As I cruised around YouTube the other day, I found a link to “My Videos.” In there, I found an old video from my martial arts career of my board breaking test. It showed senior students holding boards for me to break.
I breathe in and out and hit the first board—nothing.
I reset, breathe in and out and hit it again—nothing.
I take the board from the student holding it, turn it upside down and give it back to him. I breathe in, breathe out – and success! That board and the ones after break easily.
What changed between try two and try three? Was it something in my mind and focus that shifted, or something in the person holding the board? It’s impossible to know. But, as we face headlines about this pandemic saying things like “the next 6-12 weeks may be the worst yet,” I feel there’s a lesson in that experience that I need to hear now.
The accommodations most of us made these last several months have moved from imaginative to frustrating to numbing. I’ve fallen into routines, not all of them productive or healthy. I’ve fallen into holes where my mood is flat and I’ve crested onto peaks of anxious feelings for no apparent reason. And most of the people I know are feeling this, too.
For those of us who have been staring into our screens with little to distinguish our work life from our non-work life, except walking into the kitchen and back again, the grooves being ground into our minds, hearts and bodies are creating stress, extra pounds, and irritability. For those who are essential workers and dealing with waves of COVID yet again, it’s the same.
We are all valiantly moving the work of our organization forward – working hard to keep our human connections strong, both those that are relentlessly present and those that have been far away for so long now. But it’s going to be a long winter, and so I think again of those boards.
Making Small Changes
When I look back at these past months, I realize that relief and self-care have come not from big, revolutionary changes or just hoping this will end soon. It’s been the little changes and tweaks that open up a new pathway in my mind and heart.
I walked around the block during a 15-minute break in a day full of Zoom calls.
I played cards one night instead of turning on Netflix.
I got completely dressed from head to toe (even shoes!) for a workday of online meetings.
During what feels like the 50th time of the same political disagreement with a loved one, I asked a question instead of making my usual heated retort.
I lit a candle during dinner.
I mailed a mask with a depiction of “The Scream” to a friend sitting by her husband’s hospital bed.
I cleared my afternoon brain fog by taking “ragdoll” pose and letting the inversion bring blood into my brain.
Not big things. But when I flip the board, I’m finding an obstacle has a solution; my heart feels lighter and I feel more settled in my own skin. Its feels like new neuropathways are lit up. Maybe this is the way we will get through the next months, finding ways to make little changes that lift us up. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll find that contentment and happiness in our heart is there all the time if we nurture it in the right ways. When we have our normal array of distractions and busyness back again one day, could this be one of the gifts we take back from the time of COVID?
This blog article was contributed by Margaret Vimont, Vice President of Strategy and Service Development for Nexus Family Healing.
Nexus Family Healing is a national nonprofit mental health organization that restores hope for thousands of children and families who come to us for outpatient/community mental health services, foster care and adoption, and residential treatment. For over 45 years, our network of agencies has used innovative, personalized approaches to heal trauma, break cycles of harm, and reshape futures. We believe every child is worth it — and every family matters. Learn more at nexusfamilyhealing.org.