#ThursdayTreeLove | Coping with the Madness of 2020: Spend Time with Trees

“Autumn Road,” November 2020

In a cool solitude of trees
Where leaves and birds a music spin,
Mind that was weary is at ease,
New rhythms in the soul begin. –William Kean Seymour

I’ve written enough about tree therapy on the blog for you to know that “talking to the trees” is definitely one of the ways I cope with life’s challenges. You’ve probably figured, then, 2020 has driven me to the trees more times than I can count.

I could not find time this week for a full tree therapy session, but I took advantage of drive time for quick doses.

The sight of autumn taking over as I drove to work was thrilling, and the drive through campus was like entering an autumn heaven. The reds, yellows, and oranges vied for my attention.

Some mornings, I parked, stood outside my car in the early morning quiet (before others arrived), and took it all in. I listened to the wind and trees sing in perfect harmony as the crisp leaves danced across the parking lot.

Even such short pauses with the trees shake off the madness.

If you want to read more about how trees help me cope, take a look at some of my older posts or click the #ThursdayTreeLove hashtag below:

Hopefully, the posts will persuade you to try a bit of tree therapy!


I am joining Parul Thakur for #ThursdayTreeLove every second and fourth Thursday of the month. If you would like to play along, post a picture of a tree on your blog and link it back to her latest #treelove post.

Coping with the Madness of 2020: Sleep…

If 2020 hasn’t driven you to the brink of madness yet, I’m sure [if you live in the US], the last few days tested your sanity. I used practically all my coping strategies between the time I cast my vote Tuesday and when I read earlier today that the Biden/Harris ticket prevailed [Praise the Lord!].

When my stress levels are off the chart, I do the one thing that calms immediately–I sleep. And that’s exactly what happened Wednesday night when I started writing my blog post on sleep as a way to cope with 2020 madness; two sentences in, I fell asleep. :-/

There are times when I struggle with insomnia for days, sometimes weeks, but when I encounter high levels of emotional stress over situations I can’t control, I have no problem escaping through sleep. When I wake up, even if the worst hasn’t passed, my emotions and/or stress are a lot more manageable.

The links between lack of sleep and stress and good sleep and our responses to stress are widely discussed in academic and medical journals, so it’s no surprise that sleep helps me to “wait out” 2020’s madnesses with patience and calm.

And that’s a good thing, because, if nothing else, 2020 is trying to teach us to wait.

Coping with the Madness of 2020: List It

I woke up this morning with thoughts of an eight-year-old boy, the nephew of one of my kindest friends. He woke up this morning for the first time without his mother’s embrace. She passed yesterday after a very lengthy battle with cancer. Though I didn’t know her or her little boy, I felt myself spiraling for my friend, for her family, and especially for the little one.

As if the out-of-the-ordinary madness of 2020 isn’t enough, unfortunately we also have to deal with dreaded realities like illness and death. The everyday concerns and these hardships  combined with the abnormalities of this year can create a perfect stew of unmanageable anxiety and grief.

So how do I cope when life feels impossible and the emotions are too big to manage?  In addition to prayer (which we’ll save for another day), I make lists.

Lists, you ask? Not a typical task list but a lists of things I can’t control alongside a list of things I can control.

I can’t bring back the little boy’s mom. I can’t stop the hurt or grief, but I can pray and offer support.

I can’t singlehandedly eradicate the coronavirus, but I can do my part to stop the spread and protect my family and myself by wearing masks and avoiding situations in which social distancing is challenged.

I can’t control how the vote goes tomorrow, but I can control how I participate in the democratic process by exercising my hard-won right and responsibility to vote.

I can’t take away the abuse a friend suffered as a child that continues to hurt and traumatize so many decades later, but I can listen, affirm, pray, and hug.

I can’t make people not be racist, but I can educate and choose to operate from a place of love regardless.

When I was a teen, I encountered the “Serenity Prayer” on the front of a church bulletin, and the first part has been a mantra ever since:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference. –Reinhold Niebuhr

The lists help me confront the big scary things in black and white, and then, determine my response to them. More often than not, serenity is the welcomed outcome.


About the Images: The images in this post are the full color versions of the grainy black and white photos in the previous post. I’d mentioned in my latest #treelove post that for Creative Auto shots the camera shoots an original color photo AND processes the “creative photo” at the same time. I don’t like these as much, but this is what happens when I don’t remember where I put the images I’d planned for today’s post. :-/

Coping with the Madness of 2020: Shut It Down!

Grainy Black and White: Fallen Magnolia Leaves

Plans for my “Coping with 2020” series were slightly derailed because, as one of my former students put it, this week was “ugly.” There’s no other way to put it. I worked 14-19 hour days almost every day this week. COVID-19 numbers rose daily. Zeta knocked down trees and power in NOLA and other places. And it seemed the whole world expressed anxiety about what we might wake up to November 4. By Thursday, I was livid because there was no relief from the noise.

One part of 2020’s madness for me is too much doing, too much noise all the time. Everywhere we turn. Noise. Someone or something telling us what to do, how to do it, how to think. Noise. Piling up our plates. Vying for control of our time and energy. Noise. Noise we seemingly can’t escape because doom and Zoom are everywhere.

Grainy Black and White: Impatiens

So how do I cope? I shut it down. Everything. Computers. Phone. All of it. And I sit, drive, or walk in total silence.

I’ve always loved the early morning and late night quiet and the rare but not impossible moment of respite from the daily noise in the middle of the day. But silence is different. We can always find quiet. Silence, ever-present and always within reach, seeks us, but we have to be intentional about being found.

Silence. When there are too many words and too much doing. Silence. When it’s easy to grab the phone and chat away whatever spare moments we can find. Silence. When we can put in our earbuds and tune out the world through music and podcasts. Silence. When the world is loud and boisterous and simply too much.

Grainy Black and White: Begonias

So this week—in the middle of the umpteenth multitasking Zoom meeting, just after the department’s student assistant knocked with one more issue she couldn’t address—I hit mute, closed my eyes and sat in silence.

I’m sure I was on the brink of screaming, “uncle!” That moment in the midst of the chaos saved my sanity.

When the world feels like too much—get off social media, turn off the tv, turn off all screens, ignore the phone and all the doing, and hit mute.

There is freedom and calm right in the middle of the silence.

Grainy Black and White: Magnolia Pods

Coping with the Madness of 2020: Create!

“Flowers in Bloom” by Rae L.

When my anxiety or stress levels heighten they are met with an equally strong desire to create. During the “lockdown phase” of the pandemic–March through July–I wrote poetry (almost daily), participated in seminars and workshops, tried new vegan recipes, painted, sang, doodled, and experimented with creative photography.

“Flowers in Bloom” by Rae L.

Since I returned to work in this pandemic season, the drive to create to combat the stress of this moment has been so intense that I had to add micro-creation sessions to my day.

“Flowers in Bloom” by Rae L.

I find a moment to doodle while thinking through a solution or while listening to a podcast or webinar. I fiddle with the lines of a poem I’ve already drafted in the wee morning hours. I transform a photo. I create inspirational Instagram posts.* I cut and tear pages from beautiful magazines and use them in art journal pages. I even do little things to create order out of the chaos of my desks [at home and at work].

“Flowers in Bloom” by Rae L.

Like journaling, there are many, many health benefits of creativity. These small, though intentional, acts of creativity allow me to tune out the chaotic noise of the world and find order within.


About the images: The set of floral art in this post is the work of Rae L, one of my Love Notes friends. She sent the envelope full of cheerful flowers a month or so ago. This is how she’s coping with the madness. Aren’t they lovely?

*A few weeks ago, my desire to create order spilled over to my Instagram page. I wiped my IG clean, changed my name, and created a uniform look for my page. If you have a moment, check it out. Maybe, you’ll be inspired: iamchandralynn.

Coping with the Madness of 2020: Journal!

Last week my friend Chella posed a question on Facebook: What are you doing to bear this anxiety? I can’t remember if I answered her question, but I’ve certainly thought about it.

Let’s face it–life can be hard, but 2020 has taken hard to a seemingly unbearable level. The year has presented a perfect storm of anxiety-inducing madness. There are things I’ve always done to deal with anxiety, stress, and the general disappointments and heartache that life brings: Pray. Meditate. Journal. Walk. Create. Though this hasn’t changed since we entered this tumultuous year, my activity in these areas has ramped up quite a bit since March.

I thought I would kill the proverbial “two birds with one stone” and get a few short blog posts out of my answer to Chella’s question. I’m not answering in any particular order. It’s all important and part of my spiritual practices and soul journey.

If I don’t write, I feel like I’m not breathing, so I journal.

I journal every day—in the morning, throughout the day, and in the evening if I don’t crash first. I have literally seven [or is it eight?] journals going at once; they serve different immediate purposes, but they all work to save my sanity.

Weekends, though, provide freedom to journal without worrying about schedules and tasks.  I can spend hours journaling without disruption. Today, I’m adding something new to my practice–a guided journal.

I rarely have a shortage of words, so I’ve never needed journaling prompts or guidance. I don’t think I’ve ever done a full guided journal before, but since my friend Dee [Delores James of Keep It Tight Sisters] wrote one, I am doing one now.

It’s nice to sit down this Saturday evening  with her latest publication, It’s My Time: A Guided Journal to Deeper Self-Love. In addition to plenty of writing space, the book includes affirmations, quotes, motivation, lists, writing and thinking prompts, and contemplative exercises to guide the self-care journey. Bonus: It’s purple! 🙂

If you’d like to learn about the therapeutic [and other] benefits of journaling and some simple approaches to journaling, see my July 2016 post: Journaling: Unleash the Magic. If the idea of a completely blank page is a bit daunting, a guided journal like Dee’s is a great place to start!

Note: All the images in this post are from It’s My Time: A Guided Journal to Deeper Self-Love. Even though this sounds like a sponsored post, it is not. 😀

Getting Through the CraZieS: part ii

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A few days ago, I shared my friend Beckra’s strategies for surviving the super-stressful moments in life. A day or two later than promised,  I’m sharing some of the suggestions I offered her:

  • Photo Walk. Take a walk…with your camera.  You saw this one coming. Right? My camera has saved my sanity so many times that I’ve lost count.

When things get a bit crazy, I grab my camera and take a walk. There’s always something new to capture, always something to take my mind off  present matters or help me see them clearly. Of course, going for a walk is a good way to decompress–even without the camera.

  • Inspiration Wall. Create an “inspiration wall” or bulletin board.  In my “old” office at work, I had a “wall of inspiration” of writers who inspire me. I also had another space that was filled with beautiful images and words. Since these are not suitable for my current office, I am “relocating” my walls to my home office. The images not only inspire me but they also remind me that though we struggle, there’s something much larger operating and something grander falling into place.
  • Doodle. Take out your pens or sharpies and doodle (or paint or draw).  I used to think that writing (journaling) was my best stress reliever or survival strategy. However, when my sister died last year, my grief was larger than words, and I found myself choking back the bile, grief, the utter disappointment. Doodling helped tremendously–even if I doodled just one word or around a word or phrase. I found that doodling can be just as effective in relieving stress as writing. Bonus: I think doodling is improving my drawing.  If you’ve been following long enough, you know I am not an artist, but my hubby pointed out that I am improving. Woohoo!
  • Scissors, Tape, Glue.  Cut something.  Tape something. Glue something.  My finding this relaxing surely has something to doUntitled with using my hands. I usually carry a crafting pouch with me. It contains stickers, glue, pretty pens, card stock, washi tape, and pretty paper to make envelopes and/or write letters, a few postcards. Scissors are a must, because something about the repetition of cutting is so relaxing and calming (well, for me).

My little one gave me a wonderful crafting bag for Christmas last year–he filled it with washi tape and stickers. I have it already packed with 12×12 scrapbooking paper and a “We are Memory Keepers” envelope maker–ready for my long and stressful days. The cutting, measuring, scoring, folding and gluing–sure stress relief. Bonus: pretty envelopes to share and for mailing.

  • A “Distant” Shoulder. Lean on someone detached from your situation.  Just about all of my closest friends are academicians and it’s so easy to pick up the phone and call one of them when I face certain challenges. However, when I’m in over-stressed, crisis mode re: work, it’s beneficial to turn to someone who isn’t experiencing the same stressors. Sometimes we need more than someone to commiserate. We need a different perspective to help us see the larger picture.
  • Lists. Make lists.  I’ve always been a lister in one way or another, but just last fall I rediscovered listing in a whole new way. I’ve become a list journaler and I’m discovering so much about myself in the process. I’ve been transforming my lists into beautiful documents that reflect my inner and outer life. I’ve been embellishing them with doodles, washi tape, scrapbooking paper and elements and my own photography. I think my son will have quite a few beautiful journals to treasure.

Lists can be writtUntitled 2en anywhere–in a coffee shop, at work, in a meeting, even at church (shhh…don’t tell)–in a notebook, on scrap paper, or even on a napkin.  You can list anything–what is frustrating you at the moment; what is working; what isn’t working; ways to handle a crisis moment, etc.

  • Change Your View. Instead of focusing on the issue at hand, take a moment to turn around (or look up) and gaze elsewhere.
  • The Four Agreements. Exercise Don Miguel Ruiz’s “the four agreements”–Be impeccable with your word.  Don’t take things personally.  Don’t make assumptions.  Always do your best.

Ruiz’s The Four Agreements is a work of genius. I’ve had the agreements memorized since I read his book at the recommendation of a good friend many years ago; they’ve gotten me through some rough spots. I remind myself of the second agreement, “Don’t take things personally,” almost daily.

  • Laugh. Find something humorous and laugh out loud. It really works!
  • Scripture Recall.  Memorize and meditate over biblical scriptures.   This is one of my standard methods for dealing with the crazies, especially those situations that unsettle me immediately.  I have a number of “go to” Bible verses that I recall in stressful situations.  I typically combine “scripture recall” with some of the other methods listed above.

That’s it for now.  I hope you’ve found something in this post and the previous post to help you get through the super-stressful moments.Untitled 2_3

Note:  All the photos in this post were taken on my iPhone. These are “Alex’s Flowers.” Alex is a wonderful person who I met just a few months ago.  She celebrated her birthday October 9, exactly one week after mine.  🙂 She received dozens of flowers on her birthday, and I managed to get in a few shots before she whisked them away.   They’re so bright and cheerful!