15 Reminders for Keeping Calm During A Pandemic


Positively Present - Keep Calm

 

Things are tough right now. With coronavirus circling the globe, impacting nearly every citizen on Earth, the world is a weird place right now. We're all facing uncertainties about what the future will hold. We don't know for sure what will happen with our health, the health of our loved ones, our jobs, our communities, and more. It's unnerving, to say the least. 

During times like these, it's okay to be overwhelmed, scared, or anxious. In fact, it's normal. You're not alone in feeling how you feel. I, too, feel overwhelmed and unsure. So, of course, I did what I always do -- I created something to help me that I hope will help others, too. 

Here's a list of 15 reminders I want to keep in mind as we continue to battle the coronavirus globally. These are strange times, but keeping these things in mind will help us keep calm (and maybe even gain something positive from this experience). Staying optimistic is challenging during difficult times, but it is so important. I hope these reminders will stick with you in the days and weeks to come...

 

  1. THIS WON'T LAST FOREVER. 

    Whatever you're going through right now, no matter how difficult, will not last forever. The impacts of your situation may impact you for a long time (they might even change your life dramatically), but nothing is forever. Things will change. Be grateful for the good times and be accepting of the bad ones. 


  2. GOOD THINGS CAN COME FROM BAD TIMES.   

    You don't know for sure what the future will hold. I urge you to read (or re-read) the parable of the Chinese farmer. It reminds you that you have no idea what good fortune could come from your bad fortune. Yes, bad things happen, but often they lead to good things. Keep believing good things are coming. 


  3. DISTANCE CAN PROVIDE CLARITY. 

    A situation that changes up your daily routine can distance you from your normal day-to-day life. This can be overwhelming and unsettling, yes, but that distance may also give you clarity on how your activities really impact you. What do you feel relieved to be without? What do you miss the most? Notice these things, and work to adjust your life in the future accordingly.


  4. YOU HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO CHANGE. 

    Change begets change. If something disrupts your life suddenly, it might be a sign that you need a fresh start. A good time for a new life is when things have been completely transformed without your say so. If you want it to be, a disruption can be like a New Year, a clean slate, a fresh start. 


  5. CONNECTION IS INCREDIBLY VALUABLE. TREASURE IT.

    When times are toughest, you see who the people in your life really, truly are. You notice who is there for you and who is not. You notice who might need your attention and care, who is responsive to your love and affection. Tough times show true colors, and seeing those colors can help you determine who you want in your life. 


  6. LITTLE THINGS REALLY DO MATTER. 

    If you're missing something you were used to seeing, doing, or being, you'll start to notice the little things you miss in particular about that person, place, or thing, things you might not have paid much attention to before. Use this a sign to be grateful for what you do have now and a reminder to appreciate the little things once you're back in your normal routine. 


  7. UNEXPECTED CHANGE OFFERS A NEW PERSPECTIVE. 

    When you're suddenly swung around, your life changed without permission, you're presented with a different view of your life. This new vantage point can be overwhelming or upsetting at times, but it is a gift. It's so rare that we're forced to step out of our patterns and routines. Pay attention to how you feel and what you now see. 


  8. PRACTICING POSITIVITY WILL MAKE YOU STRONGER. 

    It's great to be optimistic when things are going well. But it's also easy. Staying positive when things aren't great (and I mean really not great, not just, like, "I had a bad day. This sucks.") is hard work. It comes naturally to some, but most of us have to practice. This is the time to practice positive thinking. (Don't know how? Read this and do the worksheets.) 


  9. WHO YOU ARE IS MORE THAN WHAT YOU DO. 

    When you're removed from your well-trod patterns and routines, it can be startling to realize that you're more than what your job is, who you're related to, and all of the items on your to-do list. A dramatic change forces you to slow down, look around, and do some self-reflection. Look within. Work on self-love


  10. IT'S OKAY TO FEEL HOW YOU FEEL. 

    In any difficult situation (or any situation at all!), it's important to remember that it's okay to feel how you feel. Feelings happen, but they aren't facts. You are allowed to feel any feeling you feel. If and how you act on that feeling is what can be helpful or harmful, but feelings on their own are okay. Accept your feelings and choose actions carefully. 


  11. GOOD THINGS CAN HAPPEN (EVEN IN BAD TIMES). 

    Bad things happen during good times. Good things happen during bad times. If you're generally in a bad place (or the world is), but something wonderful happens, embrace it. I know it might feel strange, but the world needs more joy, no matter how small. Don't turn away from joy and happiness in difficult times.  


  12. YOU MUST PLAY THE CARDS YOU'RE DEALT. 

    If nothing else, a dramatic change or difficult situation will serve as a reminder that a great deal of life (where we're born, who raised us, where we live, the current time period, other people's actions and reactions) is not under our control. We have to do the best we can, and know that we can only work with what we have access to. (Use these cards to serve as a tangible reminder of this.)


  13. TOUGH TIMES TEACH YOU ABOUT YOURSELF. 

    Going through something difficult or life-changing is one of the greatest ways to find out more about yourself. You know how sometimes people bond with each other while going through a challenge? You can do that with yourself, too. It sounds odd, but you really can. Use this time to discover who you are and what really matters to you.


  14. PRODUCTIVITY ISN'T LIFE'S SOLE PURPOSE. 

    Any disruption at all can worsen productivity, but let this low productivity be a reminder that something is off, and that's okay. There is no reward for being the most productive in a day (though you wouldn't be remiss to think that there is, given that we're taught at a young age that productivity is crucial for happiness). You don't have to be productive all the time. It's okay to relax. 


  15. FIND JOY AND INSPIRATION WHEREVER YOU CAN. 

    Maybe this kind of self-help article helps you. Maybe you find inspiration while looking at photographs or taking walks or riding a flamingo down an empty beach. I don't know what your deal is, but you do what brings you joy or inspiration during a difficult time -- even if it looks very different than what others call "inspiration." Find what makes you feel comforted and uplifted and do it often. 

 

I know things are tough right now. For some they are much tougher than others, and we never know exactly what other people are going through. Be kind to one another. Be kind to yourself. Do the best you can with what you have around you, and do your best to stay calm. But also know that it's okay to freak out. It's okay to be worried and overwhelmed. Allow yourself to be where you are, and strive to make your mental health a priority right now. 

 

GTI_Preorder_Cover
My next book, Grow Through It: Inspiration for Weathering Life's Seasons, is hitting the shelfs in October. If you want to get yourself a little pick-me-up that will arrive as a nice surprise in the fall, I'd love it if you preordered a copy. More details about the book, and all of the places you can preorder, are available here


Let's Make This the Year of Trying...


Positively Present - Dont Be Afraid to Try


Much as I hate to admit it, I've never really been a try-er. If something comes easily to me or I only have to put in a moderate, not-totally-unenjoyable work, I'll do it. When I encounter anything I'm not immediately decent at doing (or something that is out of my control in some way, I find myself putting in a minimal amount of effort, doing what's needed to get things done (if I even do it at all). During a conversation with a friend a few months back, I was pondering why I do this. Why do I just not try at certain things? Or, when I do try, why do I not try particularly hard? 

I could be wrong (self-evaluation always comes with the risk of being deeply flawed), but I believe it's because I'm afraid. If I try my best and fail, I'll be disappointed or upset. If I don't try (or half-ass try), I can always tell myself, Of course you didn't succeed -- you didn't even really try! It's an odd act of self-preservation, this not-trying thing. I do it, I think, so I don't have to deal with whatever emotions might arise if I were to try my absolute best and fail. 

This, as you might imagine, is not an ideal way to live. Yes, I've managed to do well in certain areas and find fulfillment in many of the things I do, but what am I missing out on by not trying? And what would it be like if I actually started trying, putting my full effort into whatever I do? 

It was back in the early autumn when I was having this conversation with my friend, and I decided then and there that I was going to try as hard as I could with my upcoming book, Grow Through It. It's not that I hadn't tried with previous books -- obviously, I did. But I didn't push myself to a level of trying that felt borderline uncomfortable. (This sounds like a bad thing, but when it comes to trying, it's actually good to push yourself a bit and not settle for what comes easily.) 

And so I did. I pushed myself harder than I had before. I perfected. I re-read. I redrew entire pages if they didn't feel like they were working. (In the past, I might have thought, Yeah, it could be better, but whatever, it's fine!) Could I have done more? Maybe? Of course I'll always feel that way because without time restrictions and deadlines (and things like sleep and maintaining somewhat of a social life), there's always a possibility that more could be done. But I know for certain: I tried harder than I've tried before. I will not be able to look at this book at say, Eh, well, I didn't really try, so who cares if it's not doing well..

I put everything I could into that book, and, regardless of how well it's received or the total sales (it debuts in early October! yay!), I feel differently about it than I do about other projects I've worked on. Even if no one else loves it, love it. I tried

Of course, the point of this post isn't to rave about my excitement for Grow Through It (though I am super excited for it!). It's to bring up the issue of trying. Maybe you're nothing like me. Maybe you try your hardest at everything -- your job, your hobbies, your relationships, etc. But I bet there are a lot of people out there who're just like me, who hold back on trying because they're afraid of failing. I bet some of you don't try as hard as you know you could because you worry that the end result won't reflect the effort you put in. 

But I'm here to tell you, as a (former?) non-try-er, that it doesn't matter. There's value in the trying itself, regardless of the outcome. The cliche "it's all about the process" exists for a reason. Sure, the end result will matter to some degree. Of course I want my book to do well and my hard work to pay off. But, in the process of all this trying, I've gained something really valuable: more self-respect. Sure, trying is scary. But there's something so powerful and motivating about actually putting in the work. There's a magic to putting yourself out there, win or lose, and giving it your all. It feels good

So, if you're like me and tend to half-ass try (or altogether avoid) things that are tough, I hope this inspires you to give something you really care about your very best shot. It might not work out, true, but it might, and wouldn't it be kind of cool to see what happens if you really put everything into it? Wouldn't it be something to have worked your absolute hardest and be rewarded for it, even if that reward is simply feeling more certain about what you're capable of? 

Trying is scary, but you should do it. I'm going to continue trying not to half-ass my trying (ha!). Like, recently I was nominated for a Shorty Award in Art (omgomgomg -- I still can't believe I'm writing those words!). A (big) part of me wants to be like, Don't promote it and ask people to vote for you -- that seems desperate and you shouldn't care so much about something like an award; you're just feeding your ego. But that's the scared part of me. The other (braver!) part of me is like, You know what? I want to win. Wanting to win an award for something I've worked really hard on doesn't make me a bad person. I'm choosing to listen to that second voice. I'm choosing to ask for votes, to promote myself, and, scary as it is, to hope I actually win. 

If I don't win, I'll be fine. Just like I'll be fine if Grow Through It isn't the smashing success I dream it will be. But I know now that I don't want my fear to hold me back from going after things I want. I likely developed this "don't try too hard / don't act like you care" attitude in my angsty teen years, but it's high time I let that shit go. I do care. I'm still scared to try, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't do it. That fear inside my head is just static. It's muffling the sounds of what I really want, and this year I'm choosing to turn the volume down. 

I want 2020 to be the year of trying. I want it to be the year of giving a shit and not being afraid of expressing my desires. It's okay to want things. It's okay to work hard and hope for success. I'll leave you with this: 

 

If you've been half-assing something you really care about, stop letting the fear win, and start trying instead. See what happens...

 

Also, vote for me in the Shorty Awards! I really do want to win (even though I still feel embarrassed writing that, even after this massive blog-post-turned-pep-talk! *eye roll*), and every vote counts. You can vote once a day until February 20, 2020. Thank you so much to everyone who has already voted, and thank you in advance to everyone who votes after reading this! 

 


9 Tips for Battling the Winter Blues

Positively Present - Winter Blues

 

As winter arrives, I'm taken back in my mind to last year... Last winter, I was really down and out at the start of 2019. I spent so much time in bed, engaging in unhealthy coping methods, and generally just feeling rotten about myself and my life. While I don't know for sure if this was general depression or Season Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) -- I should have sought professional help, but I didn't -- I do know that it was pretty terrible to feel that way. 

Though I feel very differently now than I did then (not gonna lie -- 2019 turned itself around and turned out to be one of the best years I've had in a long time!), when I think back on last winter, my mind starts racing and all I can think about is how to prevent myself from falling back into that darkness again this year. So, of course, I decided to do some research on S.A.D. and learn about how I could prevent it, or, if it happens to strike again this year, how I can cope with it. 

Even if you don't have S.A.D. or depression, you might find yourself facing the winter blues. With colder temps and darker, shorter days, it's not surprising that many people struggle during this season. You can't always avoid feeling sad (or S.A.D.) altogether, but here are some of the tips I've discovered that I think would really help if you're struggling. 

 

  1. GET A LIGHT BOX

    I've never tried one of these so I can't vouch for their effectiveness, but from what I've read, it sounds like they can really help people who are suffering with S.A.D. Apparently there are many different types (as well as something called a "dawn simulator" that's used to wake you up in the morning) so be sure to do your research and figure out which one would be best for you. 

  2. VENTURE OUTDOORS

    The lack of light and shorter days can make it tough to go outside (especially if, like me, you're not an outdoorsy type to begin with), but if you're feeling down, making the effort to spend time in the fresh air can really help. Even just a quick walk around the block can help! (Or get a pup so you're forced to take them out and get some outdoor time in every day!)

  3. TRY THERAPY (CBT)

    While I can't personally verify that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy works for S.A.D., I do know that it's worked for me in the past to deal with other mental health issues and it's the therapy type I saw recommended the most while looking up info on S.A.D. Seeking professional help is one of the best ways to find solutions for your specific needs, so I highly recommend it. 

  4. MAKE SOME ART

    Art therapy really does work, and I honestly don't know if I would have survived last winter without making art. I know art isn't everyone's thing, but if you're feeling down, give it a try. It doesn't have to be traditional art either -- try writing, pottery, drawing, painting, sewing. Anything creative that allows you to get in a flow for a bit can help. 

  5. CONSIDER MEDS

    To get through S.A.D. some people need the assistance of medication. If you're having a difficult time, talk to your doctor about what you're going through to see if there might be something that can work for you. (Whatever you do, don't attempt to self-medicate. It never works out and often makes things way worse than they were.)

  6. PRACTICE YOGA

    Yoga is another saving grace for me. I'm not particularly good at it and I generally do it for about 10-15 minutes every day, but even when I half-ass it and don't feel up for it, making the time to do it always makes me feel a bit better. (My favorite is Yoga with Adriene on YouTube but there are tons of yogis online!) Exercising also works wonders if yoga isn't your thing. 

  7. SEEK SUNLIGHT

    Open the blinds! Pull up the curtains! The lack of sunlight is one of the reasons for S.A.D. so the more of it you can allow into your home, the better. If you don't have a desk near a window, as your boss if there's somewhere else you can work temporarily to be near a sunny spot. Going outside isn't always an option, but take advantage of sunny days indoors by allowing the light in. 

  8. MAKE PLANS 

    When I'm feeling down, the last thing I want to do is be around people. But I've discovered that it's often what my mind needs when I'm sad. I don't enjoy going out in the cold, but I'm planning to make an effort to make lots of plans this winter so that I'm busy and socializing. It won't be easy, but I know it's helpful for me. 

  9. STICK TO A SCHEDULE

    With the lack of daylight, it's tempting to go to bed super early or sleep in (if you have the option), but I've read (and also believe) that sticking to a schedule is important for managing or preventing S.A.D. The body and mind love to be on schedules and it gives your life a sense of purpose that's important when you're feeling down. Your winter schedule can be different from your summer one, but just try to stick to it! 

 

Of course, there are many other options to explore and if you're really suffering during the winter, seeking professional help (whether in the form of therapy or from your doctor) is always a good idea. If you're feeling down (especially after the holiday season passes and it feels like a swift change in pace), know that you're not alone and that it's perfectly normal to experience down days in the winter. Try to remember that, even when it doesn't seem like it, the difficult darkness will pass. There will be a spring again (or something that makes it feel like spring to you). 

 

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