I have a confession.
All around me this week people are sharing their posts from a year ago - posts from when our lives as we knew them came to screeching halt.
Although those 2020 feelings of dread, fear, and uncertainty are there beneath the surface and I can easily tap into them, those feelings are not how I define my memories of the past year.
I remember things a bit differently.
I remember my oldest son walking around in a bike helmet all day on a dare from his brother because what else was there to do? The photos from that day will forever make us chuckle.
I remember pulling out all our board games to pass the time, working our way through all the boxes that filled our hallway closet. Those games allowed us to share laughter and create memories.
I remember learning Tik Tok dances much to the embarrassment of my sons. Somehow those silly songs now hold a special place in my heart.
I remember group FaceTime calls with my friends as we showed our stashes of toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Those calls brought us closer and provided me with a connection I desperately needed.
I remember creative date nights at home planned by my husband. His Dominican feast on the day we were supposed to be traveling alone to Punta Cana certainly did not replace our trip but it was a pretty good back up plan.
I remember sitting at our kitchen table every morning. That tiny table that somehow fit four humans, their four laptops, and mountains of paperwork became the center hub of our home as we all made the switch to remote learning and remote working.
I remember watching the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe and Star Wars catalog as a family - twice - once in the release order and once in chroniclogal order. Those films became the soundtrack of our year.
I remember crafting a new kitchen island as a family after on a whim I said we needed a bigger space to do our work. Now that Island anchors my family and serves as the gathering place in our home.
I remember building a new patio as a family, brick by brick, because our backyard would be where we would spend our entire spring and summer. Even now under cover of winter in New England, that patio makes me smile as it is a piece of my family’s heart.
I remember hugging my sister, brother in law, my nieces, and my nephew for the first time after the initial lockdown. In that moment, standing in my dining room with tears in our eyes, we all decided that we needed to be in each other’s bubble always.
I remember spending time with friends outdoors when at times it almost felt like normal life.
I remember how when we struggled we were there for each other.
I remember how we all adapted.
I remember how we learned important lessons about ourselves and our family.
I remember how we decided to make lasting changes to our lives.
I remember laughter.
I remember joy.
I remember love.
I remember hope.
I remember that the year we were forced inward and were forced to slow down was also the year when we learned how to stay connected and truly enjoy life.
I remember that we found out just how lucky and loved we truly are.
As a therapist, I talk with patients every day about developing coping tools and strategies to help them better manage anxiety. Things like deep breathing, challenging faulty thinking, and building self care strategies are often what we focus on in sessions but there are some products that are widely available via online in in person retailers that people should also consider adding to their anxiety tool kit.
Here are 7 must-haves* for anyone with anxiety and since each of these tools has a variety of options and price point, you can totally individualize each option!
1. Weighted Blanket
Are you someone who likes a good hug or snuggling up under a warm blanket? Do you feel better when you can sit somewhere that makes you feel safe and secure? A weighted blanket provides all of those physical sensations. I first used weighted blankets over 25 years ago when I worked with children who had sensory processing difficulty. The blankets were heavier than your normal blanket and would help calm them and make them feel safe. I soon learned that they also worked for me, giving me an instant feeling of calmness even from holding the blanket on my lap. Today, weighted blankets are available in a variety of sizes from lap blankets to king size blankets and in a wide variety of weights. I promise you, a weighted blanket will quickly become your favorite item to turn to when feeling anxious and overwhelmed.
2. Essential Oils
I use essential oils all the time in my home and in my office. When it comes to anxiety relief, there are essential oil blends specifically formulated to reduce stress, improve relaxation, and help you to calm your mind. You can use some of these oils topically (mix them with a carrier oil first such as almond oil) or even ingested. I prefer to diffuse a few drops of them in an essential oil diffuser. Just a few drops will help to ease any stress and anxiety you or your family may be feeling and it will leave the air smelling fresh!
3. Workbooks and Journals
If you are self-motivated, workbooks and journals can be a great tool to use to help you gain insight into the root causes of your anxiety. You can set some time aside each morning or evening to review a section and complete some of the worksheets included. Although not a replacement for one on one counseling, workbooks and journals like the ones below can be an excellent way to help you start to gain control of your anxious feelings.
4. Zen Garden
If you have ever seen these tabletop Zen Gardens, you know how calming it can be to allow yourself to do nothing but rake the sand and lay out the decorative rocks. Adding one of these to your desk at work or to a tablespace at home will provide you with a daily reminder to slow down and breathe.
5. At Home Fitness
One of the most effective ways to combat anxiety is to find a way to release some of the pent-up anxious energy. Exercise is a perfect way to do this. If you don’t have time or the funds to go to a gym, there are lots of ways that you can work out right in your own home. Cardio has a lot of benefits when it comes to anxiety management so a simple home exercise machine like a rower or a stationary bike can be a good addition to your routine. You can get one delivered to your door for less than $250. That’s a small price to pay for some anxiety relief coupled with physical fitness.
6. Grown Up Coloring Books
There is something very calming and relaxing about coloring an intricately designed picture. I’m not talking about cartoon character coloring books like we had when we were young. These coloring book options for adults are meant to take some time and are even more enjoyable when done with a set of good quality thin tip markers or colored pencils. This is an activity you can do with others too. So, grab a few friends, put out some refreshments and get your coloring on! Watch as your anxiety starts to drift away.
7. Bath Bombs
You either are a bath person or you’ve never actually had a good bath. A nice hot bath at the end of a long day can be a great way to quiet your mind and increase your relaxation. Bath bombs can make the experience even more beneficial by adding some calming fragrance and skin softening properties to the water. Don’t like bath bombs? Try bath salts or take a bubble bath. No matter how you prefer your bath, make some time to pause from your daily hustle to slow down and relax.
Wouldn’t it be great to feel like you have a bit of a better handle on your anxiety? Can you imagine your life without the weight of anxiety always looming over it? Isn’t it time to add to your anxiety management tool kit? Go ahead and invest in yourself!
*Some of these links are considered “affiliate links,” meaning if you click through these links to make a purchase, I might earn a small commission. Keep in mind that I link these companies and these products because of their quality and not because of the commission I receive from your purchases. All of these are products that I have used personally or professionally and many have also been successfully used by my clients and colleagues.
There are times in everyone’s lives when the bad stuff hits.
Sometimes the bad stuff hits all at once. Sometimes the bad stuff hits gradually over time. Sometimes the hits are so bad that you don’t feel like getting out of bed, leaving your house, or answering your phone. Sometimes the bad stuff makes you turn inward. Sometimes it makes you implode on yourself. Sometimes it makes you explode on others. No matter how you react to the bad stuff, one thing is shared — the bad stuff exists for all of us at some point in our lives.
As I have been reflecting on our shared experiences with the bad stuff lately, I have been considering them within the context of this time of year. Spring is almost here and with it comes a collective shift of our focus to the future. This is a time of reflection and goal setting. At times like these, I always turn towards inspirational quotes to keep me grounded in reality while also striving towards my goals.
This, one of my favorite quotes from Theodore Roosevelt, made it’s way into my social media
feed the other day.
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.― Theodore Roosevelt
For me, this quote is about being your best, striving for greatness, and setting up the best future possible for yourself, knowing that it will take fight, courage and, sometimes, even failure. But, really the quote is so much more. It is a quote filled with questions:
The reality is, though, it truly doesn’t really matter whether you succeed or fail. What matters is that you are out there — you are in the arena. You are trying. You are doing. You are living. And, until we know failure, loss and sacrifice, we cannot truly appreciate the sweetness of success and all the beauty life has to offer us.
So, to the person in the arena, with the face marred by “dust and sweat and blood,” look around. If you take a moment to pause your battle and take stock of where you are right now, you will see that you are not alone. There are lots of us in the same arena and while we all are fighting versions of our own battles, our own bad stuff, some of us are here to help fight each other’s battles as well. This arena can be a scary, dangerous place but it isn’t a vast empty space.
The arena isn’t a space in which we all fight our own battles; instead, the arena is a place where we can gain strength from each other and from knowing that we are not alone. Reach out to those around you in your arena right now and let them help you fight your battles and your bad stuff.
The real living in life, after all, takes place in that space between failure and success. It takes place in the arena.
Ladies, I have an important message for you.
You know that voice in your head — the not so nice one?
The one that tells you all the ways other people are better than you.
The one that tells you that you aren’t smart enough, pretty enough, funny enough, skinny enough, nice enough, rich enough, talented enough, popular enough.
The one that tells you that you are a bad mother, bad friend, bad sister, bad employee, bad wife.
Yes, that voice.
She’s become too comfortable in your brain.
She’s become too familiar.
You don’t need to listen to her.
You don’t have to be perfect. No one is perfect.
You don’t have to have it all figured out. No one does.
You don’t have to be able to do it all. No one can.
When that voice starts ringing in your head, picture yourself turning down her volume, like you would on the tv or radio.
Remind yourself that she lies.
Turn up the volume on all the good things about yourself.
You ARE enough.
You DO matter.
You ARE loved.
That’s the only voice that you should listen to — the kind one.
That’s the truth.
You know those days that just don’t go right?
Days where you sleep later than you planned.
Days where you can’t outrun the dark cloud following you around.
Days where you spill your entire protein shake and then your giant glass of water all over your rug 4 minutes before a work meeting.
Days where you stub your toe while rushing down the hallway.
Days where you accidentally forget to pay a bill, return an important call, or miss a text message.
Days where the brand new rug cleaner stops working.
Days where everything annoys you and nothing feels right.
Sometimes you can reframe it all.
Sometimes you can laugh it off.
Sometimes you can take a deep breath and reset.
Sometimes you just can’t.
Sometimes some days are just not meant to be great or even good days.
On those days, pour yourself a hot cup of tea (be careful you don’t spill it on yourself), soak in a hot bath, or leaf through a light and airy magazine.
Give yourself a break and cut yourself some slack.
Then go to bed.
Trust that tomorrow is a new day.
You can try it all again tomorrow.
I know I will.
My therapy sessions with my patients have grown heavy once again — especially for my patients that work in healthcare.
Day after day they share, with tear filled eyes, their overwhelming fatigue. They stare blankly ahead at the telehealth screen as they describe lying awake night after night, too exhausted and overwhelmed to find sleep.
Each patient and their story is different but the common theme is the same — burnout.
Complete and total burnout.
So many question their career choice — for many of them have felt failed by their employers.
So many question their own humanity — for they now dread going to work and being around people.
So many question their future — for the passion that they once felt for their work is now nowhere to be found.
Like so many of us they are crawling, bruised and broken, toward some nebulous finish line on the horizon.
Sometimes as we near the end of a session, they will stop me and ask me if I am doing ok.
“How are YOU managing it all?”
They are caregivers by nature and struggle to keep the focus on themselves-even during their own therapy session.
But I think they are mostly looking for signs of hope.
Hope is what is missing most now.
Hope is what is needed most now.
In times of great sorrow, loss, and tragedy it is hope that keeps us tethered to our life and to each other.
Hope that something and someone can be consistent.
Hope for brighter days.
Hope for rest.
Hope for passions to be reborn.
Hope to enjoy the world again.
Hope to make it to tomorrow.
As you crawl toward the finish line right now, find hope.
Find it anywhere you can.
And hold onto it.
What is your self care plan this month?
As you are making your holiday shopping list and checking it twice, don't forget to plan for your own self care! Use this free guide below to plan how you will care for yourself this month in 6 main areas: body, mind, emotions, spirituality, finances, and others,
Keep it simple by committing to 1 or 2 tasks or goals in each of the 6 areas. I recommend making a new checklist each week and hanging it somewhere where you can see it often.
For example, mine may include something like this:
Body: Exercise bike for 30 minutes 3 times this week
Mind: Read for 15 minutes each day
Emotions: Journal my feelings each night
Spirituality: Meditate each day for 2 minutes
Finances: Set a budget for holiday shopping; Put 5% of my income in savings
Others: Select an item from the giving tree; Reach out to 5 friends this week to check on them
“You’re one of the strongest moms I know. If you can’t do it, I can’t either.”
My friend’s words jumped out of the text at me, hitting me right in the gut. That negative voice in my head, always lurking just beneath the surface, was quick to question her view of me.
How could it be that someone sees me as strong when lately all I feel is weak, a growing sense that I am a failure, and the notion that I am shrinking away from everyone?
Originally published on Her View From Home. Click HERE for full article.
Sometimes you will be too much for people.
Sometimes you won’t be enough.
Sometimes they will find you too sensitive
Sometimes they’ll say you are too insensitive.
Sometimes you will make decisions that hurt others.
Sometimes the decisions of others will hurt you.
Sometimes you will be lonely.
Sometimes you will wish for solitude.
Sometimes you will feel like all eyes are on you.
Sometimes you will feel invisible.
Sometimes the people you need to cheer you on won’t be there.
Sometimes people around you will shout things that aren’t true.
Sometimes you will feel too focused on a goal.
Sometimes you will feel lost and directionless.
Sometimes you will lie awake at night unable to find sleep.
Sometimes you will crawl under the covers, afraid to face the world.
Not all the time.
Sometimes you will feel valued, seen, and appreciated, despite your flawed parts.
Sometimes you will find your confidence, support, and direction.
Sometimes you will be at peace and rest easily at night.
Through all the sometimes, there will be constants to hold on to.
Your life has meaning.
You are not alone.
Tomorrow is always a new day.
Sometimes you just need to hold on.
Sometimes the darkness sets in.
Like many people right now, I am emotionally spent.
My thoughts are cloudy.
My creativity is stunted.
My attention span is non existent.
The arguing and tension and constant back and forth of the past week has completely drained me.
The anger, hatred, mistrust, and insults have deflated my hope.
I could feel the darkness coming this time and I tried hard to make it stop.
I decorated my house for the holidays to usher in some cheer.
I rearranged my living room to give a refresh to my surroundings.
I limited social media.
I firmed up my boundaries with people that drain me.
I spent time being with and talking to people I love.
I clung to anything that felt remotely like hope.
But the darkness still came.
I opened my eye this morning and felt it - the crushing weight of depression and anxiety. The air was thick with it.
So, I stopped fighting it.
This morning I let the tears come. I moved some of my “to do” items to later this week. I gave myself permission to be gentle with myself. I leaned in to the things I can control.
Although I feel the weight of the darkness, I will show up today for the people who need me.
I will be kind to myself.
I will keep looking for signs of hope and cling to them tightly.
I will continue to try to spread lightness, even in times of darkness.
I will celebrate the little things.
For those of you feeling it all too, remember that you are not alone.
This hard time will pass.
Brighter days are ahead.
They have to be.
Mental Health & Wellness
Now, more than ever, we all need a little support to help get us through the rough spots. With all the pressures of life, it can be a challenge to find time to not only take care of yourself but also to truly understand who you even are anymore.