The light breeze in the high heat and humidity of this New York summer is a simple pleasure these days. When I amble along on the sweltering sidewalks I can feel the gentle air waves stroke my head and shoulders lifting me up from the heaviness of the muggy day. It’s a simple joy to feel the wind when it comes. It eases the countless frustrations that have set upon us during this time of the Coronavirus. Given how easily I can be set off these days, I have come up with a made-up system. I have begun to enact a frustration budget. Living through a pandemic can wreak havoc with our nervous systems. So, I am going to assess what is a livable measure of frustration, and anything above that quotient will not be spent. I am not my best when I’m overstressed. And, then I circle back on annoyance with my mood and behavior, thus adding to my agitation level. At this point I think I need to set up my budget with a low level of frustration. I am subtracting rather than adding to my to-do list. I am laughing at myself for my lack of memory, including my lack of access to common words, and forgetting seemingly simple tasks. I open my pajama drawer when I mean to retrieve socks from a parallel drawer. I am at work, and I am unable to make a point since the word “overcome” will not make itself known to my brain in that moment. Pre-pandemic, I would get annoyed with myself, and maybe even defensive. Now, deep in the storm of Covid-19, I am amused by my foibles. At least that’s how it is this hour. The frustration budget will be a work in progress. I just thought of it this week, as I felt exhausted by the end of my day, and quickly followed it up by being less than pleasant when I came home. It was then I thought, “why not limit what I take in that doesn’t bring me joy?” And, why not? I don’t need to finish those articles now when I don’t have the bandwidth. I can look at the New Yorker cartoons, and save anything else that really interests me. I can leave the room if the TV is on a program that I neither like nor care about. I can shorten my walk if I get exasperated by those who are not following the CDC recommendations. I can lengthen my meditation so that I purposely have more calm moments in my day. I am amazed by the changes that have occurred since our world changed. Much of it is difficult. But some of it, like noticing that I can’t continue on building a wall of aggravations on top of displeasures brings a sliver of mindfulness. It’s a kindness that I can give myself. I imagine the daily distractions and activities in the past allowed me to ignore certain annoyances, but now they are front and center. It is time to tear down the wall one frustration at a time until I am thriving within my frustration budget.
· 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.