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. 

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.

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.”

Nurturing Your Inner Child, Day 18

Today is Day 18 of the 25 Days of Christmas.

I can’t believe today is Day 18 and Christmas is just a week away. I continue coming up with ways we can celebrate Christmas together, apart, since so many of us won’t be with family and friends this year due to Covid-19. I hope you will add your comments on my Facebook page to let me know if you have any suggestions.

The activity for Day 18 is to nurture your inner child. You have a strong innocent, fun-loving, feeling part of you that lives deep inside you and needs to be acknowledged, nurtured, and validated. Especially since you’re living in a pandemic and stress is high, it’s really important to take care of your inner child.

How do you do that? It’s different for everyone. Here are a few suggestions, but you will know what works best for you.

  1. snuggle a doll or a stuffed animal or a blanket and feel like you’re hugging something
  2. build a fort in the middle of your den and sit inside of it for a while
  3. watch a children’s movie or read a children’s book
  4. decorate cookies

There are lots of options for nurturing your inner child, and it really is important not to neglect that part of you. Have fun and be creative as you nurture your inner child.

The affirmation for Day 18 is “I acknowledge, nurture, and validate my inner child.”

Setting Boundaries, Day 17

Today is Day 17 of the 25 Days of Christmas.

As Day 25 draws closer and closer, the activity I chose for today is to set boundaries. Setting boundaries and saying no when you need to seems really important right now as Covid continues to spread. Today I was coaching a client who was invited to a friend’s for Christmas dinner and didn’t feel comfortable going. However, she was struggling with how to say no.

Saying no is perfectly okay, and you are not obligated to make excuses to others. Simply saying no is a healthy way to set boundaries and take care of yourself. The pleaser part that lives inside wants so badly to say yes in order to be liked by others, but then the regrets begin when you hang up the phone and are mad at yourself for saying yes.

You are not obligated to say yes just to please someone else. One way I have learned to deal with setting boundaries is to tell the person, “Let me think about that and get back with you” which gives you time to decide if it’s really something you want to say yes to or not.

Practicing with a couple of friends is really helpful as you learn to set boundaries. Saying no becomes easier the more often you do it. For a Christmas gift, give yourself permission to say no when you really want to say no.

The affirmation for Day 17 is “I take care of myself and say no when I want to.”

Movie Time, Day 11

Today is Day 11 of the 25 Days of Christmas!

As I continue to come up with ideas and activities for the 25 Days of Christmas, I am also aware of how rampant Covid-19 is in the U.S. Please be careful and stay safe.

The Day 11 activity is one that will definitely keep you safe and help you stay calm and worry-free. The activity is to watch a Christmas movie. Perhaps you like the traditional Christmas movies and you want to watch one that you know and love. However, a quick Google search also turns up several new movies for 2020. You can find movies on Lifetime and Hallmark that you can watch all night and all day, or you can find some new ones on Netflix and Amazon Prime and other places.

You might want to fix some hot chocolate, string some popcorn or cranberries, snuggle under a warm blanket, and relax with your movie. Taking some time to relax is something you need to do as it will help you stay calm and rested as you prepare for the upcoming holidays.

Enjoy your movie and don’t forget to let me know what you’re watching by posting it in the comments on my Facebook page or sending me a message. I hope you enjoy your movie time.

The affirmation for Day 11 is “I rest and relax and stay calm.”

Virtual Christmas Entertainment, Day 10

Calendar of events

Today is Day 10 of the 25 Days of Christmas.

As I come up with ideas for us all to celebrate the 25 Days of Christmas together, apart, so that we feel connected to each other, I’m more aware each day of just how many people are feeling depressed, lonely, sad, or a little bit blue. I know more of my friends are canceling their travel plans to spend Christmas with family and friends, and I just want to acknowledge how difficult it is for so many of us to have a quieter Christmas because of the risk of Covid-19.

For Day 10, I have an activity that won’t alleviate the loneliness and despair, but it will at least add some merriment and fun to your holiday time. The challenge for Day 10 is to go online and search for “virtual Christmas events December 2020”. I think there are enough events that you could find a concert, a play, a ballet, a comedy show, a fundraiser, or a sing-a-long for each night from now until Christmas. Most of these online events are free, though some of them have a fee.

At Eventbrite and Facebook, lots of events are listed that are free of charge. Also, many symphonies, churches, and other groups are offering events if you go directly to their pages. Grace Cathedral in San Francisco and Washington Cathedral are having events and many radio stations are offering concerts that you can listen to online or on the radio.

I am scheduling several of the musical events for the next two weeks to listen to online because I love Christmas music. I challenge you to schedule several events that you might enjoy, and ask a couple of your friends to sign up, too, and then discuss them by phone or on Zoom after the event. Sharing events virtually isn’t the same as attending in person, but with so many events offered online, I think everyone can find something they like.

The affirmation for Day 10 is “I take care of myself by scheduling my time wisely.”

Discover Christmas Poems, Day 7

Today is Day 7 of the 25 Days of Christmas!

For the 7th Day of the 25 Days of Christmas Activity, I’d like you to find a new Christmas poem that you like. “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” is a popular one, but there are so many others. Some are sad, some are funny and cute, and some are classics.

Another option for finding a new Christmas poem is to write one of your own. Perhaps you’d like to read your own poem on video or to read one that you find in a book or online. I encourage you to post the poem you like in the comments on my Facebook page under the video of Day Seven.

Sharing favorite poems is another way to celebrate Christmas together, apart, which is the theme of this video and blog series I’m doing. Keeping friends and family together by doing activities and challenges such as the ones I’m suggesting is a fun way to promote a little camaraderie with friends and family since so many of us won’t be together this year.

Thank you to those who are sending me your favorite new Christmas songs, telling me about your acts of kindness, and other things that you’ve done during Days 1-6 of the 25 Days of Christmas.

Have fun discovering or creating your poem for Day 7. The affirmation for today is “I am curious and creative.”