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anxiety in the time of covid-19

anxiety in the time of covid-19

i’m not an overly anxious person, but i do have low-level anxiety, and now is not a great time for people with low-level anxiety because it’s turned into what i imagine really anxious peeps’ daily lives are like.

yikes!

the tightening of my solar plexus, on a normal day, usually starts later in the day, if it happens. i wake up great and anxiety sort of builds up through the day. some days i get no anxiety. other days i get a lot. i get anxiety when i think about anxiety (oh cruel world). it’s never-ending circle once the anxiety roller coaster starts. (this is going to be a fun post to write, huh.)

what’s especially annoying is that anxiety’s symptoms pretty closely mirror symptoms of covid (minus the fever). so thanks, evolution, for making humans an anxious bunch!

so what do i do to keep my anxiety at bay? well, there are a few things!

working from home

(my life in a piece of clipart)

i have to say, working from home is pretty relaxing. being in the most familiar environment you have and being able to just get up and leave and do housework or sit in the living room or head outside is helpful when weird situations arise. extroverts among us, of course, are like WHAT IS THIS I’M DYING HERE, but as an introvert, this is a pretty slick deal.

running (or exercise)

running while anxious is GREAT. not only do you release a bunch of endorphins after you’re done and move that anxiety needle down, but the anxiety creates some sort of super-runner vortex while you’re out there. you can run through all the stupid scenarios and get stuck in your head, of course, or you can turn up the music and try to push the bad stuff out of your head. some of my best runs have been while anxious or annoyed. and like i said, after you’re done, the hormone release sort of relaxes everything.

yoga

you’ve all heard me wax eloquent about yoga! i’ve been doing yoga regularly for about 7 years now, and it’s probably the most useful mindfulness tool i have in my life toolbox. while i’m running, like i said, i can get lost in my head and thoughts run wild because running is a repetitive, mindless activity.

yoga, on the other hand, requires 100% brain focus. you need to focus on keeping your back straight but tailbone tucked; you need to think about how you’re going to move into a pose; you need to keep your middle toe in line with your knee when it’s bent; you need to focus your eyes on something to balance; and all along you need to keep your breathing in time with the movements. there is no more room for your other thoughts to crowd in. then when you’re in savasana and your brain can release its focus on the asanas (which means pose! i just looked that up because i wondered why every pose ended in asana – makes sense now!), and you can release your breath into normal breathing, your brain and body are so relaxed that any anxiety can just suck it.

puzzles

who knew?? puzzles, like yoga, take a lot of focus, and as such, you think about nothing else while you’re doing a puzzle. i don’t know about you, but if i decide to throw a puzzle on the table and sit down to work on it, i can think that 20 minutes have passed, and it’s actually been 3 hours. puzzles are ENGROSSING.

if you want a way to banish all else from your brain and don’t want to do any physical exertion, try a puzzle. anxiety knocks on your brain’s door, and brain’s like, go away. trying to find a piece with a little bit of black on the tip of the round edge and the rest is orangey-red with weird stripes and it’s got an odd hooked foot thing on one side on the -OOH I THINK I FOUND IT. nope. no worries – the search continues!!! it’s GOT to be here.

your brain on puzzles is probably similar to your brain on drugs. actually, i just looked it up, and puzzles are one of the ways they break addictions at rehab. brain power > heroin.

reading (oldie but goodie)

ah yes, the old standby to dive into a world not your own completely and immersively. as much as i could say that audiobooks are as good for this, i am going to say that you really need to READ a book to get this. in personal experience, audiobooks are not as attention holding as words on a page. i get distracted while listening to audiobooks, so i know if i need to get away, it’s time to read.

and now is not the time to try to be fancy or hoity toity – read genres that GRAB you. sure, we all like to learn about stuff and like to say “yeah i read that! it was great.” when you really did not think it was that great. because a great book will call to you while you’re doing other things. it will sing to you across miles while you’re working or taking your cat to the vet or getting eggs, carrots, and cream cheese from the grocery store (to make carrot cake, of course): “get in, loser. we’re going reading.”

(now if non-fiction calls to you like this, then you do you! i know that in general, non-fiction does not yell at me across miles to pick up its pages to absorb its words into my brain. and not all fiction does this for me.)

find your favorite genre when you want your anxiety to dissipate and just dive right in. for me, that means i read a lot of YA/adult thriller or post-apocalyptical novels (how apropos) or fiction (chick-lit, stephen king, john scalzi, pat rothfuss) or even really stellar memoirs (michael perry, bill bryson, running memoirs). for you that could be mystery, romance, crime, who knows! but your favorite genre that excites you is what you need.


there’s what i’ve found useful for me. finding hobbies or activities that can distract you from what’s going on is what’s most important, and i think it’s what we all need right now. making sure you’re not just moping around the house and watching netflix (unless it’s tiger king – what a weird show) is paramount. now is a great time to find out what you really enjoy with no distractions and learn more about yourself, especially for all you extroverts and social butterflies. for introverts with anxiety, we know what helps during times like these. take a page out of our book. (heh.) (also, introverts with anxiety, sometimes it’s hard to get off the couch. i generally don’t have this problem, but like i said, my anxiety is pretty low key. i hope the longer days are helping you out.)

all hail the book nerd

all hail the book nerd

i did a cool thing today! the local libraries exchange was on campus to record 5-minute book reviews for their podcast, and i did TWO books! (unfortunately, i was the only one who signed up, so i guess it was a good thing i brought a second book!)

i had listened to a few of their podcasts before i headed into this foray, and i was worried about being able to spend enough time talking about my books. well, after i rambled on and on about the first book (“the dreamers”), the interviewer said that it was almost exactly 5 minutes. i was worried i wouldn’t be able to talk about it enough!

then i talked about “a walk in the woods” which one of the interviewers had also read (and loved the author), so we almost tag-teamed on the interview, and that one was really fun. hey, if you haven’t read that one and you enjoy memoirs and humor, this is the book for you.

THEN they invited me to come to their space over the summer sometime when they’re recording podcasts about specific genres of books! OMG. i asked if harry potter was considered a genre, and then we got excited about a podcast talking about HP.

book nerds are great.

in case of the apocalypse…

in case of the apocalypse…

i’m reading “station eleven”, a book about a major health epidemic that wipes the majority of the population from the planet. enter apocalyptic world.

i read a lot of books that involve some method of the world ending, either by EMP or nuclear war or health issues, among many others. and for some reason, they are all very similar: humankind somehow devolves by 300 years. maybe 400.

which got me wondering:

in MY post-apocalyptic world, here’s what i think will happen.

first, if it’s something like an EMP attack or similar, i don’t think it would take long for some enterprising engineer or scientist or rando to come up with some way to fix the grid. communications systems might be out a while, but i think they would come back on eventually.

human population declines by quite a bit? people power not quite what it used to be? maybe there will still be enough people to have the wherewithal to check out utilities and other operations. if not and the world needs to rely on non-computerized operations to survive at the moment? well, the pony express was a thing. we used to have steam-operated trains. i can’t imagine that it wouldn’t be difficult to retrofit. and it’s not like LIBRARIES will go offline – get thee to a library and figure out how to get stuff done! our ancestors were an enterprising bunch even without the library.

now i’m not saying there won’t be issues, especially in metro areas. i can imagine looting and violence and hysteria. meanwhile, rural folks will pretty much have it made. farms nearby, resources, space to put in gardens. space in general.

i think the thing that’s slightly irritating is the helplessness of the situation. like a world without phones and lights and fax machines is one not worth living in so i’m going to throw myself into a lake. i think when the apocalypse comes, it will boil down to the resourcefulness and stick-to-itiveness of humans that got them to the point in the first place. like i said, we have all the knowledge! and people who know this stuff aren’t just going to disappear. someone just needs to get it done.

type As will thrive in my apocalypse.

finally

finally

tomorrow afternoon, i’m finally going to see star wars. i’m disappointed in my nerd self for waiting this long. and so far i’ve done a fairly decent job of avoiding spoilers, though not that great of a job. i have discerned quite a few big ones, which makes me kind of sad, but what do i expect by waiting so long to see this movie. 
i thought about watching all the other star wars movies in preparation, but i just never had the time or the oomph to sit down and do it. plus i don’t own the prequels, and did i want to spend any more money on them? not really. if i’m severely confused by this movie tomorrow, i’ll sit down and watch all of them
perhaps i’ll do a movie review tomorrow night! we’ll see! (i’ll title it spoilers.)

a moment for nerddom

a moment for nerddom

yesterday, my sisters and canada dave and i went to wizardworld in minneapolis. completely awesome to be surrounded by nerds. if you’ve never been to a con, i highly recommend it, and make sure to dress up as your favorite nerdy character.
(as an aside, liz and i dressed up to be cupid-esque (her cupid, me -esque). next time i would definitely go as ash williams from evil dead since i have that costume and it’s awesome.)
we got pics with karl urban (squeeee!), kevin sorbo (i’m so glad i did!) and brent spiner (last minute decision, but yay!). jane and dave got a pic with the guys who play the weasley twins in the harry potter movie. i asked questions at karl’s and kevin’s panels. i enjoyed karl’s panel, but i have to say kevin’s was the highlight of the day. karl’s become a big star, a far cry from his cupid and caesar days on xena/herk, but kevin still seems to keep some down-to-earth, albeit conservative christian, appeal.
notes for next time: skip the professional pics and get in the autograph lines. we paid $20 for a picture with mr. sorbo vs. the $60 pro shot with karl. i highly prefer the kevin pic. 
i’m campaigning for bruce campbell and lucy lawless next year. 

fickle

fickle

26275_665000317431_2432753_napril, you fickle beast, you.
i guess i shouldn’t be one to talk; i have christmas decorations yet on my chandelier and a greenhouse with baby tomatoes reaching for the light 6 feet away. 
while you tease me with 76ยบ on the way home from work one afternoon, you drop to 64ยบ within the hour after i happily donned my shorts and tank top. 
then after a drenching rain, you drop completely to under freezing so i’m forced to bundle up the next morning for work. 
you’re certainly living up to your reputation of april showers, as the next week holds the promise of drops from the sky, which ARE needed here, as 80% of the state is in a drought.
but after months of running on a treadmill, i finally got out of the house for runs, and that’s all i want to do – no going back to the treadmill this season.
but the WIND the WIND the WIND. not only is it maddening overall and a beast to run in, but it stirs up stuff on the ground and gets in my eyes and nose and lungs, and i’m sniffly and snotty and gross.
so i wait: hopes a little quelled; watching for the perennials to pop up; running shoes tapping impatiently; tethered to the 10-day weather outlook.
soon the weather will stabilize into above-freezing nights; the grass will green; my plants will get in the ground; my running shoes will hit pavement.
but until then.
april, you fickle beast, you.

meta takeaways

meta takeaways

here's a photo of a cat to keep you entertained.
here’s a photo of a cat to keep you entertained.

this is going to be a blog post about blogging. how meta.
i went to the minnesota blogger conference today and learned stuff about blogging. here are the top takeaways i got from the conference.
1. your blog post needs to be at least 300 words for google to index it. not 280. not 299. 300. THAT is the biggest thing i learned, and i believe the most useful for work, where i just started a news blog. the more we can get out on google, the better. 
2. another useful thing i learned that i will apply to work: it can take at least 9 months for a blog to really take off. i’ve gotten more than one comment about how no one’s reading the blog (they are) and it’s useless (can’t say that yet!) so why are we bothering? if we are still getting the numbers we are getting now, which are not horrible (the most read post is 500 views), then i will put a kibosh on it. 
3. i found out a useful wordpress plugin that gives a calendar view of posts versus a listing.
4. a personal thought process from novice to expert: “this is neat. -> i might be good at this. -> i’m a _______.” 
5. find 6 characteristics you value and use them as a filter for everyone and everything you work with. does content serve your audience? does your content fit your values? don’t dilute your message with extraneous crap. be the guardian leader of your blog. *
6. be the best answer. what can i be the best answer for? what is it i’m best at? what do i want to be known for?
* what are my 6 values?
1. eat well, but remember to eat socially as well. 
2. pay attention – beauty is in places you least expect.
3. be cynically optimistic. or optimistically cynical.
4. it’s ok to be excited about weird stuff.
5. be an environmentalist. we only have one earth.
6. still working on this one! 

up for sunrise

up for sunrise

i’ve been meaning to get up early enough to take photos at sunrise for a long time. looong time. we’re talking years long time. 
on saturday, i finally did it. i had scouted out where i wanted to take pictures earlier in the month; i knew i wanted to do it along hwy 16 down here in southeastern MN, which is a scenic byway. 
i pulled out and drove east on hwy 14 at about 6:35, and the horizon was just starting to get a little dusty. i drove a winding way down to whalan, which is near lanesboro. the topography is interesting: you have pretty tree-less prairie land with occasional hills, which are loaded with commodity crops; then suddenly, you drop into a river valley where the land is nothing but hills covered with trees. 
at one point on my drive, i was on a hill on the prairie, and i could see south for miles. fog had rolled in overnight due to the below-freezing temps, and it looked spooky with the hills poking out of the grey-ish white fog in the barely there pre-dawn dark. 
(at this point, i was thanking my lucky stars, because i had always wanted to get up in the morning and take some fog pics too.)
i drove to whalan and found my barn, but sunrise was another 15 minutes away, and it would take longer than that for it to crest the hill enough to be visible. i drove out of the valley, just up a gravel road, and parked my car next to a field where i waited for the sun to make its appearance. 
sunrise light is beautiful. it makes everything look new and crisp, and with the frost still on the ground, the crops and grass looked mystical.
after i got some photos on the prairie, i went back down into the valley and got my barn pictures. all in all, they weren’t my favorite photos taken that day, and the barn was the reason i drove out. 
i drove into lanesboro afterward to try my hand at waterfall pictures (epic fail, and i almost biffed it on some ice), and took about a mile walk on the bike trail, getting flat on the ground at one point.
as a bonus, i was able to take in the lanesboro farmers’ market, which i’d been meaning to check out all summer. small, and i wouldn’t make a special trip, but it was worth checking out. i bought another pie pumpkin and some garlic to plant. 
i left lanesboro and the valley around 9:30 and got home around 10. it was only mid-morning and i felt like i’d been up for half a day already. but it was totally worth it.
now that i know what to expect, i’ll do sunrise pictures again.