Gratitude Boards

In times of uncertainty, gratitude is very important. We have a gratitude board at work where everyone is encouraged to share what they are grateful for. It is a way of creating a ripple effect of gratitude through the whole organization.

I also curate ideas on one of my Pinterest boards. I encourage you to check it out here:

Today, I am grateful for the following:

  1. Fluffy cuddles from my dogs
  2. An awesome son who helps me out around the house
  3. A husband who is understanding and kind

What are you grateful for today? Share in the comments!

Anxiety is my Superpower!

Welcome to the A-Z Blogging Challenge, Day 1! When I decided to participate, I plotted out what I would post each day. There were a couple of reasons for that…if I have a game plan then I am more likely to follow through and it also takes some of the pressure off to write. Today’s post is about anxiety.

When I plotted out my daily blog schedule, I was originally planning on writing about agile project management. It is a topic that we have been focusing on at work as part of our professional development. In fact, today was supposed to be the third and final session of our face to face workshops on the topic. I will probably touch on the topic again later this month in some way or another, but this morning I changed my mind on what I am going to talk about. Hey, isn’t being agile all about flexibility?

Last week, my husband had his Social Security Disability Hearing. This means he was in the third stage of the approval process after being denied twice through the other two stages. His lawyer shared his SSA records with me and honestly, I am not surprised that he was denied because his medical records suck. Basically, SSA was going off of nothing more than six months of records from the very beginnings of when he got sick which was back in 2017. The records were not detailed and a lot of it was still waiting on diagnostic tests. In this last round, we submitted over 600 pages of medical records for consideration. We are caustically optimistic, but still waiting.

So what does that have to do with my anxiety? Well, I have been worrying over nothing but this process for the past couple of years and now we are at a stage where we can do nothing but wait again. So all my anxiety has been focused on getting to this point and making sure we have everything we need and the right questions are being asked. Such as, can a person reasonably be expected to retain competitive employment when they have over ten appointments on average a month? The answer here is no, so fingers crossed.

Well, now that I don’t have to worry for the moment about that process, my mind has switched over to the topic that is on pretty much everyone’s mind these days— COVID-19. I actually had a mini breakdown with tears in the kitchen last night while making dinner. But that is okay! There is nothing wrong with having these moments. Give yourself permission to cry every now and then. We all feel overwhelmed sometimes. It is important to know that it is a temporary state and that too shall pass.

As I said in a previous post, we are sheltering at home here in Maryland per the governor’s orders. We have been very good at this. I call myself a Hobbit on a good day, let alone when we have to social distance. When I had my last day of work, we did our food shopping, but we are starting to dwindle our supply. My husband is high-risk, I did not want to venture to the store if I did not have to. Walmart is something that gives me anxiety on a normal day, which is why I am so happy that they have curbside pickup. Unfortunately, the hours have been so limited that at first we thought they had discontinued the program temporarily. This is where my anxiety comes in handy…

When my anxiety is flaring, I have trouble sleeping. So I will usually try to distract myself. Last night, I was up past midnight and decided to check out the Walmart Grocery website…Success! They had pick up slots available for Thursday. Now I have a grocery order scheduled for pickup and I can still follow social distancing while getting almost everything I need…still no TP anywhere. So if you are in need of groceries, try checking websites late at night.

When my anxiety is flaring, I can get hyper focused. Right now that focus is on finding ways to practice positivity and self-care. I was registered for a web session with Nataly Kogan, author of Happier Now, but I am tired since I was up so late last night. I almost skipped, but decided not to and I am glad I watched the session. The session was on using anchors or rituals as part of your daily self-care routine as a way to center yourself and not be so overwhelmed. Some of the suggestions are similar to the ones I gave a couple of days ago: take a walk, bake, talk to friends or family online, read, knit. Find something each day that will give you something to not only look forward to, but also give you something that is simple to accomplish. My son has been making his bed each morning. He saw that viral video from the admiral about if you want to make a change in the world, start by making your bed. My daily ritual will be to write these posts chronicling my thoughts during this time of uncertainty…finding a way to focus on the positive.

When my anxiety is flaring, I become a planner. Right now there is a list on my fridge of things I would like to accomplish while we are social distancing. Some of it has already been marked off, like catching up on laundry and planting my deck garden. Others are still pending, like spending some family time around the fire pit. There is no schedule for getting any of this done. There should be no obligations, but still something to look forward to. Normally, you would include dates to turn this into SMART Goals, but the point is the enjoyment not the productivity. Last night, the family played parcheesi…I lost, but we had fun and we were together. This wasn’t on my list, but it was on my son’s list. So that made it important to me.

I have chosen to reframe my anxiety by looking at it as an advantage. Reframing how I look at it is one way that I am coping right now. What is something that you are reframing to put a more positive spin on it?

‘Tis the Season for Giving

Today I received an interesting email…from my electric company. Apparently, there is a program in my area where you can add $1, $5, or $10 to your bill each month and that money will be donated to a program that provides assistance for neighbors who may be having trouble paying there bills. Our finances may be back on track right now, but I am fully aware that we are only one disaster away from derailing. So, yes, I signed up to donate. It got me thinking about the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.

October-December are three of my favorite months. I love the feeling you get seeing everything decorated each month. Halloween is exciting because of all the kids in costumes and whole neighborhoods getting in on the fun. Here in my neighborhood, we have neighbors who set up popcorn stands, spooky music, and some even sit out on chairs around the cul-de-sac passing out treats. Even the teens still trick-or-treat– in costume! Then in November, it starts to get colder, but it is so pretty. You can smell the wood smoke in the air which further creates a cozy atmosphere. Pretty soon after the turkey has been digested, it is time for all the holiday lights. There is a farm down here that sets up a free light display for people to drive through too. Our plans this year include attending a Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert and a trip to see the holiday lights at the zoo. It is truly a magical time of year!

So what does that have to do with thanks and gratitude? Because like the example with my electric company, people are also more giving during this time of year. They give to the Salvation Army Santas outside the Walmart, donate canned goods to the Boy Scouts, leave snacks or gift cards for their mail carrier, etc. But why do we only do it during this time of year? Do people only go hungry in the winter? Last summer, one of my colleagues realized that she had a lot of kids hanging out in the library all day because there was no school, parents were at work, and the library has lots of stuff to do (books, programs, Internet, air condition!). She also realized that these kids had no food while they were there. There was a summer lunch program at the local public school, but there was a gap between when school ended and the summer lunch program started the next month. So she had coworkers and friends donate snacks that she would pass out each day during the summer. Then this past summer, her library system partnered with the school system to provided boxed lunches, funded through a grant, during that in-between time when the school wasn’t running their regular summer lunch program. A church group also passed out bottles of water to cars at one of our busier intersections. Both of these were during the summer…yet many people don’t think of these types of things outside of the season where giving and selflessness comes more naturally.

Research shows that we are happier when we give to others. It doesn’t have to be money or things either. The research actually shows that people who volunteer show increased benefits to their mental health. You may have heard of random acts of kindness, but the key here is that they shouldn’t be truly random. They should be intentional acts of kindness. If you want to find out more, check out the work by Shawn Achor or Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD. So this holiday season, don’t stop with the acts of kindness when the clock strikes midnight on that last day of the year. Keep it up and not only will you make others happier, you might make yourself happier as well.