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by Jess K May 18, 2021
Harnessing the ability to relax into the present moment is difficult but instrumental in taking care of our holistic health. It’s the simple things that can ground us, bringing attention to what our mind, body and spirit need in order to thrive. However, even through the pandemic, many have felt that the emphasis is placed on external self-care as a way to prioritize self-optimization and productivity. Well, what about mental health? How are we addressing our psychological and emotional well-being during this time of uncertainty, individually and collectively?
Since 1949, many have been observing Mental Health Awareness Month in May as a way to raise awareness about the reality of mental illnesses. On their website, the Canadian Mental Health Association shared the following:
Mental illness indirectly affects all Canadians at some time through a family member, friend or colleague.
In any given year, 1 in 5 people in Canada will personally experience a mental health problem or illness.
Now more than ever, especially during the pandemic, it is urgently important to speak candidly about mental health as a way to destigmatize and help folks on the path to seeking the help that they need. At Scout, we want to honour this month with purpose on our blog by sharing our team’s perspectives on the activities and practices that have helped us pass time, find joy or simply quiet our worries for even a moment. From the books that bring us comfort to the outdoor activities that help us recharge, we hope that something resonates with you and hopefully helps you feel a little less alone.
It’s hard to believe a year later we’re still here talking about how to cope during a lockdown. I don’t know if I am the best example as far as tips on coping, I tend to bury myself in work, but if this year has taught me anything, it’s that my body screams for rest when I need it and I’ve been trying to get better at honouring that. That being said, in total transparency, when I’m not working, I am not doing much else, as finding energy outside of work (and sometimes with work) has been challenging. I wish I could share my new-found love for something creative, or an amazing recipe for sourdough bread, but at this point in the pandemic, I am mostly feeling “meh”. I think The New York Times has coined this collective feeling we’re experiencing “languishing” and that rings true for me! I’m not depressed, but I’m not finding a lot to get excited about these days, just going through the motions (free article from the National Post on the topic here), taking it one day at a time, putting one foot in front of the other.
The warmer weather and signs of spring are the main things helping me through the days lately. I’m so grateful to have outdoor space at my home and have been spending as much time outside as I can. Watching and listening to the birds, feeling the sun on my face and doing a little low-key “gardening”. I have some herbs and veggie seedlings on the go and picked up some flower seeds over the weekend to try my hand at that. I’m a novice when it comes to gardening, and actually feel quite anxious at the open possibilities of gardening, so I’ve decided to take the one-tiny-step-at-a-time approach. I actually find a lot of peace in picking the dead leaves, weeds and debris out of the gardens, seeing a little sprout from my seedlings and watching the life from last year's garden renew itself again. Finding calmness in the little things is helping me get through each day and sometimes that little sprout of joy is all I need to turn my spirits around.
I hope this serves as a reminder that we don't need to be accomplishing big things right now, that a focus on the small things can help calm the feelings of overwhelm and discontent you may be feeling inside. Be gentle with yourself.
Some moments of calm for Leah in the garden and the face of a proud planter of new seedlings
My thoughts have been all over the place. I’d like to root my response in this quote that I love from the activist and educator Mariame Kaba: "Let this radicalize you rather than lead you to despair.” The truth is that when we fill our own cups, we are preparing ourselves to give radical care and compassion to those around us. Our well-being is intertwined with our communities. Seeing evidence of radical care through local change-makers and organizations is what gives me hope. From community-organized fridges to volunteer-run encampment support networks, care has become an embodied practice for so many. Witnessing this and supporting through encouraging circulation and donation has helped me get by.
Alongside this witnessing, I am trying to lose myself in reading. I am currently enjoying Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype by Clarissa Pinkola Estés and Happy Hour by Toronto-based author Marlowe Granados. It’s still on my to-read list but a specialist also recommended to me the book Mind Over Mood by Dennis Greenberger as an introduction to cognitive therapy as a way of addressing anxiety and worry.
I try to read things that activate my imagination and self-reflection. I’ve been balancing this introspection by watching funny movies from my childhood and playing games with friends online as a way of quelling my Scorpionic tendency to spiral into overthinking.
Books and excerpts resonating with Jessica right now
I think the only way I'm getting by is through routine. I know myself and my unproductive coping mechanisms and feel really grateful to have some structure in place to keep it moving, even if that's just making sure I'm eating breakfast, lunch and dinner. One core piece is my bedtime routine that's been kicking butt lately thanks to the meditation app I use. I don't really meditate, but I do use the sleep content as a way to quiet my mind and switch off for the day.
As someone who's had trouble falling asleep since before I can remember, this has really changed the way I approach bedtime. I've never felt like I could just put a thought away for the day, and during these strange times there's even more on my mind than normal. It's so relieving to be gently coached out of my spiraling brain and into sleep, which in turn sets the next day up for a refreshed start. It really ends up being these little things for me that make the biggest impact. I hope you're also finding ways to set yourself up for each day, whether that's sleep (if you can find it) or a coffee break instead.
Photo of the Headspace app Pearl uses (image copyright The Sweet Setup)
Something that I used to enjoy was running and with nicer weather here, I try for an early morning run down at the lake shore (with a mask!). I benefit from this more than just physical activity. Having time, space and sometimes extra energy to sort out your thoughts really benefit a busy mind. If I'm not motivated enough in the morning, I'll try to jump around at home. I'll put on a fun playlist and dance it out! I definitely wish I could do this everyday but I'm human, I have good days and bad. Right now, if I can do it once or twice a week, then I'm on the right path!
One of Doreyjean's beautiful run views!
If you’ve been following Scout on Instagram, you may recall that times were tough for me this winter (a belated thank you to all those who rallied in vulnerability and support with me then <3). Following that post, I ended up folding in on myself even more and digging a real deep hole to cozy up in. I felt so overwhelmed and so guilty of my self-isolating habits, leaving messages unread, voicemails unheard and apps unopened, thinking how do I come out of this hole when I finally started wanting to pull myself back out. It was really hard. But one day, I just showed up. I found some funny GIFs (think George Costanza waving into the peephole) and slowly sent out messages to those who reached out. I’m far from being out of the thick of it; I have a lot of unmailed cards and unsent messages that still need tending, but I’m trying, a little bit at a time. Now, as we start to seemingly see some light at the end of this long tunnel, I wonder how I’ll be able to reconnect with those whom I care for so deeply but just haven't mustered the courage and energy to reach out to yet after so much time has passed. How can those relationships re-form or heal? In all of this, when all that weight piles on and as I try to bail out my boat, it’s hard not to feel so incredibly alone, like I’m the only one failing at maintaining these connections, that these friends deserve better. If you’re feeling the same, I’m so very sorry. My heart truly hurts for you and that weight you’re bearing, but I hope it helps to know you’re not alone as you read this.
In an effort to offer myself some comfort and care, I’ve been thinking about the community that naturally surrounds me. From my incredibly caring and compassionate friends and family to the friendly baristas, seamstresses, alchemists, potters, makers, and store owners behind my most treasured objects I couldn’t bear to be without, content creators who bring me joy and so many others in my past and present. There’s such a vast web of connections. They’re in moments. They’re through objects. They’re within feelings. They take on textures. They exist in the silence or, when I can muster the energy, in the deep and meaningful words I write. I realize, once I start looking around my home, recounting memories and seeing the objects that accompany each, that my relationships are abundant and so much can be achieved in the smallest of interactions. To you, I hope my little notes on orders and smiles behind the mask when I meet you curbside spark that little sense of abundance, that through this small interaction, you know this is my tiny, warm embrace to you. You are part of this happy web, this extensive and warm community. You're not alone.
A collection of photos from Erin's phone (many pre-pandemic) and across social of their abundant community
Breathe in. Breathe out.
It can be difficult to find the language to describe the collective shift that has taken place over the pandemic. However, before rushing to over-analyze and tune into our thinking minds, it is always important to check in with the body. Cultivating hobbies, finding art that resonates, or relying on a community that can support you are examples of the many ways that you can empower yourself to move through the days. Things can feel monotonous and despairing but you are not alone. The glimmers of hope that we stumble upon, the stories that we share and the vulnerability that we honour within ourselves—these are all portals that will propel us forward.
Jess is a pug-loving Toronto based writer, currently studying English literature. She joined the Scout team last August and enjoys spending time learning about how different artists and makers express themselves through their unique crafts.
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