After Rick died, I started grief therapy. Once I made it through the first year, I decided to stick with my counseling sessions because it was time for some “life therapy.” Why not take advantage of someone to help me make better choices and truly enjoy the last few decades of my life? I made quite a few mistakes in my earlier years, and I could use some guidance to be as mentally healthy as possible in the time I have left.
So, lucky me – while stuck in the house and trying to cope with the anxiety of the crisis that surrounds us all, I was privileged to have a phone session with my therapist this week. I’ll share some of her coping tips for those of you without the benefit of personal counseling to guide you through this difficult time.
Some tips from my therapist –
1. Keep a daily routine
It’s important to control what you can when everything is out of control. Keep a routine and a schedule so you feel more balanced. This one is a little easier for people like me who are still working 40 hours a week at home, but your schedule could be anything that works for you.
I make sure I still shower, wash my hair, put my make up on, and dress each day. It helps that I do so many virtual meetings at work – being on camera forces me to maintain a somewhat professional appearance (even if I could wear PJ bottoms. LOL). By showering, dressing, and imagining to myself that I’m going out in public, I do feel like life is a bit more “normal.”
2. Keep in contact with a support group
For me, it’s my widows group on Facebook, but it could be any group you’re involved with, like a book club, or hobby group. I attempted to start a book club a few years back, but everyone was way too busy and it didn’t work out. I may start a virtual book club while we’ve all got a lot more time on our hands.
3. Facetime with friends and family often so you don’t feel isolated
This is truly the most fun I’ve had in the past two weeks I’ve been quarantining. The friend I spend most every week with at happy hour is now part of a Zoom chat happy hour with our other two besties – and one of them lives out of town, so this is a bonus being able to all be together at least once a week. I’ve used a variety of platforms for virtual visits with friends, depending on who has an iPhone, Android, or how many of us are in the chat.
And boy do I miss the family, so I decided to find a way to continue to play with my two youngest grandchildren – virtually. I bought children’s versions of Charades and Pictionary on Amazon and had them delivered to the boys’ house. Then I invited the boys and their parents and my niece and her family to a Zoom chat, where we had a fun game of Charades. When there’s a will, there’s a way!
Walk, do yoga, or exercise daily (especially since we can go outdoors)
A friend of mine recommended this free yoga series to me at the beginning of the year. I began January 1st and then got off track because my life was so busy, busy, busy. Well, it’s not as busy now. LOL. I absolutely loved it and I’m starting over since it’s obvious it will help me both physically and emotionally. I highly recommend Yoga with Adriene.
I’m also going to attempt to get my bicycle down from the hook on the garage ceiling where it’s been “resting” for a couple of years. I just need some nice spring weather to take it out for a spin.
4. Focus on everything you CAN control since the world is now so out of control
Once you’re sure you’ve got enough food and supplies, you can breath a sigh of relief. There’s not a whole lot we can control, but knowing we’ve taken all the precautions we can helps us to feel somewhat in charge of our lives. This is also the perfect time to finish those home projects, pick up old hobbies, get back to home cooking, etc. I have plenty of home improvements to catch up on, and fortunately, all the tools and supplies to do them. I’ve made a goal of one hour a day to work on getting them done. (Which also helps me keep a daily routine – tip #1.)
I’ve also been foraging around trying to find my old sewing supplies, because I can join the massive effort to create masks for the first responders, another way to control something in an uncontrollable situation. I understand Joann Fabric also supplies everything you need to make them. Pick up the materials and drop off the finished masks and they’ll transport them to the hospitals in need. More info here.
5. Find something you’ve always wanted to do from your vision board
Near the end of the first year of grief therapy, we started to focus on how I could create some ideas that would give me hope, things that would inspire me to look forward to my new future without Rick. All my former plans were things we wanted to do together in our golden years. Since that was no longer possible, it was time to refocus my energy on things I may not have considered and do them on my own. My therapist suggested creating a vision board. A few of the things on my board include traveling, but there are some others I can start now.
For example, I’ve always wanted to learn the piano. My friend is loaning me her keyboard and I’ve found numerous piano lesson tutorials online. I have a few unfinished “passive income” websites I’d like to publish so I can make some extra income when I retire. I’ve always wanted to be published in the New Yorker, so I’m going to read that backup pile of issues I’ve been saving and possibly trigger ideas for what I’d like to write. I may not be able to return to Europe right now, but I can do many of the other “stationary” items I’ve got pinned to my board.
Bonus tip from me – Create a vision board (aka bucket list)
And there’s something that you might want to consider, creating a vision board for all those things you’re going to want to do with the rest of your life once we get out of here! My therapist says the board should include things you’d really like to do, both practical and impossible – things that you’re passionately interested in but perhaps forgot about because life got in the way. She says that including even those impossible dreams can trigger ideas for other items you’d like to do.
It seems odd to have a goal to do something you know can’t possibly come to fruition, but here’s how she explained it to me. Let’s say you’re a 60-year-old man who’s always wanted to be an astronaut. There is no way NASA is going to let you on the team. However, by putting that lifelong impossible dream on the board, you start to notice things that come into your path that are similar to that goal, or of interest in a slightly different way: a new Meetup group that focuses on space travel; an astronomy class at the local community college; an observatory offering a class on planets; a star-gazing group, etc. etc.
Here’s an article that explains the reasons visions boards work and how to make one.
So that’s my list in a nutshell. I hope some of these ideas help you cope through these awful anxiety-producing and difficult times. I also found a huge list of more ideas for things to keep myself occupied, and you may want to check that out, too:
Here’s hoping we can all stay sane until this terrible life-threatening crisis has been resolved. At that point, I think I’ll have a lot of hugs to catch up on!