How to Be Okay

I feel pretty safe in assuming that the heaviness of 2020 wasn’t on your vision board either. It’s been horrible, chaotic and unrelenting. It’s been hard and you know the reasons why. I’ve struggled too. To the point where I looked into being an expat, had a little therapy, and considered day drinking. Mostly, I wanted to be okay. To figure out how to get to the other side in one piece with my marbles and dreams intact. It took some trial and error before I eased into these intentional practices and rituals that have helped me stay hopeful, healthy and (mostly) happy:

  1. Unplug or curate your gaze. I believe you can choose to see life through the lens of love, joy and hope.  Don’t bury your head in the sand, but don’t let everything in either. Like horror movies, the news has been traumatizing and soul-crushing. It makes me anxious and angry. Like I should write letters, emails, or call somebody’s mama. So, I went cold turkey for ten days, turned off all app notifications, and set my phone to Do Not Disturb after seven. I got the best sleep of my life and didn’t miss anything I considered critical. Now, I get major news for 15 minutes every other day while doing something I enjoy, and follow it with the Kid’s Nightly News because if it’s safe for kids, it’s safe for adults. Protect your mind, protect your spirit.
  2. Self-care, self-care, self-care. A lot is beyond your control and you can’t hold up the sky. Still, you can take care of yourself and at least one other person. Building helpful micro habits encourages resilience, well-being and personal growth. Stop reading now and write down three things you do for self-care. Fist-pump yourself and then add three things that you’d like to add. Do one of the new things every single day for 30 days. Drink while you pour. If you came up blank, check out this list.
  3. Be good, do good. E.T. was the only nickname I ever had, courtesy of an ex-lover who said I was like no other. Not sure if he was calling me an alien or a weirdo, but it stuck and I liked it. I especially liked what the alien movie-character of E.T. said to the boy Elliot when it was time for him to go away. Of all the things, he could have said, his parting words were: Be good. Great mantra, don’t you think? We’re all interconnected and the something bigger than you and I is us. Mind your words, deliver random acts of kindness, do unto others.
  4. Think better. It’s not always about trying to make yourself feel better as much as it is about thinking better. A very spiritual friend once groaned: “I can’t believe all of the crap in my head sometimes.” That’s all of us. Sometimes. The way through it is to relentlessly reframe or release any thoughts that aren’t useful or healthy because they are dysfunctional spells, we cast on ourselves that make life like slogging through quicksand. The simple, yet effective technique I use when a negative thought repeatedly arises is to say aloud. “Cancel, cancel.” Then I load my mind with the uplifting ideas to raise my vibe. Better thinking will inspire you to problem-solve in your own unique way and promote patience, tolerance and curiosity.
  5. Milk happy moments. Joy has a longer shelf-life than you think, so keep that playlist on auto-repeat. More than that it can help you feel more satisfied at every turn. When I had challenging moments at the beginning of the pandemic, I started making a cup of tea and replaying happier times for five to ten minutes, visualizing every visceral detail I could remember (scent, sound, sight, touch, feel). Good memories are a special kind of medicine for what ails you.
  6. Find a way to meditate. Traditional meditation may not be for you. Sitting still in lotus, OM’ing or chanting is not often my first go to, although I do like guided meditations. My concept of meditation is fluid, with an overall goal of quieting my mind. Yoga, qi gong, mowing the lawn, weeding, washing dishes, cooking, petting the cat, a sound bath—all of this is meditation to me because it makes me feel relaxed, renewed and rested. What makes you feel this way?
  7. Accept the things you can’t change. There’s so much peace in this notion. Fear, worry, anxiety, anger, resentment, despair, and other negative emotions are time and energy vampires. If there is a clear action to take to make a bad situation better, take it. If not, for sanity sake, let go. Weather, taxes, politics and pandemics fit in this category.
  8. Wade in the water, then emerge with a plan. I have a friend who’d been managing ill parent care and supporting a partner tottering between depression and panic attacks. I thought she was handling it like a boss until she admitted she’d been taking a bath with a bottle of wine and crying every night. Then, gradually, she traded out that habit for hiking and calling friends for support when she needed it. Be kind to yourself. There’s never going to be a time when you regret it.
  9. One thing at a time. I wonder why multi-tasking was ever trending. Who wants to be an octopus? Who wants to be always busy or burnt out? Let’s be clear: You can’t do it all, so do the things that matter, one at a time, in the order of their priority. Fairly effortlessly, I work best in fifteen to thirty-minute bursts. If you want to de-stress or re-joy your life a bit, be a mono-tasker.
  10. Cultivate a good sense of humor. I am often looking for the laugh. From a young age, my TV viewing has been mostly sitcoms and sci-fi shows with a side of action-adventure. As an adult, I expanded to live comedy shows and competitions. Without being mean or hurtful, laugh at yourself, your loved ones, your pets, your neighbors. Laugh at YouTube and Instagram comedians and silly TikTok videos. Something is always funny.

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