Michael is a counselor with the MSM Counseling Center and author of the recently published book, Therapeutic Improvisation: How to Stop Winging It and Own It as a Therapist.
Harvard psychologist and researcher Susan David champions emotional agility: naming the difficult emotions and being open to them without judgment allows you to get through them much more easily. You don’t have to deny or minimize how much it hurts, how disappointed you’ve felt, or how much work it is to remain centered. Instead, be with whatever is there with an open, compassionate heart. Say it to yourself or write it in your journal or share it with friends — there’s no need for toxic positivity here, allow yourself to be real with what’s real.
Just because it’s been challenging, open your eyes, ears, and heart to the unexpected good stuff you’ve been able to connect with despite it all: have you had more time to read, compose, practice, or reconnect with old friends online? Have you been able to reconnect with hobbies outside of music? What else has been an unexpected find during this time? Count that stuff, too!
Even if you must nestle up in a window seat like a cat, find some light — inside or out — and bask it in for at least 10 to 15 minutes each day. Even better, walk in the sunshine. We all need more Vitamin D this time of year. It brightens our mood, helps us keep our sleep schedule regulated, and reminds us that there’s still a reason to smile.
Walk inside, walk outside, but keep your body active. Go to the gym, try a new sport, or make believe you’re a musical theater dancer (if you are not a musical theatre major at MSM!), but keep it going. The winter pulls us all into hibernation, and it takes our energy with it. Your psyche will remember its own energetic music when your body starts conducting it again.
There’s a lot of news out in the world that is pretty demoralizing and despairing. Limit your intake of the negative stuff — doomscrolling about the world ending tomorrow — and look for the hopeful stories. There are many to be found if you set your eye for it. Remember to be an artist in this way too — see what unexpected new places you can find hope, and collect them for those days when you need to be reminded yourself.
If you need help, know that counselors at MSM are available to chat. Visit the Health & Counseling webpage, and email any counselor to schedule an appointment.
130 Claremont Avenue
New York, New York 10027