This morning as I sat at my writing desk with my journal and a hot cup of coffee, I once again was marveling at how well I was able to handle Ringo’s emergency this weekend — he’s resting and recovering today, btw. Those who know me well or have been reading this blog for a long time KNOW how much I love my dogs and how that same love has led to not only joy but suffering and loss, which in turn led to a particular kind of PTSD and all the work I’ve done to heal, to be able to be present for both myself and my dogs even and especially in moments of crisis.
I found myself this morning considering the “how” of this, and came up with a list I wanted to share. These are all the things that have supported my wellbeing over the past few years — which I’m sure you’d agree have been A LOT for all of us, kind and gentle reader. Disclaimer: I am 100% aware of how privileged and lucky I am to have access and the ability to invite this sort of support into my life, and that so many are simply struggling to stay alive, in ways both practical and abstract, related to both body and spirit. That said, in no particular order:
- Weighted blanket: I was a little skeptical that this would have much of an impact, but I really like it. As I’ve heard people say before, it feels a bit like a full body hug. I have found that it soothes both muscle tension and anxiety. I sleep with it some nights and put it across my lap in the morning when I meditate or cover up with it on the couch for a nap. The one I have: Baloo 12lb Throw. It’s expensive but supposedly one of the best so I waited until I had a coupon.
- Sleep mask: In particular, the one I have fits tight around my eyes but is still soft and fits comfortably, blocking almost 100% of the light. Mine is the Manta Sleep Mask. I know that some people with sensory processing issues also like noise cancelling headphones. I can’t use them because they make me panic. I need to be able to hear what’s going on around me, even and maybe especially when I’m sleeping.
- Blackout shades. I need things to be dark in order to really rest. It’s why our alarm clock is on Eric’s side of the bed, we don’t have any sort of night light, and I have blackout shades to block any light from outside. You can get these as just a shade, or full curtains with the blackout material built in. I didn’t get any particular kind, so don’t have a link to share for this one.
- Sunrise alarm clock. We’ve had one of these for at least 15 years (the same one, never even had to change the bulb), and I can’t imagine ever having to go back to waking up to straight noise. This one is so much more gentle and gradual, and super helpful since we get up before the sunrise all year round. We have the BioBrite Sunrise Clock, but due to “supply issues” they are no longer available. However, since we got ours, a lot more companies started offering them so there’s a lot more to choose from now, with all kinds of additional features.
- White noise machine. This is another investment we made 20+ years ago, and the original one is still going strong. Now you can get one almost anywhere, cheap, but when we got ours, it was in a Sharper Image store in the mall (remember those?) and it was expensive, a definite luxury item — if I remember correctly, it was $149.99 marked down to $99, a lot of money to us at the time, (although spread out over 20+ years, it only amounts to less than $5 a year). Again, I don’t have a link because that was before we even shopped online and now there are so many more kinds available, with all sorts of features. There are also tons of smartphone apps you can use, that we do when we travel — brown noise is actually my current favorite variety, is a bit softer than white (or green or pink).
- Infrared heating pad. I originally got this to help with arthritis pain in my knees, but I’ve also used it for my back and simply to cuddle up on the couch and rest when I’m cold. I love it. I’ve heard that some people even sleep with one. This is the one Eric got me for Christmas one year. The smaller size is of course cheaper, but I’d recommend going with the bigger one as it gives you more options.
- Therapy light box. I have the Verilux HappyLight, an older model than what is out there now as I’ve had it at least 10-15 years. Again, there are SO many more options now. I have seasonal affective disorder and get up before the sun does so I use mine every morning while I write and drink coffee. It seems to really help me.
- Oofos and Brooks shoes. I’ve had issues with plantar fasciitis and my knees, and with all the miles I walk, I need good shoes. Oofos are considered “recovery footwear.” I have the slides and flip flops, and have one set that are reserved for “in the house only,” wear them instead of slippers. Looking just now at their website, I think I need a pair of the clogs too. Brooks were one of the brands of shoes recommended by my podiatrist, and I use them for walks, running (when I used to still do that), going to the gym, and everyday wear. They are one of the only brands who offers a solid Gortex model, which is important when walking the dog.
- Down pillows and blankets. I tend to run hot, and menopause doesn’t help, and I sleep in various positions, so I find that this is the material that keeps me the most comfortable. In fact, I have a bit of a blanket fetish, love the comfort of a good snuggle and seem to never have enough options.
- Soft, loose fitting clothes without any scratchy seams or tags. My current winter uniform is the Soft Serve Cloud Cotton Hoodie (typically pretty expensive but currently 50% off) which are lighter weight and so soft, and the Universal Standard Hathaway Jersey Jogger, which is yes expensive and not as light as I’d like (can’t comfortably wear them when it’s warm), but so soft and such good quality. Another staple of my wardrobe that I’ve worn for he past 10+ years (and some of the pairs I have are that old and still going strong), which are mostly sold out on Columbia’s website but still available on Amazon are the Columbia Women’s Anytime Outdoor Boot Cut Pant. These are perfection. Light weight but durable, a bit of stretch and quick drying, they travel well as they don’t really wrinkle, are nice looking and a good fit. I also have a few pairs of the capris. These pants can be dressed up or worked out. I have worn them to work meetings, dinners out, even weddings, and I can also walk the dog and teach yoga in them.
- Zoloft (or more exactly, Sertraline). I resisted for so many years taking medication to help with my anxiety and depression, but three days before the world shut down for quarantine in March of 2020, I took my first dose, and I truly think I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for it.
Practices and Other Things
- Meditation. I’ve had a regular practice for close to 15 years, have been certified to teach for six years. I practice simple breath awareness meditation, but also use mantra and other sounds, contemplations and visualizations. It has been so helpful with my anxiety, with understanding the way my brain and heart work, with helping me to stay here, not give up. Some of the products that support my process: Samadhi meditation cushions, and the Tibetan Mountain Seat, and Insight Timer app.
- Yoga, including restorative and yoga nidra. As with meditation, I’ve had a regular practice for close to 15 years, and been certified to teach for eight years. I love the way it brings me back into my body and releases tension. It just feels good. My current practice is mostly restorative asana, and even though I can do my own practice without a teacher, I really love Caren Baginski’s YouTube channel.
- Writing. I think it’s probably the thing I do the best and I for sure love it the most.
- Reading. Both to learn and for the joy of it.
- Sauna. I like both the traditional kind and the infrared.
- Pool. Something about being in the water is magical, not matter how I’m moving while I’m there.
- Massage. I enjoy the personal variety from my “amateur” husband, the professional kind from Dana, my masseuse of the past 15 years, and the mechanical sort that is both the hydromassage chair at my gym (which would run you about $10,000 to own — a true luxury item) and the Comfier Wireless Air Compression Hand Massager with Heat I have at home, (which I bought online at Walmart because it was about half the price).
- Morning walks. You probably already knew that. 🙂
- Dogs. They don’t have to be mine or even local.
- Bodies of water. The ocean, rivers, waterfalls, lakes, creeks, ponds, and pools.
- Trees. I have favorites, not just varieties but individual trees.
- Bees and flowers. They just make me happy.
- Birds in the feeder. I also love a good bird bath.
- Poetry. I didn’t used to understand it, but I think I just wasn’t reading the right poets. Some of my favorites are Andrea Gibson, Ross Gay, Ada Limón, Mary Oliver, David Whyte, Maya Stein, Alison Luterman, Hafiz, William Stafford, Nayyirah Waheed, Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, Rumi, John O’Donohue, Joy Harjo, Yusef Komunyakaa, Camille Dungy, Naomi Shihab Nye, Chloé Leisure, Ellen Bass, Bryan Doyle, and a whole host of others I’m forgetting. I could list my favorite poems but none of us has time for that.
- A warm shower.
- Coffee and Tea.
- Listening to podcasts. My Favorite Murder, Do You Need a Ride?, Mike Birbiglia’s Working it Out, and Funny Cuz It’s True with Elyse Myers are the ones I won’t miss, but there are close to a hundred that I like.
- Zoom art dates with friends.
- Comedy. Movies and TV and stand up. Some of my favorite comedians are Tig Notaro, Chris Fairbanks, Jim Gaffigan, Maria Bamford, Mike Birbiglia, Pete Holmes, Jo Koy, Jackie Kashian, Melissa McCarthy, Fortune Feimster, Aparna Nancherla, Leslie Jones, Cameron Esposito, Hannah Gadsby, River Butcher, Marc Maron, Andy Woodhull, Tiffany Haddish, and a whole host of others I’m probably forgetting.
- Wild Writing.
- On demand streaming content. I love the access, being able to watch what I want, when I want. There is something about binge watching a series that is more like reading a book than what TV used to be like.
- Documentaries. My favorites are about cults and true crime and mountain climbing, but I also love reality TV like home renovation shows or cooking competitions.
- Lots and lots of time alone, at home.
- Music. There’s way too much to even say about this one.
This is most likely not a complete list. And yet, when I started writing it, I didn’t realize it would be so long and it’s enough for now. I could easily make another list of things I avoid in order to support my overall wellbeing, and that list might be just as long.
What’s on your list? What or who contributes to your overall wellbeing?
If I were to make a list, it would look a lot like yours–at least, the practices part. The only thing I might add is eating real food that is compatible with my body. I am so on-my-knees grateful to have more time for all of these things. I am feeling more well than I can ever remember being. I am also grateful for all of the product suggestions you’ve made here. I haven’t tried most of these things, and there are a few on here I definitely want to check out. Thank you.
Yes, as I was pushing “publish” I thought “eat good food,” but that came with a whole disclaimer about what that means and doesn’t for me, and at that point I needed to stop working on this list and get on with other things. And since I published, I’ve thought of a few more things that I could add to the list. Anyway: I’m so glad you are able to sink in to taking care of yourself, being well, and you’re welcome. 🙂 ❤
I had the same hesitation (why I landed on “real food that’s compatible with my body”). It’s tricky to navigate, I know.
I could relate to so much of this – we’re very much alike! I am an introvert, a Highly Sensitive Person, and no surprise – have anxiety and Seasonal Affective Disorder.
I’ve tried weighted blankets and don’t like them. I felt too confined. I’ve had that Manta sleep mask on my Amazon wish list for awhile. I’m using another brand right now and don’t like it, as it has a clasp on the side of the band. So when I’m sleeping on my side, it digs into my temple. We have the blackout curtains from IKEA in our bedroom. We have a TV in our bedroom and there’s a tiny light at the bottom of it which of course, bothers me when I sleep (I have to have total darkness), so every night I fold up a small blanket and stuff under the TV to block the light. As for white noise when I sleep, it’s a fan for me. Bonus – it keeps me cool when I’m sleeping, too. In the winter, my saving grace is a heated mattress pad so I don’t have to climb into a cold bed. I fall asleep almost immediately. (I don’t sleep with it on – I turn it off when I get into bed.)
I have a light therapy lamp and I’ve used it the past two winters, but I can’t really say if it’s worked for me or not. It doesn’t really seem to make much of a difference for me. I keep trying though.
Soft, comfortable clothing…yes! No tags in my clothes – I have to cut them out. I live in yoga and lounge pants at home. I have one of those soft serve hoodies and believe it or not, I’m not that crazy about it. The softness to me is just average and I don’t like how tight it is around my neck. I prefer zip-up hoodies.
I resisted medication for a long time, too but when I finally had an extra-awful panic attack, I talked to my doctor and went on Prozac. I’ve felt much better and no more panic attacks.
Yoga and mediation…mmm hmm! Thank you for the link to the woman on youtube. Her videos look fabulous. Can’t wait to try some. I have a torn hamstring right now (happened in yoga, lol) but my physical therapist said I can finally go back to classes. I also use the Insight Timer for meditation.
All your other favorites and comforts – yes! Except my comfort animals are cats instead of dogs. Not that I don’t like dogs (I’m an animal lover), I just prefer cats. And wow, I found another person that likes both coffee and tea!
I like funny TV shows and movies, but don’t care for stand-up comedy. Can’t put my finger on why not, but…
Poetry: read it and write it. Mostly read it. Some of the poets you listed I’m not familiar with, so I’ll definitely be looking up these poets.
Sorry I hogged your comment box! Have a great week and thanks for this post.
We do have a lot in common! 😊❤❤❤