And not having an eye on my planner meant I missed an English faculty meaning, despite it being the only thing on my calendar for that day.
In other words, someone like me needs routine more than ever. I need that hot coffee smell pulling me downstairs by the nostrils. I need to have clothes to put on, even if it’s just a different set of soft pants. And I really, really need to remember I have a job, I have goals, I have things I want and need to do. I have a life, in other words, even if it’s a little different right now than it was a few month ago.
Not limiting my news
Don’t get me wrong, I expect us all to be informed. Now is not the time to hide our heads in the sand. But endlessly scrolling made me a little…anxious. I’d find myself coming back to the NYTimes site over and over again throughout the day, and then checking other sites, and then mindlessly scrolling Apple News until I was reading articles from weeks ago.
No more! I check in the morning and maybe again at noon. That’s it. I really try to avoid news in the evening, and really try hard to avoid it right before bed. It’s not always easy, and I don’t always succeed, but I try. When I manage it, I’m strikingly more focused during the day and more relaxed in the evening.
Not doing the slightly hippie dippie shit I know makes me feel better.
Journaling makes me feel better, even if it’s just half a page of nonsense. Meditating or mindfulness practice makes me feel better, even if it’s just five minutes of my Headspace app. Exercise is crucial to my overall happiness, even if I can’t go to the gym and I hate being outside in the cold (HATES IT).
And yet what was I sneakily not doing? If you answered writing in my journal, opening up my headspace app, or cramming in a yoga session, you’d be right! I convinced myself there was no point journaling because every day was the same. That I’d exercise TOMORROW. That I didn’t get that much from meditating.
All of these things were dumb lies, especially as I was lying to myself. After I cried at a few friends over Zoom and they did a bunch of sweet things to reach out to me, I realized it was because I’d worried them. And nobody needs that right now! So, I sat down with my journal and wrote “what the fuck is wrong with me?” My first thought was STUPID PANDEMIC. But then I wrote the truth: “I’m not taking care of myself. I need to be better at doing the things I know I need to do.”
This kinda flies in the face of a lot of the memes I’m seeing that remind us, rightfully, that we don’t always have to be okay, that it’s healthy to rest, that these are stressful times and not to expect too much from ourselves. I don’t think this advice is wrong. These things are important. But I also know that I’m the kind of person for whom “resting” can quickly become an excuse to avoid doing the tasks that keep me mentally healthy.
So after I journaled those thoughts, I made sure to do my normal evening routine so that, when I got up the next morning, I could launch into all the other things that keep me sane. After a few days of that, I felt markedly better.
You might have your own list of things you KNOW will ruin your day. Like me, you also might be struggling not to enact them! Be patient with yourself, and be kind. But don’t be afraid to ask yourself what you really, really need, and figure out a strategy to implement those needs. This is not going to get any easier, friends, and we have to show up for ourselves as much as we show up for others.
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