Tag Archives: gratitude

Mental Health During a Pandemic: 9 Ways to Cope With Loneliness

Whether living alone, with family members, or roommates most of us are facing some degree of loneliness during this time of social isolation and COVID-19. And there’s no getting around the fact that loneliness has a profound impact on our mental health. We aren’t able to have the usual in person interactions that provided a sense of belonging and community that as human beings we need. You may also be noticing now with less in person interaction how much these connections with others kept you afloat, feeling a sense of ease and joy, before the pandemic hit.  

 

During this time of social isolation we now confront the uncomfortable experience of loneliness. Loneliness is a natural human emotion that every human being experiences. It can feel all-consuming, overwhelming, and, at times, debilitating. Like all emotions, loneliness comes and goes. However, serious issues can arise when loneliness becomes chronic as it affects a person’s physical, mental, and emotional health. 

 

According to one study, co-published by Louise Hawkley, chronic loneliness has been linked to depression, poor sleep quality, and even a weakened immune system. 

 

Loneliness can set in when an individual feels they do not have adequate social, emotional, or financial support. Feelings of loneliness also occur whether you are surrounded by people or not. Therefore, loneliness and its implications for your health depends on the quality of connection you have with other people, as well as the quality of connection you have with yourself. 

 

With most of us under strict order to stay home and maintain social distancing when we are around people, it is important to notice how loneliness is impacting your mental health.

 

So, how do you cope with loneliness?

 

First, it is important to acknowledge that it is an unrealistic expectation to completely eliminate loneliness. However there are action steps a person can take – especially during this time of social isolation – to mitigate and move through the feelings of loneliness that arise.

 

9 ACTION ITEMS YOU CAN TAKE DURING SOCIAL ISOLATION TO COPE WITH LONELINESS

There is no “one size fits all” protocol for how to cope with loneliness. Below are some suggestions of practices and action items for you to navigate your own natural rhythm through this process. You are encouraged to explore and see what is helpful for you and what is not. As always, please reach out to a mental health professional if you are in need of additional support. 

 

  1. Practice the RAIN mindfulness technique. RAIN is a four-step process that stands for “Recognize, Allow, Investigate, Natural Awareness or Non-idenfitication.” In the first step, Recognize what you are experiencing and feeling. Next, Allow what you are experiencing to be exactly as it is without attempting to change or fix it. Then Investigate your experience with self-compassion and as little judgment as possible. Finally, Natural Awareness comes from not identifying with the situation or experience. In other words: you are not your loneliness. With Natural Awareness you might begin to see some separation between who you are and what you experience: the emotions, feelings, and sensations that come and go.  You can find more RAIN resources by visiting Tara Brach’s website.

 

  1. Schedule one phone or video call per week with a friend or family member. Treat these calls the same way you would schedule meeting up with a friend for a coffee or walk. If you are able to schedule more than one call per week, go for it! If not, one call per week is certainly sufficient. The intention is simply to have something on your calendar where you know you’ll be making a personal connection with someone. It may give you something to look forward to and alleviate the pressure of making time to connect with other people when you are in the midst of feeling lonely. While on this call, put anything away that might distract you such as your phone and immerse yourself in the connection you are cultivating with the other person. Be as attentive to them as possible when you listen because often we feel more connected when we feel valued by other people. In the same vein, you can ask your friend to hold space to listen to you. Share as little or as much as you feel comfortable with. 

 

  1. Write a letter or email to a trusted, beloved friend or family member. In this letter you might let them know how you’ve been spending your time during social isolation – including what you’ve enjoyed as well as what challenges you’ve faced. If you are writing a hand-written letter, you can also get creative with including drawings, different colored pen or pencils, and even sending a handmade creation to your friend.

 

  1. Take a walk in your neighborhood and say hello to anyone you pass by. Leave your phone at home so you can focus as much of your attention as possible on your movement (walking) and engagement with others as you say/nod hello. Notice these small, yet powerful interactions with others that can occur even while honoring social distancing. Consider making relaxed yet meaningful eye contact with those you pass by. This can be a useful action item if you aren’t feeling up for a full on conversation with someone but are seeking some human to human connection. Notice how people respond when you wave, say hi, or smile at them. Not everyone will smile back! But you might be surprised at the responses you draw out of people. 

 

  1. Do a body scan. When you feel lonely, where do you experience the loneliness in your body? It might be a tightening in your chest or a tingling pins and needles sensation in the back of your neck. Set a timer for 5-15 minutes and sit (or lie down) with the physical sensation of loneliness in your body. See if you can close your eyes as you do the body scan. Does the loneliness sensation have a color? What about a shape? Maybe place a hand over the part of your body where you physically notice the loneliness. Sometimes when you experience loneliness you are also missing physical touch so you can offer yourself some compassionate touch just by placing your hand over your heart or belly. Give the sensation all of your attention for the selected duration of time. If it helps, play some music that helps you ground and relax.

 

  1. Share how you are feeling with someone you trust. Whether it be a trusted friend, family member, or mental health professional, sometimes describing your feelings to someone can really help lighten the load. Let the person know that you just need them to listen and be a trusting refuge for you at this time. If you don’t already have a therapist or other mental health professional, we advise seeking one out.

 

  1. Attend a virtual group workout. There is an abundance of Zoom workouts during social isolation and it is a great way to exercise with others and feel the sense of community we as humans need. Attending a virtual workout also benefits those who are more introverted but still would like to share some time with other people. Also, moving the body in a mindful, intentional way can really help shift your mindset and move emotions that are pent up or stuck.

 

  1. Make a list of people in your life who support you. This is a simple practice that can remind you that you are not alone, despite the loneliness you are feeling. Include those that support you in major ways, such as friends and family, but also those who’s support is still meaningful but perhaps less obvious, like a friendly neighbor or store clerk. Once you’ve made your list, select one or two people to write a thank you note to. You may choose to send the letter or hold onto it. The purpose of this action step is to experience gratitude which can almost immediately give us a sense of connection to the world around us.

 

  1. Spend time doing something you love to do, alone. Whether it be writing, painting, playing music, exercising, baking choose an activity or something you like to do or that you’re interested in learning more about and spend some time with yourself alone. If this is something you are brand new to, start by engaging in the activity for just 10-15 minutes and work your way up to 45 minutes to an hour. Learning to enjoy our own company is a great skill to cope with loneliness. This is especially helpful if you live alone and find you have ample time to yourself. You don’t have to be productive and you don’t have to excel at the activity. What’s important is that you enjoy it. An add-on to this action item is to call in a friend or acquaintance to virtually join you in this activity. Maybe you share a video call while you both paint or, alternatively, paint on your own and then connect after to share your works of art with each other.

 

I sincerely hope that you’ve found something from this list that sparks a bit of inspiration for you. Whether it’s an exact action item, or you’ve come up with one on your own. This list is not exhaustive and working with our emotions is not a one size fits all process. Most importantly, be patient and compassionate with yourself as you better understand and learn to cope with loneliness. Remember that loneliness, to varying degrees, is something that’s affecting all of us in these times. You are not alone in your loneliness. We are in this together.

 

While I am not a therapist or medical professional, I am an active, compassionate listener. If you need someone to talk to, please contact me directly at maggie.converse@gmail.com

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How I learned to slow down and stop over-exercising

The more time I spent going on hikes and exploring parks and trails, the more I realize that time spent in nature has greatly helped curate my perspective on movement and exercise.

 

Nature forced me to slow down.

 

I spent years swimming in lakes and oceans, cycling through hills and mountains, and running roads and trails. This was all in the name of triathlons, half-marathons, half-ironmans, dozens of 5ks and 10ks, a marathon, and an ironman.

 

The irony is not lost on me that it was my training for various races, over the course of about 5 years, that got me spending more and more time outside. To the point that outside became my most favorite place in the world (maybe second to curled up on the couch with a dog and a good book.)

 

Moving back to CT several years ago I found myself hiking and running trails in Easton, Redding, and Weston. I got a dog and spent even more time exploring local trails. I started booking trips not around races, but around nature – national parks, seashores, and other hidden treasures the earth had to show me.

 

I couldn’t exactly pinpoint it but I always felt like I couldn’t spend enough time outside. Even with bugs, heat, and humidity – I wanted more.

 

There was something big I was receiving. Some intangible yet powerful gift.

 

I was learning to slow down. Nature evolves at its own pace and I wanted to absorb every morsel I could. Every sound, every smell, every glimmer of sunlight through the trees. Every sweeping vista and mucky footprint. All of it. I felt a profound connection to something greater than myself.

 

My eyes welled with tears and I was rendered speechless when I first saw the Grand Canyon and Yosemite Valley. I wanted to feel this humility over and over again. Even by the babbling brooke on the trail in the town where I grew up reminded me of mother nature’s vastness and simplicity all at once.

 

So I kept hiking and I kept seeing and I kept feeling. And I began choosing a walk in the woods over pumping iron at the gym (don’t get me wrong – I still lift heavy things on occasion). I began listening much more acutely to the wishes of not just my body, but of my soul.

 

Now I fully acknowledge when I need the groundedness of the earth beneath my feet. I’ll touch a tree as I make my way down a trail and even when running through the woods, I’m no longer in a hurry.

 

And you can bet money this movement has nothing to do with burning calories or getting a yoga butt or anything like that.

 

It’s about feeling freedom. It’s about simplicity. It’s about being humbled by something much greater than myself. And it’s just about the deepest gratitude I have ever known in my human existence thus far.

 

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THIS is the house of belonging

I have been thinking a lot about what it means
to feel a sense of belonging in our bodies and I shared
this with my email list this morning…

Because it’s about more than just loving our bodies.
It’s about a mindset that no one can fuck with my inner peace.

No one can tamper with my power.
No one can take away who I am at my core.

We only experience the above when
we ALLOW IT TO HAPPEN.

For example, someone once told me that I’m running
my business all wrong and how I should be running
my business completely differently.

This was unsolicited advice.
It came across very harsh. I thought the person
telling me all these things was mean and disrespectful.

And afterwards I felt completely deflated.
I blamed it on the person for months. I couldn’t shake it.

Until it hit me that I was allowing this person to tamper
with my power, my inner knowing, and my inner peace.

If anything this was a very valuable gift in
showing me this very lesson!

It took months for me to realize what was happening –
that I was the one putting myself down and questioning
myself by buying into and believing what this other person
said over my own beliefs.

When your inner knowing and intuition and connection to
your self and understanding of yourself are SO STRONG …

Not a single soul can mess with you.
Not a single soul can throw you off track.

We connect with that inner knowing through meditation, mindfulness,
and awareness throughout our entire day.

It’s a very simple concept. It’s not necessarily easy to get to that place,
but we ALL have the capacity to tap into our inner knowing and not get
so thrown off by external circumstances.

Because…
We always have this house of belonging, wherever we go.

Our bodies.

With Love,
Maggie

PS. Want more daily teachings and access to me?
Connect with me in one of my FB groups here:
>Living Beyond ED Recovery
>Belonging in The Body
XO

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Finding Daisy

Yesterday my dog Daisy tried to run away. She ran away. She ran so fast out of my friends driveway. I watched her dart into the busy street. Barely escaping a truck. And up the hill and then – she was completely out of sight. And there I was – sprinting in Birkenstocks up the giant hill. As if running would help. But my mind was racing. Going to all the worst possible outcomes. I didn’t even need to go to the worst possible outcomes – I was living it. I was waiting to wake up from this nightmare. I lost my beloved dog that I JUST rescued. All the plans I had for us raced through my mind. My heart crushed at the thought of never finding her again. 

My friend swept me up in her minivan and we drove circles around the neighborhood – asking every pedestrian “have you seen a little dog?!?!” Desperation and fear held tight around my heart. After some time and now feeling more defeated I thought to look around one of her favorite spots – the little dog park near my apartment. I ran up there and into the woods surrounding it. Didn’t think twice about the poison ivy I was traipsing through. I called her name as sweat dribbled down my face and into my mouth. No sign of her. I was beside myself – again that feeling of when does this nightmare end – and I started to walk back. 

A woman saw me and said if I was looking for a dog she saw it run up toward the park. Immediately I turned around and went back to the same spot. I called Daisy’s name. I waited. I got quiet. I was going to find her. I could feel her presence near me. I knew this wasn’t the end of our journey together. I called her name again and thought I heard the jingling of her collar. To be sure, I called again, got quiet, and listened… 

Yes – it was her collar. I crouched down and stayed in one spot until I saw her coming up over a rock. About 40 feet away from me. This was it – I knew I had this one chance to get a second chance with Daisy. Stay stay stay – I told myself. I talked the sweet sing song talk to Daisy and she slowly stumbled toward me. She was limping but here she was just an arms length from me. All of the fear of losing her started to melt away as I slowly wrapped my fingers around her collar, took a deep breath, and swooped her up in my arms. 

We walked down the hill where there was a shaded clearing and I put her down and sat as I collected myself and told her how much I loved her and more sing song tones. I was given a second chance and I couldn’t fucking believe it. She ran all the way home. My dog ran home – to our spot! My heart swelled with joy and still is and probably will continue to do so for as long as Daisy is in my life. 

And so when I pulled this card this morning – it took me back to that big deep breath in the woods when I found Daisy. When I wrapped my fingers around her collar. A feeling of – Peace Peace Peace. There is no need to worry right now. Everything worked out beautifully.

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Thank you yoga, Thank you teachers.

It’s International Day of Yoga. My friend reminded me last week with a little nudge, nudge and soft encouragement that maybe I should do something for it.

 

I don’t have any special class or event planned and I’m hoping I’ll make it to class tonight or even to my mat to move a little and meditate. But what I will do, what I will honor is what this practice has done for me. And what I have been able to do for myself by way of my yoga practice.

 

I used to squeeze my thighs so hard to try to get them to look more stick-like. I’d pinch my belly fat and imagine how much better my life would be if I could just cut it off. I calculated every calorie going into my body and how each calorie (and then some) would go out. My mind was consumed and I was completely obsessed. My obsession with food and how I could control my body took over my life.

 

Yoga sandwiched my eating disorder. My practice began when I was 16 and my eating disorder was full throttle around 19 – so I was practicing yoga all through my disorder. But what I know now is that during a lot of that time, I wasn’t really practicing. I was going through the motions of yoga. Showing up, rolling out my mat, bowing my head and saying namaste at the end of class. I nailed poses ease because I’m fairly strong and fairly flexible and have always had great proprioception. What I wasn’t doing though was connecting. I was completely disassociating from my body and for a while there, I was using yoga as just another form of exercise to burn off those calories.

 

This all shifted when I found a small studio in Bloomington, Indiana and a teacher by the name of Wendy. I didn’t even know what style of yoga we were practicing (turns out it was astanga) add to be honest I can’t tell you a whole lot of the asana that I learned – but what stays with me to this day is the feeling of entering into a safe space. It was always quiet when I walked into the building, up the stairs and turned the corner. Everyone spoke with a hushed tone as we set up our mats and gathered our props. The space and the time was sacred.

 

Wendy didn’t tell me how or what to feel. She instead created opportunity for me to feel. I kept returning to her classes, as often as I could fit them into my schedule and budget. It was in this space that I remember looking at thighs and bursting into tears because for the first time I saw them as something other than “too big.” My thighs, for the first time ever, were strong and beautiful and amazing.

 

I came home to my body for what felt like the first time. That was inner peace. That was my invitation to heal and no longer allow myself to stray and disassociate from my body and being.

This was the tip of the iceberg and there have been many more teachers since then who helped facilitate my healing – and still do to this day. So, I can’t stress this enough but  … Thank you teachers.

 

IMG_9114On this international day of yoga I also want to acknowledge the practice for what it has brought me – healing and inner peace. Eating disorder recovery is not a one and done deal. It takes time and it too is a part of my practice: staying the course, staying connected, noticing when I get triggered, and repatterning my responses.

 

Thank you yoga.

 

I would love to hear from you: How has yoga impacted your life? Whether you just recently got your feet wet or are a long-time practitioner – what have you noticed?

 

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When a migraine hits…

When a migraine hits I feel at a loss. I want to detach from my body. I feel fearful of the impending pain, discomfort, nausea, and vomiting that are a part of the whole migraine experience. I feel disappointed in myself for letting this happen. I feel a piercing pain in the right side of my head that travels down the right side of my neck and sometimes into my upper right trap which then seizes up toward my ear.

 

When a migraine hits I feel hopeless. I feel excited to find my comfortable spot on the couch. Although true comfort never seems attainable. I feel misunderstood and disconnected from almost everyone – hard as they may try to sympathize. I can’t stress enough: it’s not just a headache.

 

I feel like I am letting people down. I’m sure of it. I want to be 12 again in my parent’s house with my mom changing my ice pack every time it gets warm. Alternating between taking sips of icy ginger ale and eating crushed ice. The only things my stomach can somewhat tolerate.

When a migraine hits I feel responsible and at fault. I feel like there must be something I could have done differently to avoid this. And sometimes, I feel like in some way I am deserving of this.

When a migraine hits I feel isolated and alone and I want a familiar face around me. I want a warm hand on my back, reminding me it’s going to be ok, that this will pass. That even though THIS happens, I am still loved. It doesn’t make me a bad person.

 

When a migraine hits I feel depressed and disassociated from my body. In fact I want a new body: a new head, arms, intestines, and legs. Not because of the way my body looks this time, but because of the way it feels. I can’t imagine greater pain or discomfort (although I’m sure on some level it does exist – probably childbirth).

 

I feel the lure of distraction from a bad rom-com or TV series that can take me to another place where I imagine everything is good and perfect. I am healthy and don’t have to worry about a thing.

 

When a migraine hits I feel reminiscent of when they weren’t quite so bad. When they didn’t interfere with the life I want to live.

 

When a migraine hits I also remember. I remember that this too shall pass and am reminded of the transient nature of … EVERYTHING. I remember all the ways I am loved in texts received and shoulder rubs given. I remember how grateful I am for the days when I DO feel healthy. Healthy enough to work and enjoy the time I have on this earth.

 

When I wake-up the morning after I am left with the residue of the migraine. The pulsing in my right temple is still there but I feel lighter. I feel like my body has gone through the ringer and I’ve made it to the other side. Phew. I feel like I have been given a gift of the day ahead of me and the days to follow. I worry less about being able to fit in a run or knocking off all the things on my checklist.

 

Maybe I have also been given the gift of migraine to help keep me in check. To turn me around sometimes and to continue to grow what is good in my life. To Worry less and Love more.

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4 Weeks Migraine-free!

gratitude-quotes-03I want to shout something from the rooftops: 4 WEEKS MIGRAINE FREE!! I have been holding my breath and waiting for today to come because it marks a pretty monumental thing for me: 4 weeks without a full blown migraine attack. I have had headache days and days when it felt like I was in the early stages of a migraine but … NOPE! Not a single fucking migraine. I remember what it felt like to live this kind of life. Where I can make plans, and keep them (well, most of the time).

I have been struggling with the fact that this improvement is likely due to the fact that I am participating in a trial study for a new migraine drug. I wish I could tell you “I am healing myself 100%” … A part of me absolutely HATES that I get an injection of this drug every month … but then there is the part of me that recognizes and is eternally grateful for advances such as this in modern medicine.

I do make sure that I eat well, sleep well, move my body, and feed my soul – all things necessary for a healthy life.

So instead of feeling guilty that I am on this new drug, I will feel indefinitely grateful that I am starting to see the light. Migraines are no joke, it has been a rough few years and I can hardly begin to explain what a relief it is to know that I can possibly live this way again. Even if it is temporary, I am grateful. INSANELY grateful.

What are you grateful for today?

So instead of feeling guilty that I am on this new drug, I will feel indefinitely grateful that I am starting to see the light. Migraines are no joke, it has been a rough few years and I can hardly begin to explain what a relief it is to know that I can possibly live this way again. Even if it is temporary, I am grateful. INSANELY grateful.

What are you grateful for today?

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What is gratitude, anyway?

Gratitude

I took some time to sit down and think about what exactly Gratitude means to me and what it feels like. Here is what I came up with…

Gratitude envelopes your entire body and soul. I feel it, physically. My body starts to gently quiver, as if I have the chills. My stomach is a flutter, I can take a deep breath and let tiny tears of joy fill my eyes for a moment.

What does Gratitude leave you feeling?

I feel an abundance of love, an abundance of so much of a good thing, that exists in life. And you begin to recognize how gratitude heals and how gratitude carries you through those trying times in life that we all endure. This feeling of gratitude wakes us up in the morning and helps us to sleep soundly.

Gratitude allows us to experience pain and also to laugh heartily. It is with this mindset of gratitude that we are able to know ourselves better, not for the things we do or the tasks that we check off our list each day, but for our ability to feel and be present.

In Tal Ben-Shahar’s book “Happier” he shares the concept of a gratitude letter. A gratitude letter, he explains, “is not just a thank-you note. It is a thoughtful examination of the meaning and pleasure that you derive from the relationship; it describes particular experiences and shared dreams, and whatever else in the relationship is a source of joy.”

A Gratitude Letter helps us take this feeling of gratitude one step further. Because know that gratitude is not simply saying “I’m so grateful,” it is not simply a mindset, but it is a way in which we interact with those who surround us.

Who can you write a Gratitude Letter to this week? Explore how gratitude is so much more than a feeling, but also how we communicate that feeling.

We will work on exploring Gratitude Letters and what exactly Gratitude means to YOU on Radiant Retreat 2015. Registration is OPEN! To learn more and to register click here.

 

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What makes for a successful fundraiser?

What makes for a successful fundraiser? My original goal was to raise my first $1,000 and I had my sights set on that.  However, I quickly realized on Friday that there is something else that makes for a successful fundraiser.  I know this is going to sound majorly cheesy but … it’s good people. I found myself surrounded by incredible people on Friday night who made the trek to Williamsburg (or down the street for the local folks) on a cold February night to support me. I’m sure the talented DJs, free PBR, and incredible raffle prizes were also a major draw – ahem, you can’t say no to a signed copy of “Sexy Librarian”!

I have to give some major thank you’s to…

  • Passenger Bar for letting me host the event there
  • DJ AnjO – or Angelica Olstad, creator of PopUp Yoga NYC
  • DJ Pumpkin Patch – or Michael Saltsman
  • PBR for their generous donation for our open bar
  • My friends who were so kind to donate items and services for the raffle
  • Sarah Coulam and Suzanne Canon of CTF’s NF Endurance team, without whom I would not be doing an Ironman nor would I have sold as many raffle tickets

Thank you everyone! I have said this before but … So. Much. Gratitude.

fundraisermagsarah

Thanks Sarah for encouraging the crazy

Winner of Maggie's one on one yoga

Winner of Maggie’s one on one yoga

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