Let There Be Light

Sunrise over water
It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light. – Aristotle
Knowledge is love and light and vision. – Helen Keller

We are well into our second month of self-isolation in response to the global pandemic (see The New Normal). Schools are closed until June 1, 2020 at least. Although governments have started to talk about normalizing business, there are no definite dates. So, our family has established new routines. My husband continues his regular work schedule from his home office upstairs; I work on projects from my home office on the main floor; and my daughter has converted her brother’s old bedroom into her own office for remote schoolwork! Our German shepherd positions herself close to the geographic middle of all our rooms, keeping watch and reminding us when it’s time for a walk. Our son remains in his student housing, assessing what comes next after recently graduating. In the evenings we go for a walk, watch movies or pull out games that we haven’t played in a long while. We make ourselves weekend brunches during the week and spend more time baking than usual. Our weekly grocery list is now a shared Google Keep checklist, which helps to compensate for some of the inefficiencies of coronavirus distanced shopping. Although we are spending more on groceries, we have saved on eating out, entertainment, and transportation. Most rewarding of all, some long-avoided household chores are getting done! Taxes are prepared, a mountain of paper documents are shredded, and my records were never so organized. I’m enjoying getting the garden ready, watching the plants and flowers emerge, and seeing the birds returning. As long as we are careful to stay healthy, there are far worse ways to exist.

What I miss the most is getting together with friends and family: sharing a weekend brunch at Stacked or Sunnyside Grill, a girls’ night at Martini House, or attending a concert or a play with my family. I miss planning a summer vacation abroad. I also miss the regular events we anticipated but never had a chance to enjoy – the Niagara-on-the-Lake garden tour, a Bay City Rollers nostalgia concert, Camp Enterprise and, most significantly, my children’s graduation ceremonies (to name a few). My business has slowed down due to the uncertainty of the times. I need to remind myself to draw on the lessons of mindfulness to change my perspective from the disappointment of missing out to an appreciation for what we actually have right now (see Being Grateful). Rather than dwelling on the losses, we need to grasp the opportunities that arise in this quieter period.

Nurturing our mental health is particularly important for coping with uncertainty. It’s natural to feel frustrated with the restrictions to our normal lives, anxiety about the impact to our finances, and the strain of not knowing when this will end. We should therefore check in with ourselves regularly to assess how we are feeling. If you need a day off, take some time to relax! If you are becoming frustrated being shut up in the house, go for a walk or get out in nature. My husband and I sometimes forget how restored we feel after time amongst trees, grass and open skies. Remember to keep to your routine of getting up and going to bed on time, since a good night’s sleep makes everything easier to deal with (see To Sleep, Perchance To Dream). I’ve had to remind myself to take an afternoon nap more than once after a poor night’s sleep (too late to bed then waking early to let the dog out) – and I believe my family is grateful when I do. I’m much easier to get along with when I’m well rested! Cracks in our mental health can grow if we don’t learn now how to take care of ourselves in times of stress and change.

This week is the Canadian Mental Health Association mental health week. The theme this year, ironically, is #GetReal. CMHA is encouraging us to reach out to each other. When someone asks how you are feeling, don’t just respond “I’m fine” out of habit. Talk about how you really feel. Take the opportunity to connect with the people in your life and express your honest concerns or frustrations. Expressing your worries to others can make you feel better. It may also open a door for your friends and family to talk about their feelings. So, let yourself be vulnerable. Reach out and support each other so we can better cope with an uncertain world.

Here are some tips from CMHA for keeping connected while physical distancing:

  • Make socializing part of your routine
  • Make a date and book time for a conversation in your calendar
  • Let yourself be vulnerable by telling others how you feel
  • Be honest
  • Be generous and kind since this can help counter stress
  • Practice really listening to others
  • Reconnect with old friends and colleagues
  • Join a virtual community on social media and post supportive messages
  • Give someone a call or write a letter
  • Learn to use technology such as Zoom to plan a virtual event such as a dinner, trivia game or coffee break
  • Find a support group or online mental health service. If you are in crisis you can call toll free: 1-833-456-4566

Finally, remember that you are not alone. We are in this together! And together we can stay strong!

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