Seeing Clearly through Anxious Times

Hello readers, how are you doing? I wanted to say hello and that I hope everyone is taking care of themselves. In D.C., the flowers are blooming, and the cherry blossoms are primed to peak in the next couple of days. The sun shines longer in the sky and glows warm when it peeks out behind the clouds. I celebrate my birthday in a few days.

My favorite Hains Point corner

It’s a beautiful time of year shrouded in an invisible blanket of uncertainty, and it doesn’t seem that we’ll be pulling off that invisible layer anytime soon.

Those of us who can, work virtually from our homes. We plug away beneath the steady rain of emails from every single organization and company we’ve ever heard of informing us how they are handling COVID-19. Throughout the day, I refresh headlines to see if something new has occurred.

During off hours, we limit our proximity to others and time in places like grocery stores. Some of us still crave the outdoors and, whether it is a good or bad idea, we venture out after the workday ends. Many of us appear to be on the same schedule; we need staggered shifts to ensure adherence to the social distancing guidelines.

Hains Point

The city is quiet and uncomfortably calm. It contrasts with the seasonal changes we observe that encourage us to enjoy the enchantment of spring all around us.

We do not know what is next. I don’t know about you, but I feel anxious a lot of the time.

Last month I wrote about how I had begun eliminating added sugar from my diet, and I’ve continued that practice. I also stopped consuming alcohol.

The benefits of no sugar or alcohol over the past 2.5 months continue to manifest. I have become hyper aware of when I reach for alcohol or sugar, which is often as a reaction to stress or anxiety.

Their removal struck a short term blow to decades of less-than-optimal coping habits. It also allowed for clarity in two other areas: the thoughts in my head, especially during stressful times; and awareness of the array of tools I employ to manage or soothe my feelings. I bite my nails. I grind my teeth. I run. I ride my bike. I practice yoga. I will shop. This list is not all-inclusive!

As you see, certain outlets are healthier than others. I was vaguely aware that my emotional crutch toolbox looked like this, but it took the elimination of two of the most regularly employed tools to clearly see it.

Compared to many others, my situation is secure. Even so, this is a time that has upended the daily routine. We are walking into the unfamiliar, the unknown.

The urge to revert to unhelpful coping methods occasionally enters my head. I take a breath, boil water, and brew tea. I read fiction – not dystopian fiction! I resist refreshing the headlines and grasp for perspective. Repeat.

I’m grateful for my no-sugar, no-alcohol journey. It has not been the sacrifice I initially imagined, and has helped to crystalize my thinking.

The additional clarity in my head allows for more nourishing choices – not all the time, but I’m on my way. Thanks to all of you for reading.

Before I sign off for now, two things. First, does anyone have ideas for recipes or meals during a time when it’s more difficult to secure fresh vegetables? And do you have any book recommendations (again, not dystopian ficton!)?

Second, I hope the best for everyone. I hope you are well, and that you stay safe and healthy, maintain contact with friends, and engage in physical activity as you can. Let me know how you’re faring. We’ll be talking.

14 comments

  1. I have had to limit my social media as it was really causing me a lot of stress. With everyone posting photos of empty shelves, I felt the urge to run to the store, even though we really don’t need anything urgently. I can wait a few days before we are likely to be running out of perishables (milk, bread) and, even then, we have PB and some other staples that we can use during the weeks ahead. All this reminds me of living in Ireland for a year in the 1970s. After returning home (to SoCal) I had a new-found appreciation for things such as access to daily showers, the availability of fresh produce on any day of the week, central heating, and more. Looking at the bright side, this current temporary inconvenience should make me more grateful for what we do have and what we will have again after this period ends. Thank you for your post. These are challenging times, but your post gave me time to reflect. Stay well! p.s. kudos for staying off sugar & alcohol. That’s amazing!

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    1. Thanks for your comment and perspective, Lynda! Yes, I’ve been trying to be more disciplined about looking at headlines, for the same reason. I actually went through our kitchen and wrote down everything in our cupboards and fridge so I could be more rational in my response. I love making lists when I’m stressed so it was also a comforting thing to do! Be well.

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  2. One thing to be grateful for is the fact that this crisis is happening when we have lots of daylight. If it had hit in December, it would have been so much harder to cope.

    As far as reading I am reading a lot of Bill Bryson lately. I need the laughs and the scores of off the wall factoids he drops in at random. Maybe my favorite fiction author is Nick Hornby. He’s wonderful and funny. If you haven’t seen his State of the Union, I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s on Sundance.com. Ten ten-minute episodes. Briliant.

    Stay well and sane.

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  3. Well done on the alcohol and sugar thing. I have been off alcohol for a while and can’t imagine how I would be coping right now if I was still drinking. Being tea total, I can’t bring myself to avoid added sugar just yet-I’m a sucker for dipping biscuits into the stuff!

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  4. keep at it. lowering carbs can only be good for you also try to ditch wheat. i know thats hard but your waist line will thank you. ken (87 years young and loving my trike!!!!!!!!!!!!.}

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  5. Thank you for this post, I really enjoyed it. I feel I can relate to everything you wrote. I gave up alcohol July 15, 2018. I met my partner in March of 2019 when it was obvious we were madly in love …uh, 5 min after meeting? He gave up alcohol and will hit 1 year in April. I gave up added sugars about 2 months ago. dang, that was tough! All my favorite biking trips are being cancelled and the new ones as well (Appalachian Journey just sent the note last night)…I actually cried when I got the Bike Virginia cancellation notice this morning. I am ready to email my HomeAway studio apartment I rented in Ashland Oregon to cancel, I was planning on going to the United Bike Institute for the 2 week Professional Bicycle Mechanics Class to be certified as a professional bike mechanic at the end of April. I’m reeling a bit right now. Our outlet for all this is to jump on our bikes and ride! We are going bikepacking dangit! Approved social distancing, first trip is April 4. We are looking into tandem riding as well. While not fresh produce, I have started making sourdough bread at home, I’m on my 13th loaf now, I’m getting pretty good at it. If you need starter (mine is from a neighbor named Heidi and now the starter is named Heidi) or tips on how to do it, let me know. Fresh bread all the time is pretty yummy! My best to you, Elizabeth

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    1. It’s hard to watch the events go away, but we will be back at it soon. Also, so many people have been baking bread! I may give it a try, my mom used to bake all our bread when we were little. There is nothing like the taste a fresh slice of it straight out of the oven.

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  6. Hi MG, Same down here in Australia, lucky to still be able to ride my bike at the moment. Love your blog, always something interesting to read. Stay safe.

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  7. There are veggies that freeze well (spinach, corn, red peppers, etc.). We are planning on sun-dried tomatoes to replace most fresh cherry tomatoes. We are in NC for the time being, hope I can keep riding for a while longer. I was reading a fair amount of poetry until I read the quote “I’m glad they became poets, they didn’t have enough imagination for mathematics.” Now I am reading math books.

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    1. Ha, I’m pretty sure a mathematician said that! I’ve been starting to read more poetry again as well, though I’m currently reading The Overstory. I hope all is well for you in NC, and that you can all still get out for fresh air. Physical space/distancing is a bit of an issue for us in DC right now (as I’m sure you know), but we’re doing our best.

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