2020; a Year of Mourning

Many people think of grief as something you go through when someone you know dies. While this concept has validity, grief encompasses so much more than a loss of life. I define grief as a point in time where something significantly changes, and you view it as a divide. What once was, and now the present.

It’s safe to say 2020 has been a year of mourning for all of us. The pandemic certainly brought a divide, along with ambiguous grief. The feeling of uncertainty is quite unsettling. We may be fearful of our health, our jobs, our social health, our friends, our loved small businesses closing, certain industries being strained, etc. Closing, re-opening, “dialing back”, are all phrases we are too familiar with, along with the phrase “unprecedented time”. This season of life we are in is ever changing our and evolving. “New normal” is a phrase that has stigma as well. I heard opinions say they reject the idea this is the new normal and are waiting for things to go back to what once was. The reality is, we may never go back to what once was. It is on us to accept the time it is as now, and try to move forward each day. Whether it is day by day, hour by hour, or even minute by minute.

Not only has the pandemic brought a divide, the tragedy of George Floyd has certainly brought a season of mourning.

To tie it up into a pretty bow, we had our most significant election yet.

2020 has brought a season of significant changes that will be documented in history books. That has been something I’ve been pondering recently, how 2020 will be transcribed and taught to future generations. What as a society are we learning from this?

I think the biggest thing I’m learning is how to cope with grief. I’d like to admit that I’m an expert on grief as it relates to my own personal life. I have lost many loved ones, and have had a significant amount of large life changes, specific to 2020. I rented my condo and moved to Raleigh, I lost my aunt to a tragic heart attack (and was unable to attend her funeral due to the pandemic), I quit my full time job, I chose to dissolve my long term relationship, I moved back home to Minnesota, I got a job as a server as soon as I got home, and now with the shutdown I am not employed there currently.

2020 has been a year. For everyone, not just me. I think we all can relate to the struggle 2020 has brought to all of us. The uncertainty, the mourning and loss, the pain. We are all in it, we all feel it.

So what can we do about it? This is a time where we need to unify and come together, instead of pointing fingers. If we take a step back, we may realize we are not so different after all. We are all human, we make mistakes, we have emotions, and everything you may be feeling about 2020, has validity.

I wish I could say at the stroke of midnight on December 31st all our problems would be taken care of. Since we know that isn’t the case, here are some of my personal tips for coping with grief that work for me.

  • Have real, meaningful conversations with trusted individuals about your feelings. Make sure you trust this individual to validate your emotions and truly listen to you, rather than jumping to conclusions trying to “fix” a problem.
  • Set boundaries with others. Grief can drain you, so energy conservation is vital. A simple “that makes me uncomfortable,” or “I don’t have the (time, space, capacity, etc.) to discuss that right now” works well.
  • Take care of yourself. Seek movement each day. Don’t get hung up on setting extremes where you must be on a strict diet or training regime. Your energy may be low and setting too strict or high of plans could set you up for failure, and may result in low self esteem.
  • Be mindful of what you are putting into your body. At meal times breathe slowly, practice gratitude, and chew each bite thoroughly.
  • Seek an activity that ignites your sense of “play”. This is hard due to circumstances now, but play can be found in coloring or doing something creative, reading a fun book, playing a game with a family member or friend, getting creative in the kitchen, doing a project, etc. Find something you enjoy doing, and relish in that feeling.
  • Ground yourself. This means practice being present in the moment. Breath work is great for this. If yoga is feels good, try that. A friend recently suggested a really great way to implement a new habit of grounding yourself if it isn’t something your used to. He asserted a way to make a new habit stick, is to apply it to one that’s already there. For example, ground yourself while brushing your teeth. Focus directly on teeth brushing, or maybe listen to a specific song you enjoy, or try repeating positive affirmations in your head. The act is do something intentional each day that reminds you that you are here, and the time is now.

I hope you find value in my tips, and am very grateful that you have read my post. Feel free to leave a comment on any tips that you’ve tried that works well for you. I know I will use all the advice I can get considering the year I’ve had!

Love, light, warmth, and positive vibes,

Annie

P.S. Looking for some accountability, a trusted health professional, and a cheerleader for your health and fitness goals? Schedule a FREE discovery call that works for your time and schedule using the button on my services page!

Mental Health Update

Hi my dear friends. It’s been a while.

Yes, a while meaning the last blog post I wrote was day before my mother passed. My mother passed on July 20th, 2019. It has taken me this long to go through a season of mourning.

This season was probably one of the most tumultuous times that I have ever endured. I have recently been tuning into Brene Brown’s Ted Talks, specifically her talks about the Power of Vulnerability. So if you’re with me, check-in, lock up, and get ready for one of my most powerful, authentic, vulnerable posts yet.

Something you can always expect from my writing is that I will always be 110% unapologetically me. I write from my heart and soul. I use writing as a form of coping. You may be wondering why it has taken me this long to get back to posting on my site, or why I described this season of mourning the way that I have. The answer is revolved around my personal mental health. Upon my mother passing, I slowly slid down the treacherous path of depression. Grief is difficult to deal with, and when you add depressive symptoms to that as well, things get 10x harder. Layer in the season of winter in Minnesota, where the days get shorter, and less sunlight is available. Another thing I deal with is seasonal affective disorder otherwise known as SAD. (Fitting acronym, right?) As my season of mourning continued through the fall, I was finding it extremely difficult to give myself compassion to feel what I felt. I felt guilty that I wasn’t able to snap out of my grief, my depression, and just let it go. My depression came in forms of withdrawing from friends and activities. I stopped doing the things I found joy in. That is why I describe depression as a treacherous slope. Personally, once my depressive symptoms hit, it is a slippery slope. I found little joy in doing things that I used to love doing, therefore, I stopped doing them. I had this dark cloud over my head, and at times, it was difficult for me to get out of bed in the morning. I stopped working out, I stopped nourishing my body with the food it deserves, I stopped reaching out to family and loved ones. It was truly the hardest season of grief and mourning I have ever endured.

I often thought, “why is this so difficult?” I knew this was coming. My mother battled a horrible, wretched disease for at least 8 known years. Her days of pain and suffering are no more, and she has been set free. So why was it so difficult for me to get over my grief and depression?! I have dealt with significant loss in my immediate family before. I thought since I dealt with my oldest brother’s passing, the grief for my Mom would be a walk in the park. Boy, I was wrong.

If you know me, you likely know my role in my mother’s life for the last years that she lived. I was her legal guardian, and power of attorney. I played this large role in her life, one I like to call a caretaker. I often felt like I was not just a caretaker, but also a peacemaker between my family. Depending on the day, there would be intricacies of who is on speaking terms to whom, and I would have to carefully craft my communication in order for it to be well received. When my mother passed, I not only am grieving her, but I am also grieving this large role I played in her life. I took this role for granted, and often was annoyed that I was placed in this role. Looking back, it gave me a sense of purpose and pride. When this sense of purpose was stripped from me, I was left barren, confused, and alone.

You may be wondering how I am writing you today and what brought me here. Very reluctantly, I knew things had to change. I had to “fake it until I make it”. (Even though I truly hate that saying, what if I don’t want to fake it? Now what are you going to tell me to do?? I digress…) What I ended up doing was a little soul searching, and tried to remember the things that brought me joy in the past. I ended up joining a women’s volleyball league, I started exercising more, I started meal prepping again. I ended up hiring a nutrition coach, because believe me, I am the first to admit I need help and know the value in a coach and someone that cheers you on. I started therapy, and that has brought so much value and growth to me. It made me process my feelings in a productive and healthy manner. It has given me tools to succeed and helped me realize my patterns and habits. Truth be told, I have perfectionist qualities. Identifying as a perfectionist was a hard pill for me to swallow. I have a very hard time admitting that I have “something wrong with me”.

A reality that is even more difficult for me to accept, is something that I have dealt with my entire life, and just this past week, decided to accept that it is real and a part of me. I am living with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). I never wanted to admit this in the past. Previously when I sought therapy, a counselor suggested I had this disorder, and her mere suggestion literally threw me into a full blown panic attack. I have only ever had 3 panic attacks in my life, but I can replay those tapes and feelings as if it was yesterday. My ego did not want to admit I do have something wrong with me. I felt like if I admit this, I am assuming defeat. This rolls back to my perfectionist tendencies. I don’t want to admit that I am not perfect. I do need to admit that this is a real disorder that is affecting my life. This disorder makes me feel on edge, and stressed out all the time. So much so, the stress is affecting my sleeping habits. In fact, I am writing this right now at 1:32am. I have been waking up in the middle of the night due to elevated levels of cortisol (stress hormone). This is typical for someone who has the symptoms of chronic stress. Yesterday, I discovered the emotional reality that my disorder is responsible for the chronic stress I undergo.

DEEP BREATH

That is something I am really practicing to help cope with GAD. Breathwork, meditation, and relaxation. I have the hardest time trying to relax. I often feel like I am wound up so tight, if you say something to me that I could perceive with malintentions, it can push me over the edge and I can be sent down a spiral of negative self talk.

I have my cousin to thank for telling me to, “lower my ‘give a f*ck’ level”. When she first told me this concept I was thought to myself, “but how?!” I cared so greatly about what other people think of me. I wanted to appear perfect on the outside. Slowly but surely, I am certainly trying to lower this level and take a deep breath.

During this time of healing, growth, and self compassion, I have decided to not take on any clients and make my own health a priority. I want to come back better than ever, so I can serve clients that are going through similiar mental health struggles with empathy and compassion.

That’s all for now, thank you for taking the time to read through this in it’s entirety.

Love, light, and in gratitude,

Annie