This must be my lucky month – I found two quizzes I wanted to ‘play’ with! (The first was a food quiz, which appears here). The new one was in the Winter issue of Marie Claire and deals with inner peace and related topics. The quiz was a series of fill in the blank sentences so I’m changing the format a bit and skipping a few questions which were too New Age-y for me.
Social media’s impact on my sense of well-being: It depends what’s going on the in the world and in the author world. Some days I just come away feeling nicely connected and caught up with my community of authors and scifi romance folks and other days – especially if the world is full of stressful events, I’ll be quite anxious. I have to self monitor my consumption of social media at times and ask myself “Is this making me happy right now?” No doom scrolling!
My definition of a mental health day: I don’t go on-line and I sit in bed all day, drink tea, pet the cat, nap and READ, These are very rare, by the way.
I unwind by: reading, taking a walk, watching a good movie. Sometimes I’ll ‘reset’ with a nap.
My happy place: With my family, especially the grandchildren, who are one year old, four years old and 18.
Not-so-great coping mechanism: Eating sugary foods. Sometimes I tell myself if I covered the entire table with all my favorite desserts, and could eat them without making myself sick (or gaining weight!), it still wouldn’t be enough because – for me anyway – the sugar just makes me want more sugar and there’s no end to it. So, I have to be pretty stringent about one piece of cake or one chocolate chip cookie dough Larabar. One and done.
When I’m being pulled in many directions: I stop, make a list of my actual top priorities and then break the tasks into bite sizes. We call being pulled in multiple directions ‘dithering’ in our household and I’ve learned to pick one thing and do it and do not let myself feel guilty I’m not doing the other thousand things. Oner thing at a time!
If I’m stressed before bed: I listen to music.
What really put things into perspective? Three life-changing events: Becoming a mother. Becoming a widow with a 3 and 5 year old. Nothing in my entire life will ever be as hard. Nearly dying when I choked on food. I mean, I was within seconds of dying but for a determined and strong friend who did the Heimlich Maneuver 14 times (literally). The following 24 hours were very surreal to me, having come so close to dying and I did a lot of thinking.
I feel the most confident when: It’s “my subject” – like scifi romance or in the old day job, process improvement, government subcontracts, etc. – and also when I feel prepared.
My comfort food is: Chocolate sticks, an old family recipe which I improved as a 7 year old by tripling the amount of chocolate. It’s our traditional consoling food in the family when someone has a bad day or a disaster. But most days I make a cup of tea in a pretty china cup and savor it.
Song I put on for positive vibes: It kind of depends on my mood but “It’s Gonna Be All Right” by Gerry and the Pacemakers works. So does “Fun Fun Fun” by the Beach Boys. If you hear me humming or singing the old standard “Blue Skies”, watch out because apparently I only do that when I’m upset. (My family and people who have worked for me can all testify to that.) The first song I ever remember hearing was my father singing “The Riff Song” from the old musical “Desert Song” by Sigmund Romberg. It’s very dramatic…he’d sing it for me on request when I was little because I enjoyed it so much. He was an amateur opera singer and could really belt out the song.
Song that makes me cry: ‘Amazing Grace.’ ‘Ode to Joy.’ ‘My Heart Will Go On.’
TV Show I watch to De-Stress: I like reality competitions based on some skill, like Top Chef, Project Runway, Face-Off…I enjoy ‘Making the Team’ about the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders…when I was going through a particularly anxious time, I could only go to sleep if I had ‘Big Bang Theory’ on, so I binge watched every season of that, in order, for weeks.
My advice to myself when feeling low: Pick something and DO IT. Even if it’s taking a walk or going for a drive. Don’t just sit and wallow in the dark mood. Put myself in motion.
I think meditation is: Very helpful. I don’t meditate regularly but I have a focal point when I need it – a mental picture from my childhood of a very favorite place and time – and I really lose myself in it. I can bring my blood pressure and my heart rate wayyyy down in 15 minutes if I really concentrate on just being there.
My security blanket is: I don’t have one? I do like very soft blankets and Squishmallow plush stuffed animals (which are also whimsical) but I can’t say any of them are a specific comfort item. I do retreat to bed and curl up when I’m particularly overwhelmed! And of course there’s Jake the Cat and his excellent purr. He’s a very comforting companion.
I will say it also helps to talk to a close friend or my daughters…they get me and they’re excellent listeners. Hugs are good too (once we get out of the pandemic). And one of my sons-in-law is the calmest person I ever met. He’s like a deep mountain lake of calm and no matter how spun up I am about something, talking to him or just being around him is very soothing.
VS adds: I have a lucky charm, which is a religious medal I got at the shrine of Our Lady of Guadeloupe which I’ve had for decades. I got it at the actual basilica where the cloak containing the image is housed. I never take it off.
My favorite non-medicine medicine: Tea. Also plain water. I have to drink a prodigious amount of water daily, I’ve found. I wish I’d accepted that reality years ago. I also discovered when I ruthlessly trimmed salt from my diet because of my high blood pressure that it had an amazing effect on my anxiety, as in minimal salt (and minimal sugary stuff) left me feeling much calmer. Staying properly hydrated also helps with my atrial fibrillation. I finally got smart after about the third trip to the hospital with an out of control heartbeat where the diagnosis was dehydration…
My mental health mantra: “One thing at a time.” Also, I’m prone to reminding myself of the wisdom of Mark Twain, who is quoted as saying most of the things he worried about never happened.
I can get really spun up over stuff, especially in the evening. (I’m a morning person, all happy go lucky and optimistic. But at night – watch out!) Once, when we lived in a brushfire prone area, there was a night where I got really worried about the long dry grass in the backyard – I don’t remember what set this train of thought off, probably a brushfire on the evening news, somewhere relatively nearby – and I finally snapped myself out of it by firmly reminding myself I wasn’t going to go mow the yard at one in the morning so I should just go to sleep. Which I did LOL.
For me, it’s mostly about not allowing myself to get too deep into thinking about all the catastrophic possibilities, which as Mark Twain pointed out, will most likely never happen anyway. Make a plan and move on. I also call it “author brain” because as soon as any idea presents itself to me, I’m immediately thinking about the possible plot developments and all the things which could happen next, and then…
Yeah, time to come back down to Earth and move on with the day!