Looking Beyond The Window and Finding What Works For You

This week’s blog is written by Dion McGill, SCY Communications and Community Outreach Manager. 

Since the beginning of this COVID-19 pandemic period in which we all began working from home and self-quarantining, we’ve shared about five posts on some variation of mental health.

To myself, it sometimes feels like you can be beating an old rug that has no intention of producing any more dust from its crevices, and yet, every day I’m reminded of the fact that I need to be reminded.

Early on, I thought I’d reached a comfortable point in this quarantine thing…I was working from home, waking up each day, cooking dinner, working as best I can and trying my best to continue indulging in healthy habits (I embarked on a 6-week workout program via Onnit and lasted until week 5) as well have successfully continued to bicycle on a mostly daily basis (I’ve ridden 943.6 miles so far this year).

However, over the past few weeks, I discovered I was wrong about that “comfortable point.”  My sleeping has been terrible.  My concentration has been nill, and my anxiety through the roof in general.  Eventually it began to affect everything else, including personal projects, my abiliity to focus during work hours, and as of my typing this, I’ve done 4 bike rides in the past two weeks (whereas since January I average 3 rides a week).

First and foremost, I’ve had to openly admit to myself, and others that my mental health has been precarious at best the past few weeks.  From there, I’ve steadily worked, day by day, sometimes minute by minute, to prioritize my mental health and wellness.

Speaking of which…how is your mental health these days?

If the answer is “not good,” first and foremost, let me tell you that you’re not alone.  From there, here are some tips that I’ve been working to incorporate (certainly not an exhaustive list…it doesn’t mention the handy dandy sleep mask I dug out of storage in search of more restful sleep) into my own life, courtesy of New York psychologist Eileen Feliciano and the organization Parents Together, who brought most of these tips to my attention.

No description available.

Unlike many of my friends, my laundry expenses haven’t diminished much at all, because I make it a point to get dressed every day.  I have split my clothes into two categories: lounging/relaxing clothes and work clothes.  My work clothes usually are pants/jeans and a graphic t-shirt (step down from my actual in office attire of khakis and a button-down shirt), but it definitely signals to my mind that it’s time to go to work. According to experts, getting dressed and sticking to a routine everyday is super important. “It is amazing how our dress can impact our mood,” says Dr. Feliciano.

Also important: Eating healthy and getting regular exercise. As I mentioned before, I did 5 weeks of the Onnit 6 bodyweight workout program.  It’s intense, but completely made for people at all possible fitness levels.  However, if that’s not your thing, as long as you’re getting 30 minutes of movement a day you’re set — dance parties in your kitchen totally count.

Whatever brings you joy, make time to practice it regularly. It’s even better if you can turn your self-care into a long-term project — like finishing a jigsaw puzzle or reading an entire series of books. Doing a little bit each day is a great way to stay healthy.
No description available.
Dr. Feliciano recommends doing something called “chunking.” It means focusing on a bite-sized piece of a challenge that feels manageable.  “Whether that be 5 minutes, a day, or a week at a time—find what feels doable for you,” she says. Here at Lurie Children’s, we will officially be working from home until the end of the calendar year.  One new activity I’ve added to my plate is learning Spanish via the Duolingo program.  I actually do 15-30 minutes a day, according to my energy level, but it’s a chunk a day and it is also helping me to build a new skill.  Additionally, I can attest that coloring can fit well into this category. I have a set of “adult” colored pencils and coloring books at home that I will dabble into on a nice day.
Ok. Here’s another important question — have you been reaching out to friends and family on a regular basis?
No description available.
It’s so important to reach out to someone everyday. It’s good for your own mental health, but also makes a huge difference in the lives of others. It’s one of the best ways we can help each other right now.” according to Dr. Feliciano.  Personally, after a work day of Zoom calls, I get pretty worn out of FaceTiming and such, but I have done more traditional phone talking over the past few months than I have over the past few years.  Also, there are some people that I absolutely enjoy chatting with via FaceTime no matter what, usually do to their fun facial reactions and such, so I also make sure to connect with them on a regular basis as well.
Another way we can help each other is by lowering our expectations and giving our loved ones the benefit of the doubt. Being cooped inside is hard for everyone — especially kids. The most important thing to focus on is emotional connection.
Also, for many of us, a huge mood booster is laughter! When I’m feeling overwhelmed, a few minutes of watching a funny video, or scrolling through memes always makes me feel a bit better. Here are a few work appropriate parenting memes courtesy of Parents Together.
Also, if you wanna take an extra step, here is a list of virtual support groups courtesy of ZenCare. I’m sure if you scroll the list, you’ll find at least one you’re interested in.
So, why did I title this blog “Beyond the Window”…?  Well, one especially tough day, I was deep in the doldrums.  I have a small apartment, very sparsely furnished, and I was looking out my window.  It dawned on me how much of my current life revolves around that window.  It made me supremely sad, and I actually created a short film called “The Window.”  Coincidentally, the process of creating made me feel better.  You can view that short here.
So…most important take away:  You’re not in this alone.  I’m here with you.  A lot of other people are here with you, and we have to support each other.  Personally, I am also on the hunt for a good therapist.  Every little bit helps.  Be well.
Images courtesy of ParentsTogether.

Join our Newsletter

Join the community of violence prevention partners. Sign up to receive our bi-monthly newsletter and/or SCY's policy updates.


Support SCY

Become a violence prevention partner today by supporting the work of SCY.