“We do not have to become heroes overnight. Just a step at a time, meeting each thing that comes up, seeing it is not as dreadful as it appeared, discovering we have the strength to stare it down.” — Eleanor Roosevelt
So, how are you? I hope you’ve adjusted to the difficult times we’re living in and that you are taking care of yourself.
I keep seeing jokes about how we’re just waiting for 2020 to end, so we can move on. We can’t control the coronavirus, and we can’t control national news. Almost everyone who understands what’s going on has had anxiety and depression. We like to be in charge of our lives, and we don’t know what will happen next.
Difficult times can be a time of tremendous growth, but not necessarily. That largely depends on us. We can come out of this bitter, resentful, and fearful. Or we can come out of it stronger, happier, and able to face challenges.
Part of it, I think, is our attitudes. Of course we reacted with shock and grief to the many twists and turns that have happened this year. But have we continued to feel sorry for ourselves, to see ourselves as victims? Or do we realize that we are responsible for how we react to life, even unexpected happenings like a worldwide pandemic and frequent drama?
Recently I was feeling particularly anxious, so I challenged myself to address it, rather than let it simmer. I journaled about ways to cope when I’m feeling anxious or a little depressed. Here are my ideas (I’ve used all of them.):
* Take a walk in nature.
* Some of my stress is coming from within me. I pressure myself to cross items off my do list, but the truth is, there is little that I have to do. I am learning to think about what I want to do, rather than what I have to do. This mindset has relieved a lot of my stress.
* Let something go.
* Or, buckle down and get something done.
* Journal and reflect on what’s happening and how I feel about it.
* Get at the root of the problem. What am I really stressed about right now? Feel the feelings for a bit, then let them go.
* Pray. I had gotten away from prayer when I needed it the most.
* Or read scripture. I’m a Christian, and I found comfort recently in meditating on Matthew 6:25 – 31, a passage that tells us not to worry. It begins, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?”
* Take time off from social media and even from the news. I did this for three days and for the first time in ages, I slept soundly for two nights in a row.
* Seek out fun. That can be doing something creative, like doing a puzzle or pasting pictures in my art journal.
* Physical exercise. Stretching even for five minutes can change my energy.
* Say “I am tranquil and joyful” several times.
* Listen to upbeat music.
* Escape in a good book like a mystery novel.
* Seek comfort. Drink that cup of tea outside. Watch comforting shows and videos.
* Reach out for support from a close friend or counselor. There is no shame in this. We are living through extraordinary times. What is the alternative? Bottling up our feelings can keep us depressed.
The trying times we’re facing can strengthen us down the road. After all, we are overcoming huge challenges. We are living in the time of a worldwide pandemic and partisan politics. Many irritants that used to upset us now seem trivial.
How might we not just cope, but grow during this pandemic? For most of us, our lives have slowed down. We can take this opportunity to reflect on our experiences. We can rethink our intentions, values, and goals. Have any of these changed for you? When you think about your values, are you living the life you want?
This can be a time of growth if we take steps to strengthen our body, mind, and spirit. Someday, even baby steps will give a big result. Everyone who has changed their lives has taken baby steps.
These are some of my recent steps for self-growth:
* I’ve been taking an online Bible study class.
* I took six weeks of online group coaching.
* Do something that feels almost normal. I was missing gatherings with friends, like dinners with our gourmet group. Recently, we had a virtual dinner. The hosts sent out easy, do-ahead recipes. Then we gathered on Zoom for drinks and cocktails followed by dinner and dessert. Chatting with friends while eating dinner felt satisfying, almost like being together in person.
* I have been walking two miles a day and running occasionally.
* I try to appreciate the blessings in my life.
One of my highest values in the past two years has been joie de vivre. I wrote about that here. Even during a pandemic, we can find joy of life.
Recently I went out to seek joie de vivre. I went to a small forest preserve where there are two lakes. I walked around the lakes, looking for a spot where I could relax and reflect. I didn’t find the spot until just before ending my two-mile walk. It was a beautiful, secluded spot under a bridge by a river. I grabbed a chair from my car and sat there, listening to the water gurgle. I wrote affirmations that “I’m living with joie de vivre.” It was a respite that I can only describe as delightful. And I would not have found this spot if I hadn’t been looking for it. We have to seek our values, like joie de vivre, in order to find them.
How we want to be after this moment in history is up to us. We can come out of it bitter, or we can come out of it better. If we take steps aligned with our intentions and values, this can be an opportunity to grow.
How do you cope with anxiety or depression? Who do you want to be when the challenges we’re facing are behind us? What baby steps might you take for your body, mind, and spirit?