Updated: Apr 4, 2020

I have been telling folks that as days and weeks progress lately, I feel as if I'm playing a game of dodgeball that I can never win. There are so many balls being thrown at us.


So.


Many.


Many.


Balls.



They come in the form of: headlines indicating that the world is ending and that humanity will become extinct in five minutes, social media posts making you feel ashamed or judged, colleagues sending out a thousand e-mails, books you're wanting to read staring at you resentfully from across the room, hobbies begging you to re-engage with them, meals that your partner is wanting you to cook with them, bills taunting you, problems you're having or needing to think about, or trainings or workshops you might need to attend.


It's overwhelming. It feels like there's no way to dodge these balls, or no way to catch them and throw them back at whatever hell they came from.


But! While navigating these stressors, I have found two questions that have been tremendously helpful in getting me and others through -- two magical questions that'll help us kick our opponent's butt!


The first question is-- can I practice gratitude in this moment? This is particularly helpful when we're worrying about ours and others' health. If we're wondering "what if I get sick," we can potentially think "I seem to be OK right now, and thank goodness for that."


"What if the world ends?"


Imagine tires screeching and then boom! You think: "well, the world hasn't ended yet. I appreciate the fact that I'm still here and seemingly healthy."


What we're wanting to do is notice these overwhelming and scary thoughts and feelings, and if possible, we're wanting to pivot and change course. We're wanting to pick up the ball and throw it hard at capitalism's face. Or, stress' face. Or, worry's face.


"How am I going to answer all of these e-mails?"


SKRRRRTTT. "I can appreciate that I have access to technology and WiFi. It's good to know that colleagues feel healthy and motivated enough to send out these e-mails. I will take it one e-mail at a time."


OK! Ready for the other question?


Can I help anyone or anything in this moment? Maybe the only person you can help is yourself, and that is real and fair. And, I feel you.


But, how wonderful, right? In the midst of chaos and overwhelm that we pause and we reflect on how we can help ourselves and others. Maybe self-help is just telling yourself to breathe. And, other-help could be texting loved ones "I love you so much. I'm thinking of you."


Self-help can also look like having mindful moments with your plants and/or pets. The more you make time to help yourself, the more present and healthy you can be to help others.


If you do have some resources, whether that's money and/or time, there might be lots of opportunities near you, if you're wanting to donate money or volunteer. Here are more options for ways to help older folks, restaurants, and hospitals.


I'm thinking of you.


If you like hugs and don't have anyone to hug you, and self-hugs are proving to be difficult, know that I'm hugging you in spirit.


Take good care of you and others.

And, that's OK.


***[content warning: death; dying]***


There could be a lot of factors impacting sleep in this moment. The world seems to be more chaotic, and we have a lot on our minds.


For one, financial worries can feel particularly overwhelming, intense, and traumatizing right now. We might be wondering about what may happen now that we've lost our jobs. If we're lucky enough to still have jobs, seeing others struggle is painful. And, we may experience many what ifs. What if I lose my job? What if I start getting paid less? What if other emergencies come up, and I just can't afford those emergencies? What if my friends and family struggle, and I can't help them? These thoughts can make us feel helpless and scared.


Two, we are getting so much information about what we should be doing during this pandemic, and our brains are so overwhelmed. In five minutes of scrolling through social media or the news app, we may see headlines or posts about how to wash our shoes so that we don't bring the COVID-19 virus into your home. Or, how to wash our groceries and the packages we receive properly. New tips on how to clean our homes. How to wash our hands. How to take a shower. Where the hell to find toilet paper. How many of us are sick. How many of us have died. How many of us will die.


It's just all so much.


And maybe we wonder -- what if I don't do all the things that scientists are recommending. What if I don't adhere to the social distancing rules. What if I don't clean my shoes well enough. WHAT IF I TAKE ALL THE PRECAUTIONS AND I STILL GET SICK. And, I get my loved ones sick.


It's a lot to think about.


Three, we may be experiencing a significant amount of existential crises. Not only do we have to make sure all aspects of our beings are "clean" and "disinfected." But, we also have to contend with the fact that we might get sick and die. That our loved ones might also get sick and die. That everyone in the world is grieving and traumatized by this pandemic. That we can't celebrate our birthdays the way we want to. That we can't celebrate graduations the way we want to. That we may die alone, particularly if we live alone and don't have a lot of folks we interact with on a daily basis. That we might not get all the things we wanted in life, like a partner or kids or a successful career or the ability to travel, as there are many restrictions in our lives right now.


We can't even touch each other, and many of us need touch to feel comforted, stable, secure, loved, and cared for.


I'm thinking of Jim Gaffigan's joke about our loved ones not touching us, and so we end up having to pay massage therapists to touch us: we get massages from strangers because we can't count on the people who love us to touch us. That's funny, and sad and true. And now, we can't even get massages from those strangers during the apocalypse! Or, from anyone. Ahhh! :D


So, what do we do? Absolutely nothing.


Well, we know what science says. We've probably read all the articles about sleep hygiene. If you don't know about the things we're supposed to do to get better sleep, I'll paint a picture for you.


Imagine, come 9pm, you turn off the TV, you close your laptop, and you put your phone away. Maybe you're sitting on the couch in some fancy cabin in Upstate NY, in front of a fancy fireplace. And, you close your eyes, you hug yourself, and you take 5 slow deep breaths -- inhaling for 5 seconds and exhaling for 5 seconds. You rock a bit from side to side.


You open your eyes. You go upstairs to the master bathroom. You have thoughts like "I'm so proud of you. You survived the day. You were so effective and competent during this meeting and that other interaction. I love that you called your best friend and had some laughs with him." You look yourself in the mirror as you're brushing your teeth and you think "I love you. I care about you."


After you take a slow, relaxing, mindful shower, you walk into your bedroom. You've got your oil diffuser going. Maybe you smell the lavender. You start to read an enjoyable, and not too exciting book. You start to feel tired a bit by 1130pm. You turn off the light. You focus on taking d e e p, s l o w breaths as you focus on what your pillow feels like. Or, what your body feels like as you lay on the bed. You focus on the sounds outside. Maybe it's raining and windy. Maybe you practice gratitude: "thank you universe, for allowing me to have a bed to sleep in, for allowing me to have shelter, for allowing me to be able to smell the soothing scent of lavender."


D e e p


S l o w


B r e a t h i n g.


As you're drifting off, maybe you visualize your favorite calming place. It might be a quiet beach in Kauai. You feel the sun on your face. You hear the calming waves. You smile, and you feel what it's like to focus on your breath, and engage in this relaxing visualization.


You fall asleep. You wake up at 7am naturally. And, you immediately jump out of bed and go out for your morning run before you start the day.


Doesn't that sound beautiful. You follow that routine filled with mindfulness and self-kindness and self-soothing everyday.


Can you imagine?


But, in a not so perfect world, maybe we can't follow that perfect sleep routine. Maybe we do need to have the TV on as we fall asleep. Maybe we do find screens soothing as we listen to a Seinfeld or Frasier or Friends episode for the millionth time, because that comforts us and soothes us.


Maybe we do all the "right" things (e.g., not drinking caffeinated beverages past 12pm, staying away from substances, not eating a big meal right before bed, doing a sleep meditation before bed, setting a worry/plan time from 6-7pm everyday so that we can practice more mindfulness outside of that worry time), and we still wake up throughout the night or we still can only get 3 hours of sleep. There may also be too much serotonin and dopamine swimming around our brains. Or, hormonal shifts that contribute to those sleep difficulties.


Earlier I wrote that if we're experiencing sleep concerns, we should do nothing, in a kind of facetious way. Doing nothing is OK. I think as the world seems like it's burning, we need to have some grace with ourselves, and practice acceptance with whatever we're feeling and experiencing. We don't necessarily have to keep trying to fix or change.


Sometimes we get frustrated with ourselves when we don't get the things we want. Self-kindness/self-compassion goes out the window and self-blame, self-shaming, and self-judgments come up.


Right now, if we're doing all the right things or we're not doing the things that doctors recommend when it comes to sleep hygiene, it's OK. It's all OK.


If we do wake up at night and can't seem to fall back asleep, I am encouraging us to do a tad more than nothing. Just a tad more. And, that is to -- breathe.


Think of your brain as if it's a child. What would you tell that child if they came up to you at 3AM and woke you up? Maybe you'd be frustrated, and that's fair. But, I hope that you would also say some supportive things to them: "You can't sleep? Aww. Come here. *hugs* let me read you a bed time story."

If we think of the brain as a child, we might also say: "Wow. You really don't want to sleep this week. OK. Well, I respect that." And, if you know me, you know I love the Calm meditation app. They have great sleep stories and soothing relaxing music. Putting something like that on immediately after waking up can be helpful. It does feel nice to have something else to focus on. Having warm bodies next to us in bed can also be soothing -- we can put our hand on the person's belly and breathe to the same tempo as they're breathing.


J u s t


F o c u s i n g


O n


B r e a t h i n g


To g e t h e r.


Sometimes all we can do is breathe.


What a privilege it is right now to be able to breathe. If we have that privilege, let's practice gratitude for that. If we're willing and able, we can put one hand on our heart and one hand on our belly, and as we inhale for 5 and exhale for 5, we can think: "Thank you body. I'm so grateful for the ability to breathe. Thank you."


I wish you so much wellness and peace.


Take good care of you and others.

We have (hopefully) survived another week of quarantining and social distancing! And, stress. And, anxiety. And, sadness. And, confusion. And, numbness. And, overwhelm. And, fear.


But, hopefully lots and lots of joy also. If you haven't found joy this week, and are looking for some joy, music, and dancing, look no further! You'll especially love that, if you're a fan of Cardi B.


Today, after listening to the psychologist and meditation teacher, Tara Brach, I'm inspired to write about how we can more easily come home to ourselves.


Often, we might walk around feeling completely disconnected from our thoughts, our bodies, our feelings, and our behaviors. This disconnection may be particularly prevalent as we continue to experience this collective trauma of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Trauma has a way of making us leave ourselves. We leave as we mindlessly scroll through social media, as we do, do, do as human doings as opposed to human beings, as we engage in emotional eating, as we think, think, and think some more, as we worry, as we buy things we don't need, and as we binge watch shows or the news.


But, how can we come back to ourselves? Can we come back to our internal homes? If we do come back to our homes -- ourselves -- what kind of home do we inhabit? Do we like our homes?


First, I do want to say that it's OK that we sometimes don't want to come back to ourselves. The process of building deep connections and deep mindfulness with ourselves can take time. It's a journey. Wherever you are on the journey is OK.


Second, when we're ready and willing, there are some ways to ensure that the internal homes we inhabit are as safe, calm, and secure as possible. Right now, when we're being faced with news of individuals being sick, individuals dying, and stores running out of resources, our internal worlds might be agitated, on edge, and scared as all hell.


This idea of finding ways to come back to our senses and our bodies helps to soothe the chaos that may bubble up inside of us. It's like a caring, supportive parent who holds their children as they're crying and in pain. We can be that supportive parent to ourselves. When that parent hugs us, kisses our cheek, sings to us, rocks us, we feel more at ease. We find some peace and stillness. We may even smile and hug them back, and feel incredible gratitude for their kindness, care, and love.


Being that parent to ourselves helps us come back. When we're kind, accepting, compassionate, and caring to ourselves, we can more easily come back to our senses and our bodies. We can more easily come back to the present moment.


So! How do we come back?


Some ways that help me come back home to me are:


Community! There are so many opportunities for virtual meditation and yoga. Last night, I did a meditation via Zoom through Three Jewels, and it was honestly magical. I felt like I entered another world, where everything was wonderful and we all got along, and there was finally world peace. Ha!


Whatever you're into, whether that's dance, open mics, cooking, or happy hours, you can find virtual communities who are engaging in those activities. Community is important. We're social beings. We need each other to survive and thrive. We need each other to feel safe and secure.


Self-Compassion! If you know me, you know that I'm always preaching self-kindness. We have to be kind, patient, and understanding of ourselves. If I notice self-critical and self-shaming thoughts, I say: OH NO, YOU DON'T! Ha!


But, seriously. Remember the calm, caring, kind, patient, compassionate parent? I practice embodying that as often as I can throughout the day. That means, hugging myself. Saying really lovely, supportive statements to myself (e.g., I believe in you; I love you. I'm here for you. You're trying your best).


Also, research has found that speaking to ourselves in the third person is really helpful, and helps to calm our anxiety. Whaaaaa?



So -- Sarah believes in you. Sarah loves you. Sarah's here for you. Sarah's trying her best -- would be even better statements to say to myself.


Mindfulness! I LOVE MINDFULNESS! I imagined Oprah as I wrote that :D :D You get a mindful moment! YOU get a mindful moment. EVERYBODY gets a mindful moment! Ha!



Being mindful means that you're coming back to your senses and your body. That means, as I write, I'm noticing how my feet feel on the ground, whether my feet are cold or warm, what my bottom feels like on the chair, whether my shoulders are tense, whether my breathing is of a slower or faster pace. I can notice what it's like to touch my laptop and what the keyboard feels like as I type. I can also notice what it's like to see the GIF of Oprah, what it's like to hear this song playing, and what it's like to sway my body to the beat.


Once I notice all of these facets, I can make some changes, if needed. Maybe I can intentionally start to breathe slower (e.g., inhale for 4 seconds, pause for another, exhale for 4 seconds, and hold for another 4). Maybe I can relax my shoulders. Maybe I can pause from writing and look outside my window; I can appreciate seeing children and dogs running and playing with each other. Maybe I can sip my tea slowly and really notice the different flavors and sensations that I experience as I drink.


Moving my body!! If you can, move your body as often as possible, and move it in a mindful way. Really notice what it's like to move your body to a song. Or, what it's like to go outside, breathe the fresh air, hear different sounds, or feel the sun on your skin as you walk. If you're exercising, really notice what it's like for your body to get in different poses and to commit to repeating certain movements as the sensation of pain or feelings of joy and connection arise.


Gratitude, of course! Practice gratitude all day, everyday! Have a gratitude party over Zoom. Get together with folks and discuss all the things you're grateful for. Maybe it's the food you have access to. Toilet paper. Clorox wipes lol! The sun. Shelter. Time to read. Time to play video games with peers. Enough money to survive for the day. Technology. Your breath. Seltzer water :D


Helping others! Make it a habit to help others. Help often. Help however way you can. Maybe someone needs you to listen to their complaints. Stop what you're doing, take some deep breaths and listen. Maybe someone needs you to share whatever resources you may have. Or, needs you to sign and share a petition. Or, needs you to empathize with their pain. Or. Or. Or. Or. We need each other. Let's find ways to take care of each other.


My hope is that in coming home to ourselves, we can also find homes in and come home to each other.


Take good care of yourselves and each other.

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