Living in the Upside-Down: How Kristen is Taking Care of Herself During the Pandemic

Self-care is all the things, big and small, we do to nourish our mind, body, and soul.  Here’s what Kristen Dinger, our President and CEO, is doing to stay grounded, rested, and connected during these difficult times.

Reading

At the beginning at the pandemic, I was not able to enjoy reading, so I knew my anxiety was out of control as a good book is normally where I find solace. It took about a month for me to be able to read more than four or five pages. The non-fiction book that has most helped me during the pandemic is Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily and Amelia Nagoski.  Emily and Amelia have a great podcast as well, called Feminist Survival Project 2020.  If you find the book helpful and don’t mind people breaking out into song spontaneously, I highly recommend their podcast too.

My favorite fiction books during the pandemic are The Yellow House by Sarah Broom and The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett.  Notes on a Silencing by Lacy Crawford (a memoir) was a challenging read about a very traumatic experience in her life. The author’s exquisite writing and empathy was helpful to me in thinking about the difficult experiences in life that we face and how we deal with those events based on the power that we have in the situation.

Apps, yoga, and dogs, oh my!

Out of sheer exhaustion, I subscribed to the Breathe app and have found it to be helpful in getting to sleep.  Breathe has relaxing music, meditations, and bedtime stories. I pop in my earbuds and listen to them when I first get into bed, and with any luck, I am asleep within a few minutes.  For those who enjoy an ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response), they also have whispered bedtime stories. It’s not my cup of tea, but some folks find whispering very relaxing. There are also meditations that can be done with pets.

I have two dogs, Maggie and Hank, and during our weekly Zoom yoga class, they would often join me.  Their absolute love and warm snuggles (even in a yoga pose) have also been a great source of stress relief to me and they force me to get out of the house to take them on walks. I love being outside but often get sucked into work or household chores, so the reminder to get out and go for a walk has been tremendously helpful.   

Watching Cheesy TV Shows

My absolute favorite show during the pandemic is Ted Lasso on Apple TV.  Based on the preview, I thought it would be the cheesiest show I’ve watched in a long time, but that cheese and niceness was just what I needed when many of our leaders were exhibiting hostility, meanness, and a general lack of empathy.  While the protagonist was not the most knowledgeable person in his field – he was hired to coach a premier league soccer team after coaching college football – Ted had great leadership lessons for us.  He was humble.  He didn’t come to the job thinking he had all the answers, and he asked for help, not just from the players and the owner, but also from the team’s equipment manager who knew the game better than anyone else.  Ted genuinely cared about everyone on the team and within the organization. He was also willing to make the hard calls, even when they were not popular.  One of the lines that most spoke to me right when I needed to hear it was, “Be curious, not judgmental.” For an Enneagram Type 1 during a global pandemic where people’s lives are literally at risk, not being judgmental about risk taking has been challenging for me at times. This was a good reminder that curiosity about a situation or a person will often be more helpful and freeing.     You can binge-watch it during the free trial period of Apple TV plus!

Intentionally Connecting

During our last virtual circle of the year, we were asked to reflect on where we found energy in 2020 and most of us reflected on a renewed commitment to our relationships, with our co-workers, friends, and families. This has been especially true for me this year.  I talk to many friends more frequently than I used to, including a group of friends from college. They have been a strong support system for me and I always look forward to our weekly Zoom calls to close out the week. It has been a true blessing to be able to share grief and loss with them this year and also share in the joy of a health miracle or a negative COVID test result.

I’ve also found my way back to therapy and deepening my understanding of the enneagram particularly around my relationships with others.  The combination of enneagram work with therapy has been very helpful to me, and as I start to see 2020 in the rearview mirror, I know it was these relationships and this work that helped me make it through with my mental and physical health intact. 

What one thing can you do to take care of yourself today?

Kristen Keely-Dinger is the President and CEO of The Healing Trust.