Managing Covid Media Mania

It really is everything I can do to not yell at the TV. I really am trying. In fact, I have been making serious effort to cut off my natural inclination to sarcasm and cynicism. The more I refuse to give vent to what is happening in my head by keeping my mouth shut, the easier it becomes. But the news media makes it difficult.

I have to admit the ubiquitous “this is horrible, it’s getting worse, the death toll is expected to rise, we haven’t seen the worst, there’s no end in sight, will we ever recover?” comments have been followed, a few times, with reporting on the numbers of people who have recovered from Covid-19.

Why are the media constantly reporting polls? Really? If the nation’s response to this virus is being run by what random groups of people think about it, we are all in a lot of trouble!

Why do we have to constantly hear about celebrities? This one I cannot stand! In the midst of people dying, thousands of families without enough food to eat, doctors and nurses who have no strength left, first-responders doing everything they can to keep up, we are deluged with “news” about how celebrity so-and-so is coping. Who cares?! What really burned my biscuit was a report, meaning it actually received air time, about what a famous singer wore for a workout!

I do believe in statistics. I believe the threat of Covid-19 is real. I know the numbers are telling a frightening story. But I absolutely hate feeling manipulated.

I wonder what would happen if, instead of twenty-seven minutes of horror and three minutes of some remarkable and uplifting story, the news programs committed to just the opposite.

Thankfully, we are told “we’re going to get through this”, and I believe we will. However, it’s not going to be the major media providing the light at the end of the tunnel. It will be the every-day-people, day after day, doing the right things, helping a neighbor, waving at a stranger, saying “hi” through their mask, all without ever being noticed that will make it happen.

Anxiety: The Short-Circuit

How would you define anxiety? Feeling nervous? A lack of self-confidence? An inner uneasiness?

However you define it, anxiety is real. Since it is experienced in so many different ways, and affects so many parts of life, it is difficult to nail down. Anxiety tends to lurk in the shadows but makes its presence known, often at the worst times.

Anxiety is not the same as a sense of nervousness about a new situation. For example, anyone would feel fearful about speaking in front of a group of people for the first time. That person, however, would find with each experience it gets easier. While speaking, the person with anxiety might be thinking about what listeners are thinking, whether they like what she is wearing, if her hair is sticking up in back, if he has something in his nose, if his zipper is down, what she would rather be doing, and why she agreed to do this in the first place. And no matter how many “that was wonderful” she receives, there is still an underlying uncomfortable something.

Anxiety can be a life short-circuit. It can divert energy and motivation to itself with no explanation. No matter how perfectly a circuit is designed, a short not managed becomes the focus.

What does anxiety mean to you? How do you function with it?

Your value is in you. Your life is not defined by anxiety.

Your Value

Nothing you do, no matter how you try, will add to your value. Your value has nothing to do with what you own, the size of your income, where you live, who you know, or how many know you.

Your value is in you. Nothing you do will decrease your value. Your value is yours alone.

You will always be disappointed if you look to others for your value. It is already yours.

Realizing and protecting your value is your responsibility. These affirmations can help. Speak them to yourself.

  • Words do not create value.
  • Value is in me, not in words others say about me.
  • Worth is mine alone, not in what others approve.
  • No amount of compliment will add to my value.
  • Worth and value are mine in the absence of any words of approval.
  • Touch is not my source of value.
  • Value is in me, it is mine.
  • My approval is in me, not in what others say about me.
  • I affirm my own value, it is mine alone.

Write these down and keep them with you. Repeat them to yourself until they become part of you. Then, and only then, keep reading them to yourself.

Your value is yours alone. You already have it. Stop looking.

Time for coffee.

HO Scale Layout Progress

Are you working on your HO scale train layout? Are you anxious to see trains moving through your scenery? So am I!

This new layout I’m working on has taken a very long time, but I am taking serious steps to move forward. I have never used extruded foam as a base before, so I’m excited about seeing the results. I never thought I would use printed buildings, but I have. The bank building at the left is printed on card-stock and then cut and glued together. I’m happy with the results.

Something else I’ve never done before is scratch build bridges. I have three completed, and I think they look great. I still have to paint them, but I’m working on height alignment with the adjoining roadbed so I don’t have any bumps. The bridge on the right is actually two identical sections that will hold the track. The supports are three separate bases that are the same height. I used basswood and balsa.

The tunnel portal on the left was hand-carved by my uncle who is an artist and master model railroader. I had just tunneled through four inches of foam, on an angle, and then thought about the portal. It’s a perfect fit. Now I have to make a few more portals for other tunnels.

I don’t normally use Illinois Central. The engine below just happened to be within arm’s reach, so I placed it on the bridge over what will be the Maple Valley River, just to see how it looks.

That’s it for now. More to come. If you’re building a layout, just keep making progress. You don’t have to work on it every day. No deadlines, no schedule. Do what you want, when you want. Enjoy it.

It’s time for coffee.

Staying Sane in Isolation

Everyone likes a little alone-time, at least once in a while, but this is ridiculous. Even for those who are introverts, this command to stay home is a challenge.

If we’re going to stay sane while all this is happening to our country and the world, we have to find ways to break up the weeks, days, and hours. If we don’t, the minutes are going to drag by and misery will be a constant companion.

We may have projects we’ve been wanting to complete, but now that we have extra time, can’t find the motivation to actually do it. So, an answer might be to try something totally out of your normal experience. Are you a dancer? No? Then give it a try. Put some music on, (maybe start with something slow and soft so you don’t break anything, either furniture or bones), and let yourself go. You may create something totally new. If you feel inhibited, even better. Press on! Let your imagination be your partner. You might really surprise yourself.

Are you a builder? No? Then go out in the garage and find some scrap pieces of wood, and build something. Anything! Even if it’s just a frame with four pieces of wood nailed together so it’s square.

Are you a writer? No? Then get busy writing. “What should I write about?” you ask? Anything! Write about how your toothpaste tastes. Write about blades of grass and how you love seeing it beginning to grow in the spring but hate to mow it once it gets tall enough. Write about an ant named Bob. Bob is shorter than the other ants his age because he has a condition that hinders his growth. He also has hair on his head. No ants have hair.

Do you sew? No? Here’s a huge challenge. Find an old shirt or blouse that you’ll never wear again, and carefully cut it apart on the seams. Cut the sleeves off, the buttons, and the collar. Now, put it all back together. If you don’t have a sewing machine, all the better. Find a needle and thread and do it by hand.

Photo by Lum3n on Pexels.com

Do you draw? No? Get a piece of paper and a pencil and start drawing. The challenge is not to say, “That looks stupid.” Just do it. Keep your self-doubt voice quiet. You may discover you’re a natural.

Do you have boxes and boxes of photos? Sort them in some meaningful order. Put all vacation pictures together. Put family reunion pictures together. Or, put photos together by colors people are wearing.

Use your imagination. You can come up with something, a project, a plan, a design, a dream. You might come out of this isolation with a new way of thinking that could really change your life.

Covid Blues

Lyrics by Dale Parsons
As Covid tries to spread throughout the land
It’s time to rise and boldly take a stand
For quarantine and distance, and staying right at home
My wife is here, so I won’t be alone.

They tell us that it’s dangerous out there
There’s nasty germs and virus everywhere
The toilet paper’s missing, whatever shall we do
There’s not much on the shelf from which to choose.

I will make a difference, I won’t drive my car
It gets mighty boring, driving in my yard
I can’t go to Walmart whenever I choose,
It’s awful living with the Covid blues.

I’m doing things I’ve never done before
To keep from running, screaming out the door
I think I’m hearing voices, I’m seeing things not there
I’m pulling out what’s left of my hair.

I guess I’m gonna live, it’s not that bad
I have all the time I wished I had
To do the things I want to, projects near and far,
I just can’t remember what they are.

I will make a difference, I won’t drive my car
It gets mighty boring, driving in my yard
I can’t go to Walmart whenever I choose,
It’s awful living with the Covid blues.

Just for fun.

Be well everyone.

Anxiety and Model Railroading

I love model railroading. It’s been my hobby since I was fifteen, and I loved trains long before that. I’ve been working on my newest layout, which, at the present time is still quite a way from rolling stock moving along the rails, for about sixteen months.

I’ve seen posts of modelers who appear to be living the dream, spending tremendous amounts of time working on their railroad as a result of this unbelievable struggle with Corona Virus. This is NOT a criticism! I applaud their dedication to the hobby, and the pictures I’ve seen are amazing. We can all learn from each other. I also know that most of these modelers are working on their layout because they are not allowed to go to work. So it’s a battle to survive. No, my problem is me. Because of anxiety I struggle with almost constantly, it is very difficult for me to stay in my train room long enough to get a lot done. Oh, I know that’s okay. It’s not a project that has to be completed on a schedule. It’s mine, for me, by my plan, schedule, design, likes, dislikes, frustrations, disappointments, delights. I don’t need approval for completed projects, but I do crave it.

I’m retired, so you would think my days might look like morning coffee, a glance at the morning news, drinking more coffee, then heading to the layout, then coming back upstairs to get more coffee. Nope. I have this constant nag that I should be productive, I should be doing something. And model railroading, for some reason in my mind, doesn’t fall into the category of productivity. Sure, it’s productive as far as my layout is concerned, but not productive in the overall scheme of needs. There is always something that should be done.

Actually, even writing this blog is part of that nagging. need to be productive. It’s something that is considered, started, re-started, edited, almost published, re-written, edited again, and then published. After which it is taken down and edited again. And yet, even with that, it’s not really productive because it’s not necessary to life. Neither is model railroading. But, on the other hand, model railroading is absolutely necessary because it can definitely contribute to a sense of accomplishment. I did it! That looks great! And it only has to look good to me.

So, the daily struggle continues. Some days are better than others, I just have to keep working at it. In the process, I will find time to work on the Maple Valley Short Line and feel good about it. Eventually, there will be trains moving. The scenery will begin to take shape. With this layout, I am determined to be incredibly detailed down to the smallest weed by the side of a shack. The win over anxiety is in the details. Little by little.

Do Something Different

Have you had the experience of driving a familiar route and all of a sudden realize you don’t know where you are? Every time you get in the car do you have to think about where to put the key? How to make the car move? How to stop it?

When you wake up in the morning, is your routine exactly the same day after day? Is there a time during each day when you begin to feel anxious or depressed?

Unless you’re sixteen years old and driving is new, you never think about where to put the key or where the brake is. You have learned it, and have practiced it long enough it is now habitual.

Your brain and your body work together to record new actions, and if they are repeated again and again, they become a part of muscle memory. You can do them without thinking. Everyone knows the old saying about riding a bike.

Feelings work the same way. Your brain and your mind can associate feelings with actions, or places, and the environment and actions can trigger the same feelings repeatedly.

Here’s a quiz. Think about school, not just the word, but the experience of attending school. How do you feel? Think about going to the dentist. How do you feel? If your feelings about school are negative, in thirteen, or maybe many more years of school, you had thousands of experiences, and not all of them were bad. Many were terrific! In the dozens of times (hopefully) you’ve been to the dentist, not all of them resulted in pain and yet your feelings about it might be fear and dread.

Feelings can become habitual or automatic. One way to disrupt automatic feelings is to purposefully change what you do each day. It is important that you on purpose, in other words, while thinking about it, change your actions. For example, if your morning is shut off the alarm, use the bathroom, brush your teeth, fix the coffee, let the dog out, make the bed (what?), then take a shower, and you do that day after day after day automatically, change it! Get up, make coffee, let the dog out, brush you teeth, etc., purposefully. Think about it!

Here’s the point. If you are with purpose thinking about what you’re doing, your brain and feelings are not left on their own to begin setting you up for the anxiety and depression you might normally feel every day by mid-morning that short circuits your entire day. Do something different! If that doesn’t do it, with every action, think about each element of the action. Think about who ground the coffee, how the coffee pot was made, how hot the water gets, what color of coffee is actually perfect. Think about how toothpaste is made. Think about the person who had to glue all those little bristles in the handle. (Just kidding). Get it? If you’re purposefully thinking about what you’re doing, you are changing the way your brain automatically runs. Don’t leave your brain and emotions to stir up feelings on their own. They will automatically turn to the routes of thinking and feeling that have been there longest and strongest. Change them!

Make your brain and your feelings work for you, not against you.

Hope you have a great day.

Dale Parsons, MA, LPC