Happy New Year! A lot has happened since my last blog post on Ashley’s Anatomy. If you’re interested in reading about what my pandemic experience has been like check out Farewell 2020. This blog post is late, but I went back and forth between topics to discuss for my first blog of 2021. I honestly couldn’t think of a more appropriate topic than this one. I wholeheartedly believe that this pandemic has been life-changing for everyone, no matter where you live Covid-19 has altered your life in some form or fashion. This post will talk about my pandemic survival tips.
As many of you know, I live with an autoimmune disease and receive chemotherapy and immunosuppressant drugs. It’s scary for people like me that have other things going on medically. It’s hard not to think about the worst. I found myself living in a constant state of fear. Ultimately, my mental health started to decline and that took away my desire to do much of anything. I’m happy to report that I’m doing much better these days. I used the tips below to maintain my peace during this difficult time and wanted to share them with you all.
Find hobbies or a new interest
I lost my job at the beginning of the pandemic. I found myself having more downtime and honestly didn’t know what to do with myself. When you have a job, a huge chunk of your day is consumed with stuff to do. You feel like you have a purpose! It’s easy to lose yourself in the idea that you are your job. My first recommendation for a pandemic living is to find new hobbies or interests to consume your time.
I’ve taken an interest in learning American Sign Language (ASL), specifically Black ASL. When I worked in the hospital, I would meet Deaf or hard of hearing individuals and I’d always feel like crap when I didn’t know basic greetings or conversational signs to communicate. It’s ridiculous! I respect Deaf culture and will be taking steps to learn sign language. So far, I have made it through the English alphabet! Another hobby I’ve taken interest in is candle making. Check out my little candle shop Ashtrology Candles. Finding something you enjoy doing that takes your mind off the current state of the world will do wonders for your mental health. Here’s a list of hobbies you can explore: Quarantine Hobbies.
Write about it
Whether you write on a blog like me, journal, or even vent in the notes section of your phone writing helps you get through tough times. You feel better when you get it out. A trick my very first therapist gave me for controlling my anxiety and those pesky worrisome thoughts was to grab a pen and paper and write everything out that came to mind. You’re taking those thoughts and placing them on paper and your mind is now decluttered. It sounds silly, but it works. I read an article published by Harvard Health that said it’s important to think about experiences and express emotions. Writing helps people organize their thoughts and the process enables them to better regulate their emotions. You can read more about this article here: Write about your emotions
Limit your social media time
There is a link between social media and mental health. People that use social media report feeling more anxious, depressed, or ill. This reigns very true for me, so I limit my time on it. I only log into my Instagram accounts in the morning, afternoon, and once before bedtime at night. This works for me. I tend to get overwhelmed by the images of friends living life while I’m stuck in a never-ending quarantine because I’m immunocompromised and can’t risk a COVID exposure. I also get pissed because some of my peers walk around like we are not in the middle of a pandemic. It’s as if they are unaffected by the millions of people who have lost their lives to this terrible virus. It’s infuriating. Sometimes you just need to log out and re-center yourself.
Limit your news intake
This tip kind of piggyback’s off the previous one. Every time I turn on the news I’m bombarded with some devastating report. COVID cases on the rise, Intensive Care Units are full, insurrection at the Capitol. It’s like a never-ending cycle of bad news. It’s necessary to unplug from the constant grip media has on us. I know it is easy to let social platforms and news outlets consume our focus. It’s especially easy when you find yourself bored out of your mind at home. I encourage you to substitute your CNN time for activities that uplift you instead.
I just wanted to preface this section by stating that I am no medical expert and you should consult with your healthcare provider about the recreational and medical use of any drugs/substances.
It should come as no surprise that marijuana played a role in surviving a pandemic. Let’s be honest people especially those of us that fit in the category of having “pre-existing conditions” are stressed out. Covid-19 is taking a serious toll on mental health. According to researcher’s medical cannabis users with mental health conditions reported big increases in their cannabis use since Covid-19 began – increasing their use on average by 91%. I am one of those users and I benefit from the effects of marijuana use both physically and mentally. Eventually, I will get around to sharing a detailed post about my cannabis use while living with a chronic illness but for now know it’s working for me.
Gratitude is a positive emotion. It’s about focusing on the good in our lives and being thankful for the things we have. It’s a game-changer. Scientists discovered that people who feel grateful more often are happier, sleep better, and have less pain. It’s because grateful people think about the world more positively. Read all about the science of gratitude here. Building your capacity for gratitude isn’t difficult. You can practice gratitude like any other skill in your life. I started by writing a list of 5 things I am grateful for every day. These simple practices put things into perspective when I’m feeling down.
Two key components for practicing gratitude:
- We affirm the good things we’ve received
- We acknowledge the role other people play in providing our lives with goodness. Tips from Mindful.org
What are you grateful for?
Guided meditation is a type of mediation led by a teacher via audio or visuals. In these sessions, the teacher explains the dynamics of the mind and how it’s likely to behave during meditation. You’re able to achieve mindfulness, stress-reduction, and relaxation depending on the selected session. Guided meditations have changed my life for the better. I wake up and begin my days with meditation. I believe that it sets the tone for my entire day and I enjoy the deep breathing exercises in my sessions. You never truly realize how shallow we breathe until you consciously decide to take a deep breath to fill your lungs. I utilize free guided meditations on YouTube.
Reach out to your support group
When I’m feeling down about things health-related or in general, I reach out to a group of my friends and luckily, we all have the same disease, Myasthenia Gravis. I highly recommend reaching out and connecting with other people that are dealing with similar situations, diagnoses, medication, etc. It’s always good to talk to someone who genuinely understands exactly what you’re going through health-wise and emotionally. Facebook Groups are also great resources. When I began treatments with an experimental drug, I joined a group dedicated to discussing it. It has been a lifesaver.
Talk to a Therapist
I recommend therapy to all my friends and family members. It’s 2021, but it’s still “taboo” to talk about visiting a mental health professional. It’s even worse if you grew up in a black family. Oftentimes I think people do not understand the purpose of a therapist. Yes, they are there for you to talk to but most importantly they offer tools to help you better navigate. My therapist offers insight, coping mechanisms, and strategies to help me manage my anxiety and depression. She’s a professional and I pay her by the hour, so I know she’s listening. All jokes aside, it’s super beneficial to talk to someone about your experiences and feelings outside of family members and friends. Better out than in, right?
And there you have it folks, these are my top 9 tips for remaining sane during a pandemic. I hope readers that do or don’t live with a chronic illness found these suggestions useful as well. If you did then please pin, share, and retweet this post for your loved ones. Thank you for taking the time to read! Happy New Year (: