Mental Health and COVID- 19

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By Anita Manley

The times are changing quickly, and we know now to self-isolate and only go out when absolutely necessary, wash your hands frequently with soap and water, don’t touch your face (especially nose, mouth and eyes), cough or sneeze into a tissue or crook of elbow…wash your hands, again.

A tip for washing your hands and your mental well being: List 4 gratitudes while washing for 20 seconds. For example, with a lather in hands while washing between fingers, thumbs, and back of hands — count — 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and gratitude (I am grateful for the beautiful yellow tulips I bought) — 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and gratitude (I am grateful for the sound of spring with the birds chirping outside) — 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and gratitude (I am grateful for the health of my family) — and finally, 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and gratitude (I am grateful for the time I have to focus on self-care). Rinse your hands and dry them. Now you have clean hands and an uplifted spirit, too.

It is normal to feel anxious, fearful, even panicked about the current global pandemic. In situations like these, Andrew Jacobs, a Psychologist at The Royal recommends making a list of things you do have control over. My list looks like this:

  • wash my hands frequently, always before eating and after coming in from outside.
  • don’t touch my face (unless I just washed my hands)
  • cough and sneeze into crook of elbow, or tissue – then wash hands
  • STAY HOME — I am fortunate to be able to do so.
  • only go out for essential items (effective today, I have decided to do online shopping for most items)
  • go for nature walks (try to get 10,000 steps in a day)
  • stay away from the gym (instead exercise at home or go for walks)
  • knit (I’m knitting beautiful headbands, in a brioche stitch, for friends/family)
  • write (writing in my blog after an absence and writing for a project requested months ago)
  • read all those books I have on my bedside table
  • listen to music, play music and have a sing along with my husband (a very talented musician)
  • bake
  • cook — try some new recipes
  • watch Netflix (catching up on episodes on my favourites list — watching with my partner)
  • Keep in touch with family/friends over text, social media, Zoom.
  • Hold essential meetings virtually
  • And for extra fun — I’m participating in a virtual knitting group on Tuesdays at lunch!

We can do this! Make your own list of things you CAN DO — so that you feel in control and empowered. It will lessen your anxiety.

You’ve GOT this!
From my friends at unsinkable.

Gratitude for bird poop!

As mentioned in my first post – it is so important to find something to be grateful for in every experience. However, it is not always easy to do this!

Last Saturday, I drove to the store to pick up two bunches of flowers. One for a very good friend who is recovering from pneumonia, and the other as a hostess gift for a summer party we were to attend that evening. I also wanted to pick up a replacement bottle of wine to return to our dear friend and neighbour, who so generously saved us on Friday by loaning us a chilled bottle of white to attend a potluck and bocce game at another friends’ home. My husband, Ron, had been running late and we didn’t have time to stop for wine – so the loan was timely and very much appreciated.

I parked our car in the parking lot of the grocery and liquor stores, noting to myself what another beautiful warm, sunny day we’re having. I ran into these stores to pick up three items, and returned to the car – less than 15 minutes later, only to find not one – but three large and disgusting splats of bird poop on the car! Two on the windshield and one huge one on the driver’s side window.

For an instant, I was furious. Then, I thought, ho-lee – isn’t this supposed to be lucky?

I arrive home with goods in hand, place the flowers in a vase of water then I Google it:

Bird poop brings good luck! There is a belief that if a bird poops on you, your car, or your property, you may receive good luck and riches. The more birds involved, the richer you’ll be! So next time a bird poops on you, remember that it’s a good thing.

I’m thinking 3 poops = 3 birds (I’m an optimist) = lots of good luck! Perhaps a lifetime or at least 3 months!

I relate the story to Ron, who laughs heartily (he doesn’t believe in old wives’ tales) but immediately offers to clean the poop off the windows. Now that is good luck!

While driving to my friend’s house with flowers in hand, Ron ponders the question “I wonder how long the statute of limitations is on bird poop?”

I have so many things to be grateful for in this situation:

  • I have an abundance of friends who care for me and I care for them.
  • I have more social events than I can keep track of as the summer nears an end.
  • I have a car for the bird to poop on – rather than pooping on me!
  • Good luck has bestowed me for hopefully a lifetime – but at least long enough to have Ron lovingly clean the poop off the car windows!

Practicing an Attitude of Gratitude

Just over a decade ago – due to mental illness – I lost everything that I held close to my heart: communication with my two teen aged daughters, my entire family, all of my friends, I lost my job, my cat, my housing and eventually all of my possessions, including my car. Some would say that it was as if aliens came in and took over my identity as well.

Prior to losing everything, as things were beginning to unravel, a good friend of mine advised me to write a gratitude journal – “list 3 things you are grateful for, every night before going to bed.” WOW! What a challenge, I thought. I could only write about one thing per day. I had a cup of tea, I entered into my journal. I had a long, hot bath, the next night. At that time, my two daughters were living with their Dad full-time and I could only see them while in the presence of a social worker with the Children’s Aid Society – once a week, for a couple of hours. I missed them terribly and I felt lost being unable to fulfill my Mom role. I was sad, angry and very lonely – dwelling upon my losses.

However, starting this practice of a gratitude journal set me up with a resiliency and positive frame of mind that has served me well ever since.

While living in a women’s shelter, I was tremendously grateful to have a roof above my head, thankful for the amazing meals they served every day, the fashionable clothes I received, the bed I laid in, the sewing machine to alter second hand clothes, the brand new shoes I was given, and the list goes on. While living in my car, I was grateful for my car! I appreciated The Well for providing me with a place to watch TV, shower and sleep during the day and for other women to socialize with.

I realized that no matter how much I was struggling, there was always someone else who was struggling even more. There was always something to be grateful for. And if you think of all of the little things, you will find that indeed there are always many things to be grateful for.

I still to this day practice and attitude of gratitude and I credit this practice for my happiness and feelings of abundance despite my many losses. By recognizing the numerous things we do have in life and not focusing on our setbacks or losses, we can feel more satisfied, fulfilled and happier!

Even among the greatest difficulties in life – you can always find things for which you are truly grateful.

Try it! Start writing a gratitude journal before going to bed – Jot down 3 different entries every night. It will grow on you!

Feeling extremely grateful for this gorgeous view that I have enjoyed for the past 7.5 years!