This has been a crazy year, one that most people just want to forget. First, the pandemic forced us to change our lifestyles dramatically and taught us all a lesson in humility. Then with the death of George Floyd, racial tensions threatened to divide an already-divided nation. In August, the derecho hit our community with the force of a land hurricane, and destroyed much of Cedar Rapids, Marion and Hiawatha's tree canopies. And please, don't even get me start about the stress and tensions of the election. And now, with the rise in positive COVID cases and deaths surrounding us, it is difficult to see the silver lining in all this. Is there any?
I believe there is. Gratitude turns what we have into enough.
Melody Beattie, a well-known personal growth coach, said that, and she is not wrong. Gratitude comes when you know what it is like to have a lack of something; food, shelter, a job, money, love, health, and even patience and understanding.
Most people know what it is like to go without something. But doesn't it make us feel great when we finally get that back? For most of us, it's a feeling of relief that stays with us. It is in this place of gratitude that we become more empathetic, understanding and patient with others who are dealing with loss, as well.
After we finally got electricity and internet back 12 days after the storm in August, I vowed never to take those things for granted again. During the storm, we bought a camp stove to cook on, we used flashlights and candles for light when it got dark (thank goodness it was summer!), and we were able to use the data from our phones to receive news about what was going on in our community. When we received a generator from my daughter, I was elated! Finally, I could make a good cup of coffee! (It really is the little things that matter most.) All those things were great, but it was the people we didn't even know, who helped us clear our streets, and restore our power and internet, that we are the most grateful for. Without them, we would still be in the dark.
The cool thing about gratitude is that when we practice appreciation, we feel better about our situation. We can feel good anytime we want. Perhaps you have heard the saying, "Change the way you think about something, and the thing you are thinking about changes." We have control about what we think, to a degree. We can't stop thoughts from entering our minds, but we can choose to change the way we think about them, and using gratitude to do this can actually make you feel more positive.
One valuable piece of advice I received years ago is that when we are feeling down we should "make a list of our gratefuls." This is something that continues to work for me when I am worried or anxious (especially about the future), when I am disappointed something didn't work out as I planned, or if I am dealing with a stressful situation that is out of my control. I make a mental list of all the wonderful things in my life; good health, a good job, food to eat, a nice home, and the love of my family. After enduring the trials of this year, I know these things can be taken away from me in a blink of an eye, but I choose to live in this moment and appreciate what I have, right now. Not only do I feel a sense of calm, but I am more positive and empathetic, too.
Gratitude makes what we have enough, and when you practice it, you become content, which brings peace of mind, which just so happens to be the recipe for a happy life.
Being mindful isn’t just a fad that will be gone in a few years; it is a tried and true relaxation technique that can reduce stress and allow you to live a better life. Being mindful helps you “achieve a state of alert, focused relaxation by deliberately paying attention to thoughts and sensations without judgment.” It quiets our minds so we can practice better self-care and self-control.
Practicing mindfulness brings us back to the present moment when life becomes overwhelming, which helps us become calmer and less stressed. It also lowers blood pressure, reduces chronic pain, improves sleep, and lessens gastrointestinal difficulties. It can also help us cope with depression, anxiety, substance abuse, eating disorders, and other issues.
Being mindful is not an easy habit to adopt. If you are like me, life becomes hectic and I usually find myself in damage-control mode. However, there are several apps available that have helped me become more mindful, including Headspace, Insight Timer, Calm, and My Life. These apps are great, depending on what you are looking for. I use My Life because it has a variety of skills I like to use.
However, you don’t need an app to be mindful. You can choose to be mindful in anything you do. You can meditate, do yoga, and even practice mindfulness right where you are; in the shower, when you cook, taking a walk, working on a hobby, or playing with a pet, child, or grandchild. The thing you want to remember is to relax by bringing your attention to the present, and focus more on what you are doing at any moment.
Learning how to be more mindful can help us deal with stressful situations. Many mental health professionals believe that anxiety comes from thinking too much about the past or the future. It is only when we can be “present” that we can find peace. Unfortunately, it is not something that “just happens.” That’s is why it is called, “practicing mindfulness.”
The thing to remember is that meditation is not a one-size-fits-all. There is no right or wrong way to do it; you will want to figure out what works best for you. However, by reducing the stress and anxiety of everyday life, you can drastically improve your overall health.
Prairiewoods is known for its spectacular annual Holiday Bazaar. This year, due to COVID-19, it’s not safe to gather dozens of vendors and meet in person. So instead of gathering in person, they are hosting a Virtual Holiday Mini-Bazaar with some special Prairiewoods items available for order via phone (319-395-6700) or email (email@example.com) from Nov. 20 to Dec. 18, with touch-free pickup.
The products available include:
• Tree-shirts with our gorgeous tree top and roots image, now in classic black! ($16 for short-sleeve, $22 for long-sleeve)
• Reusable Prairiewoods shopping bags in black or brown ($6)
• Wood-grain journals ($17)
• Outstretched Boughs, our popular, recently released book of tree poetry ($10)
• Wooden disc ornament kits for creating at home (includes 8 discs cut from Prairiewoods trees lost in the derecho, instructions for painting both a mandala and a dotted Christmas tree, ribbons for hanging, 1 set of dotting tools and 5 full-size acrylic paints)—this is a great activity for the whole family! ($20)
• Gift certificates (any dollar amount)
Gift certificates and tree poetry books can be mailed. All other items will be available for touch-free pickup at Prairiewoods at your convenience. Contact us between Nov. 20 and Dec. 18 (at 319-395-6700 or firstname.lastname@example.org) to place your order! Visit Prairiewoods' website for updates and more info!
Halloween wasn't always the fun holiday as it is known as today. According to History.com, the tradition originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 (which was the Celtic's New Year back then) as a time to honor all saints. The evening before All Saints Day was known as All Hallows Eve, and later Halloween. Over the years, it has evolved into a day of activities complete with trick-or-treating, wearing costumes, and parties.
Although many people just want to just forget about the pandemic and get on with their lives, it's best to stay vigilant and not let our guards down. We can still have fun this Halloween, just be sure to social-distance, wear a mask when you can't, and use hand sanitizer, while engaging in Halloween activities. And have a HOWWWLINGLY happy Halloween!
It has been a tough year for everyone. Not just in Iowa, but the entire world has been faced with adversities we never thought we'd have to deal with in our lifetime. Maybe this is what it felt like when the Spanish Flu became a pandemic and the Great Depression put pretty much everyone on the same playing board. Every adult over 30 has seen what war or "conflicts" look like. Maybe they weren't affected personally, but they knew of it, and 9/11 changed the way we view terrorists and terrorism. We didn't feel safe anymore.
All of these things I mentioned happened and somehow we got through it. Perhaps we are even stronger because of it. I think that is why, when the pandemic happened, most people didn't panic. Sure, you will always have people who refuse to look at the facts and think everything is a conspiracy devised by those who want to end the existence of humans. But, for the most part, everyone did their best to work together to stop the spread of the disease.
No one was expect eastern Iowa to be hit with a derecho, or the gulf to be hit with two hurricanes one after another, and no one could foresee the devastation caused by wildfires on the west coast. Riots and protests broke out across the country, demanding that we all stop and think about what "Black Lives Matter" really means. PLUS, we have to deal with an upcoming election, where both sides are not holding back and even crossing some lines that shouldn't be crossed.
Jokes started circulating earlier this year about how 2020 is the worst year ever. We wonder, how can so many bad things happen in one year? If we didn't already have the pandemic and the derecho storm hit our community on schedule, we might have just seen it as Mother Nature having a bad hair day. But, since we are dealing with COVID, too, everything bad that happens is like weights being thrown on top of the pandemic.
It is all about perspective - how you choose to perceive it. We can play the victim and see these things as happening to us, or we can understand they are just challenges, and we can do our best to learn from it.
We are all going to change somewhat because of this year; I would be surprised if we didn't. But I don't think it's a bad thing. Maybe dealing with the pandemic will help us appreciate life and understand what is important. Maybe the storm helped us realize how blessed we are and made us more grateful for electricity, internet, and good friends and neighbors. Perhaps what is happening in the rest of the world helps us become more aware of which direction we really want to go in as a society.
I believe we are stronger because of the challenges we face. And while we don't get to choose what those challenges are, we always have control in how we choose to perceive them and how we react to them.
Everyone in Iowa is about to the end of their ropes. We are all wondering, "How much more can we take?"
But we are a resilient community, one that takes care of our neighbors, and we will bounce back better than ever. However, we all need to remember to take care of our own needs, or we won't be able to help others. Below are a few ways we can do that:
The importance of self-care
It’s hard to take care of yourself during a crisis, especially when people depend on you. It’s unrealistic to be on the go 24/7 when your stress level is already high. Neglecting yourself puts you at risk for burnout, compassion fatigue and secondary traumatic stress. Think of your response to an ongoing crisis, such as storm recovery and COVID-19, as a marathon, not a sprint. The only way to get through it is to pace yourself so you can see to your own needs as well as those of others.
Three steps to self-care
We’re all in this together, both at work and at home. It’s important to lift each other up. Let your coworkers and family know you appreciate them. Be generous with praise, notice their accomplishments, and be helpful and kind.
10 Things you can do to take care of yourself:
Linn County Public Health strongly recommends all residents and visitors to consistently and correctly wear a cloth face covering in public settings and when around people who do not live in your household, especially when physical distancing measures are difficult to maintain. These recommendations are in alignment with the Iowa Department of Public Health’s recently launched #StepUpMaskUpIA campaign to encourage Iowans to follow important public health mitigation measures.
Linn County Public Health has recommended the use of cloth face coverings since April 3, 2020, when the White House Coronavirus Task Force and CDC recommended that persons wear a cloth face covering in public to slow the spread of COVID-19. This recommendation is based on evidence that a person with COVID-19 can transmit the virus to others before they develop symptoms or have an asymptomatic infection. Recent scientific evidence and case studies in hospital and community settings show universal use of cloth face coverings can prevent people who have COVID-19 from spreading the virus to others.
Pramod Dwivedi, Linn County Public Health Director states, “I strongly urge our community to wear cloth face coverings to slow the spread of COVID-19. By wearing a cloth face covering, you show you care about your neighbors, your friends, and your family. It is a simple way to protect the health and safety of our community, and benefits everyone.”
When wearing a cloth face covering:
For more information about cloth face coverings, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 webpage on Cloth Face Coverings.
For more information regarding COVID-19 visit https://www.linncounty.org/1372/COVID-19.
Wal-Mart has joined other big businesses in requiring customers to wear face-coverings while they are shopping in their stores, in an effort to stop the spread of COVID. Other stores include Costco, Walgreen, CVS, Dollar Tree, Menards, Best Buy, Aldi, and The Apple Store. It was pointed out by AARP that some of these store strongly suggest, but don't require the use of a face covering. It's best to take one, just in case.
The pandemic is showing no signs of slowing down. If anything, it is ramping up. Hot temperatures are driving people to Florida beaches, where officials announced July 11 that 15,299 people tested positive for COVID; a daily record-breaking number for that state. Other states had record-breaking positive cases as well, including Texas, Arizona, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania.
It was announced July 14 that Chicago will require anyone traveling from Iowa to quarantine for 14 days upon their arrival to the Windy City. This is just the latest city/state to require Iowans to quarantine this summer while traveling. New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania also require Iowans or anyone visiting Iowa to quarantine for two weeks.
Just a reminder: The best way to combat the spread of the virus is use common sense; quarantine when you are sick, wear a mask or face covering when you are in a public setting, and practice social distancing. Visit Iowa's official COVID site for more information and updates.
The summer is starting to heat up, but you don't have to suffer in the Iowa heat and humidity.
Here a few tips to keep you cool!