When You Don’t Feel Like Yourself

Photo by Allan Bueno on Unsplash

I haven’t felt like myself lately.

I used to always be there for everyone around me with a pep talk for every situation. I listened to people’s problems, authentically gave them an ear, and told them that it was okay to not be okay — but that they were great and deserved great things.

I used to check in on my Facebook page asking if people had taken their meds, eaten, and had water. It was a nice reminder for my friends and for me to practice these basic tenets of self maintenance.

I used to laugh, a lot. I shared funny posts on Facebook and made people laugh at parties or when we were out at the local geek bar playing board games. I loved being the funny friend who always got a laugh.

I used to write every day. I used to work 8+ hours a day at my full time job and then work on my passion project developing my course or writing my book.

January wasn’t that long ago, when I hoped to get two book deals, run my course three or four times, and launch a full time coaching practice this year.

Now, I rest. I sleep in past 8am. I eat when I’m hungry, nap when I’m tired, and work part time at a job I truly enjoy.

I write when the words need to come out. Like they do now, when I thought to myself, “I haven’t been myself lately” and the response that floated back up from inside me was “Yes, you have.”

I’m always myself. My self is the part of me I need to take care of, because I didn’t used to do a very good job of it. My self has been subjected to a lot of beliefs about what I needed to achieve and how I needed to behave in order to deserve love and support and a salary.

My self, right now, needs to rest and recover from burning out at that full time job. My self is processing the fact that my social circle has been tinier than ever for the past eight months. My self is understanding that the shiny, happy, warm, cozy, family parts of the winter months aren’t happening this year.

My self has always been here, and is not measured by how frequently I give of myself to other people.

Looking at the list of things that I thought made me who I was — listening, encouraging, checking in, writing, working — those things are all still happening. Just slower and less frequent than before. And that’s okay.

My self is here. My self is growing stronger, I can feel it.

Last night I applied to a dream job and I woke up feeling peaceful and content. Because my self was peaceful and content.

I sleep better when I’m next to my partner, because my self is safe and loved and warm.

I can write a new post whenever I feel ready to put the words onto the page, because my self is not defined by how often I write. (Sometimes my job is defined by writing, but my self is not).

If I don’t feel like myself, it’s probably because I’m focusing too much on things outside of me instead of my actual, inner truth of knowing my self.

So if you don’t feel like yourself lately, it’s okay to not be okay. We’re going through a long-term, no-end-in-sight, global trauma together. We have no idea when we will feel safe again. Our collective mental health is touch and go.

But your self, the deep down parts of you that make you who you are inside, they’re not gone. They’re resting, being slow, and they will be there when you are ready for them again.

Love,
Caitlin

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How to Eat Ethically When You’re Recovering from an Eating Disorder

Photo by N I F T Y A R T ✍🏻 on Unsplash

My mother put me on my first diet when I was twelve.

I still remember the way she traced a circle in the palm of her hand to show our babysitter how big three ounces of meat was, to monitor our serving sizes. I also remember choking down raw broccoli and bell peppers — two foods I cannot eat raw without feeling ill, twenty years later. 

I became a vegetarian in 2002 when I was in eighth grade, for the animals. Around age 17, I became vegan entirely, but added eggs and dairy back into my diet quickly because it was nearly impossible to stay vegan in an omnivorous home. I remained steadfastly vegetarian through college.

Since then, I’ve been on-again-off-again with animal products, but I chose more ethical products from local farms and sustainable sources. 

I was always struggling to find a diet that felt okay ethically, while also balancing the desire to lose weight. Was it meat? Was it veganism? Was it raw veggies? Was it paleo? Was it keto? Was it intermittent fasting?

I aspired to be vegan because it felt like the most ethical, cleanest way to eat. But even a plant-based diet isn’t without cruelty and harm. 

When Your Quest for the Perfect Diet is Killing You 

After realizing in huge, blaring, neon letters in my mind last February that I had a full blown eating disorder, I stopped dieting altogether. I stopped counting calories, started eating tortillas at Chipotle again, and even ate refined sugar without hating myself.

I let all the rules about food fall away, leaving only the need to eat when I was hungry and trusting myself to do so. 

In this period of recovery, I had to let my aspirational veganism go. First, because eating eggs was a way I could actually eat something consistently without needing to fight with my mental health. Second, because a plant-based diet was something I was doing to change my body, rather than fuel it, and I needed a break from a weight loss mentality while recovering. And lastly, because literally nothing is perfect or without harm – not even a vegan diet.

The truth is, I needed to take care of myself. The weight of researching everything, measuring the validity of a food choice against its impact on animal welfare, human labor, carbon emissions, and everything else that goes into making a choice, was too heavy. My mental health suffered as I agonized over the morality of everything I ate. 

We Aren’t Winning Points 

Have you seen The Good Place? Spoilers ahead!

In The Good Place, when people on Earth die, they get sent to The Good Place or The Bad Place based on point totals of their actions during their lives. But as society developed, it became impossible to get into The Good Place even if you lived a perfect life, because every single action is more complex than it appears. 

Each tomato at the grocery store carries an invisible price tag of ethical costs. The pesticides degraded biodiversity in local insect life, the crops were harvested with prison labor or other exploitative practices, the seeds were patented and those patents were used to sue small local farmers when the wind deposited an errant seed on their land. 

Or, to quote Chidi Anagonye four times:

  • “Oh no! I used almond milk in my coffee, even though I knew about the negative environmental impact.” 
  • “I read an article saying that growing almonds was bad for the environment, and yet I continued to use almond milk in my coffee.” 
  • “Well, if it is Hell, I know why I’m here. Almond milk. I drank so much of it despite the negative environmental impacts.”
  • “So, we’re in the Bad Place, and I know why. Almond milk. I knew it was bad for the environment, but I loved the way it coated my tongue in a weird film.”

We cannot eat perfectly ethically in a society that prioritizes profit over people, over animal welfare, and over environmental sustainability. Corporate responsibility is so much bigger than individual action can hope to overcome. 

What does this have to do with my eating disorder? I was focused so much on eating only clean, healthy, safe foods that I would starve myself rather than eat something that wasn’t organic, wasn’t gluten-free, wasn’t sugar-free, etc. If it didn’t satisfy the rules of the clean eating deities of the day, it wasn’t okay to eat. 

Hungry after 8pm? Go to bed hungry, the rules say you can’t eat. Refined grains only once a day. Eat fruit on an empty stomach. Make everything out of cauliflower. 

I also continued my trauma around being forced to eat “healthy snacks” (usually raw vegetables I did not enjoy) as a child. I would pack carrots in my lunch and tell myself all day, “If you’re not hungry enough to eat the carrots, you’re not hungry.” I hate raw carrots. I starved myself thinking it was good for me. 

I could only eat perfect, healthy food. Learning something new about each food became dangerous. And so my list of foods it wasn’t okay to eat grew and grew, leaving me with precious little I could eat to sustain myself. 

Only sprouted grain bread. Only organic potatoes. Only grass-fed beef. Only half an apple. Only what fits in these containers. 

But we don’t have running point totals guiding the morality of our choices — dietary or otherwise. We can only do the best we can with the resources, information, and ability available to us. 

I still care about the ethics of my food choices. But I have to eat. I have to nourish myself. I have to let some of the rules relax. 

Rather than only eating certain things, what if our only job was to do our best and listen to what our bodies need? 

Being Okay with Imperfection

I eat cage-free eggs, and I eat fish. I am otherwise plant-based in my diet. I limit consumption of foods with a high human cost, such as quinoa (once an affordable staple in South America, now exorbitantly expensive and used as an export for our White American Vegan needs). I buy fair-trade coffee and chocolate. I should get back into the habit of buying the Dirty Dozen organic, but I don’t always. I try to buy whole, fresh foods without packaging, but I have fibromyalgia and sometimes my ability and energy level means I need to buy a bag of pre-chopped fresh or frozen veggies. 

And the imperfection is okay.

I cannot be perfect. But I can feed myself.

How to Eat Ethically When You’re Recovering from an Eating Disorder

Your first priority in eating while recovering from an eating disorder is to feed yourself and work on the mental health aspects of your recovery. But as you get further into recovery you may want to start investigating more sustainable and ethical food choices. However, if you find yourself feeling triggered or backsliding into disordered eating, please take a break and focus again on just feeding yourself and taking care of you. 

If it is not triggering to place limits on food in your recovery, you can start to do research into the sustainability and ethics of your food. 

Certifications and labels can help you check at a glance if a product meets certain standards. But sometimes labels can say things that sound nice but don’t actually have any standards attached. This can be hard to navigate as you start exploring more ethical food, so this list should break down what to look for as a next step on more ethical eating. 

Though certifications and labels may not be perfect, they do help us to vote with our dollars and show brands that people are willing to purchase products that prioritize more ethical and sustainable methods. The more people can purchase with ethics in mind, the more the market will shift to provide more options that meet those demands. 

  • Certified Organic: USDA Organic certification means that produce was grown without synthetic fertilizers, prohibited pesticides, sewage sludge, and irradiation. Organic also clarifies that the product contains no Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Organic animal products come from animals that meet welfare standards including outdoor access, no antibiotics or growth hormone treatments, and were fed an organic diet. Packaged organic products are made with at least 95% certified organic source ingredients. Note: Organic crops are still treated with pesticides, but they must be approved for organic use — always wash those fruits and veggies. Learn more about the USDA Organic label at the USDA website. You don’t have to buy everything organic — check out the EWG’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen list to learn which fruits and veggies are best purchased organic due to high pesticide levels. 
  • Rainforest Alliance Certified: Rainforest Alliance certifies farms that meet certain criteria, including environmental sustainability standards (climate-smart agriculture, deforestation, conserving biodiversity), working conditions standards (human rights, shared responsibility, living wage, gender equality), and more. You can check out all their standards at the Rainforest Alliance website
  • Fair Trade: A fair trade certification can be found on food, clothing, and other items that tend to have exploitative labor practices in their conventional production. A fair trade label protects against child labor, slavery, discrimination, union-busting, and environmental pollution – among so many other standards. This is a great label to start with if you want to move toward more ethical consumption. Coffee and chocolate are two major crops that benefit from a shift toward fair trade purchases. (Aldi is a great low-cost option for both of these!) Learn more from Fair Trade Certified and Fairtrade International, two organizations working toward more sustainable agriculture that prioritizes human rights. 
  • Certified Humane: Certified Humane is a nonprofit seeking to improve the lives of animals used in agriculture, and the organization is endorsed by 70 humane associations including the ASPCA. Like all things, they’re not perfect, but they make an effort. You can look up their standards for all animals on their website and decide for yourself if they meet the standards you have for your animal products. 
  • Cage Free: There are actually a lot of “cage free” standards depending on the certifying organization, and they are also (unsurprisingly) not perfect. But they do require chickens to be kept in better conditions than overcrowded factory farms. Check out this article from the Humane Society of the US on different cage free, free range, and other labels you might see. 

You can also shop more locally from farmer’s markets, local farms, and people who keep backyard hens for eggs — this way you can directly ask the source of your food what sort of practices they put into their produce and animal products. 

Access to Food is a Privilege

It is crucial to acknowledge the privilege in access to higher quality, organic, and local foods. Many people across the globe, including those of us in the United States, simply don’t have access to affordable food that meets every checkbox. 

It may be nutritionally ideal to eat fresh, organic, local produce that’s in season — but not everyone can. Whether due to budget, access to the stores and markets that provide these foods, the time it takes to shop and prepare meals while balancing work, life, and family responsibilities, etc. 

No diet is perfect or without consequence, from environmental effects to animal welfare to human exploitation. So please, do the best you can, and know that it is good enough. 

And for those people who would judge others for the food they can access and the time and energy they can put into researching foods (and I have been that judgmental person)… know that everyone is doing their best, and spend your energy donating to causes that help address food insecurity and advocating for better animal welfare and human rights in our agricultural systems. 

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How to Keep Your Body and Mind in Check When at Home

Health Trackers

Photo provided by Siege Media

Keeping up with your mental and physical state is extremely important, especially during times of uncertainty like these. Luckily, there are at-home tools to help you do just that. From a pain tracker that records your hourly symptoms, to a mindfulness tracker that marks your head-to-toe sensations, there are plenty of options available no matter your wellness goals.

Documenting your overall mental and physical well being can help you answer pivotal questions about who you are and how you react to stress. Some questions that these trackers can help answer are:

  • Have you ever wondered what triggers your bad mental health days?
  • How did you physically feel a week ago vs today? What caused this change, if any?
  • Have you drunk enough water today?

The pain, healthy habits, and mindfulness trackers explained below will help you answer the questions above, while allowing you to understand yourself a little bit more.

 

Pain Tracker 

 

A pain tracker uses colors to help you understand the level of pain you are experiencing. By being able to track your pain hour-by-hour, you have a great resource to bring to a doctor if and when you choose to seek help for your pain management.

 

Healthy Habits Tracker

 

Are there specific habits you want to implement into your daily routine? If so, the healthy habits tracker allows you to record how much sleep you’re getting, if you’re eating food that is good for you, how much water you are drinking daily, and anything else you want to monitor.  How you feel when you wake up and when you are about to go to sleep is also recorded, just to see what habits might make you physically and emotionally improved. 

 

Mindfulness Tracker 

 

The mindfulness tracker allows for awareness of your mental well-being and while taking into account what your triggers may be. By listing out your everyday moods, you can see how practicing mindfulness and practicing relaxation techniques are improving your overall, full body well-being. 

If you’re feeling lower than normal, journaling and taking a moment to be conscious of your thoughts can be beneficial to reflect with later on. If it’s one of your better days, identifying the differences in what you’ve been eating, how many hours of sleep you got, or even how much coffee you’ve had can help you incorporate those habits again.

To integrate mindfulness and other healthy habits into your daily routine, the health-management tracker can be printed and used one day at a time, or even one hour at a time. Follow the link to download the printable trackers!

 

What You Need to Know About Weight Gain During Social Distancing

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Photo by sheri silver on Unsplash

Now is not the time to freak out about your diet. 

Honestly, NO time is the time to freak out about your diet, for most people. 

You might gain weight during social isolation because we’re all stressed out and impulse buying cherries and pie crust (just me? I stress bake). Gaining weight is fine. You will fluctuate to your normal set point after the stressful period. 

Gaining weight is okay.

Stress or comfort eating is okay.

Snacking “mindlessly” is okay.

It’s all okay — this is an unprecedented time, and sometimes the convenience of a frozen dinner you can throw in the oven on Friday after a timey-wimey work from home week is worth the sanity.

We have to take more time between grocery trips, and we can’t go out mid-week to top up on fresh produce. So that means canned food, frozen food, shelf-stable food.

We have to stay fed, but we don’t have to stay low-carb, counting macros, and sticking to a diet when the global stress level is off the charts.

Yes, do what you can to eat a balanced diet and include fruits and vegetables along with whole grains, and the whole healthy eating nine yards. But you have permission to not be on a diet right now (and forever after this is over).

Exercise During Social Distancing

Can’t get to the gym? You’re also not obligated to keep up a strict exercise regimen right now, especially if you’ve been ill or might become ill. The best thing you can do right now is be as healthy – and rested – as possible. 

Take this time to rest your body.

Embrace joyful movement. Do exercise that makes sense and makes you feel good. This could include taking a walk around the block or a short bike ride if you can go outside. You can do some gentle stretches or yoga. Lift weights or do home calisthenics if these are part of your regular routine and you want to continue them. 

But it’s okay if you just rest and recover right now without an exercise regimen. 

Diet Culture Resources

I highly recommend these amazing books to help you break the diet cycle so you don’t hate yourself for quarantine snacks — they might change your life for long after this social distancing period is over! 

The Fuck It Diet by Caroline Dooner

Health At Every Size by Lindo Bacon 

PS. I overcame my eating disorder with the help of the books above, and now I help others overcome boundaries and traumatic triggers in a six week class that reframes the usual negative spiral in your head. Email me to get on the roster for 50% off!

How to Work From Home for the First Time

A lot of us are working from home for the foreseeable future, some for the first time. It’s a big change to routine and it makes everything feel a little bit off. 

I’m used to working from home a couple days a week, but this feels different for me too.

Because it’s not really “working from home.” It’s being at home while big global events are happening and it’s not safe to do things you normally do…and trying to do your normal work.

It’s hard to focus, because you just want to go check the news all the time. But when it’s time for the show to go on, here are some tips for making work from home during this time feel a little more normal: 

  1. Shower and get dressed. It’s tempting to work all day in your PJs, but freshening up in the morning and getting some clean undies on will help you start the day in a good mood. This does not mean uncomfortable work clothes, just something clean and fresh. Stay comfy!
  2. Make a ritual. Normally we have a commute to mark the transition into and out of “work mode.” Create a morning and evening ritual to mark the start and end to your work day. This could mean making a cup of coffee and listening to your usual morning podcast or audiobook on the couch, taking an evening walk, or anything that helps you separate your day for work life balance when you work from home.
  3. Turn off your email. Just because you work from home and you’re home 24/7 doesn’t mean work is now 24/7. Separate work time and personal time by turning off your work computer or email program when it’s quitting time.
  4. Take breaks. Take your full lunch break and go outside if the weather is nice. Walk around the block for some fresh air. Take regular water and bathroom breaks, and give your eyes a break from screens at least once an hour for a few minutes.
  5. Make a shiny object list. When you’re working from home, you might be tempted to put in a load of laundry, quickly do the dishes, or take out the trash. These are fine to work into your breaks, but if you try to keep them in your brain you’ll get distracted. Keep a notepad nearby so you can write down the things you want to handle during break times. It’s also perfectly fine to save the household stuff for after the workday is complete; you don’t have to be the world’s most efficient person.
  6. Downtime is sacred. When you work from home, all the days can run together and Saturday might not feel any different. Make sure to plan relaxing, restorative, and creative time for your downtime so that you aren’t stressing over being productive all the time.

Any other advice for our work from home friends? Drop it in the comments. 

PS. I’m teaching folks how to improve their boundaries after trauma in a six week class. We start April 13, so there’s still time to reserve your spot. Shoot me an email and we’ll get you on the list.

Mindfulness Meditation for Healing

It’s okay to be having a hard time right now. 

I want to feel normal, but things aren’t normal. The world is in chaos and people are scared, stressed, and looking for hope. 

It’s okay to feel weird. It’s okay to feel worried. It’s okay to feel like you’ve done everything you can and you’re going to hunker down for a while and wait. 

It’s okay not to know what the next step is. 

For the time it takes to read this blog, let’s do a mindfulness meditation for healing.

Just for right now, while you read this, I want you to take deep belly breaths and let them out slowly. You can count to four and hold or just breathe deeply, letting your natural rhythm tell you when to breathe in and out. 

As you inhale, think about bringing healing and recovery to yourself. You can imagine a warm light around you, keeping you in a safe space, or any other visualization that feels good (including none at all). 

As you exhale, send that healing energy out into the world. Send that warm light out through your neighborhood, your city, your state, and outward. 

Inhale, heal yourself. 

Exhale, heal the world. 

Imagine if everyone found a tiny bit of peace for themselves and then sent it onward.

PS. I’m teaching folks how to improve their boundaries after trauma in a six week class. We start April 13, so there’s still time to reserve your spot. Just shoot me an email.

Why Can’t We Stay The F*ck Home? Why We Need Social Distancing

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Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

We all know someone who is struggling with social distancing. Someone who is going from store to store, sort of understanding the risk but unable to help themselves and just sit down.

It’s annoying, it’s frustrating, it’s even understandable. Staying at home when you want to is one thing, but being made to do it makes you feel stressed and, well, isolated.

But let’s be totally clear: it’s dangerous.

What is Social Distancing?

Social distancing, or physical distancing, is the practice of maintaining a physical distance to prevent the spread of contagious disease. It’s not the same as quarantine, which is a complete lack of contact with the outside world, but people are using the terms somewhat interchangeably. 

Basically, stay in your home as much as possible, and when you leave your home, stay a minimum of six feet away from people. At the grocery store. On a walk. Wherever you go, there should be a six foot radius around you.

Social distancing in practice is a set of individual behaviors. For some, it means not leaving their house at all. For others, it means only going to work.

But some seem to think it means to carry on like normal but use hand sanitizer. 

Social distancing is how we buy time.

Time for our hospitals to treat those currently sick before more get sick. Time for the science to catch up. Time for better treatments to be found. Social distancing is the only thing that can buy us that time.

Social Distancing Makes a Difference

At CV-19’s minimum case fatality rate (CFR), 3.8% of cases will die.

Some people are on board with the idea that these people are going to die anyway, so why not just “save the economy” and stop social distancing?

Besides the obvious moral and ethical issues with sacrificing human lives for the good of the economy (I’m judging you), there are two scientific reasons.

1) Those people may not die if we can flatten the curve to allow time for more consistent treatments and preventive measures to be developed 

2) The CFR can increase 

Flatten the Curve

Every person has about 300 people in their network. At 3.8%, that’s about 11.4 people you know who will die if CV-19 continues to spread widely without any controlling measures. 

Eleven people in your life that some would say are an acceptable cost for the sake of the economy.

As hospitals fill up and ventilators are in short supply for breathing complications, the best thing we can do is make sure the virus spreads as slowly as possible and keep our vulnerable populations as protected as possible.

We can limit how fast it spreads with social distancing measures to buy those people that time. 

COVID-19 Fatalities By the Numbers

Number two tells us about maximum fatalities. Minimum case fatality rate has a maximum counterpart. Approximately 18-22% of confirmed cases have needed hospitalization. Globally, the rate is 20.2%, so that’s roughly the maximum CFR.

Ideally, we never determine the max CFR by experience, only by calculation. 

CFR? Percentages? It’s all technical language and calculation driven math. 

Remember those 11.4 people you know that some are okay with sacrificing to lift the economically impacting measures? If we lift the measures and overwhelm our hospital systems, that number jumps to 60.6 people you know that could die.

The minimum of 3.8% is IDEAL, meaning everyone has access to medical care. The maximum of 20.2% is what happens when our hospitals are overrun.

Right now, we’re trending up. 4.01% a few days ago, then 4.31%. 4.64%. 4.72% as of March 29.

That means among those you know, that 11.4 is already 12.6. 

The Psychology of Capitalism

We have trouble staying home because we feel like “staying home” means being useless and not contributing. The political blustering about the economy’s trouble due to social distancing hits this home.

We’re taught from a young age that our value lies in how much value we add to society. 

Productivity means we are valuable. We contribute. We have a real job. 

Anyone who can’t participate at the average level of productivity is shamed and made to feel guilty and less-than. Disabled people. Underemployed people. People who work minimum wage jobs – which, I may point out, are now being highlighted as the essential roles that are keeping our society running at all.

In times of stress and crisis, we feel helpless we want to feel helpful. We want to do something so we’re not just sitting at home feeling useless. 

Because productivity is intrinsically associated with our personal worth in a capitalist society. We can’t just sit at home when there are productive things to be done. Like grocery shopping, for example.

In times of stress and crisis (say, a global pandemic), once a few people start to panic and stock up a surplus of goods, it cascades and causes more and more people to hoard and compete for resources.

Those who can stock up are immensely privileged if they can afford to buy weeks’ worth of food at a time. Parents on WIC assistance can’t get the food they need when people have cleaned out the shelves in a blind panic. People who need to wait until their SNAP benefits renew so they can get their usual groceries may also face empty shelves due to the people with liquid cash coming through to fill their bunker with canned peaches.

It’s biological. The stress of an oncoming crisis, and the uncertainty that comes with it, increases cortisol production which causes an impulse to hoard resources. Prehistorically speaking, stress means you’re going to run out of food, so you have to go get the food before anyone else can.

But we’re in 2020, and despite the global pandemic going on, we need to remember that the stores are staying open and we will not run out of food.

We need less “every man for himself” and more community support and resource sharing. Even if that sharing just means leaving groceries for your neighbors.

Capitalism encourages competition over cooperation. We can consciously choose otherwise.

How to Social Distance Like a Pro

  • Cancel gatherings, outings, and social situations
  • Visit virtually, play games online, and meet your social needs as much as possible to reduce feeling isolated
  • Restrict grocery shopping to one time per week or less.
    • When shopping:
      • Shop via pickup or delivery, if possible
      • Take a list
      • Be flexible and prepared to make substitutions – you don’t need a specific brand of toilet paper or to go to 5 stores looking for it
      • Maintain 6 feet of distance from others
      • Avoid touching your face (you can wear a cloth mask to help re-train yourself away from frequent face touching – be sure to wash it frequently)
      • Be patient and give people space 
      • Avoid going to multiple stores (one store is enough exposure, get what you need and go home in one trip)
      • Bring along disinfecting wipes for your cart
      • Wash your hands thoroughly when you get home for 20 seconds with soap and water
      • Disinfect your phone and phone case when you get home, because you probably touched it a lot without realizing
  • Only go into public for groceries, necessary medical care.
  • Focus on mental health before productivity
    • Use telehealth appointments with your therapist
    • Free therapy is available at 7cups.com
    • Practice basic self-care like making sure you drink water, shower/wash your hair regularly, try to get some fresh air outside or open the windows, and eat regularly 
  • Don’t freak out about stress/comfort eating or snacking
  • Realize risk of infection increases exponentially each day, as cases increase, so if you’re going to need it, it’s better to get it today than tomorrow (prescriptions, food)
  • Tip your delivery drivers like your life depends on them

Choose Community 

Social distancing is hard because many of us are feeling isolated, helpless, and afraid right now. But it works, and it’s necessary.

Social distancing works, but only if you act based on the idea that YOU are infectious. Assume you are. Act accordingly. Keep those numbers down and help flatten the curve.

If you need to be productive, you can by helping others not feel isolated, not by running around. If you want to be productive right now, do something helpful from your home. 

  • Donate to charities helping support front-line healthcare workers
  • Share news stories about worker strikes for hazard pay and benefits
  • Create art and share it with others
  • Lead an online class in something you’re an expert on (people are learning all kinds of things right now)
  • Check in with friends to give them someone to talk to
  • Add joy to the world however you can

Data for this article was provided by Ash Roulston.

Easy Ways to Check In With Your Friends

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Photo by Michael Sum on Unsplash

I’m in Ohio, and we’re pretty much shut down. School’s out, people are working from home, and it’s stressful. To minimize the spread of the COVID-19 virus and flatten the curve, we’re supposed to isolate ourselves as much as possible from other people. 

Luckily, we live in the age of the internet, which means we can still socialize and connect with others, even though we can’t see them in person. 

Everyone’s stressed right now and a check-in would go a long way toward feeling connected. And for those of us with mental illness like anxiety and depression, reaching out for support can be especially difficult. 

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to reach out to five friends to check in on them. See if anyone wants to be regular check-in buddies, and you can have a quick (or not so quick) chat every day to connect and have some social interaction.

It doesn’t have to be a heavy check-in. Try any of these ideas:

  • Send each other a funny meme or a picture of your pet
  • Play an online game together
  • Hop on Skype while you cook dinner and act like you’re on a cooking show
  • FaceTime after work hours to chat about your day
  • Watch a movie together and text about it or video chat while you watch

Offering to check in with a friend is an easy way to help support the people in your life during a stressful time.

Consider this your check-in from me. How are you doing today? Follow me on Instagram and I’ll send cat pics whenever you need them!

PS. My group coaching course to reframe the way you look at your boundaries after trauma starts on Monday 4/13 and I have a few spots left. Shoot me an email to get on the roster at 50% off list price!

Social Isolation Doesn’t Have to Be Monotonous

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Photo by Noah Silliman on Unsplash

It’s a scary time in the world right now. The experts advise us to stay inside, self-isolate, in order to protect others from the spread of COVID-19. But we are social creatures, and even as someone who loves to stay home, I am feeling like I’m in the early scenes of a movie where shit is about to get very real. 

There’s a line between panic and caution, and I want you to be cautious. Wash your hands frequently, avoid touching your face, and disinfect frequently touched surfaces like doorknobs, phones, and your steering wheel and gearshift in your car. Stay inside as much as you can, and if you do go out, stay away from crowded places. 

There’s also a line between social distancing and solitary confinement.

Now is the time to recover and rest from the constant to-do list of your life. If you can work from home, do it. Use the time you used to commute to get extra sleep. Make sure you turn off your work email after quitting time. Honor that boundary between your personal time and work time.

Water and wipe down all of your houseplants. Pour care into yourself too. Remember to hydrate. 

Break out your stash of “for a rainy day” spa items and do a face mask or have a bubble bath. Paint your nails. Experiment with bold, fun makeup looks. 

Grab your yarn and needles and finally learn to master a knitting stitch. Teach your kids how to crochet. Paint something. Write poetry. Journal. You may be stuck at home, but it doesn’t mean you’re stuck doing nothing. 

Get online and video chat your friends while you watch a movie together. 

Remember that you are not alone. 

Looking for something to read while you’re home? “The Gaslighting of the Millennial Generation” is available on Kindle, Audible, and Google Books!

Tiny Ways My Life Has Changed During COVID-19 Isolation

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Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Obviously, big things are happening right now. We’re in the midst of a global health crisis. People are scared.

Lives have changed in big ways, but they’ve also changed in small ways. Sometimes the small things feel weirder than the big things.

I’m now in my third week of working from home full time.

I wash my hands a lot. I disinfect my phone a lot. I always knew phones were gross, but now a gross phone is a scary phone.

I’m going to the grocery store about once a week, but I think I stocked up enough to go two weeks this time. I keep having an urge to bake, and I needed to get ingredients. I continue eating the meal groceries I bought two and a half weeks ago, because that was practical Caitlin shopping. This is stress baking Caitlin, who is also learning to do cool eyeshadow and make cocktails.

It’s my birthday in two weeks. I was planning a party at my favorite local bar. My birthday has been postponed until further notice. I Venmo someone on the staff a $10 tip every time I get drunk in my house.

My sister is a teacher and school is out for the next month. She’s video chatting students to check in.

I’m still estranged from my parents, even though my dad reached out to “see if I was okay.” I had to evaluate if my boundaries still made sense in the face of a global health crisis. I decided they were. The boundary didn’t change, but the guilt feels a little worse.

I finally, after six months on a wait list, got to download Brene Brown’s “Daring Greatly” on the Libby app.

I haven’t had a commute in two weeks and won’t for at least four more. I try to make time to sit at my kitchen table and listen to Brene for about twenty minutes before the need to stand up and do something else consumes me.

I am so used to being in the car to start and end my day.

I woke up on the first Saturday at 10:17am and was sure I was late for work. It’s hard to know what day it is. My coworker called in for our Thursday conference call on Wednesday.

My friend had to order yoga pants and tee shirts from Target because she didn’t own non-work clothes.

I hired an employee at work. I will onboard and train her remotely.

I shaved off the back of my hair because when it gets too long and shaggy that’s my cue to go to the salon.

My eating disorder (I call it Carl) has gotten really weird about worrying that I will run out of food, so sometimes I am hungry for a while before I remember I am allowed to eat and there is plenty of food and I will not go hungry if I eat two servings of something. I am not rationing. Did I mention the pie?

I celebrated one month of dating my boyfriend via text. I write him letters and mail him watercolor paintings (I managed to keep them a surprise!), and we do video calls to see each other’s face. It’s a lesson in realizing I bring value to a relationship even when I am not physically with my partner to do things for them. That is comforting.

I miss sex.

It feels like my roommate and I have spent more time in the same place over the past two weeks than we did in the previous two months.

Dining room chairs are not ergonomic.

I tip generously – at least 25%.

I spend more time with my coworkers hanging out on Skype after work hours than we ever used to spend together when we worked in the office. I feel more like friends with them than I ever have.

I’m not using this time to become the most productive, self-improved version of myself just because there’s nothing else to do.

This is trauma. It’s big trauma, and I think it will affect us for the rest of our lives.

Some days I am productive. Some days I am not. Both of these are okay.

You can just survive right now. You can notice the tiny little ways this has changed your life.

You can be frustrated that you finally got off the Libby wait list and inexplicably have no commute anymore. (I really want to finish this book).

In what little ways has your life changed?

PS. If you’re looking for reading material, my book is available for Kindle and Audible, even if you don’t have a commute.