The first affirmation in my new book, Dear Lauren, Love Mom: 31 Days of Affirmations for My Daughter, For Myself, and for YOU is” I Am Worth It, Just As I Am.” Another is “I Will Be Kind to Myself.”
Give yourself the gifts of exercise and rest Regular exercise changes brain chemistry in ways that fight depression and ease pain. Though many classes and groups practice social distancing and will definitely increase social outlets, you don’t have to go out and you don’t have to become a jock. There are online exercise classes and communities. You can also walk, dance, or march in place while you’re watching TV. Just do something for at least 30 minutes a day, 4 days a week.
Try to get at least 7 hours of sleep every night and give yourself 10 or 15 minutes to wind down before bed: a bubble bath, stretching, light reading, meditation, prayer. Yes, you can. The people in your family won’t die if you’re not available to them for 10 or 15 minutes. Sleep in a dark, cool room. Put the tech down! Set your alarm to wake you with relaxing tones. I have an alarm clock that mimics the sunrise so no matter what time of year it is or what time I need to get up, I can wake to the sun. It also gives me wind chimes, which I love. This really helps when I take cruises. I’m too cheap to get a room with a porthole.
Sunlight is important for everyone, but some of us have seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a condition that causes depressive symptoms between autumn and spring when the days are shorter. The timing of the pandemic made things worse for people with SAD. Many of us have it, didn’t recognize it, and never discussed it with our doctors. One treatment is a lightbox that gives you sunlight without the UV rays that risk burns and skin cancer. You can find these devices online, but don’t fall for the gimmicks. The box must expose your face to the light from a distance of no more than a few feet. You should not look directly at the light, and don’t buy overhead lighting or lamps that shine down on what you’re reading. Learn more at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20364722
Be careful with pleasure-seeking behaviors.
With the pandemic and the many sources of turmoil around us, we all need comfort. Still, we need to moderate how we use alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, and other drugs, shop, gamble, watch TV, seek sexual encounters, or indulge in other behaviors that give a quick pleasure-rush, or dulls our senses for temporary respite. If you feel uncomfortable when you don’t perform a behavior, it could be compulsive and therefore dangerous. Consider counseling.
Don’t be afraid to get professional counseling. Seeing a counselor doesn’t mean you’re crazy. When your car isn’t working, you call a mechanic, right? Think of behavioral health counselors as mechanics who tune up your emotional engine. For the faithful, seeing a counselor isn’t a lack of spiritual trust. One of my pastors said, “Counseling helps you clarify the things you need to pray about.” Check with your health insurance plan first. If it doesn’t cover counseling, churches and community organizations often offer free or low-cost services. There are also online support groups and counseling services where the initial evaluation is free.
Dear Lauren, Love Mom is available at Amazon.com. Give copies to everyone you love and want to encourage through this crisis and make sure one of those people is YOU. (-: Also check out the new video. Follow Dr. Cheryl on Facebook to learn about upcoming events including a video book discussion in September. Registration starts next week.