You Are Not Alone

You are not alone card

You are not alone! Say, what? Of course I am, you are thinking to yourself.

I was on my own last week when I heard the postman drop the mail through the slot. Ah! At least we get mail during this time of being at home. Mostly, I find my mail is made up of catalogues, bills, and junk, but every now and again a personal piece of mail is delivered and it totally delights me.

I am one who still writes real letters to friends and family near and far. I don’t do this to receive something in return, and so it is a delight to see that someone has returned the favor to me. I receive it with a grateful and open heart. These days, especially, where I spend the majority of my time at home, a personal missive means so much.

This day a friend had sent me a card with the message “You are not alone” on the front of the card, with hands reaching toward the center of the page where these words were written. Simple, yet powerful. I was feeling lonely or perhaps a little down with the whole situation. It has been awhile since I have seen my friends and family and, although there is Zoom, email, and Facebook, it is not the same as being together in person.

This was a powerful reminder that we are alone together these days. I think I even saw a cheesy commercial saying the same thing. We are apart, but together. All of us are at home, alone, and yet together. Just being reminded of this in such a tangible way gave me a hope and lift in my spirits.

It is important to remember that you are not alone at this moment in time. We are in our homes, doing our own things, and, in many ways, alone. Yet, each day we are a part of a shared collective experience of this across the world. People are thinking of others, people are still caring, people are still people with all the needs we have to be known, felt cared for, and be told we are not alone.

You are not alone. Not today. Not ever. Reach out and let someone you know know.

Dear Therapist: Tired of Watching Shows

Tired of Watching Shows

Dear Therapist:

I am tired of watching shows during this time at home. I never thought I would admit this as there is so much good TV and content to watch out there, but hour after hour and I actually feel really tired and lethargic. I used to watch a few hours per week, now it’s a few hours morning and night. Are there any other alternatives to watching shows during this stay-at-home time?

Sincerely, Boob Tubed Out

It seems like this would be the perfect time to sit and watch shows, shows, and more shows. There is so much content out there right now and so much of it is exceptional. It seems like it would be so easy to sit there on the couch hour after hour and watch the shows without limit. It feels almost counter-intuitive to think watching shows is exhausting. Yet, it is.

If you are interested in watching stuff, but not shows, you are in luck as there are many, many options:

  1. Street Walks
  2. Opera
  3. National Theater
  4. Art Museums
  5. Historic Homes
  6. Broadway Shows

This is a time to armchair travel your way to great cities, museums, and cultural events in ways that we never could before. It is something completely different and a true delight. Yes, you are seated, but your mind is free to take in something new to feed your mind, interests, and senses.

After this, go out for a walk and let your mind be full of the wander you took – it can also serve as inspiration as you plan your next trip.

Limiting the time you use to watch shows is necessary. Give that hour or two to yourself when you really don’t want to do anything else except watch a TV show or movie. We all have those moments, but it is not something that can be sustained for days at a time.

Just say no to passive watching and yes to activities that have been taken on-line.

What Day Is It?

What Day Is It Buttons
Have you lost track of the days of the week?

What day is it?

Has this question been on your mind lately? It’s no surprise given the weeks without end under a “shelter in place” order that the majority of America and the world is following for the time being. We mark the days and the weeks by certain rhythms, such as going to work, the children going to school, the weekend with an often errand-filled Saturday, date night Saturday, and a relaxing Sunday.

Goodbye schedule, Goodbye rhythms. We are in new territory indeed!

I was reading an article in the New York Times discussing the phenomenon of losing track of the days. The article points to more stress, anxiety, and uncertainty as several factors combined with a lack of rhythms to mark and differentiate time for ourselves. After all, time is made up by man. Man decided to carve out a five-day work week and two days at the end of each week to rest and relax. He also carved out the working hours of 9 to 5.

All of us pretty much abide by these artificial designations because it’s always been this way and we conduct our lives accordingly based on the day of the week and the time of day. What happens when none of that matters or makes sense?

Some of us are working from home so that gives some sense of how a day is supposed to be spent — but even then there is no space differentiation from working at home to being at work. We are just at home round the clock, i.e. living, working, keeping kids busy, and more. The days of the week are blending together and so it would be easy to work on a Saturday as it is a Tuesday.

What if you aren’t working? Then this is time out of time for you. Your routine has been completely disrupted. There is literally is no where to go and nothing to do outside. You are called to shelter in place day after day with no change. Time often doesn’t feel like that – it speeds up, it slows down, it tells us where we need to be, it keeps track of the hours we work and sleep, and how long it takes to cook something.

Time is still making up each of our days, but what does it matter when we struggle to see or feel any of it right now? Here are a few tips to help yourself keep track of the days and time that makes it up:

  1. If you aren’t keeping track of the days or you are finding it difficult, don’t fight against it. Give in and see what it is like to feel time differently, if you feel it at all. This is a unique situation and surely one where you can learn about you and your family.
  2. If it is important to track time, then orientate yourself to the day of the week upon waking up, “Today is Monday.”
  3. Once you have grasped the day of the week, approach it as you would that type of day in regular times. Is it Monday? Get up and begin your week. Is it Saturday? Perhaps the day you go out and grocery shop? Is it a Friday night, perhaps a date night?
  4. To shake it up a bit, once you remember the day, turn it on its head and do the opposite of what you are normally supposed to do on that day. As an example, on a Wednesday, spend the day watching shows. Just experiment with turning the normal routine of time on its head.
  5. Remember time has not changed — there are still 24 hours in the day, making up 7 days in a week, making up the 12 thirty or thirty-one day months, making up the 352 days in the year. How we experience this time is what has changed. Notice and observe yourself moving through this time and perhaps journaling about how it feels the same and different.

What day is it? I am often wondering it myself these days. Know you are not alone in feeling lost in how we have made up our systems of time. Lost is not a failure, but rather a place to explore and find unique ways to cope and turn time on its head for a split second of eternity.

Do You Have that Forgotten Feeling?

Feeling forgotten like wilted flowers

Do you have a feeling of being forgotten these days?

During this extraordinary time, all of us are spending our days at home. If you are single or living alone for another reason, it is easy to not only feel lonely, but there may also be a sharp edge to this feeling — one that is laced with feeling you are forgotten by others. It is one thing to be lonely, quite another to have a felt sense of being forgotten by your family and friends.

This felt sense of being forgotten by those you care for can land one into a depression thinking that no one remembers you exist and are curious enough to reach out, check in, and hear how you are doing. There is never an excuse for people to not remember, but in the fast-paced world that we normally move in we are left with little space to touch base with those we are thinking of on a regular basis. We become too caught up in our own selves.

But what is happening when all we have is time on our hands? Still, no calls come in to you with people checking in on you. I believe this situation is extraordinary in and of itself and has thrown people off kilter. I am not sure they are forgetting you, but rather are caught up with their own whirlwind of emotions as they face this crisis that they fine there is no extra room for others.

What if you are noticing you are the one always reaching out and thinking of others and checking in? Yet, the same is not returned to you in kind. This may also lead to a felt sense of feeling forgotten by others. Unless you are reaching and doing, nothing is happening. How empty!

How can you move out of the feeling of being alone that is laced with feeling forgotten and into feeling connected and remembered by others? Here are some ideas:

  1. Set up a standing check in time with others and take turns reaching out to one another.
  2. Use your voice and let people know how you are feeling so that people can move in toward you rather than you moving away from them.
  3. In your family, set up a chart of Birthdays and anniversaries and other important dates and share it. Make a commitment to remembering one another.
  4. Reach out and ask a friend to call you
  5. Observe who is making gestures to share time with you. Perhaps there are people doing this, but you are not tuned in to these people as you are focused on someone else remembering you. Keep track of who is present and available to you and show up to this person and be present.

It is a terrible feeling to feel lonely and it is even more complex when there is an element of feeling forgotten. Recognize the feeling and move toward caring for yourself, especially during these extraordinary times. When a friend recently confided how alone and lonely they felt, I made the effort to text this person and sent some real mail. Her sharing her very real feelings with me allowed me to directly remember her and hold her up.

Be open to surprise! Others may do the same for you.

Dear Therapist: Running Out of Patience

Running out of patience and time
Running out of Patience?

Dear Therapist,

I am at the start of Month #2 of Shelter in Place in my town. My heart fell to the floor when the order was recently extended another whole month. At first, it was novel to work at home, bond with my family, and have more time to myself without the running around, but now I am running out of patience! How do I keep it together at this drags on — and on?

Sincerely, Running out of Patience

Ah! What a feeling! What a situation!

I think many people are in states where the people have been sheltering in place for weeks by now and are about to enter into not week, but month two of the situation. I hear that you, at first, appreciated the change in your life that this order originally had on your life, but it’s now worn off and you want to get back to your life as usual.

I am sure you are not alone with what you are feeling. There is definitely a desire to want to get back to work, to errands, to sports, to events, to coffee with friends, to networking chats, and everything else that took us out into the public to connect, produce, enjoy, and live each day. Being grounded as a kid was never fun, and now the entire world is in this state.

One thing, we know our neighbors and everyone else is in the same boat. One way to grow patience is to recognize you are not alone. Everyone in your community is in the same place and most people are probably wishing this could all be over yesterday. Knowing you are in good company can help ease the feelings.

Next, recognize that staying in is for your safety and the safety of others. It is literally the staying put that is saving lives. How can it be? Something so simple — stay home and save lives. Yet, it is so foreign and strange to stay in the majority of the time for weeks on end. Still, holding in mind the purpose that this is for something much greater than yourself may help you tolerate these days.

I would also suggest creating a list of all that you want to do once this time is over. I know it helps me to write these items down – both mundane and fanciful items – to keep my hopes up that this time will end and I will be prepared to move on to things that have been put on indefinite hold during this time. It is important to have a list in mind as to what you are looking forward to when this is over.

Finally, try to be present to this moment. It is an unusual, strange time, but one that will not last forever. Take it in as fully as possible. Use the time to learn about yourself, the ones you live with, and what about this time is realy good and what poses challenges. There is much to be learned by slowing down and observing one’s self in this unusual space.

How do we grow patience? There is no magic answer, but, in time, it will all pass. Find ways to structure the days, find meaning within, and be present to what is unfolding in the now to not get too ahead of yourself, but to find the good in here and now. Today.

Shelter in Place Productivity

Shelter in Place Productivity
Do You Feel Pressure to be Productive?

Under the Shelter in Place Order, do you feel pressure to be productive?

I read an interesting article in the New York Times last week regarding productivity. Most Americans believe in the ethos of being productive during each of their days, and this time is no different. You may be working from home, but with no commute time and orders to stay in round the clock, there is more time in our lives to be productive. Yet, this article challenges the idea of productivity and asks Americans to stop trying to be productive.

I will admit, I have heard many stories of self-condemnation during this time from people wishing they were getting up earlier, working on their creative projects more, learning a new hobby, exercising more, cooking up gourmet food, and more. The idea of sleeping in, watching TV, reading for pleasure, napping, and/or doing absolutely nothing is not something people are aspiring to right now, but perhaps we should be.

Must this “shelter in place” time be one where we find new ways to criticize ourselves by not meeting American productivity standards? It is important during this time where we have been grounded in our homes to give credence to this strange situation. Just living under our circumstances is taking more energy and time. No it is not time that is producing anything, but it does take energy. This may be why we are sleeping more or a little slow during our days or can’t get as much done as we would like.

We are also challenged to be communicating with others constantly through technology. Although it is wonderful to live in this age with technology at our fingertips, it is tiring to be meeting others over the screen. It is not the easiest to begin with and then to have to go through meeting after meeting – both personal and professional – via the computer, it tires us in ways we are not tracking, but just assuming that it is the same as before.

The many ways our lives have changed is taking more time to process and live into each day. Before you lay on yourself productivity goals, perhaps check in and see what has changed and how you may be caring for yourself during these times. Most likely, these ways will not be about productivity, but rather slowing down and doing less. Being able to turn down the volume on our productivity is a gift we can give ourselves, especially if we can drop the judgement that we aren’t doing enough.

You are enough and are doing enough in this moment. There is a wonderful argument to be made for not being productive at this moment in time. Take up this challenge and do less and take good care.