On this and future Fridays I hope you will join me as I release new blogs that merge my passion for mental health advocacy with my work in creating refuges within our homes via interior design. I chose the word anchorage because- to me- the connotation emanates the ability stop for a moment to summarize and reflect on the week- it gives an opportunity to ground myself, again for a moment, with the ability to relax into the weekend. Cheers to the first anchor drop shared here:
Here we are at the end of the second full week of January, 2021. (It’s Friday- the Friday Fix is on it’s way!) I saw a retweet last night that made my counselor brain churn with understanding of the feelings I have felt for the last two weeks which made me come up with a hypothesis. The tweet said “Lots of people - including me - are hitting what I’m calling the pandemic wall this week. The burnout from working non stop, no break from news, childcare and isolation is hard.” The tweet was reposted by The Conscious Kid on Instagram (a great follow) from Tanzina Vega- whom I had not heard of until the desire to post her tweet in this blog encouraged me to Google her. I look forward to researching her work beyond her empathic tweets in the future after a brief initial search but cannot say I am knowledgeable about her as an individual beyond this introduction. Ms. Vega’s tweet though resonated with me profoundly- for the last two weeks I have struggled to find motivation beyond my work related duties. I have struggled to find desire to socially connect because my body feels heavy with the weight of the world, the bleakness of sunshine-less winter Wisconsin days, and the entrapment of the pandemic. This is no pity party though because I think I have a hypothesis about why this all feels so suddenly real and dramatic. Sure, there have been days in the last 10 months I have felt this way but not for extended days at a time. The “pandemic wall” as Ms. Vega titled it feels different this time and I have a proposition from my training as a counselor for why it feels different that I want your thoughts about.
Many of us- if not all of us- have lived through some sort of trauma for the last 10 months of our lives- most of us, I would venture to guess, for the first time. We have lived in a state of hypervigilance, i.e., “What tweet will come next? Do I dare turn on the news today? If I don’t turn on the news, will I miss something important? How many of us will die tomorrow? Are my kids safe to go to school? Can I handle tomorrow knowing I will have to wake up to bear the responsibilities I barely made it through today shouldering? How are my parents/grandparents actually doing? When will I get to travel to see my family/friends again? When will this stop?” Whew. Let’s take a slow, deep breath. In. Out. Do any of those ruminations sound familiar? Whether these thoughts are panic inducing or a quiet whisper they no doubt have raised cortisol levels in some form or another.*
*And do please note: I am in no way suggesting we all meet criteria for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and do not in any way endorse using the phrase, “this year has given me PTSD” unless you have been formally evaluated by a mental health professional. And if you are struggling in any way with your mental health- please reach out to a mental health professional! There is no shame in that game at all, ever.
Thus my proposition- as our country nears the end of the current administration and prepares for the transition to the new- I can feel my brain relaxing in anticipatory hope for positive change. When experiencing highly stressful situations- our brains retreat to fight/flight/freeze responses. We may experience one, two or all of these responses in response to any given stressful situation. Reflecting on my own behavior the last 10 months- my brain has fought via action-taking. I have been in what has felt like constant motion of pouring myself out in order to keep pushing towards this moment- for the happiness of my family and friends, the comfort of my husband and myself in our home, the safety of the community around us, my own ease through the creation of a new business. The fight response has paused at times but it hasn’t stopped. I believe perhaps it is the relaxing of my brain in the hope for hope that has given this fight response a moment to just breathe and realize how exhausted it is and how much work there is still left to do. In this time of transition my brain has calmed just enough to better process all the big and scary last 10 months have held and that in itself is anxiety provoking. Through my own self-reflection caused by Ms. Vega’s tweet- I believe my brain in the last two weeks after the hope of 2021 came has dramatically switched from calm to a bit of a freeze mode- stuck with the endless list of what my brain, body, and soul have endured since almost an entire year ago and all it has left to endure to get through this pandemic.
At this point maybe I have lost you because of the hint of politicization above- maybe you are finding some piece of this that resounds with your soul too- maybe you are confused as hell and are thinking, “uh- Danielle- you just posted a DIY bookshelf blog and now you’re hitting us with this?” All fair responses because they are your response. But here’s the why: What can we do to move past this “pandemic wall.” It won’t be there forever (thank goodness)- but what can we do to help the bricks to fall a little faster? What can we do to make our homes our haven again? Here are some of my suggestions and maybe you have some you want to share in the comments too:
- Be gentle with yourself in the coming days. Here is your permission if you need it.
- If a thought becomes overwhelming to you, write it down, talk about it with someone safe, draw a picture of it (even if it’s just a scribble). There is incredible research that shows the physical, outward action of naming the scary and the anxiety provoking outside of our own private thinking does wonders to ease the nervous system in order to rationally process the thought and move past it.
- Sleep and rest. My goal for this week is to wake up at a regular time and go to bed at a regular time (because I am an adult?) Research shows that the regularity of sleep schedules (not the fact that you get 8 hours of sleep every night) does wonders for mental health.
- Bring new peace to your work space with a candle, plant, blanket, stress ball/worry stone or rearrange your space entirely for a fresh set-up (yes- move your pencil cup from the left side of your desk to the right and that frame from the right side to the left). I will share on my Instagram an easy way to bring greenery into your home through the use of tulip bulbs! The simple project is a way to have something easy to look forward to while adding a live natural element as well.
- Get moving! I have hit a total slump with exercise but my goal is to just get moving again- to experience the intentional, physical action of moving forward is essential to pull out of any rut. I am accomplishing this movement and action through decluttering and re-organizing my home this week.
- January 18th has been recognized as a National Day of Service by the Biden-Harris administration in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. What small action can you take to give back?
What else can you think of? Tell me below- let me know if this caused any kind of reflection or validation for you too. Don’t forget to join me this evening for the Friday Fix as we take a moment to breathe and find solid ground again.
Sending you love and wishes for peace,