Dear Reader,

How’s it going with your social isolation?

Let me say this about me… I was made for this and this is both exciting and worrisome to someone with depression and anxiety.

The exciting part is that I am so productive. I actually am re-learning thing this thing about myself. I like having several irons in the fire and I like working on them a little everyday.

I think that’s why I like designing courses. I’m learning new things everyday and little by little I’m seeing my modules (as an English professor) coming alive and I get excited for when my students see it.

It’s the same for longer writing projects. The memoir is being farmed out in pieces for feedback and when the feedback comes back, I work on it. I feel like I’m being productive and that I’m taking pieces and chunks out of a bigger project that, at times, has overwhelmed me.

I’m also able to concentrate on things that been set to the side like my reading and my health. I work out regularly and have done so since December 2019. And everything about making a priority when you’re so busy is true. But in my self isolation, I can dedicate myself to it with more presence.

However, I’m doing all this good work with as little person to person interaction and that worries me.

When we get back to some sort of normalcy, there is a chance for my anxiety to shoot up. For me, it will be new. I’m already not a general fan of people but when I go for days, like an extended weekend, of not seeing people, the return is a difficult adjustment.

And that worries me.

Because while I am texting, calling, video conferencing, etc., it is not a 100 percent substitute for people to people interaction. It’s not an interaction that is completely controlled in comparison to technology.

And that has always worried me.

But, I have instituted on rule during this period. One thing at a time. We will deal with things as them come, in terms of how I’m handling my mental health during this time period. For me, focus and structure help me keep the anxiety attacks at bay.

Also meds. Take your meds and wash your hands.

For me, knowing that I have work planned out for the next day or that I have a time carved out to sit on my porch and read, is helping.

Yoga at home is helping. Breathing is helping.

Also, acknowledging that this is all a pretty crazy but temporary situation is helping. Because, it is, temporary.

And I seek out joy. And put joy out there so it can return to me.

Reading my Kindle outside for some sun

But even with all this, I am starting to get insomnia. It’s been difficult to sleep the past couple of nights. My brain won’t shut off.

And I feel myself flicking into survival mode, the Fernandez survival mode, which has helped and benefited me through out most of my life. I am able to put things aside — fear, anger, confusion, grief — to do what I need to do when it’s in front of me.

I went into this mode when my dad died in the early 2000s. I helped plan the funeral and wrote the obituary with minimal breakdowns. I purchased mourning clothes for my mother and made sure everyone was taken care of.

I told myself I could break down later. I had several years of later before the breakdown happened.

I did this again during Harvey. I watched Gilmore Girls on Netflix while the floodwaters rose. I didn’t snap into action until we left and I was in my element, taking care of things, making decisions, helping to get mom safe when she was being extra stubborn. My sister was there and she was helpful and also bore part of that burden so that was helpful.

But these things, these traumas, are my defaults. I go into these modes to protect myself so that I can handle business. However, when that business is done, I don’t usually return to deal with the emotional and mental trauma.

For this international pandemic, I’m going to do something different because … frankly … I need to sleep.

That’s how I’m working on my word of the year. You didn’t think I forgot about that did you?

I am building my network, helping how I can to build others and in the process building community and my humanity.

And I’m building my mental health coping mechanisms. Actually, I’m returning to some of my old coping mechanisms when my anxiety was high.

Note: my anxiety isn’t high and my depression is on the floor but my stress is stupid crazy high, at least for me. So I went back to some of my tried and true. The Sanvello app is so great for checking in with yourself, giving ourself goals for your mental health, and even getting started with meditating and mindfulness.

From stats from Sanvello. That stress score is high! But that anxiety and depression score is really nice and low!

Here are some other things I’m doing to help keep my anxiety down.

  1. Listening to more music. Just let your favorite music app run.
  2. Movement. Yoga is always my thing, but I’m getting into Tabata and HIIT and some light weights.
  3. Gratitude. I’m listing three things I am grateful for everyday.
  4. Reading. I am on a roll with reading and I love getting back to this practice.
  5. Finding one thing everyday to make me laugh or smile
  6. Limit news consumption to once a day. I don’t really need to watch three daily press conferences. I’m good.

Here is what I need to remember:

Normal is a moving target. Normal is a state of mind. You define normal.

And this is temporary.

This is temporary.

And I have the tools to deal with this.

Stay healthy, take your meds, wash your hands,