As social distancing and self isolation continues on into week 2, feelings of disquiet and general disfunction may begin to set in. Staying busy, physically active and mentally stimulated can combat these feelings of angst.
I’ve collated a few resources for adults, children and children of all ages, and will continue to update as I find more. Feel free to share and add to in your comments. Hope this is helpful. And, stay safe.
1. BHL has content rich resources for times like these. Looking for curated content? Biodiversity library has this collection of ebooks on a variety of subjects, from Antarctic Exploration & Discovery to Seed & Nursery Catalogs and Latino Natural History.
Spring is in the air and the birds are actively pursuing their mating rituals. The wren outside my window has been singing his heart out, the tufted titmouse, the cardinal and the song sparrow join in the chorus. They are particularly active in the mornings. With my window open the sounds and smells of spring waft in.
This morning was all about the European starlings…I watched four of them at the feeder, their comical frenzy vying for the choice spots, ousting each other from perch to perch… tiny feeder, big bird – makes for quite some tom foolery!
Starlings whilst feeding constantly scan the air for predators making them skittish; unlike finches or song sparrows that are comfortable even when they see movement at the window. Sketching starlings requires more stealth and dexterity almost on a machiavellian level. Remaining partly hidden behind the blinds, with a narrow field of view and hardly any movement on my part, the sketches are a bit stiff, but we’re still fun to do and a few minutes of sketching certainly is meditative and relaxing. Here are today’s sketches done in between reading and organizing. Did you try sketching today?
Talking about reading, Mary Oliver comes to mind- you can always count on her for great visual imagery… this here is an excerpt from one of her poems, if you have the time I highly recommend reading the full poem…
Starlings in Winter
by Mary Oliver
Chunky and noisy,
but with stars in their black feathers,
they spring from the telephone wire
they are acrobats
in the freezing wind.
And now, in the theater of air,
they swing over buildings, […
…] I feel my boots
trying to leave the ground,
I feel my heart
pumping hard. I want
to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings.
Today I read some of Mary Oliver words. What were your reading blocks today?
A succession of shutdowns are happening all around us, everywhere schools, libraries, museums, Gardens, theaters, etc. are closing down for the month at the least…
In times of uncertainty, fear, worry and anxiety all kick in, as does stress. Fear of the unknown- a mental activity along with worry stirs a physical reaction of bodily stress and mental anxiety. Yet humans have the ability to cope and help each other cope through times of such uncertainty. It’s imperative to keep mentally and physically active to feed the body, mind and soul to aid in dialing down the panic.
Here are a few simple things we CAN do…
FRESH AIR & SUNLIGHT : Let’s start with Fresh air and sunlight – two proven natural disinfectants – go outside in your yard or garden and get some of these. Start a garden, prune your trees and shrubs, clean the yard. Open a few windows for short periods of time to keep fresh air flowing indoors and listen to birdsong! It’s that time of year and the birds are out there actively readying for spring! Play outside with your children and your pets. Enjoy nature’s bounty right in your backyard. Here’s what’s lurking in mine….
READ: Stock up on books – physical, electronic or audio – we all have TBR lists, now is the time to catch up on your reading. Reading transports you to places you’ve never been, see and experience things you never have, all from the comfort of your favorite chair. Reading stimulates disparate parts of your brain such as vision, language, and associative learning to work together. Mental stimulation from reading can help protect memory and thinking skills, heighten overall brain function. So grab a book and READ.
So many books and now so much time!!!
DRAW: More and more studies are proving drawing is a meditative practice, lowers stress levels, deepens your breathing, helps calm your mind. Drawing helps enhance the development of the brain by putting all parts of the brain to work. It boosts memory and relieves stress. So Grab a sketchbook or two and some pens/ pencils/ crayons or whatever, and draw. You don’t have to be an artist or create a masterpiece, just draw. And it’s free— grab a pad and a biro if you don’t have sketching supplies and get started. Draw anything and everything – your hands, feet, pets, utensils, plants, food, spouse, or a cartoon. It’s not what you draw, it’s that you draw. Anyone can draw. Remember kindergarten, yup we all drew and colored and didn’t care what it looked like – but as we grew older we lost that feeling. Get it back now. No experience necessary. Here are rough sketches of mine, mostly drawn live, not for perfection but for fun…
“Faites des lignes. Faites beaucoup de lignes.” (“Draw lines – draw a lot of lines”) Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780-1867)
WRITE: Similar to drawing, handwriting increases neural activity in certain sections of the brain, just like meditation. Handwriting sharpens the brain and helps us learn. So write — write that novel or short story, movie script, Op-ed piece or blog post you’ve had in your head but didn’t have time to put down, grab a pad and pen and get started. Or write your family history for your children- do the research, organize all those family heirloom photos and records, get the whole family involved, everyone can contribute. Or just start a journal, record your experiences and feeling, childhood memories – anything. Just Write!
MUSIC : listening to and /or playing music provides a total brain workout. Research has shown that music can reduce anxiety, blood pressure, and pain as well as improve sleep quality, mood, mental alertness, and memory. Get your favorite bands playing or grab your guitar / keyboard, French horn, and learn a new song, anything that will get your mind and body move into a comfort zone. Get up and learn to dance or combine music with another activity. Or listen to podcasts to help enrich your mind and soul.
LEARN: On a physiological level, learning and practicing a new skill increases the density of the white matter in your brain which helps improve performance on a number of tasks. So Learn a new skill – cooking, baking, woodworking, bookbinding, whatever! There are many online resources to choose from including YouTube with myriads of videos. That thing you always wanted to learn to do – now is your chance, take a stab at it! Be bold.
DECLUTTER: Decluttering helps reduce chaos both physically and mentally. Even the physical activity of cleaning out your garage, your home, your closet can be mentally rewarding. Get the whole family involved, turn on the music and get going, do it in chunks – and spring cleaning’s done and donation piles ready ahead of time. And you’re not sitting around worrying! Oh, and how about those old your emails, text messages and file folders on your laptop? How many MB of storage can you retrieve?
PLAY: Play games – Quizzes, board games, electronic, whatever- keep the whole family occupied mentally, and physically and have fun. Laughing relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after. Laughter boosts the immune system. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease. So play and laugh together. When was the last time you did that as a family…
STAY CONNECTED: Stay connected with friends and family. Social distancing doesn’t mean you can’t call, text or video chat. Do all that from the comfort of home.
Whatever your choice, keep busy with things that’ll make you laugh, cry (as in movies), exclaim, enrich, enliven, and let your emotions flow – our mind, body and soul needs this now more than ever.
SHARE: And don’t forget to share activities with others specially those who can’t do it on their own and need a bit of help and encouragement, especially children and the elderly.
Keeping ourselves occupied physically, mentally and emotionally is not just a healthy way to deal with uncertainty, fear, anxiety and worry. It’s now the only way to keep us calm and offset the Panic button.
These are just a few of my favorite activities – what are some of yours? Find some that excite you and carry on….surround yourself with the things you love to do, and then do them…
As for me, besides reading I’ll be sketching and posting my sketches often, daily if I can, mostly of nature around me…here’s my sketch from today, Pi-Day, 3/14/2020, also Einstein’s birthday. Join me if you can…