Point of view: Building my world
By Julie Pierce Onos
The Daily Optimist
Once it became clear to me that the COVID-19 quarantine was going to last longer than mere days or weeks, I resolved to come out of it better than I went in.
There are three specific things that I did that have improved my life. None of them required a quarantine to start or massive amounts of energy or effort to maintain. However, the cumulative effect has created a more peaceful life for me and my family.
The three new habits are: developing a meditation practice, de-cluttering and committing to remaining uncluttered and trading time on social media for reading.
One clear sign to me that I need to pay attention to my mental health is when stillness is inaccessible. There have been multiple times in my life where I have tried to create a meditation practice, but it didn’t stick when stress came back.
However, pre-COVID-19, my stress levels had increased, and I was in desperate need of a long-term solution to release stress and be free of anxious thoughts. Meditation was suggested to me by both professionals and friends. I learned I need movement first to help me settle into a meditative state. It can be a vigorous workout or gentle stretching, but the type of movement isn’t important. What’s important is creating a physical transition for my body and mind. Just adding simple movement immediately preceding meditation has helped me to be able to stick with daily meditation for over 70 days in a row. Now, I have less anxious thoughts, I can slow panicked heart racing and I can more easily shift worry and frustration.
“When a man starts out to build a world, he starts first with himself.” ~Langston Hughes
I have used this time to sort through belongings and decide which were still needed and which ones added to clutter and disorganization. It helped that this process was unhurried. If I only sorted the contents on one drawer, this was fine. It gave me something concrete to do with visible results that were pleasing to the eye.
My favorite part of the process was that I found a number of items that would be useful to others. Rather than collecting dust or adding to the metric tons of items in our landfills, I’ve embarked on a heartfelt search to match gently used toys, clothes and household items with people who need them.
Those socially distant smiles are immensely gratifying.
Years ago, when I first had a cell phone and my oldest children were first in school, I kept my phone handy so that if I ever received a call that they were sick or hurt, I would get it right away. During the quarantine, we were all together and I never needed to worry about where they were. I had to be honest with myself that I used my phone as an unhealthy way to zone out. I traded aimless time spent on social media with reading. But I didn’t beat myself up for time spent on social media. Instead I chose some topics that I truly wanted to learn more about and picked up books in those areas. Soon I would lose myself in a great story or a fascinating topic. I’m now insulated from the negativity that occurs in online forums and I don’t feel as cooped up, even though I haven’t physically been anywhere.
Spending so much time reading has reignited some interests that I’ve let the hamster wheel of life distract me from pursuing. I’m no longer just treading water, I’m growing because my mind is continuing to expand. De-cluttering has connected me to people in my community, made my home easier to keep neat and clean and inspired me to finally hang up the decorations that bring a smile to my face in each room I enter.
Life isn’t perfectly free of stress. But my home is now truly my sanctuary and stress doesn’t dictate my responses, attitudes or contentment.
Julie Pierce Onos has written on many subjects including business, parenting, spirituality, and holistic health. She is a Yale University graduate, a mother of three, and works in Organization Development in the Boston area.