Mental Wellness Challenge – 2020 April 10

Mental Wellness Challenge – 2020, April 10

Last week my three part challenge for you was:

  1. Get on the phone, on Skype, FaceTime, Teams, Messenger, or whatever technology you use and connect with someone you haven’t talked to in a while. Shut all the other distractions off and spend at least 10 minutes having a great conversation with someone who means something special to you.  Its likely that they can use the connection too.

This part of the challenge worked out well for me.  It was great to reconnect with friend and not think or talk about all the “stuff” that is going on in the world.

  1. Spend a little time thinking about the people that are doing work in this world that puts them at risk – and just take some time to send out some gratefulness energy to the world. When I do this I get a bit of a change of heart – I recognize the efforts of strangers who are doing work in incredibly challenging circumstances.

I did ok with this.  Gratitude is so important.  Being grateful just about had me ‘breakin’ the rules’… Shaking hands is something that I was taught to do from the time I was a youngster… There were a couple of times where my appreciation for a task completed for me – well they had me sticking my hand out for a shake… and – – of course – that’s not the safe thing to do now-a-day… So a sincerely “Thank you” had to do…  I wonder if this newer normal is going to strengthen peoples word or cheapen in??? More distance – less connection – less connection in an already “Its all about me” society… mmm fodder for another blog I suppose..

  1. Practice some selfcare – by doing whatever it is that helps you feel super about you! Have a hot bubble bath, a great cup of coffee on the back patio watching the chickadees flit around, or make that special dish or desert that you like.  Just take a little time to celebrate you…

My self-care didn’t look like what I had suggested… Instead – I got the courage up to call my general practitioner and get some help with not being able to sleep and my increased levels of anxiety.  This was a difficult thing that I know I needed to do for me.  In my model I list medicines as a form of support.  I know that I need to be supported from time to time…. You see – those medicines – while yes, help me sleep and help me slow down the anxiety tornado – so that I can get my feet on the ground – are also a kind of “marker” for me.  In my recovery – I take a sense of strength and pride from being able to “do this on my own”.  I 100% know there’s no shame in taking the medicines to be better – its not shame that I feel here – it’s a recognition, an admission, that I am not able to “go this alone”.  That said – I know and celebrate that I made the call, got the medicine and its helping.  I am able to get a decent nights sleep (3 to 5 or so hours in a stretch) makes my day far better.

The past couple or three weeks have been a big adjustment for me – likely for some of you too.

While the overall goal and direction of my life has not changed – so very many of the daily things that I do in my life were changed – forcefully.  For example – in my work life – the way I was doing my job went from a very socially interactive mode – to a more rigid, far less interactive – and very less socially so mode.  From teaching in a classroom to teaching online – that was and continues to be a challenge.

The pall that never ending COVID-19 news cycle has been casting has been taking its toll as well.  I have a crazy wild imagination (both a blessing and a curse) and taking in news and statistics – routinely contradictory in nature – has been something I have done too much of.  So, I have set boundaries and am limiting the sources, the amount and the time I spend on the news.

I was starting to feel the coolness and the dark of my depression settling in again – I felt a little like I was starting to walk in a place where my footings weren’t as certain as I like them and my course, my path was less defined.  These are clues for me to get my “shit” together and start working my model with more conviction.

I was fortunate that I had an appointment with my coach, my counselor – and during that appointment they were able to hear the things I was saying that I wasn’t hearing myself.  One of those pieces – and its not a new piece for me – is that I was/am in some way “responsible for fixing all this”… “I have to make this better”…   Reading this – it seems silly that my thoughts would even go there… but they certainly had.  I had loaded up all the responsibility for my world – and in that I had somehow grabbed the responsibility for making this better.

When they asked me what better was, I didn’t have a single sentence answer.  I felt like I needed to be able to make the lessons for my learners at least equivalent to what they had in the classroom, I felt like I needed to be able to turn my little piece of the world back around… Of course – this IS silly.  Rationally – I know that I can’t do those things.  Inside my mind – I struggled (still am some) to maintain what was.

In a sense – I suppose – there was a sense of mourning there… A real sense of loss – that the very important connections I had with my students were torn – in a day… and my reaction – perhaps – was my way of stretching to try to pull the those tattered threads back together again.

So — I have shared openly with you before that anxiety – for me – is an irrational sense of fear, loathing or panic that I experience from time to time.  This very familiar part of my mind has been coming back to hang out more and more lately — as I am physical distancing, working from home and following the rules.  My anxiety has been getting “bigger” as I have moved along this new normal that I am experiencing.  There is so very much uncertainty in the world right now – I suppose its a rational response to be a little anxious about it…

If I’m rested and can focus – I can control the way my anxiety “happens”… If I am rested and aware – I can watch for my/the anxiety spiral to start winding up and I can get my feet on the floor and ground myself – or do a 5 4 3 2 1 exercise or one of the many other tools in my kit to be able to slow the spiral down.   If I’m not rested – I tend to be more reactionary to my life – and I tend to focus on the work that I have to get done – (yesterday for instance – I was “on the go” from 5:45AM through to 4:45PM with maybe a pee break or two) and I don’t take the mental time to see what’s winding up… where I am storing anxious energy.  The less attentive/vigilante I am the more I tend to miss this building up of my anxiety… Mix this lack of attention with fatigue and I can find myself in a full blown anxiety tornado… AKA panic attack.

Ever have that waking dream that you are falling – and that you wake up just before you impact the ground?  You know that “AAAAHHHHH” feeling you are experiencing… that’s a panic attack – but it doesn’t stop – cuz I’m already awake…  When one of these things comes on – even though I can rationalize that I am not going to die – I feel like its a possibility.  I work very hard and reducing stimulus – I try to root through my feet… I try all manner of tools that I have – but sometimes I have to use a support… and part of my self care this week was making certain that I had that support available for when I need it.

My mental health learning this week comes to this:

  1. I have to slow my world down now.  I have to put the brakes on and slow things down so that I can have the time I need to be able to react to the changes that are going on around me.  Time to react to the pieces that are outside of my control.
    That reaction might be as simple as – well – accepting that “it is what it is” and I can’t change it.  Perhaps – accepting that just because “something” is crucially important to my mind – it may be totally insignificant in another’s big picture.
  2. I can only be responsible for what I can influence.
    The pieces are going to fall where ever they are going to fall – and there’s very little I am going to be able to do until the pieces are on the ground and closer to my influence. (or where ever then end up in my world)
    If I am doing the best I can – and I am being sincerely honest about that (I am NOT super Kev) – the best I can will be enough.  The sincerity to myself about this an important piece – if I know that I did the best I can – then I can shield myself from the criticism that may come.
  3. Gratitude is incredibly important.  My gratitude for the acts of another is actually a gift I give myself.

My mental wellness challenge to you this week is:

  1. Practice physical distancing.  Maintain that 2m distance between yourself and any other that doesn’t live in the same house as you do.
  2. Be kind – be especially kind… to your family, to your neighbors, to the folks that are working to support all of us.
  3. Be grateful.

So that’s it, I challenge you!

God (whomever or whatever you perceive god to be),

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,  the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.