Struggling Post Pandemic? You’re Not Alone

Offering support in the park

As friends around you adjust to post-pandemic life, how are you doing?

If you are struggling to get going again, you are not alone. The last fifteen months have been difficult. As a nation, we have been through trauma. We have been through not only a pandemic but we have collectively been through:

  • The deaths of over half a million fellow Americans
  • A divisive election
  • The loss of jobs and closures of businesses 
  • The exhaustion of our healthcare workers and essential workers
  • Protesting in the streets over the needless deaths of George Floyd and other black men
  • Avoiding getting close to people or hugging them because of safety
  • Losing our daily routines and often adopting unhealthy habits 
  • Working online, often with children in virtual classrooms at our sides
  • Witnessing people waiting in very long lines just to get food on the table
  • Experiencing natural disasters like tornadoes, ice storms, and wildfires 

And it doesn’t stop. Now, as the nation opens up, we have severe drought in California, increased homelessness, a bigger class divide than ever, friends dealing with long-haul Covid, workplace and other mass shootings, and more divisiveness over masks and vaccines. 

So how do we go on? 

  • Give ourselves permission to go slowly, one hour at a time. 
  • Give ourselves permission to feel the heaviness of the last year and to let it go by talking to others, sharing our feelings, taking walks in nature, joining support groups, and reaching out to friends we haven’t seen much during the pandemic. 
  • Write down three things we’re grateful for each day.
  • Watch a sad movie to get in touch with our own grief and sadness so we can shed those muchly-needed tears.
  • Stop comparing our problems to others’ problems because our problems deserve our attention, too, even if they don’t seem as bad.
  • Host picnics in parks with our friends and family.
  • Hug our children and grandchildren and others.
  • Return to events in person if we’re healthy and vaccinated, and we continue to connect virtually if we’re immunocompromised.
  • Listen closely to those who are hurting
  • Get vaccinated and stay masked to protect those who don’t respond to vaccines.

And most importantly, we practice self-care and self-compassion, and we give compassion, empathy, and love to those around us. 

Love In Action

Valentine’s Day is coming, and I haven’t been hugged since March 4, 2020. No boyfriend hugs, no people hugs. I know many others suffering from hug deprivation as well.

So, for those of us in isolation, how do we celebrate the big day? No romantic dinners, no snuggly evenings together. For those who have lost loved ones and are grieving, no celebration, either. Yet one thing we can all do is celebrate love itself. 

In preparation for Valentine’s Day,  I decided to think back on where I have seen LOVE in my last year of isolation and to celebrate LOVE IN ACTION.

I think of the huge amount of love that our healthcare workers have shown. That kind of love is unconditional love, as they lay their lives on the line to care for those with Covid and other medical issues. Medical love in action.

I think about watching the demonstrations on tv, as people marched in the streets in support of Black Lives Matter. Fair and equal love in action.

I remember looking at my doctors and even my physical therapist through a Zoom screen, and how challenging it was for them, some of whom had small kids at home in the background. Family love in action.

I think of the sacrifices of our essential workers, and while many of them may not love their jobs, they have still thrown their all into their work, showing love in action by keeping groceries and other places open. Essential love in action.

I think about the friends who have offered to get things for me, knowing that I am immunocompromised, about the neighbors I didn’t know who have checked on me to see if I needed anything. Neighborly love in action.

I picture the friendly faces of the workers who delivered medicines to my door, most of them with a kind word and a greeting. Delivery love in action.

I remember all the anxious Zoom faces from our church services throughout the last year, and how we all greet each other and talk over each other excitedly before the worship service starts. God’s love in action.

I think about some of the groups I have attended online and how we laugh and cry together. Shared love in action.

I think about how I learned to watch movies with friends through Netflix thanks to new technology, and how we chat throughout the movies in the chat box. Fun love in action.

I remember joining a Zoom to be present in the courtroom when my dear friends formally adopted two boys and how I had tears in my eyes watching online from across the country. Big love in action.

I admire the bookshelves carefully decorated in the background of professionals’ Zooms as they give the news, report on Covid stats, or broadcast their tv shows. Decorator Love in Action. 

And I sadly remember all those who share their grief and hold memorial services on Zoom as they say good-bye to loved ones through video. Painful love in action. 

This Valentine’s Day, I encourage you to celebrate all the ways you have seen Love in Action in the last year. Write them down, talk with friends about how they’ve seen Love in Action, and make plans for how you can practice Love in Action and how you can pay forward all the love you have been shown this year. 

We all need more love, so let’s plan to carry it on throughout this year, as we celebrate Valentine’s Day, 2021. Give Love in Action.

Processing 2020

As 2020 has been winding down, I have been winding down with it. 

In some ways, 2020 seems like forever and in other ways, it has passed quickly. On March 4, 2020, I had a routine doctor’s appointment and my doctor told me to go home and not to leave again for a couple of weeks because of the coronavirus, because I am immunocompromised from a kidney transplant I had in 2011. Two weeks turned into months. I have measured weeks from Monday to Monday when I take the trash cans to the curb, and I have measured days by my Zoom meetings.

I am more fortunate than most, in that I have a home with a yard, a dog, a church I love, organizations I’m involved in, and I can coach from my home. Still, as an extrovert, being home all these months has had its challenges. I ask myself, “What will I hold onto from this year and what will I remember?”

I will hold onto the friends I became closer to because of Zoom, and I will treasure those moments where I witnessed both clients and friends expressing their most vulnerable selves and reaching out to me for extra support when they needed it.

I will hold close the tears, the pain, and the things shared with me in confidence by so many in the last few months as their pandemic fatigue and grief became unbearable.

I will remember the faces of the many young essential workers who have delivered groceries to my door, and I will be forever grateful to them. 

I will remember every flower and every rose that bloomed in my yard this year, because I took the time to walk around the yard each day and to notice them as they grew.

I will think about the many nights I noticed the brightness of the moon and the stars and the hope it brought me.

I will remember the smiles of the elderly men and women who lit up with excitement when they saw my face staring at them on a computer screen, as I taught them how to connect on Zoom or Facetime. 

I will think about some of the big things that saddened me this year like my friend who is fighting cancer, and my friend who lost her job, and my friends whose kids have needed to start therapy because of covid anxiety, and my friends who have suffered major depression from social isolation, and my friends whose partners, spouses, parents, and children have struggled with health issues or who have died.

I will remember the heartbreak of seeing the ever-increasing numbers of Americans who are dying of Covid-19 and the growing grief in our nation, and I will remember the ritual I adopted of lighting a candle in their memory each morning at my desk.

And I will remember the feeling of wanting to go be with my grieving friends and to hug them and the realization that I could not do so.

As you think about 2020, what will you hold onto and what will you let go of? What stands out for you? 

I encourage you to give yourself permission to be wherever you are, to feel the sadness and happiness of 2020, and to think about the faces, the images, the feelings that will remain with you.

Tomorrow is a new day and a New Year, and the best way to approach 2021 is with hope. I wish you happiness, health, and joy in the New Year, and may we all learn to love and protect each other.

 

Christmas, Day 25

Today is Day 25 of the 25 Days of Christmas.

Thank you to those of you who have celebrated each of the 25 Days of Christmas with me and who have participated in the challenges and ideas I offered to you both in my videos and in my blogs. Having the activities to do together helped at least a few of you who have let me know you were following along in an effort to feel connected, even though we were socially distanced this Christmas.

Like many of you, my Christmas has been quiet and uneventful. I hosted a Zoom coffee hour for a few church members this morning, ate lunch and opened a gift with my mother, and then joined in for a Zoom visit with some family members. The rest of my day was quiet and restful and very different from how I usually spend Christmas Day.

Despite the difference, I have enjoyed a wonderful day. I have felt sadness for those I know who have died and are now sick with Covid-19, I felt a little fear when I heard about the explosion in Nashville, and I felt some letdown when the rain came around noon even though I know we need it. I also felt joy when I lit the Advent candles this morning and when I hosted the Zoom video for my church, and when I joined the Zoom with family members. I felt excited when a friend came by to exchange gifts, and I loved feeling the raindrops on my face as I stayed distanced from him outside.

I have felt so many feelings today. Maybe you have, too. Acknowledging them and naming them is important, knowing that feelings are feelings and they’re perfectly acceptable. What we do with the feelings is what’s important.

What will you do with yours? I know what I will do with mine. I will accept all of them, and I will be grateful that I have feelings. Feelings tell me I’m alive and sensitive to my environment and normal. If I didn’t have a range of feelings today celebrating Christmas in the middle of a pandemic, I’d worry about myself. I trust you will accept all your feelings as well. Give yourself a pat on the back for whatever you did today to take care of yourself.

Thank you for celebrating the 25 Days of Christmas with me. I will leave you with one last affirmation for Day 25: I affirm, accept, and trust all of my feelings.

‘Twas the Night, Day 24

Today is Day 24 of the 25 Days of Christmas.

Tonight is Christmas Eve. Thank you to those who have walked with me as we celebrated the 25 Days of Christmas Journey together, apart. I appreciate the ideas you have sent me to use, too.

The activity for tonight is to read “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” and drink some hot chocolate. Then be sure to go to sleep soon so Santa can visit you tonight.

Tomorrow I would like you to sing “Silent Night” and light a candle. Think of those you know who are alone or staying home because of Covid-19. Reach out to them and spread a little of the light, joy, hope, and love that is Christmas.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

What’s Your Ideal Christmas? Day 23

Today is Day 23 of the 25 Days of Christmas.

If you have been following my videos and blogs for the last 23 days, you know I’ve been coming up with ideas and activities that we can do together even though we are socially distanced. Some of you have shared these with your friends or nieces and nephews, and some of you have even sent me some ideas of your own.

For Day 23’s activity, I would like you to dream about your perfect, ideal Christmas, and what it would be like. Think about whether you want to be in the snow or in the sand, and who is going to be with you. Dream about what you want to do while you’re there.

As you dream about your ideal Christmas, think about how and when you can make it happen. With careful planning, perhaps you can plan your dream Christmas for next year or maybe for ten years down the road, but holding on to the dream can be important. Of course, not all dreams become reality because plans change and circumstances change, yet I think this year in the middle of a pandemic Christmas, a liittle dreaming is allowed.

As you think about your ideal Christmas for the next 24 hours, just enjoy the dreaming, and then tomorrow night you will come back to the reality of the 2020 Pandemic Christmas and can make it a good one.

The affirmation for Day 23 is “I love to dream about possibilities.”

Have a Little Fun, Day 22

Today is Day 22 of the 25 Days of Christmas.

As Day 25 grows closer and closer, two of my friends have let me know that I have been too serious the last couple of days so for Day 22 of the 25 Days of Christmas, I want you to have a little fun. If you are home and not able to leave the house, you can still entertain yourself and have fun at home.

One fun thing to do is to go online and tour Paris or London or tour a museum virtually. You can also watch live animal cameras at the San Diego Zoo and other places, and you can hear Michael Buble on YouTube reading “Twas the Night Before Christmas. Many 2020 Christmas events are on YouTube, available for live streaming free of charge.

Making cookies and being messy can be fun, as well as watching movies and talking about them with friends. You may be into Scrapbooking or making collages, and you could make a college about your Christmas in quarantine.

If you’re able to go out, you might enjoy walking or just driving around looking at lights. Be sure you keep your mask on and stay safe.

Having a day of fun is really important for your mental health, especially if you think your will feel stressed on Christmas Day.

Your affirmation for Day 22 is “I like having fun and entertaining myself.”

Thanking a Mentor, Day 21

Today is Day 21 of the 25 Days of Christmas.

As we continue celebrating the 25 Days of Christmas together, apart, your activity for Day 21 is to let someone know how special they are to you. Perhaps at some time in your life you had a mentor who taught you about a business or how to do something you didn’t know how to do, or perhaps you had a person who picked you up when you were down.

It’s important to let this person know how special they were to you at a time in your life when you needed someone, and Christmas is the perfect time to do this. Especially this Christmas when there is so much sadness and sickness, it’s a good time to reach out to your special person and let them know you appreciate them.

You can start off your letter with “I want you to know I am so grateful for the time that you…” or “I just want to say thank you for helping me out a few years ago when…..”.

People love to know they are appreciated, and it will help you to feel good about yourself to thank them. As another step to the Day 21 challenge, think of ways that you can be the special person for someone else in an effort to pay it forward.

The affirmation for Day 21 is “I let people know when I appreciate them.”

Picture-Ready, Day 20

Today is Day 20 of the 25 Days of Christmas.

If you have been keeping up with my effort to come up with ways to celebrate the 25 Days of Christmas together, apart, you may know that I have had some challenges that are mental health-related, some that are kid-friendly, some that are simply fun, and some that require some thinking. Today’s challenge is all about being picture-ready so you can document your Christmas in a pandemic year.

I’d like you to do a little cleaning and decluttering of at least one or two of your rooms in your apartment or home. After you clean up a bit, be sure to add a few Christmas decorations in the room. The reason I’d like you to do this is so that you’re picture-ready on Christmas Day.

On Christmas Day, be sure to take several photos and videos of yourself and those who are with you to send to family and friends and to post on social media. It’s one way to share your day with others that you aren’t able to see on Christmas, and it’s also a way for you to have photos and memories to share.

Making a video diary or journaling about the day will be helpful in five or ten or twenty years when you’re remembering how you spent Christmas during the pandemic of 2020. Perhaps you will be in a workshop or simply reminiscing with friends, but having the documentation, the videos, and the photos will be important.

I encourage you to begin cleaning and thinking now about how you plan to document your Christmas Day. When Christmas morning comes, you will be able to grab your smartphone or camera and begin documenting history.

The affirmation for Day 20 is “I am present and aware of what I am doing at all times.”

Dealing with the Elephant, Day 19

Today is Day 19 of the 25 Days of Christmas.

As I considered your challenge for the next 24 hours, I thought it’d be important to address the elephant in the living room. If you are not familiar with the term, just think about being in a room full of people with an elephant literally in the middle of the room, visible to all, and yet no one mentions it because no one wants to deal with it.

For example, the year that my dad died I knew my family would gather around to open gifts and everyone would be thinking about my dad’s absence but no one would know how to address it. In order to acknowledge that he wasn’t there, I took a big stuffed Santa to my mother’s house and put him in the chair where my dad liked to sit. When everyone went into the living room to open gifts, they saw Santa in the chair, which then opened up a conversation about how much we missed my dad and how he liked to play Santa and give gifts. Once we talked about missing him, everyone seemed more comfortable opening gifts and bringing up memories of my dad.

I hope you will be aware of any possible “elephant in the living room” scenarios in your family. The elephant in the room for you maybe be that you’re all missing someone or it may just be that everyone has a whole range of feelings because of Covid-19 deaths or losses related to jobs, cars, homes, family changes, or others.

I encourage you to journal, talk with friends or someone you trust, and to give yourself permission to feel your whole range of feelings. You may feel a lot of opposite feelings at the same time such as joy and sadness, hope and depression, fear and faith, and others. Feeling the opposites together is perfectly okay, and it’s important to acknowledge that you can have a huge range of emotions at the same time.

The affirmation for Day 19 is “I give myself permission to have lots of different feelings even if they contradict.”