Safeguarding Mental Health in a Time of Crisis

I would like to be checked in on while I’m sheltering in place because of the CO-VID19 coronavirus outbreak. To have a person dial on the telephone to check in on me to see how I’m doing. This isn’t often possible for those of us who have flown the coop of the “mental health system.”

In this time of crisis though I’m at least able to talk to a therapist on the telephone which counts more in keeping me going.

Five days before businesses shut down in New York City I had the good fortune to be able to go to Best Buy in person and schedule the delivery of a new computer.

My old computer had crashed. I lost a number of files that couldn’t be retrieved. Luckily in January I had bought an external hard drive for $70 to transfer my folders and documents to.

I lead up with this introduction because it’s worth it when you can afford it to have a computer at home.

My mental health has improved because I’ve started typing up and editing and revising a work of fiction I want to publish.

Every day I sit at the computer working on this novel.

Engaging in the creative process whether it is by writing, sketching or painting, cooking a meal, or decorating your apartment can be a great way to safeguard your mental health.

This was how I healed from an illness: by using the creative process to express myself.

Always I recommend doing what gives you joy to inoculate from pain and hardship.

I’ve begun writing this new novel. I have 7 works of fiction I would like to publish in the coming years.

Writing in a journal–it can be dashing off your thoughts in a spiral-bound notebook–is another great tactic for riding out this hard time.

In the coming blog entry I’ll talk more about using other coping skills in a time of crisis.

Managing in the Time of CO-VID19 Outbreak

I want to talk about real matters that impact those of us who choose to get a job instead of solely collecting SSI or SSDI.

We should have cash on hand readily able to be taken out for an emergency. This “peace of mind” fund should be in an FDIC-insured account at a bank. This way you won’t lose your money if the financial institution falls on hard times.

Getting paid while we’re out of work might not be possible in the time of the CO-VID19 outbreak.

This is where I champion getting a union job like that at a public library. Chances are you will get paid even when the library shuts down because of a crisis like this one.

This might not be possible. This is where the peace of mind fund gives you the cash to weather the financial storm.

Pay yourself first to build up this money. Direct deposit into a savings or money-market account at your bank a set amount out of each paycheck. Do this before you debit money for anything else.

It’s called “paying yourself first.” Some experts and I do too recommend saving eight months of living expenses in an emergency fund. The more you have squirreled away the more peace of mind you’ll have.

Going to a bank when you’re told to shelter in place might not be a good idea. This is where having $100 cash in your wallet can help.

I think having $10 in singles, $20 in five-dollar bills, and the rest in twenties can be good to have on hand.

Using your credit card judiciously [paying the statement invoice off in full every month] you can order in restaurant food to be delivered.

FreshDirect online in New York City delivers groceries and household supplies to your front door.

The PeaPod delivery service is available elsewhere.

The FreshDirect website has had glitches. Yet so far I’ve been able to schedule a delivery once a week. You can tip the delivery person in cash. Or use the drop-down button to pay for the tip inside of your payment for the food.

In the time of CO-VID19 I specify a $9 tip online. The person arrives with gloves and a mask on. The boxes are left outside your front door.

You can order from FreshDirect in New York City. See PeaPod for others.

In the coming blog entry I will talk about mental hygiene which is so critical in a time of crisis like the one we’re living through today.

Setting Up a Home Gym

I’d like to round out the scope of competitive information to give readers in this blog.

To set up a home gym I recommend getting this equipment: A 36-inch foam roller. A set of 5-pound, 8-pound, and 10-pound dumbbells. (Use a set of 5-pounders to start. Or 2-pound dumbbells first if you’re out of shape. As your routine gets easier add the 8- and 10-pound sets.)

A 10- or 15-pound kettle bell. (I have 10- 15- and 20-pound kettle bells.)

A 10-pound body bar. (Start with a lower weight if you have to.)

A resistance band. Medicine ball. (I have a 12-pound ball.)

Gym equipment can be bought on Amazon. I bought the dumbbells and medicine ball at Modell’s as well as training t-shirts and pants. Get fitted for the right sneakers while you’re at it.

First: you might have to buy an exercise mat to cover a rug or carpet. I have a hardwood floor in my living room where I exercise regularly.

Watch YouTube to see the correct form for exercises.

What you can do at home:

Foam roller stretching and other stretches. Push-ups either regular or elevated from a coffee table.

Dumbbell exercises:

Pec flyes, bicep curl, kneeling bicep curl, chest press, lunges and squats, walking lunges, lateral raises, triceps kickback, chest press with squat, renegade row, one-arm row, briefcase row, calf raises, farmer’s walk, dumbbell bridges, lateral raises, alternating lateral and frontal raises, donkey kicks, fire hydrant kicks.

Kettle bell exercises:

Swings, goblet squats, curtsy pulse squats, side squats, one-leg dead lifts.

Body bar exercises:

Frontal raises, hip bridging from floor.

Core exercises:

Figure 4s, leg raises, bicycle crunches, alternating V-ups, Russian twists.

Other exercises:

Planks, disc slides knee-to-elbow, plank jacks with disc sliders, side plank with hip drop, wall sits, jumping jacks, medicine ball slams (on hardwood floor or mat), triceps dips off chair, butt kicks in place, high knees in place.

(Disc slider exercises can only be done on hardwood floors or an exercise mat. Cloth-side should face the floor.)

Buona Salute a Tutti

This is what Italians are telling everyone:

Buona Salute a Tutti–Good Health to All.

We are living through an exceptional time in the history of human civilization.

I recommend exercising, listening to the radio, reading a book, making art, writing in a journal, calling friends and family on the telephone, and watching or reading news from a trusted source.

It can be hell when you’re forced to isolate indoors in your apartment. Practicing what I call mental hygiene could help a person survive this challenge.

I’ve been ordering things online: a book to read; ink and paper for my computer; a sweater reduced to a ridiculously low cost.

Luckily in June I had set up a home gym. This was auspicious as on Monday the mayor of New York City shut down gyms. Along with bars, clubs, cafes and restaurants, museums, theaters, and arenas.

In the next blog entry I will talk about setting up a home gym.

Yes–I bought a lot of my equipment like a kettle bell and resistance band from Amazon.com.

Voyaging Part Two

I used to be 50.

“Fifty” could be a song title like “Seventeen” was by Sharon Von Etten.

I’m getting older and thinking of what I want to leave behind as a legacy to define my life’s work.

I will carry with me as a voyager on earth all the days of my life the message that everyone’s doing the best we can in whatever guise recovery comes to us.

I’ve witnessed how a person’s struggle can be hard and brave when they’re hanging on with all they’ve got.

We are all tasked with having empathy, because everyone we meet is facing a battle.

What you and I bring back from our voyages can cheer on the others coming after us.

The rowing towards wellness should be encouraged.

Ultimately, you and I need to have compassion for ourselves and others.

We’re voyagers on this sea.

I’m shooting towards 60. This impacts my thinking. We’re all of us if we’re lucky going to turn 60 someday.

Why spend one minute of our long lives judging and hating each other.

Love and forgiveness are the oars.

Each “souvenir” we bring back from our travels becomes a part of who we are.

We share what we’ve learned from other people and other cultures.

That is the ultimate purpose of voyaging: to come together as human beings living on earth to explore our humanity.

Voyaging Part One

The postcard shown above I hand-fashioned in the Creativity Lab at the Museum of Modern Art / MoMa. It took me about 15 minutes to choose the elements of the composition.

“Today I tried” reminded me of when I was the Health Guide at the HealthCentral schizophrenia website.

There the editorial team wrote: “The only real failure is the failure to try.”

That’s audacious telling people living with SZ this. Only:

Trying can be as simple as getting out of bed.

Or cooking yourself a meal. Or taking a shower.

It’s the effort that counts not the outcome.

Michael Jordan is quoted too:

“Don’t be afraid to fail. Be afraid not to try.”

This is the viaduct in recovery as I see it: to try, to risk, to fail, and to try again.

To understand that life is to be lived “one second at a time” as we do what it takes to live well in recovery.

For what is recovery if not an act of courage to continue?

Read your 12-Step books. Go for a walk in the neighborhood. Call a friend on the telephone. Paint or sketch.

Engage in healing modalities like these and other habits.

As long as you try, as long as you give something your best shot, there can be no shame if it doesn’t work out.

In the next blog entry I’ll write more about the idea of voyaging.

Disability Job Search Websites

Job search websites cater to people with disabilities.

It’s a myth that people diagnosed with mental illness can’t hold a competitive job.

I’ll keep this post short and to the point: individuals with any kind of life challenge might be able to hold a job that they like.

For help finding that job websites exist.

Try the following:

AbilityJobs

GettingHired

DisabilityJobExchange

Promoting the Business of You

I call the tactic of selling yourself to an employer promoting The Business of You. This is commonly referred to as Brand You.

Narrowing your job leads to the companies that fit with your work ethic can make all the difference.

Having to act against your nature to attempt to succeed on a job will only set you up to fail.

As evidenced by my ill-fated first career in the buttoned-up insurance field.

You’ll have an easier time of it when you’re interviewing for jobs that are the perfect fit.

Sometimes you won’t realize you’ve made a mistake until you’ve already tried on one career for size.

And the reverse can be true: having to keep your disability under wraps as you try to succeed in a traditional workplace can doom you to fail too.

Everyone blindly goes on Indeed.com to search for jobs. What if there was a better way? A way to find a job where your disability is an asset. Not the thing that employers use to rule you out.

Job search websites exist for individuals with disabilities.

An Accenture study proves that companies that hire people with disabilities obtain a higher shareholder return.

Not only this:

As per the Accenture study: “The GDP could get a boost up to $25 billion if just 1 percent more of persons with disabilities joined the U.S. labor force.”

Up next a list of job search websites geared to people like us.

Qualifying Your Job Leads

Brand You is the product you’re selling to your prospective boss. You need to qualify your job leads to narrow your choices to the employers whose workplace culture and environment mirror you own values and needs.

Qualifying your job leads is a way to act strategic instead of blitzing scores of companies blindly with your resume simply because you want a job.

Target your job search to the firms where you will fit in. Kate Wendleton published the book Packaging Yourself: The Targeted Resume.

I figured out quickly when I took a job in a law firm while going to school that transferring from one office job to another office job (even in a different field) was a mistake.

What the company needs and what you need in terms of goals (their bottom line and your professional goals) should be in synch.

You will ensnare your future boss when you’re able to cogently tell that person why you want to work for that company. This is critical when you’re going on a job interview.

Remember these sales dictums: Don’t try to sell the customer a blue shirt if all they want is a white one. Sell the benefit not the feature.

If you’re wearing a “blue shirt” to a company that needs a white one in effect the interview is a waste of time.

Power listing your skills, abilities, strengths, and experience gives you the features of your product. What is the benefit of the company in hiring a person like you who has these qualifications?

What you bring to the table should demonstrate that you will fit into that particular workplace.

More on promoting The Business of You in the next blog entry.

Coming up after that: a list of job search websites specifically for individuals with disabilities.

Will You Fit into the Company Culture?

Here’s where it pays to take a rigorous accounting of your prior job environments.

At one ill-fated interview I went on in the 1990s the woman asked me what I liked best about my last job.

“I loved the interaction among coworkers,” doomed me as soon as I told her.

Apparently, for that woman at that job this wasn’t the right answer. Luckily, I wasn’t hired.

This is because the building would’ve been a 10-minute walk from the subway.  In that time, it took me at least two hours on the subway to get into Manhattan. Factor in a 10-minute walk in addition to the subway ride.

Having an isolated job at a desk away from coworkers would’ve sealed the deal that it wasn’t worth it to walk 10 minutes to get to an isolated building.

Today it’s imperative to research the business environment.

There’s been the opposite trend of “open offices” where everyone is working in one big room without dividers like in the traditional cubicle format.

Would you thrive in this workplace where you’re on display while going about your business?

As you can see, fitting into the company culture is imperative.

In my career handbook Working Assets I talk about qualifying your job leads like a salesperson qualifies their prospective clients to pitch a product or service to.

More on this in the next blog entry.