Social Distancing in Santa Monica

Lucy speaks for all of us right now.

I’ve sat down several times over the past week to start blogging and the words haven’t come. I want to write something that is helpful to others right now but there is just SO much information out there, that I don’t want to be redundant or duplicative. What I’ve been thinking about is compiling information on what I can find about any affordable mental health care resources and any helpful streaming fitness options. (Off the top of my head, my former employer, Daily Burn, is doing two free months right now. Let me know if you sign up and want workout advice! I still think it’s a great product.)

One of my social media clients said something profound: this is also a global mental health crisis. I see that meme going around “our grandparents had to go to war, we just have to sit on our couches.”

(I caveat *all of this* with the fact that I am fully aware of—and grateful for—my immense privilege right now in a million ways.)

But isolation is so dangerous for our mental health. As humans, we are social creatures—we need each other to survive. This is hard on all of us in our own ways—nobody is spared. Hard looks different to everyone. For me, it’s being alone and worried about spiraling back into a deep depression. It’s worrying if I do get this and get really sick and am all alone. It’s being worried about my 72-year-old father and my 85-year-old aunt 3,000 miles away.

I can only speak to my own experience, and I am not (yet! one day…) a licensed mental health professional, but here’s what’s helped me so far.

Keeping up with therapy. My therapist is based in NYC, so we were already doing teletherapy. (Some friends have asked me how I like that, and we started in-person first before I moved, so I had experience being in the same room with her. It’s been about 10 months doing teletherapy and it feels to me about 98% the same as being in a room with her.)

Medication. I take Ativan on an as-needed basis…and there’s a lot of need lately.

Structuring my day as best as possible. An entire day spent in my apartment is incredibly daunting if I don’t have a plan for the day.)

Long walks with a friend and our dogs—without my phone. I’m so grateful for where I live, always, and especially now. I love that my apartment building feels like a community.

Limiting my news consumption. I began all of this obsessively refreshing and reading everything I could. I wanted to know everything I could, to feel like I had a sense of control. LOLLL. The only things we can control right now are STAYING THE FUCK AWAY FROM PEOPLE (unless your work requires otherwise) and how we react. I’m working on social media content for a health website, so my work right now is also centered around coronavirus. I found myself on my couch this morning with coronavirus content on my laptop and the Today Show in the background covering it…and, no.

Staying in contact with people. I check in with my family a lot. I check in on my friends who also deal with mental illness. I check in on my friends with pre-existing health conditions. I check in on the amazing friends I have who work in healthcare, who are out there fighting for our health every day. I check in on the friends who look like they have it all together. None of us are immune to difficult feelings around this right now.

…but also creating boundaries. If I’m feeling an information/technology overload, I might not get back to you right away. If I’m feeling emotionally vulnerable, I’m going to put my oxygen mask on first. I’ve fought so hard to get my mental health to a stable place, that I need to continue to take care of it if I’m going to be there for people I care about.

Reminding myself I don’t necessarily need to use this time to be productive. (But I’m also having fun making some terrible art with pastels.) Slowing down is taking care of ourselves, too—and on some greater level, I think this is what this crisis is asking the entire planet to do.

Helping how I can. I gave blood the other day, and you should, too, if you can. There’s a severe blood shortage due to blood drive cancelations. There’s a friend I know who depends on transfusions to survive. I did this to help her and help everyone else out there. I’m donating to the LA Food Bank. I’m ordering from local restaurants to help support them. (OK, that one’s not new, but.) I’m using the social media platforms I can to try to amplify hopefully-helpful information. My favorite source on Instagram is Jessica Yellin. She’s a former CNN journalist who is breaking all of this down very plainly. I find she’s generally not alarmist—until the situation (like this weekend, while bars and restaurants were still open) calls for it.

What’s been helpful to you so far in coping with all of this? Is there anything you’d like to see me write about that could be helpful?

Small Health Changes I’m Making

Photo by Anna Pelzer on Unsplash

I have four papers and an article due in the next 10 days, so obviously I’m going to write a blog post. (Now that I have less free time than I’ve had in years, I, of course, have all the ideas.)

Over the past few years, it’s been no secret that my mental health has been priority. I’ve been literally trying to stay alive. My physical health has largely been pushed to the back burner.

But now that I’m feeling more stable, I’m ready to start making changes to feel better. And I’ve had a lot of signs and reminders lately.

This weekend, I saw Oprah’s 2020 Vision Tour. (I was at the one where she fell when she was literally talking about balance. I don’t know if I’ve ever heard a whole arena collectively gasp like that.) She gave us wellness workbooks, and we had to score ourselves in various domain of health: emotional, nutrition, physical movement.

Some of the questions in the nutrition section included: do you eat enough vegetables? Do you drink enough water? Nope and nope. Over these past few years, I’ve told myself that my diet isn’t that bad, that I still eat better than the average American. Well, yes, but that’s not saying much.

As I took a Sunday mid-afternoon nap, I wondered why I was so tired. “Well, Theodora,” I said to myself, “all you’ve had to eat today is carbs, so…”

It was such an a-ha moment of no shit you don’t have much energy because you’re not fueling your body right.

I saw something interesting on Tina Muir’s Instagram last week: “A ‘sweet tooth’ is not necessarily what it seems. For years, I was so addicted to sugar, I HAD to have dessert, even if it meant walking to a store half mile from where I was at 9pm. Really, that wasn’t a sweet tooth craving, it was my body screaming at me for more calories.”

Man, did that resonate. (Disclaimer here that Tina isn’t an RD, but it’s an interesting point.) I have had such cravings for sweets the past few months. It’s rare I don’t have ice cream in my fridge. (But, y’all, So Delicious Oatmeal Cookie Oat Milk ice cream is THE SHIT.) I’ve drastically changed my drinking habits: I rarely have more than one drink, when I used to consider two drinks a light night. And I’ve heard that when you cut back on drinking you have craaaazy sugar cravings. So I’ve been trying to focus on one change at a time, but enough is enough with the sugar.

Plus, I’ve just been feeling pretty unbalanced since starting school. I’m working and going to school full-time, and so I have more going on in my life than I have in years, and it’s an adjustment.

So here’s the small changes I’m going to make. Bonus: this all helps mental health too.

  • Make sure to get at least four glasses of water per day. (I’m starting realistically.)
  • I’ve cut out refined sugars for Lent. Dark chocolate doesn’t count, though. Jesus would understand.
  • More vegetables. I’m going back to my meal delivery service for a bit (with this link, you get $50 off after being a customer for four weeks. BFD, I know.) I’ve also bought some Vega All-in-One to get some extra nutrition in.
  • Committing to at least one CircuitWorks class per week. Basically, it’s a local OTF wannabe. But it’s close and on ClassPass, so win. My goal is two times per week but I’m starting realistically.