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.

 

A Special Christmas, Day 13

Today is Day 13 of the 25 Days of Christmas.

As we continue to celebrate the 25 Days of Christmas together, apart, I want to thank you for sharing your stories with me. Hearing about how you’re taking part in some of these activities with friends and family is encouraging to me, and I also appreciate those of you who are sending me suggestions to use for my 25 Days series.

For Day 13 of the 25 Days, your activity is to think about a Christmas that was special to you. You may think about it, write about it, make a video telling about it, or call up someone who shared that special Christmas with you to tell them about it.

Think about some of these questions as you remember that special Christmas. What about that Christmas was special? Was it the people with you? Was it the location? Was it where you were in your life emotionally that year? Was it a particular event that made the day special? Was it just a feeling you had? Maybe you felt loved or cared for? Maybe you showed care to someone who needed to feel cared for or accepted and that made your Christmas special.

I encourage you to share your Christmas story. Special days need to be celebrated and remembered. Of course, not everyone can remember a special Christmas because you haven’t had one. If you have not, write about what would make your Christmas special.

The affirmation for Day 13 is “I remember and celebrate special moments.”

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.”

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.”

Explore Your Surroundings, Day 5

Today is Day 5 of the 25 Days of Christmas.

I am making an effort to post my video and blog earlier in the day at the request of a friend, who wants to take part in these challenges and activities with her grandson whom she can’t hug right now. I love that she is including him, and I encourage you to include your family and friends as well. It just solidifies my idea that we need things to do while we are together, apart. 

Lemon Tree in Backyard

For Day 5, I ask that you explore your surroundings in a new way. If you are out walking, take some time to find an unusual tree or rock you haven’t really noticed carefully before. If you’re indoors, look around you and find a special object, something that has meaning, or perhaps look out your window and notice something you haven’t really noticed before.

What about it got your attention? What significance does this have for you? I took a walk around the back yard and checked out a small lemon tree, recently planted, and carefully held one of the lemons in my hand. How amazing is it that a tiny little tree can produce such a beautiful and tasty lemon! How often do I actually notice it as it slowly grows. We all need to take the time to notice things around us and how they grow and change, or if it’s something sitting on a shelf, how it holds meaning for us. 

Have fun with the Day 5 activity. Maybe you’re even listening to your favorite new song from 2020 while you do today’s activity. 

The affirmation for Day 5 is “I am aware and mindful of my surroundings.”

Acts of Kindness, Day 4

Today is Day 4 of the 25 Days of Christmas. 

For today’s activity, challenge, or idea, I’d like you to perform a Random Act of Kindness. Doing something for someone else is a great way not only to make someone else’s day better but also to improve your own mood. In a time where many of us are living under shutdowns, being kind is a way to make isolation a bit more tolerable. 

If you’re going out and about, perhaps you let someone have a parking place you wanted or let them turn in front of you in line. If you’re home, perhaps you bake a cake for your neighbor or send a snail mail card to your friend’s child. 

Sharing a little kindness can go a long way.

Have fun with your act of kindness, and don’t forget to be kind to yourself in the process!

The affirmation for Day 4 of the 25 Days of Christmas is “I will be kind to myself and to others.”

Reaching Out

Today is Day 2 of the 25 Days of Christmas

Day 2 is here! Yesterday I asked you to create a list of those who are important to you that you usually see at Christmas or those you want to remember.  

Look at your list and pick the one person on your list who is the most challenging to call, the one who might reject you, the one that you are a little scared to call. Call that person and tell them that you will miss them and you hope they have a wonderful holiday time.

Then pick a second person. This one will be someone you are comfortable calling, someone who is a safe person. Ask that person how you can be their Rudolph, how you can help make their holiday season a little brighter. Ask them how you can help light their way. 

If your safe person is someone who has died, write them a letter to tell them you miss them and that you hold them close to your heart. Read that letter to a trusted friend and feel your sadness, and then do something that honors their memory for you at Christmas. 

I challenge you to make the difficult call and to make the easy call. Reaching out to others is so very important, and sometimes you just need a boost to do it. 

So make your calls and come back tomorrow for Day 3, because Day 3’s activity will be a fun one. 

Your affirmation for Day 2 is “I give love and light to myself and to the world.”

25 Days of Christmas Together, Apart

San Francisco, Christmas 2019

Today is Day 1 of the 25 Days of Christmas!

Maybe you love Christmas as I do, and you’re wondering how you can spend it with others and have a little fun.

I have a solution for you!

Check out the 25 Days of Christmas blog and video each day for the next 25 days so we can have fun together, apart. Each day during the 25 Days I will post a video on Facebook here, https://www.facebook.com/OvercomerCoachCA,  and a blog here on my site that will describe a challenge, an idea, or an activity that we can all do together, apart. It’s a way to feel connected to others. 

Feel free to post a comment on my Facebook page as you participate in the activity each day. 

Today’s activity is to make a list of people who are important to you, those you usually spend time with during the 25 Days before Christmas, or those you have lost that you remember each year, or those you really wish you had reached out to in the few years. Be sure to put yourself at the top of the list. 

In tomorrow’s activity, we will use that list of people, so hold on to it. Join me tomorrow as I post the next activity. 

When a Hug Isn’t Possible

When someone dies, people usually rush in to help. I remember when my father died, a neighbor who was on her way to church saw the ambulance at my parents’ house and stopped, knowing something was wrong. She arrived soon after I did, with the ambulance still in the driveway and the paramedics inside. 

I am still grateful to her as I look back to that day seven years ago. When the ambulance pulled out, she told me to run home and take a shower and told my mother to take a shower and get dressed, and she would stay. When I returned 45 minutes later, our friend had removed the walker and other medical equipment from the house and taken it to our garage. She offered to make phone calls to family and friends. She helped us think when we could not. 

Now, however, with COVID-19, we could not have let her in, as my mother and I are both very high risk. Nor could we have let in the friends who showed up later with sandwiches and cakes and hugs. Friends offered us such comfort at the time and took over basic responsibilities so we did not have to.

So how can you help when you can’t just show up and give a hug? Based on my work with caregiver support and grief groups in the past, I came up with a few ideas to share, and I offer them here:

  • If you know something to do, act. Asking the person what you can do is usually not helpful, as they either do not know right then what they need or they do not want to ask.
  • Send a card. A real snail-mail card.
  • Check-in with a phone call. Don’t ask them to return your call. Just say I love you and am thinking about you.
  • Don’t judge them for how they deal with their feelings. 
  • Do a video chat with them and just hold space with them. It’s not the same as physically being there, but offering to just sit with them, to listen if they want to talk, to be a virtual presence can offer support.
  • Offer to go to their window and hold your hand up to theirs through the glass for a few minutes and give a gentle smile
  • Leave a meal on the front porch then call to let them know you care and/or set up a meal train so neighbors sign up to take meals for a week. Even better, order meals to be delivered from local restaurants in order to help the restaurants survive
  • If you’re able to go out, ask for their grocery list or just anticipate what they might need and leave their groceries at the door 
  • Make a donation in memory of their loved one

With so many people grieving the loss of loved ones during the pandemic,  are all hurting. Please be kind and considerate, be loving, and do what you can to respect and care for all those who are mourning or in despair. We need each other to get through this pandemic.