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  • Writer's pictureAnn Louden


Updated: Feb 15, 2021

It's autumn in New York, and only two months until this year ends. Most of us won't be sorry to see it go! 

The changes in our lives range from dramatic to frustrating, and all points in between. I admire people who don't get discouraged and who keep on keeping on. But honestly, that describes no one during this pandemic.

Every person I talk to admits to having "down days" when they just can't get motivated. There are so many reasons:

- Fear

- Loneliness

- Health conditions

- Uncertainty

- Anxiety

- Restlessness

If we spend a lot of time watching the news, there is little to inspire or encourage us. That's why I know we have to dig down and find our own answers.

I have been thinking a lot about how to maintain forward momentum. When the surroundings don't change, you have to bring the change to you.

Here are four suggestions for staying mentally healthy:

1) Enjoy being outside - New York City and upstate New York have been stunningly beautiful this fall. From the changing of the leaves to the onset of cooler temperatures, I have been so grateful to pay witness. In the last few weeks, visiting the Empire State Building, riding the Staten Island Ferry, and seeing the City in all its unique glory have been gratifying. New York is not back yet -- and there are reasons for concern -- but it is returning.

2) Connect and re-connect - Talking with loved ones, as well as meeting new people (still mostly online) links us to the larger world. Hearing another voice -- especially one we have missed -- provides a boost to know we aren't alone.

It breaks my heart that the sick and elderly have been isolated, unable to see family. I captured this moment of an adult daughter on the sidewalk, sending love to her parents through the glass door of the nursing home.

The time and energy we invest in relationships come back to us. But often, we must be the initiators and the maintainers. If you take the approach that it doesn't matter who takes responsibility for the relationship, it will pay off.  Psychologist Esther Perel says it this way: "The quality of your relationships determines the quality of your life." What grade would you give yourself as a connector? How often do you make the first move? 

3) Take on a project - I have joined the board of Women in Development, whose members provide the fundraising firepower for nonprofits in New York. My responsibility is to match volunteers for committee work, a role that rewards me with every conversation.  Think about your skills and what you have to offer. And if you have the time, do something for someone else. We are all hungry to give back in a meaningful way. The rewards to you will be significant. 

4) Be good to yourself - One of the silver linings of the pandemic is realizing that the small things we do for ourselves lighten our moods. I have tallied just a few from the last 24 hours:  > Lime in my diet coke -- even though I buy lime-flavored soda, I like spoiling myself with fresh fruit. (And I love the references to Texas and Mexican food.)

> Playing with a pet -- in a recent visit to Rochester, NY, I got to meet the most adorable puppy. I wanted to bring him home, but his owner said "absolutely not!"

> New socks -- my apartment building just turned the heat on, so it's time for comfort clothes. I am partial to socks with decorations on them, like foxes, hearts, hamburgers, and shamrocks. I just restocked at DSW this weekend. A girl cannot have too many peds! 

> A new cake of soap -- I used to let the soap get so small it would finally crack and break. Not anymore! Give me a fat Irish Spring bar and my day is made. 

> Staying in the shower for a really long time -- apartment residents in a building as large as mine don't pay water bills. It would be impossible to figure out who owes what. Running the water is the one free thing in my life. (Don't worry, it's more than made up by sky high costs of rent, groceries, electricity, parking, and taxes!)  > Attempting (and succeeding) at making recipes I have never tried before -- I have mastered scallops, salmon, steaks, potato salad, and cranberry apple pie. 

But my special treat is ice cream. With my new Cuisinart, and a Ben and Jerry's ice cream recipe book, the world feels new and sparkly again. 

What is your indulgence? Your ice cream? Between now and year's end, get momentum on just one thing to keep you going forward. If you can pull off two, that's real hope. Three, and it's cause for celebration!  Happy November, and stay safe, 


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