You may be wondering when 2020 will be over. This has not been an easy year, to say the least. Plus, with a long winter approaching, many of us may want spring to come back sooner, skipping over the dark days ahead. Fortunately, with darkness is the gift of light.
Our staff team here at the foundation understand how our mental health impacts our physical well-being as well as our relationships with each other and ourselves. While everyone’s experience with winter and the pandemic is personal and unique, we would like to share with you some of the ways we try to stay grounded during times of uncertainty and darkness.
Renee: “Small Adjustments”
The pandemic has affected each of us differently including our responses to the stress and uncertainty. I’ve found it helpful to make small adjustments to maintain good mental health. Some small adjustments have included emailing friends I haven’t connected with for a while and with the unfolding pandemic related news, I’ve found it helpful to disconnect from my phone especially 30 minutes to an hour before going to bed. One larger adjustment I have made was joining a virtual guided meditation group that meets weekly. It has been a great way to learn various relaxation techniques as well as meet new friends. During the upcoming winter months, I plan to bundle up and go for outdoor walks/runs as much as I can. My best mental health tip is to start with a small adjustment that feels manageable and find a way to incorporate it into your routine. Remember, it’s ok to not be ok and to ask for help when needed. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has a one pager of other helpful mental health tips.
Sr. Molly: “Be Grateful”
These past several months have included the invitation to balance self-care with work responsibilities. One practice that I have found especially helpful is writing in my gratitude journal listing people, events and activities for which I am grateful. I find that when I focus on the positive I have a greater sense of well-being and the energy to reach out to others. One of the ways I do this is by writing notes to people in the Mid-Ohio Valley as well as our sisters at the Wheeling Center. I often include with these notes a 3×3 card with a positive affirmation reminding the person of how much I treasure her/his presence in my life. I like to receive mail that is not a bill or advertisement and believe others also appreciate being remembered.
As someone who likes to drink in the sun as much as possible, the darker and grayer winter months can bring the inner critic out more quickly, along with the grass is greener attitude. A practice that helps me ground myself is conscious deep breathing. It helps me stay in the moment and connect with what I am feeling with no judgment. It’s just me and the breath. If I find myself getting distracted, I do a breath count with every inhale and exhale; for example, my inhale may be 4 counts long while my exhale is 5 counts long. Other times, I say a one or two-word mantra that is applicable for that day, almost like an intention to be in a specific state of mind. As a yoga teacher, I try to carve out time to practice for myself, giving the gift of movement to be more in touch with my breath and letting the energy flow in my body to not only wake me up but also uplift me. Connecting with family and friends, going for walks with my dogs, taking time out to be surrounded by trees, taking care of my goats, and writing are important ways for me to remind myself that time is a gift and to be cherished, especially when it seems difficult.