I write this post as our nation is well on the way to over 12.5 million cases of Covid 19 and over 257,000 have died of the disease. Nevertheless, many of our fellow citizens continue to ignore the experts, refuse to wear masks, and avoid social distancing. To quote Shakespeare, “Now is the winter of our discontent.”
For gifted elders, we fear for our own health and that of our loved ones. A good number of us are choosing to self-isolate in hopes of escaping infection especially if, in addition to age, there are other conditions that put us at risk. Nevertheless, we are anxious and as winter approaches our mood darkens with the waning sunlight of shortened days. However, there are strategies and actions that we can take to lift our spirits and brighten our moods. What follows are my suggestions for navigating our winter of discontent.
Sanctuary. It is important to feel one has a place for quiet and meditation during this time of home-keeping. For anyone, and not just those who are isolated from church family at this time, one can create a space that invites one to sit, quiet the mind and body, and nurture our spirituality. In addition to my work desk I have a writing desk in my office that is placed before a window looking out over our lawn and the field beyond it. On the desk is a book with readings that encourage reflection, a journal, an aromatherapy candle, and a ceramic bowl filled with a variety of stones. It is my sanctuary, achieved with very little fuss. You too, my reader, can easily create a similar space for your reflective time.
Light and Movement. Dealing with lockdowns and shelter-in-place during the spring and summer of this year was easier given that we could get outside for exercise, gardening, and other relaxing activities. With the shorter days and cooler weather it becomes more difficult to get our necessary dose of sunlight and the movement that keeps elders strong and flexible. When the weather does not allow you to get out, try to sit by a sunny window while reading or otherwise at rest. Or, if you find your mood needs more regular exposure to helpful light rays, you might consider the purchase of an affordable light therapy lamp. For those in need of movement when the outdoors is cold or inclement, YouTube has many videos for seniors that promote stretching, walking in place, yoga, or other movement activities.
Hygge. After dinner, my husband and I settle into the living room for a quiet evening of reading, music, or perhaps a calm program on television. In the room are several sets of tiny white lights – on the mantle, surrounding a sign perched on a table with the word Grateful, laced through a plant, and adorning a “spirit tree.” I have also placed scented candles in strategic places and soon we will start the gas logs in the fireplace. The lights are lit at dusk and the main lights in the room are dimmed. The intent of these arrangements are to create, hygge, a Danish term that connotes and brings about the ambience of comfort, coziness, and contentment. After dinner my husband and I settle into our cozy living room to read, listen to music, or perhaps watch a tranquil program on television. Hygge lifts our spirits!
Connections. Perhaps most important during this time of isolation and disconnection is to maintain present relationships and create new ones. I am exceedingly thankful that we have so much assistance in the form of technology. Our immediate family, in three geographically distinct areas, arranges dinner “parties” through group FaceTime visits. Each couple (and grandchild) sit at their own table and converse over their meal with the other couples. Granted, it is not the same as being together. However, it is a great way to maintain connections. Checking in with friends and other elders who are alone has become a regular activity that I try to do at least once a week. I realize that I need to continue to do so in normal times as well. Using a HIPPA compliant teletherapy program allows me to continue to connect with clients. Finally, friendships that I have cultivated on Facebook have been a sure way to connect with my tribe.
Sanctuary, breathing, light and movement, hygge, and connections are all tools we can use to enhance our lives in this time of disconnection. What are stragegies that you find helpful in maintaining your positive outlook? Wishing you a winter full of contentment!