Whew! Here I am at the end of October 2020, sitting down to write a blog article, and I find myself asking two questions simultaneously, “Where has the year gone,” and “Is this year over yet?” On the one hand, the year seems to have flown by. How is it October already? On the other hand, it feels like January 2020 was five years ago! Is it just me feeling this way? I think many of us are feeling weary and out of sorts. It has definitely been a year to remember, good, bad, indifferent or otherwise, and it isn’t over yet.
COVID-19 has affected us all in some way, either directly or indirectly. Perhaps you have lost a loved one or know of an acquaintance who lost their life to the virus, or perhaps you went through the illness yourself, mildly or worse. Perhaps you’ve suffered job or income loss, or you’ve had to figure out distance learning at home with your children. Maybe you’ve been unable to visit an elderly family member who is quarantined in a care facility.
At the very least, and it’s not a minor thing, we’ve all had to adapt to social distancing, mask-wearing, cancellation or postponement of events or travel, shut-downs, closures, stores being out of stock on necessary items and cleaning supplies, learning how to bake homemade bread (who knew this would become a thing in 2020?), and not being able to find flour or yeast in the grocery store…or toilet paper.
How many of us had to find ways to entertain ourselves and our families at home? Did you take on any new hobbies? At my house, we dug out all our old puzzles and for months had a puzzle in progress on our dining room table. When we finished one, we would started another. I’ve finally gotten around to reading some books I’ve been wanting to read forever. Household tasks and DIY projects found their place in our schedule once again. Did you take up watching everything available on streaming services? Yeah, me too, but I chose a lot of old familiar movies and shows to watch again and again.
A few months ago, I read somewhere (can’t cite it now) that during the pandemic and shut-down, people are more likely to binge watch familiar shows and movies than to watch something new. The reason for this, the article explained, was the familiarity of re-watching shows we know well is comforting because the content is familiar. We know what is going to happen next; it’s predictable. In contrast, with watching something new, we don’t know what’s going to happen, leaving us uncomfortable. In the midst of living in an unpredictable situation in our lives and in our world every day, day after day, we prefer not to add more unpredictability. Makes sense to me, and I can certainly see that in my choice of what I binge-watch in the spring and summer months.
Additionally, adding to the heavy weight being felt this year, I would be remiss if I didn’t include the increasing racial tension in this country over police brutality, which brought much-needed awareness and a bright spotlight to the racial disparities and systemic racism that exists, and led to wide-spread peaceful protesting and not-so-peaceful rioting in many of our cities. As I write this, there was yet another police shooting of a Black man last night in Philadelphia, reminding us the work is not yet done…or some may say not even begun. We also saw how the racial disparities in health and health care negatively impact our Black and Brown citizens who contract and die at higher rates from COVID-19 than white citizens. We must address this.
Additionally, for many parts of the country, nature has been particularly challenging this year with hurricanes, tornadoes, and wildfires. One hit after another for so many areas, especially the Gulf coast and western states. And if all that isn’t enough, we are in the middle of a political season of ever-worsening divide among us. It really doesn’t feel good to me. And it’s a lot to take in and carry around! Sigh…I just want us all to get along.
Here we are in October and in Colorado, where I live, the number of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are rising once again. What will November and December bring? Will 2021 begin like 2020 has been? We don’t know. We are still living in a holding pattern, like an airplane reaching its destination airport and finding out it cannot land because the runways are full or there are no gates available. Keep circling the airport, the pilot is told, and hope you have enough fuel reserves to keep you flying until you get clearance to land.
For certain, 2020 is testing our reserves! How are your fuel reserves? Are you able to refuel as needed, or do you find yourself wondering if you will be able to safely land before the tank hits empty? I don’t think we yet know the full impact this year will have on those of us who live through it, but I do know it can take a toll on our spiritual, emotional and mental health, which in turn can take a toll on our physical health. And we need to learn how to refuel ourselves, if we haven’t already done so.
What can you do to fill up your reserves for the remainder of 2020? I list below some suggestions. Some may resonate with you and some may not, but hopefully there is something on this list for you, or something will inspire you with an idea of your own:
Spirituality – whatever fills up your spiritual cup, do more of that! Listen to sermons or attend classes or talks online, read books and other material that speaks to you spiritually, pray or meditate each day, spend time outdoors feeling grounded to Mother Nature, or watch films that have an uplifting, positive message. And take a social media and/or news break often…your spirit will thank you!
Emotionality – do things that bring you pleasure and joy! Engage in fun activities with your children, play with your pets, write snail mail letters to friends and family you miss and share your love for them, call a friend on the phone and share happy memories, donate to a good cause or volunteer in whatever way you are able, help a neighbor, watch a comedy and belly laugh out loud (laughter really is great medicine), hug someone close to you (and hug yourself too)! And take a social media and/or news break often…your emotions will thank you!
Mentality – exercise your brain, expand your cranium! Read books that introduce you to something or someplace new, ditto with watching TV or films – documentaries are great for this, take up a new hobby or teach yourself a new skill, play games that work your brain (Scrabble, crossword puzzles, etc.), or Google a topic you’ve always wondered about or a place you’ve wanted to travel and teach yourself about it. And take a social media and/or news break often…your noggin will thank you!
Physicality – be nice to your body! Hydrate well (at least 64oz of water per day), eat well (less sugar, more fresh foods), exercise well (start with a walk around the block…then expand it to two blocks, then to three), sleep well in a room that is your sanctuary (preferably 8 hours a night, no lights, no screens), gently stretch your arms and legs and spine daily, play some music to relax by or get up and have a dance party. And take a social media and/or news break often…your body will thank you!
I hope you found something helpful and also that you saw my not-so-subliminal messaging. Constant exposure to social media and the news does little to help us fill our reserves. In fact, it can be extremely depleting. So if you realize that you spend too much time online and tuned in, take breaks often…your reserves will thank you for it and you will feel better.
This made me think of my favorite quote from Mr. Rogers: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”
If you can’t find a helper, become a helper. It makes everything feel better.
One final note…if your Advance Directives are not in order, if you have not documented your end-of-life wishes, if you haven’t completed your Living Will and assigned a healthcare agent, then there is certainly no better time than now to do so! Contact me. I can help. And by helping you, I feel better and then we both feel better. Let’s get this done!