Mental Health (Madness) Monday

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Mental Health Madness?

I hear a lot about March Madness, but for those of us with schoolchildren and working/living on a school calendar, it’s definitely May Madness.

Well, it’s not that bad, but I am moving into a very, a ridiculously, very busy section of spring. The next four weeks or so are going to try my patience and my limits and my family’s. Not to mention all of the people around me.

The good news is that I am very aware of this.

Just looking at my calendar is giving me hives, not to mention that I have just discovered that I apparently have some newfound allergies and I am miserable. It’s like a cold, only constant, and there is a croaky frog in my throat. I have been very fortunate not to have had allergies thus far for my entire life, but I guess I dodged that long enough because if this is a cold, it’s nothing like I’ve ever had. Allergies – yuck. insert emoji of yucky face

I belong to a non-profit that is closing its doors, and in these last, waning, sunset, state-legal requirement encroaching days, I have been asked to take over as vice president. Can I say no? No. We’re also in the midst of cleaning out decades worth of papers from the borrowed offices. insert emoji of praying hands

I interviewed last week for a job. It went well. Although they are still looking, I am still in contention. If I were to be honest, after twenty-plus years of being my own boss (apart from my kids), I’m worried both about getting the job and not getting the job. I will wait and see what the future has in store for me. At this point, it’s at the bottom of my anxiety, so that’s a good thing. It’s kind of nice not to be excessively worried about the outcome.

The ending of the school year includes two kids who need to learn how to drive, get summer jobs, take on more chores (what fun!), and one is graduating from high school. How did that happen? I’m not ready. Fortunately, he seems to be, but we’re having a house-guest (my brother) plus coming up with meals for that entire week (and the entire time between now and then), the actual graduation (and parking and seating and what not). There is the school district transportation breakfast that I volunteered for, Ascension Mass, a second Synod listening session (this one for LGBTQ+ issues), finishing up my presentation for my Cursillo team, continuing my spiritual journal (which is coming along nicely), one more writing class, and at least a dozen more things that haven’t come up yet, but they will, I just know it!

As you can see, this is one of my ways of coping:

Write it all down.

Yes, it is on my calendar, so I won’t (shouldn’t) forget any of my appointments, and I have a master checklist, but just spewing it here and getting it out of my system is one step in several of coping with the onslaught of the coming anxiety. I highly recommend it.

My second piece of advice and one of the most important items in my toolbox is water. Drink lots of water. I’m drinking water right now. Stay hydrated. This benefits you two-fold: 1. water is good for you, and 2. when you’re hydrated you are less likely to get a headache. Avoiding headaches will always help with everything else.

Third, stock up on pasta, sauce, and cans of soup. Macaroni and cheese in the blue box is also highly recommended. These are all easy and fast to make, good to eat, and simple to clean up. Even if you don’t want to eat, you need to eat, so for several days a week, make it simple. You can always dress up pasta with frozen meatballs and bread with butter (with or without garlic).

Fourth, find one or two things to skip this week. I can’t tell you what – they would be personal to you, but I’m sure there is something that won’t be a problem missing out on. You decide. Oh, and it can’t be sleep. No missing out on sleep. Rest is just as important as water. Naps are great even if you’re older than three!

Fifth, and last, start your week on a positive note. For me, I’m going to Sunday Mass. Church feeds my soul. I miss it when I’m not there, and I enjoy it when I am. Besides the sacraments, it is truly that simple. Sunday is also the May Crowning for Mary. I may also stay after that and pray the rosary. I know this isn’t for everyone. If you’re not a church person, don’t start your week there – it will only make you miserable. What do you like though? Cup of coffee on the porch? Get out early before the oppressive heat, but you can get out. Tea? A good book? Just quietly sitting while a breeze floats by? Tell me your go-to.

As we keep reminding, May is mental health awareness month, and when May ends in a week or so, we will still need to remain aware of our mental health and how to keep coping during the rest of the year. I’d be happy to hear how you cope and we can share our advice, hints, and tips with each other in the comments.

Wait! Did I forget the haircuts?! Oh well, I guess I’ll add it to the list!

Have a lovely week!

World Book Day…

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Apparently, yesterday was World Book Day. I thought that was last month. Books are a central part of my day, every day. I’m currently reading four – two are religious books, one is a daily through Easter and the second is a weekly for the entire liturgical year.
The other two are:
Unthinkable: Trauma, Truth, and the Trials of American Democracy by Jamie Raskin
Lessons from the Edge: A Memoir by Marie Yovanavitch

My next book up is coming out on May 16 and is written by a woman I know through my writing group: Empty Shoes by the Door: Living After My Son’s Suicide, A Memoir by Judi Merriam.

My Top 5 Books in the last six months are (and yes, I’m well aware that there are more than five books on this list.):

The entire Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters
Midnight in Washington: How We Almost Lost Our Democracy and Still Could by Adam B. Schiff
After the Fall: Being American in the World We’ve Made by Ben Rhodes
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West by Dee Brown
State of Terror: A Novel by Hillary Rodham Clinton & Louise Penny
The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story by Nikole Hannah-Jones, The New York Times Magazine
Taste: My Life Through Food by Stanley Tucci
Mankiller: A Chief and Her People by Wilma Mankiller and Michael Wallis

Happy Reading on World Book Day and Every Day!

Mental Health Monday – More Lists

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I mentioned earlier today that I participated in a scavenger hunt this past weekend. The hunt consists of a long list of items to find, do, create and then submit for judging which occurs way in the future. Today with the hunt long over, I completed one item from the kids’ section of the list. These are items geared towards younger ages, usually for lower points because of their level of difficulty or ease. I made a bookmark (see below).

I might be asked why did I make this bookmark when the hunt was already over. It was one of the items that I wanted to do; I don’t know why, although it does do to remind myself and others of the importance and benefit of lists. They are certainly a valuable part of my mental health toolbox. Sometimes, I’d say they are essential and a powerful way to keep track of what I’ve done and what I’ve still yet to do.

Seeing it all laid out in brainstormed order with no numbers or priorities lets me see it all, and allows me to choose one or two to get done even on a bad day. Crossing each item off after they’ve been completed is a positive reinforcement that is beneficial to those of us with anxiety or depressive disorders as well as ADHD, autism, and a whole host of things that slow us down and get in our way, whether we’re overtly aware of them or not.

I’ve written previously of journals, and one thing I’ve done this season is use a small spiral notebook/journal that fits inside my purse to keep my master list. It’s handy and it’s easy and unobtrusive to sneak a quick look at. It also leaves me space to keep a master list and a grocery lists separate and along side it. At the moment, filing my taxes should be at the top of every list.

I wrote recently about my intense enthusiasm for the Amelia Peabody books, and one of the things that attracted me to Amelia and her style is her use of lists. Whether it’s for packing and travel, or solving the murder, or planning a dinner party for her archaeologist friends, her lists are indispensible.

Mine are too.

Some of my past publishing on lists you may want to revisit:
1. Mental Health Monday – Lists
2. Mental Health Monday – Lists & Listmaking

I also discovered two items that I think readers will enjoy:

What is another word for a list of items? (This is for all you word obsessives out there.)
Macmillan Dictonary’s Types of Lists (It states this as a function of the thesaurus, but I saw it more as a suggestion of what lists I could and possibly should be keeping, either for mental health, necessity, or for fun.

Lists can be fun. They can.

Post-BookBash Bookmark. It folds over the page like a magnetic bookmark, but no magnets and no dog ears either.
(c)2022

2021 Books & Movies

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I usually post this closer to the start of the new year, but it’s still early. Goodreads offers a yearly challenge to set for yourself the number of books you’ll read throughout the year. I usually set it for my birthday. Last year I planned on 54 books and I read 70 books. It might have been more than that since some of the books don’t appear on Goodreads. This year’s goal is 55. I’ve already read 14 books and re-read 3.

I have not included links, but you can search any that seem interesting online, either to buy (in physical form or e-book) or borrow from your library (again either in physical form or e-book).

Happy Reading!

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Mental Health Monday – Post Holidays

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As the holidays have wound down on the calendar, they may not have wound down in our persons and our homes. We need to take a moment, or several, and give ourselves time to rest. To breathe. To do nothing at all.

It’s hard to do nothing, isn’t it?

There are very few times I can recall when I set out to just sit and think of nothing that I was able to accomplish that. My mind wanders. It jumps and leaps around, making lists for everything under the sun.

It’s hard to turn that off.

I did manage it in the early days of covid. I’d set up my camp chair on my front lawn, bring my journal and my Kindle, and my prayer shawl. I’d sit in nature, and when I was finished with my readings and any note-taking, I’d just sit for awhile. I didn’t notice the time passing. In a couple of instances, I’d refocus and realize that hours had passed. I saw neighbors, I returned waves to kids passing by. I listened to the birds. I could hear the church bells from a couple of miles away. It was very peaceful, and it was its own reward.
I didn’t feel guilty about spending so much time in unconscious thought. I wasn’t allowed to go anywhere. There was also a he amount of stress and uncertainty hanging heavily in the air. I was surprised that I settled into quiet thought, but I did not feel guilty. I looked forward to the next time I’d sit out there. For days, even if I didn’t go out, I left my camp chair outside, not folding it up and putting it in the garage, so it would be ready when I was.

First thing about feeling guilty about taking care of your mental health is do not feel guilty. This is not as easy as it sounds. We are ingrained from a very young age to be there for others and to neglect ourselves. This is especially true of women, but men are not excluded from this.

For a long time in recent years, we were bombarded with self-care to the point that now there is a backlash with many saying that we are indulging ourselves and softening. None of this is true. Think back to times that you took care of yourself. Whether it was an extra hour of sleep, a cup of tea, reading a book, or simply just watching the flowers move in the breeze, these slow-downs help us and really do make us better at doing the work we need and want to do.

The few things that I’m going to try to do now that the holidays are over sound simple, but actually doing them takes an effort. Self-care is an effort, but it is well worth it.

1. Enjoy my Christmas tree. It is still up and I love looking at the lights. Whenever I come to my living room for the day, the first thing I do is turn on the Christmas tree.

2. Make lists. They helped me immensely through the worst of my depression and they are not only an important tool, I find them a great mental health tool.

3. Drink more tea.

4. Read more. I do read quite a lot, but I want to be able to tell myself to sit down, take out a book or my Kindle, and enjoy exploring new places and events through books.

5. Keep my dining room table cleaned so we can eat at it. This has always been a problem for us, and I’ve noticed things are much better when the phones are away, the television is off, and we are sitting together for that one meal. (This works for my family. If it doesn’t work for yours, that’s okay.)

Note: This was completed and ready for a last go over before my son came down with covid. So far, his symptoms are mild and he fluctuates from seeming fine to falling asleep on the couch. This has obviously changed our plans for the weekend and the coming week, with most things being cancelled despite all of us being vaccinated. With my oldest contracting covid last week (from work; my second son was exposed at school), my feelings on the intentionally unvaccinated will remain mute for the moment, but there are no guarantees that reticence will last. The point is we need to constantly readdress those things that just happen and reevaluate what our response to them will be. For my daughter who had her weekend plans cancelled through no fault of her own it’s McDonald’s. For me, it’s writing and Diet Coke. For the moment.

Travel in the Time of Covid, Again

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Back in November, I published a travel piece on covid traveling. I was about to write a new one for this summer as protocols have changed, but in reading it, except for the references to Thanksgiving travel and with the Delta variant and low vaccination rates in parts of the country, it is sadly still up to date.

You can read it here: Travel in the Time of Covid.

A few things that I’d like to emphasize if you’re planning on a family vacation or even a stay-at-home vacation with local experiences:

1. Masks, social distancing, and Hand sanitizer. For all practical purposes, nothing’s changed. Wear your mask, wear a double mask in places with higher covid numbers, and wash your hands and use hand sanitizer when soap and water isn’t available. Keep six feet (or 2 meters) away from non-family/group members.

2. Contact Tracing. Expect to give out your name and phone number when asked for it. Each locality will have different rules and requirements.

3. Attractions. Check on capacity and if you need a reservation. Many places will limit how many people can visit at a time. Places may have timed tickets. Places may require social distancing. They may also require proof of vaccination.

4. Restaurants. They may require reservations. They may have longer wait times due to social distancing and capacity limits. They may have limited menus, and may also be short-staffed. Their hours may be different than normal.

5. Hotels. Hotels that offer free breakfast may not; they may have substitutes. They may have limited housekeeping due to staffing or wanting to limit how many people go in and out of each room. Pools and fitness centers may be closed or have limited access.

6. Shopping. Use your debit/credit card as much as possible and avoid cash if you can. Some places we went to last year refused to take cash at all.

I’d love to hear what tips you have used for your most recent vacations or trips. Comment below.

Summer Rec Lists, Featuring President Barack Obama

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So, technically, President Obama isn’t a guest blogger here, but he has provided (through social media) the first two graphics of both his summer reading list and his playlist. It reminded me of some of the things I’ve been occupying my time with, and wanted to share with readers.

My current reading list includes:

  • Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin by Jill Lepore
  • 18 Tiny Deaths: The Untold Story of Frances Glessner Lee and the Invention of Modern Forensics by Bruce Goldfarb
  • A Stranger and You WElcomed Me: Homilies and Reflections for Cycle B by Jim Knipper, Richard Rohr, James Martin, Greg Boyle, and others
  • Dusk, Night, Dawn: On Revival and Courage by Anne Lamott

My Top 5 of Recently Read Books:

  1. Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson
  2. wow, no thank you. Essays by Samantha Irby
  3. Without Precedent: Chief Justice John Marshall and His Times by Joel Richard Paul
  4. Kill Switch: The Rise of the Modern Senate and teh Crippling of American Democracy by Adam Jentleson
  5. His Truth is Marching On: John Lewis and the Power of Hope by Jon Meacham

Next in line to Read:

Presidents of War: The Epic Story, from 1807 to Modern Times by Michael R. Beschloss

Spotify Curation So Far:

<——————— Newest Link can be found by scrolling down on the sidebar.

All other Spotify links (so far):

Mental Health Monday – Lists

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Mental Health Monday is all about those little reminders that we all, no matter our circumstances, no matter our levels of anxiety, we all need to stay aware of our mental health. I had intended this to publish yesterday despite a busy morning, but at the end of the day (literally), I still could have gotten it in under midnight on Monday, rushed, and (in my mind) unfinished or I could wait until Tuesday and let that be a reminder that not everything is an urgency. Yes, some things are, but not everything.

Today I wanted to talk about the benefits of lists, and the first thing on any Mental Health Monday list is to let yourself take a break when you feel its needed.

I needed it yesterday and I ignored that feeling all day. After church and my lunch meeting, I went home fully intending to sit at my laptop and do the Monday post. I thought I’d take a short break, read a chapter in one of the books I’m in the middle of before I got started.

I fell asleep.

I woke up with a crick in my neck, so I stretched and pulled out my book again.

I fell asleep again.

This happened on and off throughout the afternoon (including the painful crick), and each time it happened I became more and more frustrated and angry at myself. I didn’t think that I must have needed the rest; I was just angry that I wasn’t getting done what I had planned on getting done.

Once I decided that I would intentionally postpone the post until today, my anger and my anxiety* went away.

[*I don’t mean that I was now suddenly free of my chronic anxiety. We all have anxiety that crops up from time to time depending on circumstances, and this was in additional to the anxiety I take medication for. It’s important to differentiate between the two, but it’s also important to treat each of them and not ignore either one.]

I’ve written previously about lists. I find them a great tool in all kinds of situations. When I was undiagnosed (for depression and anxiety) I was very forgetful. I couldn’t remember the simplest of things – did I have breakfast? Did I take a shower? Why aren’t the kids in school? Oh right, it’s Saturday. I found ways to cope – giving myself a schedule was one, getting diagnosed was a big one. I was trying so hard to not let my family know that there was a problem that I was in “fake it til you make it” mode and whatever slack I left behind, my family picked up – like cooking. I missed many school deadlines in this time and that led to all kinds of guilt, especially concerning my middle child.

One of the lifesaving tools I discovered and still utilize was making lists.

The lists range from important appointments and deadlines to seemingly mundane items like eating and showering. Some days those mundane ones are needed just to get through.

My list for yesterday was (with completed items crossed out):

  • Mass
  • See Father J.
  • Donation to St. Vincent de Paul (as part of Spark/GISH)
  • Meet M & E at bank
  • Meet M at Panera to go over information for my new (volunteer) job
  • Check in with home to see if we need groceries while I was outwe didn’t
  • Home to write MHM
  • Refill pill box for the next two week period
  • Continue reading two books.
  • Begin reading final two chapters for book club.
  • Attendance form for kids’ school.
  • Check calendar for next month’s writing assignments.
  • Find free write prompt for next week’s group that I’m leading.
  • Group rosary by phone.
  • Dinner.

It looks like I got a lot done, and I did. Even if you do one thing on your list, it is important to acknowledge that. That one thing could be everything (and some weeks, it is). I did also have a lot of little things on my list. They may seem little (even to me) but when I forget something it can be very frustrating. Why continue reading those two books? They’re library e-books, and often the library will take them back before I’ve finished, and I’ve tried to read them more regularly so I don’t have to go back on the waiting list, which can be quite long sometimes.

Today’s list was much smaller:

  • Mass – opted not to go.
  • Get gas.
  • Check out po box at new post office for new volunteer job.
  • This is where I am at the moment ——–>Lunch to write first draft of MHM-Lists
  • Pick up daughter and go to Target (with lists for home and school supplies she needs immediately of course)
  • Publish this MHM before dinner.
  • Dinner.
  • Read books.
  • Bed (hopefully early).

I think I can get through the remainder of today’s list and I know that I can make up some of the ones that I missed on Monday (like refilling my pill box and finding a free-write prompt) on Wednesday.

As we get back into the swing of things, as masks come off, and more people find their new normal, it’s okay to give yourself some time to readjust to public life. Personally, I’m still wearing masks, and I’m okay with that. And as the school year winds down, I’m making daily lists, making sure that nothing important falls through the cracks.

Try making your own lists, and let me know how you did with your week.

Be well.

Mental Health Monday – Take a Moment…And Lift

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For the early part of Mother’s Day weekend I went on an overnight retreat. It’s billed as a Girls Night Out/Day of Reflection and it was a wonderful event. They hold this every year and this was the first time I went. The theme is usually dictated by the presenter and so last week was titled Called to Wonder and Joy and the next day’s reflection continued that theme and included active listening and storytelling.

In the discussion and micro-journaling, we answered the question, “What calls you with wonder and joy? What creates wondrous and joyful moments in your life?

In this context, it’s not necessarily that joy equals happy. Joy is a much broader concept. It is only recently that I find that deep profundity that is rooted in joy. For me it was the references to joy in scripture and spiritual learning and practice. The joy that comes to me during mass or meditation. It’s not the happiness of a fun time with friends or a vacation; it is something deeper that I’ve only recognized more recently.

In the things that you like, you will find others that like similar things or extraordinarily different things, but you will discover that you are not alone. You will find things that lift you up. You will remember things that you did that might have been scary, but you got through it. You might even do them again. What are the things that lift you up?

I give all of this to you as a way of introducing a mental health exercise and to remind of the broad nature of words that we take for granted. We may hear the word “joy” and think, ‘oh, that isn’t me – I am not that kind of person,’ but if you broadened your concept you may find, as I gradually did that I can be joyful in ways and I can find joy in things, both physical and spiritual.

So, I ask you: Where do you find Wonder and Joy?

I will share ten of the moments of wonder and/or joy, some I discovered on the retreat and others that have come to me as I write.

What I would like you to do today is to write your own down. Begin with five and go for as many as you’d like. It doesn’t need a formal journal or a notebook. Just grab a sheet of paper or the back of an envelope and a pen.

Nothing should stand in your way.

When you discover and remind yourself of the things you find wondrous and joyful, you can refer back to this list on your down days, take a deep breath, and keep going.

Here are mine (currently):

the lilacs in my backyard

labyrinths

Wales

sitting quietly with a cup of tea

rainbow shoelaces

I get a deep well of peace (but also joy) thinking on the devotion to Mary, Untier of Knots

waterfalls

planning a trip

sitting in my front yard, eyes closed, feeling the cool air, and just being

the smell of freshly cut grass

early morning sunshine when the birds are noisy

The Year in Review

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Sitting in my living room trying to make a list of what snacks to buy for our “party’ tonight and I suddenly decided (after seeing David and Georgia Tennant’s silver linings video) to make a different sort of list and remember the good things that our family experienced in this year.

At the end of last year, we all looked forward to 2020, not the least of which was its looming roundness of numbers – Twenty Twenty. Barbara Walters, hindsight, leap year, THE election. It was going to be our year – all of our ours…

But it wasn’t quite, was it?

The perfect sentiment from a witch (Rowena on Supernatural)
Pin from Ruth Connell’s design for Stands, Inc. (c)2020

Our biggest blessings were living in New York with a competent state government and a governor who cared about New Yorkers; my husband and oldest continued working, the younger kids continued school, albeit remotely, no one got sick other than a normal mild cold here or there, and for the most part spending all that extra time together, we managed to not want to strangle each other more than the usual amount.

Honestly, we did good.

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