I’m not a fan of looking for silver linings during tragedies or hard times. It’s invalidating to dismiss the pain of a situation by looking on the brightside. You need to feel anger, sadness, disappointment, to get through a hard time. But only staying in the difficult feelings isn’t healthy either.
Intentional self-care is more important than ever as the pandemic ramps up again. On top of political divisiveness and countries are starting to shut down. In Maine, our long and cold winter is on the horizon. Winter for anyone living above the Mason-Dixon line can be difficult on our moods. It can be an isolating time without social distancing.
It's imperative that you take care of yourself this winter if you are prone to seasonal affective mood challenges.
When you hit a wall, pivot.
This is your opportunity to examine what change needs to happen in your life to help you get through. Hard times are an opportunity to build strength and identify what to improve. You can start by changing your point of view on the situation. Mentally tough people look at a roadblock as a challenge and an opportunity, not a dead end.
When you hit a barrier, get creative. You may not have the ideal situation for what you are trying to do so make a plan B. Or a plan C and D if necessary. This is grit and it's cultivated. It takes practice and effort. It’s what I call a “suck it up buttercup” moment. We’ve seen so many examples of this throughout the pandemic. People do birthday caravans, work out with gallon milk jugs, create virtual choirs. Get creative.
Move your body.
There is a reason you hear this ad nauseum. The human body is capable of wandering 10-12 miles a day to forage for food. Most of us don't get a mile these days. When stressed, the body activates the fight or flight system. The sole purpose of this system is to prime us for movement, to flee or fight off a threat. If we don’t give that energy and those stress hormones an outlet it has a serious negative effect on the body.
The key is to meet yourself where you are at. Commit to movement everyday. Then cater your movement to what you have the energy for. That could be an energetic hike or a slow walk around your neighborhood. Do something and you’ll feel better for it.
At Virago Wellness, our women’s counseling practice in Portland, Maine, we hear this more often than anything. You are lonely and you miss your people and the holidays are coming. This is another pivot point. If your ideal options are available, what’s plan B? Can you send care packages, write letters, text pictures? Find a way to volunteer even if it’s virtual. Adopt a pen pal at a nursing home, tutor school children, check on your neighbors. Bundle up, grab a hot cup of tea and go for a walk. Join a book club or a support group. See a therapist. Our amazing team of clinicians have openings.
Remember, this is temporary.
Finally, examine the content of your thoughts. Correct yourself if you think in absolutes or black and white. This will not last forever. Something will change eventually.
It’s ok to worry, feel sad, or angry AND do what you can with what you have.