• A.T. Sadaka

A Self-Help Deep Dive (Part 1)- How the Pandemic Forced Me to Change

Updated: Apr 23, 2021

Isolation during the pandemic can feel oppressive. The restrictive conditions and stress of the lingering quarantine affect our moods, outlook, and energy level. To be frank, I was (and still am) struggling. But by leaning on some good advice from my quarantine reads, I've tried to make the best of an incredible situation.

For my family, this winter is the third winter in a row we are isolating. In 2018, my daughter arrived in this world perfect but with laryngomalacia--a condition where the larynx has not completely developed. To avoid any hospitalizations her first winter, we isolated. Although most of her symptoms disappeared by 12 months old, I agreed to one more super safe winter. In Spring 2020 we would open the floodgates to activities, friends, and family full stop. Then Covid hit. And I was pissed. Yet, no matter how much I complained about it, Covid wasn't going anywhere.

The days bled into one another leaving me feeling more out of control and resentful. And the bottom line was that I couldn't change the existence of the disease. So I had to change my outlook. It sounds so easy when I write it, but it is a work in progress.

The answer(s) came piecemeal through a series of books, or what I now call, "My Self-Help Deep Dive". The books ranged from self-management to self-help to writing. And from these beacons of inspiration came six lessons that helped me become a more focused and less distraught human being... and probably a better spouse. By sharing some of my struggles, maybe something might help you too.

Let's get down to the first three books that saved me during quarantine...

#1 Get Organized and Focused

I have a hard time focusing on important tasks. If I need to write, suddenly there is pressing laundry to do. Time to cook dinner? Maybe I should scrub this little corner of the kitchen counter. The blursdays of the pandemic didn't help.

I stumbled across videos from Ryder Carroll, the author of The Bullet Journaling Method. I know I’m about seven years late to this train but when we're ready for something God delivers, right? I poured over articles, photos of Bullet Journal spreads, recommendations, confessionals, and tips. One of the benefits of the Bullet Journal is the flexibility of the format. If I need to tweak anything, maybe add a “Habits” grid, or reformat the monthly pages, it’s no problem because the pages are blank.

But the real value of the Bullet Journal method lies in the mindful evaluation and daily migration of events and tasks. Each day, I have to assess my time and my priorities while making my to-do list. Am I really going to get all the bathrooms cleaned and write two articles? Not with a toddler underfoot. So I have to really consider my priorities. “The Bullet Journal Method will help you accomplish more by working on less. It helps you identify and focus on what is meaningful by stripping away what is meaningless,” states Carroll.

After using a Bullet Journal for the last nine months, I can look back and see that I've completed two writing courses, finished a short story, and fix a myriad of things in my house. Progress!

#2 Stop being a victim.

A great problem for humanity is that we tend to blame others for our shortcomings. It is such a habit for some, i.e. me, that we don't even realize we are doing it. When my husband took a leadership course, one of the assigned readings was The Power of T.E.D. (The Empowerment Dynamic) by David Emerald. In it, the protagonist, with help from wise guides, realizes he is caught in the DDT, the "Dreaded Drama Triangle." He's been living as a victim, blaming others for how his life has turned out.

The prose is simple and filled with an overabundance of acronyms. Yet, I experienced one of those ah-ha moments when I realized that I too lived my life as a victim. Too often I blamed my husband, my parents, and the world for my dashed dreams, and what had that gotten me?

I started to shift my view from the problems in my life to the goals I wanted to achieve. Yes, I was isolated with a small child. But I had a home and I had wifi.

So, I registered for an online writing class through my local community college. I signed up for on-demand yoga and kickboxing. And although, there are still moments when I want to scream with desperation (I mean, three forking winters inside!) I've accomplished more this year with regards to my life goals than I have in many years past.

#3 Journal and get the useless thoughts out of your brain.

Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg’s classic writing tome has sat on my shelf, unread, for almost twenty years. Finally, I cracked the spin and absorbed a daily dose of Goldberg’s inspirational, hilarious, and poignant essays on the craft of writing.

Whether writing about culinary-inspired poems from her time working in a Santa Fe kitchen or discovering a creative spark in a New Orleans cemetery, her message is the same—write your heart out. “This book is about writing,” Goldman says, “It is also about using writing as your practice, as a way to help you penetrate your life and become sane.” And I needed to get sane.

This book lends itself to writers, but her stories will resonant with anyone. If most people took a college-lined notebook and dropped a little truth on the page each day, chances are they would feel a little lighter and a lot saner. I probably put pen to journal 3-4 times a week. And each time, I come away relieved that whatever bits of crazy circling my brain are contained on the page.

Finding inspiration on the page

The end of the Covid era will come. But it will be many months, and even years until we see life return to normal. In the meantime, refocus from the resentment and frustration of the present time and hone in on your goals. What do you want to accomplish? How can you enrich yourself? And how can you stay sane during this uncertain time? There are a plethora of books waiting to motivate and guide you, maybe something already has.

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I'd love to hear what books or websites have inspired you. Leave a comment below!

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