Ever since becoming a therapist over a decade ago, I’ve found that concrete tasks are some of the most rewarding tasks one can do for instant gratification. Life, with all its complex twists and turns, often leaves a lot of things undone, slow to unfold, or in limbo. All these twists and turns and ups and downs can create and contribute to a sense of unease and anxiety.
What’s the anecdote to managing life’s complications and stressors? I’m not fully sure. But I know therapy helps, as does fostering connection to others, sleeping enough, moving our bodies…and the process of organizing, fixing, and completing tasks. Organizing a drawer? Very soothing. Cleaning out a fridge? Unpleasant but gratifying. Getting your boxes from Amazon all broken down an actually into the recycle bin? Massive accomplishment. Shredding your shred pile? Also very rewarding. Power washing your sidewalk? Proud feelings ensue. You get the theme here, I’m sure, and likely also relate.
When you take a moment and pause, I’m sure you, too, can think of tasks that foster a sense of wellbeing, even if for a brief moment. Psychologically, our brains like tasks that we can start and finish within a short time frame. It helps feel a sense of accomplishment, as well as a sense of control. There’s a wonderful article here about the benefits of concrete tasks and the fix it mindset for helping to support our mental health during difficult times. There’s also a book Things Come Apart that discusses, in part, this same concept. What will your fix it or organize task be today? Mine is taking all of my mugs from my desk to the dishwasher. What task will you conquer next? The world is your oyster.
Copyright ©Melissa A. Frey, LCSW 2021. All rights reserved.
There is no medicine like hope, no incentive so great, and no tonic so powerful as expectation of something better tomorrow.
-Orison Swett Marden
While certainly we are making progress in terms of the pandemic, I think we all find ourselves occasionally (or maybe frequently) in a state of disbelief in terms of how long we’ve been enduring these challenging times and how different our lives are, compared to our “old lives.” While certainly we’ve heard the sides of the coin regarding slowing down, minimizing commutes, finding new ways to spend times indoors (knitting, anyone?), there’s also the other side of the coin known in my mind as “the groundhog day” effect. (Please reference the Bill Murray film, if you haven’t already seen it many times over).
It’s certainly been a long haul, and with a new potential covid/flu season ahead of us, how are we preparing for a state of growing our cognitive resilience? There’s a great piece here in the Wall Street Journal, noting “Five Way to Train Your Brain for Another Covid Season.” The main takeaways are good reminders to stay mindful in the present, look for the positives among all of the challenges, and externalize how you’re feeling.
That last one, externalizing, I think, is often underestimated or labeled as “complaining.” However, research has shown many times over that externalizing our feelings and thoughts by sharing them with others is a way to not carry our burdens alone. It also helps us to remember that many people have the exact same feelings, which reduces feelings of isolation and increases of sense of connection- both of which are extremely important for building cognitive resilience and a sense of wellbeing.
Which strategy will you use today? I’m going to walk outside with my iced coffee this afternoon. Later, this evening you’ll find me watching Wandavision (why am I so late to the game on that one?). What about you?
Copyright ©Melissa A. Frey, LCSW 2021. All rights reserved.
I recently read a piece in the Wall Street Journal, Why a Tree Is the Friend We Need Right Now. Of all the articles, news, podcasts, and books, we all consume, this piece really hit home for me. Nature, particularly throughout the pandemic, has been a very grounding pillar of support for many of us. Nothing seems to embody and inspire the human spirit quite like a tree that has been standing for over a hundred years- despite, and sometimes because, all the changes around it.
I have a tree friend, myself. Well, a few, actually. But closest in proximity is the tree outside of my home office window. I’ve observed nests being built, birds hatching, an owl looking at me from the limbs (closest I’ve ever been to an owl, by the way), wind chimes quietly sounding in the wind, blossoms in spring, leaves falling as the weather gets cooler, and more species of birds than I ever knew we had in our yard in the first place. I even purchased a bird book, so I could look up what birds I observe in my tree friend. Inquiring minds want to know, after all.
I could talk about this topic endlessly. However, there’s a much more compelling argument for said tree friend in the article. All of this to say, if you don’t have a tree friend, it might be time to find one.
“The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
Copyright © Melissa A. Frey, LCSW 2021. All rights reserved.
Sound the flute!
Now it’s mute!
Day and night,
In the dale,
Lark in sky,—
Merrily merrily, to welcome in the year…
Become the sky.
Take an axe to the prison wall
Walk out like someone suddenly born into color.
Do it now.
Well, here we are again. Another day in paradise, as I like to say, as many of you know from our sessions.
As we face another suggestion of “sheltering in place,” life is again changing for some of us. For others, life is barely changing at all. No matter where you fall in the trajectory of change- whether your life is changing a lot or very little- the common theme this week is exhaustion.
I see you. I know you are exhausted, and weary. You are tired of picking out meals, take out, or what to get from the fridge. Things seem as mundane as ever as you take your garbage and recycling bins to the curb, marking the passing of another week. You’re wondering how many times you’ve run the dishwasher lately (why is it always full?). You wake up, still tired, even though you slept. Never not tired, as my friend and I often laugh about when checking in with one another via text and phone.
There’s some hope on this horizon, though, readers. As news starts to trickle in about vaccinations, we are beginning to see a light. No one knows how far down the tunnel it is, but I see that hopeful light, and I bet you do too. The mixture of exhaustion and hope is new. We start to pour ourselves a glass of optimism, and sip it slowly, savoring the promise of a new dawn and new day.
You’ve got this. We’ve got this. As always, stay strong. I’m sheltering with you, just as you are with me. We’ve weathered nine months already; let yourself be both exhausted and hopeful. At the very least, that’s shiny and new.
Copyright © 2020 Melissa A. Frey, LCSW. All rights reserved.