Our great city is beginning to open up, including bars, restaurants, stores, food trucks, and music, music, music!
Another thing that seems to be reopening, or resurging for some, is a sense of anxiety about the very thing we’re so wanting to celebrate, which is that very same reopening. What a conundrum.
There seems to be a little more restlessness, and a bit more anxiety for a good number of people. Someone shared with me that he was a little afraid he couldn’t relate as well one-to-one in person as he felt he did on Zoom. Another used Easter as an example of when she and her wife would have to go to a family dinner, inside someone’s home, for the first time in over a year. Biggest concern? Relatives who refused to be vaccinated and would belittle them for wearing a mask. Could they just not attend? Response was “Not an option.”
We continue to celebrate the city’s opening more and more, being able to go out to a restaurant and eat on the patio with friends who are also vaccinated and will wear a mask. During these times, feelings of anxiety and mild depression can surface. You can have fun and still feel stressed & emotionally drained.
It’s a puzzling duality that many people face on a daily basis. What happens when you’ve been comfortably working from home, haven’t been in the office for months, and not seen colleagues in person for a year, and your employer is now sending emails about “First day back in person”? Stress can increase.
There are seemingly more things to handle since 2020 reared her ugly little head, and even though technically 2020 is over and done, it lingers on. That light depression, mild anxiety and plain fear of what’s next, who is safe, when can we really hug and kiss, permeates the air.. How do we keep our mental attitude safe and acuity sharp, and also focus on our own well-being, whether it’s emotional, spiritual or physical? And most probably, it’s all three.
We are all different in our physical makeup, our feelings and thought processes. Each individual experiences a ‘down day’ or a day feeling depressed about something, in a unique manner. Sometimes we just want to be quiet, other days we feel like partying. Then other days, we may want to participate in a cultural activity, either alone or with someone. And what about those days you don’t want to move? Literally.
Let’s take a look at what triggers feeling badly may be for you, identify them as they occur inside you, and then attempt to be an active part of your emotional support team. Your team can include your dog or cat, your partner, your close friends, or the nature you live with every day that you walk outside and explore the beauty of Spring here in this area. And it is phenomenally beautiful.
Self-kindness is powerful. While you can’t always dictate what the day will bring, you can set up specific touchstones, such as when you will prepare and eat food, when you’ll engage in some exercise outside (weather-permitting), and when there will be time in each day to communicate with others in any way you can. I’m going to share several strategies here that appeared in an Ambush article I wrote in 2019, because as amended, they are even more helpful right now.
1. Eat! The impact of nutrition should be respected. Eating well is an effective tool to gain strength, improve attention and lighten your attitude, as well as adding fuel to your day’s plan. For years I’ve suggested green vegetables like spinach and broccoli for my clients who experience a general malaise or are feeling down or unmotivated. Protein will always remain important. It doesn’t have to be meat, since there are other foods that have strong protein content like peanut butter, milk, lentils (many beans), cous cous, and eggs. Just let your doctor know if you’re changing your nutritional intake.
2. Personal hygiene and care of your body are paramount to feeling good about yourself. I think it’s less about cleanliness of body, but of mind and spirit. There is a body/mind/spirit connection that strengthens our stamina, our resolve, and can illuminate a path forward when we otherwise cannot see. That is what personal care is about at times of feeling low. It is something only you control. With that control comes responsibility, for yourself and your well-being.
3. Mindfulness/mind set. An occupied mind is important. The focus should be on having goals for a specific day, or even part of a day. Your mind-set, or your outlook on life, can be very helpful during times of feeling down. Your mind can allow you the courage to DO, to act, to participate in something you need or want to do. It’s not always possible to keep a mind occupied with good works and positive attitude, but the ‘trying’ can be that one goal for that one day when you don’t feel your best. Things to try may be meditation, yoga, or prayer in your own way. Always your special way.
4. Water is magic. Hydrate all year around, and that can impact your physical well-being and emotional stability. It can also have a positive impact on your cognition, your attitude and your energy. A respected physician here in NOLA told me long ago, that we should drink as much water as we think we can hold, and then two more glasses, per day. And when we ‘empty out’ we need to put that back into our body. Drink more pure water.
5. Connections are important. Having community surround us, as we do in New Orleans, is a unique thing we should cherish. In fact, belonging to a community, knowing people who care for you and for whom you care, can be an important healing factor all by itself. Small groups of acquaintances, friends or work colleagues are often a good way to build your community. People who attend 12-step groups often have a kind of built-in community, dedicated to a central mission. It’s been uniquely challenging the past 13 months to connect with others. Soon, however, we will be in groups more often than we realize, such as a group of friends whom you go to a meal, attend art galleries/museums, or run/walk with. And the people who you’ve had as your Quaranteam – how fortunate. Please take care not to lose any of them. Read Ambush Magazine regularly, check out the list of activities in the LGBTQ+ community. Many may be virtual now. We all know that will change soon. I can feel it; I hope you can too.
It’s Spring in New Orleans and all over Louisiana. There are things you can do. Take charge of some small aspect of your life. Feel your strength. Hold on to your emotional well-being. Bask in the sun that is uniquely New Orleans. Until next time friends.
Dr. Catherine Roland, LPC, is a therapist in private practice, specializing in our LGBTQ+ community for 25 years. Catherine is a member of the Board of Directors of both CrescentCare-NO/AIDS Task Force, and SAGE/New Orleans NOAGE