Self-Care Tips: · Notice what frustrates you and see if you can let go of anything on your list · Start a Bullet Journal. It’s a creative way to track what’s important to you. · Keep a Mood Tracker so you can care for yourself no matter what you’re feeling · Write personal affirmations and put them on post-its, then place them where you’ll see them like on the bathroom mirror, in your sock drawer, or on the calendar. · See if you can laugh at yourself when you find you’re being hard on yourself. It really shifts your mindset. If you can’t laugh at yourself. Maybe you can smile at the fact that it’s not easy to go from frustration to humor.
I hadn’t anticipated it, but yesterday was an enriching day. It started out hot and humid, and I knew that if I was going to get out, I wasn’t going to be able to move at a clipped pace. I was wary of taking my bike out, believing that the park would be crowded, and I just needed something less populated. So, I ventured out on foot listening to a new book Speak No Evil by Uzodinma Iweala, a Nigerian-American author. It’s beautifully written and the readers are terrific.
My destination was a Cambodian restaurant, the only one in the city. I had read about it but had never visited. I saw that it was closing at the end of the month, and so used it as a destination. I would order take-out and carry our dinner home. Though I couldn’t go inside, when I stepped up to pay, I viewed a stunning interior. There were Buddhist art pieces and Cambodian décor. The owner was there, and she was more than gracious. So kind and generous, offering extra side dishes and beverages. She was losing her restaurant to the pandemic, and yet wanted to treat me to something extra. Her kindness softened my spirit.
Then, in the evening, I was tired but not sleepy, so I perused Amazon, Apple TV, and finally Netflix. It was there that I found an intriguing documentary, Mucho Mucho Amor. It’s the story of Walter Mercado, a famous Puerto Rican star who brought joy to so many with his astrology readings. He was an amazing man, and I was moved by his humanity, and fanciful lust for life.
I had to put the film on pause as I was finding out about his rise to fame. Lucy had to be walked, and I was the only one home who was awake. I was frustrated but these things can’t wait. We went out to our stoop. I wasn’t sure if she just wanted to be out in the hot night air, or if she really had to go. Either way, she was on pause at the bottom of the steps. It was then that I heard a group chanting. I saw a few cyclists on their bikes leave what looked to be a rally. Then I heard peaceful chanting, “Black Lives Matter!” I realized that the weekly bicycle rally for the Black Lives Matter movement ended their ride in front of Gracie Mansion, the temporary residence of the Mayor. It’s just down the block from our building.
There was such camaraderie. It was all peaceful. Cops were acting as escorts. I witnessed fellowship. And, there was so much hope. I felt so fortunate to be a bystander to the positive power. Shortly thereafter Lucy and I were up and on the move. They had all cycled away by the time Lucy completed her walk. And, then I was able to finish watching the film. I went to bed later than usual and fully inspired.
So often during the time of Coronavirus, I have felt as if the days are long and so little gets done. But yesterday, though I did little, I was given so many gifts. They were all provided by individuals from other races and ethnic backgrounds. How rich life is when we learn and grow because we are in touch those who are different than us.
*Enjoy something outside your familiar patterns. It could be a new cuisine, a virtual look at an international museum, reading a writer you don’t know, or simply noticing things around you that may have slipped your gaze previously
*Pause. When you are feeling overwhelmed, or you’re about to act impulsively in a way that may not support you, take a moment. Be conscious of your breath. Take in a few things that surround you. And, then reassess what you want your next action to be.
*Notice at least one thing that brought you pleasure at the end of your day. Of course, it could be more. Maybe it was a beam of light from your window that played on a surface. Or, perhaps it was a chat with a friend. In this way you double your pleasure as you think about those moments again.
*Keep it simple. These times are trying for most, so it helps to keep things simple when we can to alleviate extra stress.
*Do something from your childhood. Whether you choose to play a game of hopscotch on your sidewalk, skip down the block, or sing a childhood song, finding childhood pleasures is an easy way to bring joy on.
I am in awe at the speed and dominance my emotions morph during the time of Coronavirus. I am moved to tears by the humanity I witness or hear about. Moments later I am immersed in fury for a perceived injustice. I am in love with my child and husband for their simple kindnesses, and then I am agitated when I turn the corner to see that some arbitrary chore or other wasn’t accomplished. My pettiness is astounding. My gratitude short-lived.
As an observer I find this fascinating. As the subject I find it disconcerting. More and more I’m hearing similar stories of unwielded emotional lability. By the week’s end I am exhausted. Too tired to be social or active. So I am resting more and more. I have found resting to be restorative. Prior to Covid-19, I thought resting was an obligatory lessening of activities when I hit a wall or got sick. No longer.
I am not a closet napper these days. Now I proudly nap, understanding the need for the down time. I hadn’t realized the array of my rigid beliefs until I had to set up new rules during the time of Coronavirus. All of a sudden I am making room for my widening range of emotional connection. I have eschewed the notion that getting the most things done is a winning strategy. And, I am throwing out plans right and left in favor of what works for me in the moment.
This has been a tragic time in our world’s history. And, though I recognize the losses we all have had to endure, I am also grateful for the gifts of this time. The difficulties that have come our way make it impossible to go on as before. I am unable to hide my less attractive features like my pettiness or judgments. I can see them upfront and personal. All I have to do is go for a walk to hear my thoughts; appreciating someone who raises their mask when passing, while silently cursing those who are not choosing to protect me and everyone else from the spread of Covid-19.
These are kneejerk responses. Later I may be able to find compassion, understanding everyone is doing the best they can. But I don’t always dwell there. So, I am using my ire to teach me. I’m not defending against the notion that I get angry or disparaging of myself and others. Instead I am learning about how and when those feelings present themselves and seeing if I can have patience for myself and others as we travel this unchartered territory on our own and all together.
Change the lighting to shift a mood. We get set in the way we light things. Yet, sometimes turning off a light or changing the bulb color helps to relax us. Conversely, bringing in more or altered light can provide an emotional lift
Expand your vocabulary. There is something singularly satisfying in learning new words. Word Genius brings new words to your email. There are also other platforms that are terrific.
Star Gaze. If you can, go out on a clear night a gaze up at the stars. You will see infinite possibilities which will be a lovely contrast from the limited options we presently have. If you can’t go out, then check NASA’s website for images or go to NOVA for images.
Light a candle. It’s so simple and can remind us that a small source of light brightens large spaces.
Add fresh herbs to the inside of your mask. One mint leaf or rosemary sprig on the inner side of the mask can make all the difference. If you don’t have fresh herbs, perhaps trying an essential oil or a light fragrance
Each one of us have been impacted by the Coronavirus in a personal way. Some have been ill. Many have been in quarantine. Too many have lost their jobs and income, some of our loved ones have died. And, the weight of the pandemic continues. Friends have been divided based on the level of protection we have chosen. Plans have been cancelled. Supply chains are interrupted. And we have all made appropriate adjustments centered on what is right for us under these circumstances.
I am riding my bicycle more than I have in past years. I like it because once I pass the trafficked streets it’s easy to ride the slow lane in the park. And, as with every activity, I wear my mask, wishing everyone would wear there’s when in public. This is a reflection of the rumble of fear right below the surface. I am as afraid to infect others as I am of contracting a life-threatening illness. As an extra precaution, I ride at times when the park is apt to be less populated. So far, so good.
My bicycle is a low-standing, folding bike. I like the truncated height because my feet can easily reach the ground. A throwback to shaky bike riding during the long summers peddling to The Haddontowne Swim Club. I keep my bicycle in my office, located on the ground floor, to avoid schlepping it up and down the stairs of our apartment building. It’s nice when I can create a simple solution. Stashing my bike in the office also gets me out more. Given these times, if it’s easy, it’s more apt to get done.
Humidity was high this weekend. I don’t mind that so much. It’s pleasant to feel a light breeze cruising down the hills. Tracing the topography of Central Park, as well as the streets on the Upper Eastside, is a unique experience I encounter during my rides. It’s physical and mental. And a bit more challenging while wearing my mask. I even tried a cycling mask, which was hot and constricting, making it harder to ride. So, I returned to my office for the light cotton style that allows for an easier, though somewhat restrictive, air flow.
I am both challenged and contented on these rides. For one, though a cliché, the short journey on my bike is a metaphor for my ability to face difficulties and experience joy. I have to harness the energy to get up a hill. Whether I go slowly or forge ahead, I can feel my muscles in motion. My body is supporting me in moving through space. My mind is telling me I can do it. My conviction assures me I will do it. I am grateful that I am at an age that I can trust this thinking. I didn’t have that ability twenty years ago. And, I understand that taking on the big and small hills builds mental and physical strength so that I can face them and others like them again.
Conversely, I can enjoy the flat roads, the ease of cycling at a pace that suits me. I can enjoy the light breezes of summer as I turn the pedals. Also, I get to know the streets that are open to me. When I’m short on time, or just want a different ride, I make two rights to get to East End Avenue. It’s partially closed to traffic, making it a great option. Cycling on East End is convenient and stress-free. Before the pandemic, I had no idea that I live on the top of a gentle slope. I never really saw the hilly street as anything but quiet. It’s a lovely way to get to know the city’s surfaces. Enjoying old pleasures now is reminiscent of childhood, when every adventure was new again.
Purposelessly take a break. Rather than push through, stop, meditate, or take a breath, and slow things down a beat. It’s personally affirmational.
Send a card or a letter snail-mail to someone who has been on your mind.
Bring fresh herb plants into your home. They smell great, and you can always clip them to flavor your meals and drinks. If you already have an indoor or outdoor herb garden, perhaps adding another fragrant herb will round out the robust fragrances.
Change up something in your routine(s). For instance, walk a different direction to get a different view. Or, if you always brush your teeth after your shower, brush them before. It will feel odd to do something slightly differently, but it changes how we see things, and will allow for a new perspective.