Task List — For Our Mental Health

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I was on a telesession with my therapist today.

We both reflected on how everything — EVERYTHING — is different now, since undergoing a state-mandated semi-lockdown. Where I live only essential businesses, and the employees therein, are permitted to function as though business is normal.

For the facilities where I lead yoga practices, we are learning new ways, just as you likely are, to function in the world. Lots of FaceBook Live yoga classes and Zoom yoga classes. In that vein, she and I had our session over screens. Only my camera didn’t turn on and she was forced to listen to me but not see me.

We spoke about how we are both coping with all of this. Overall, I am ok; I do feel though that the two-weeksness of this is starting to get to me. That I miss my friends and hugs and seeing people I’m accustomed to seeing. I’m not sleeping terribly well, but I’m working on addressing my sleep hygiene routine.

Last night I was up later than I’d like.

I let someone get to me online. I let it continue for days. This person is not unknown to me, we have known each other all my life. Nothing this person does surprises me. The flair for coarseness, attack, and cruelty is common, nothing special; but it still makes me mad. So last night, I had decided I’d had enough and I opened a can of whoopass. I let it out — the anger I’d felt at being treated the way I was treated –for no good reason other than spite and smallness– a few months ago when I needed help. Even during that time of need, it was absurd of me to think the entrenched behavior would suddenly change — this person is pretty sick. I was not let down.

So I told her that I was disappointed in myself; that I wasn’t more like Jesus. That I wasn’t walking my talk of calmness and stillness in this time of global suffering, fear, and pain. “I was insulted, attacked personally — but that’s par for the course with this person. Linear conversations are impossible; it’s all reactivity. Once backed into a corner, then out comes the puffadder and it’s all hiss and spit,” I said.

“Did you ‘kick dirt’ on the viper? Did you defend yourself against the attacks and insults?” She asked.

“Yes. I won’t be intimidated. This person literally means nothing to me. There is no ‘there’ there,” I said to her. “I just don’t like that I wasn’t being more…. ”

“Yogic?” she asked.

“Yes. That I didn’t …”

“Let yourself be insulted and treated like crap? Take the abuse?” she added.

“Yes. That.” I realized where she was going. I remembered that I wasn’t on a yoga mat. I wasn’t giving yoga. I was practicing discernment. I won’t be intimidated.

“Then you took care of yourself.” She said. “Look. What you do to protect yourself is perfectly within boundaries of self-care and within the boundaries of intelligent living. When someone acts like a jerk, then you are forced to respond in kind. Likely, it’s probably the only way this person knows how to communicate. There’s likely a lot of rage inside…”

Then I recalled the best phrase regarding irrational behavior by angry people: “You can’t provoke a rabid dog.” I heard it from … wait for it … “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” stated by cast member Margaret Josephs.  I saw my therapist’s reaction: raised eyebrows and a nod of agreement. She laughed softly when she heard where I heard it.

Don’t judge. We’re in a pandemic.

So we continued in our session, leaving that stuff behind. “This pandemic is going to show everyone what they are truly made of. If someone has been a decent person all their life, this pandemic will highlight that. If someone has been irrational, erratic and unstable all their life, this pandemic will highlight that. There will be no ‘gray zones’ here. It’s important to everyone that we heed the messages people show us and that can help us live better.”

She is very concerned about her clients’ ability to feel normal during these days. She said she has a task list that everyone should know and do every day:

  1. Wake by 8:30am.
  2. Leave bed by 9:00.
  3. Shower sometime after waking.
  4. If you don’t shower, at least change your clothes.
  5. Limit the time you spend looking at the news to 30 minutes and do it only once a day, at least two hours before bedtime. Why? The news is not radically changing every day  — it’s important to be informed, just don’t be obsessed; it’s not good for you.
  6. Be creative (or do things that activate your left brain) for an hour: read a book or magazine, listen to music, meditate, garden, look at Pinterest, make cookies, make your bed, organize your closet, plan your dinner.
  7. Practice gratitude: the grocers (truckers, stockers, cashiers, farmers, food producers), pharmacists, first-responders, front-line physicians and medical staff are working hard to help us. We are NOT in this alone.
  8. Do something active for at least 30 minutes: get up, stretch, go for a bike ride, walk, dance, garden, walk your pet or walk your neighbor’s pet, practice yoga,
  9. Do something social: pick up your phone and make a phone call. Or FaceTime or Skype someone. Better yet, if you can call someone you’ve known for a long time, but haven’t spoken to in a while, so much the better: that time together will remind you that your life hasn’t spun out of control, that you still have people who bring you back to yourself.
  10. Treat yourself like your own best friend.

How are you doing? Have you noticed how people in your life or their treatment of you has changed since COVID-19 has unleashed itself?

Thanks for reading.

About Grass Oil by Molly Field

follow me on twitter @mollyfieldtweet. i'm working on a memoir and i've written two books thus unpublished because i'm a scaredy cat. i hail from a Eugene O'Neill play and an Augusten Burroughs novel but i'm a married, sober straight mom. i write about parenting, mindfulness, irony, personal growth and other mysteries vividly with a bit of humor. "Grass Oil" comes from my son's description of dinner i made one night. the content of the blog is random, simple, funny and clever. stop by, it would be nice to get to know you. :)

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