I’ll take an order of fake sun, please.
When my mum moved to Vancouver many years ago, it was during the month of November. “It rained all month long with no sun,” she tells me. “I thought I’d made a horrible mistake moving here.” And every November, as thick, grey clouds reign, whipping winds whirl, and the sun snoozes, I fully understand why she felt that way.
I love living here, but November is always tough. In November 2019, my mental health was feeling fragile. My usual routine of therapy and doctor-recommended solutions needed some enhancement: I figured it was time to try a happy lamp and bought the Verilux HappyLight VT10. When the sun disappeared behind the gloomy fog outside my window, I plugged the lamp in at my office desk. It was, um, BRIGHT. As the new gal in the office, people passing by my desk and remarking, “wow, that is BRIGHT,” was embarrassing. I told coworkers the lamp was to increase my energy but openly referred to it as a “happy lamp”. Parenthetically, people usually know that light therapy treats depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder by mimicking the sun’s light and supplying vitamin D. I felt a little more energized with the lamp on, even when I partially blocked its blaze with one of my computer monitors. By January 2020, with wellness solutions including but not limited to this lamp, I was feeling increasingly good. Things were looking up.
On March 12, 2020, I worked in the office with my lamp on. I walked with a coworker at lunch. We talked about the new virus in the news and how we may be asked to work only from home soon. I planned to work in-office the next day but decided to work from home at the last minute. A couple of days later, we were no longer allowed in the office and ordered to stay home indefinitely.
My in-office desk was filled with useful stuff, including my happy lamp. I wouldn’t be allowed into the office to retrieve any of my belongings until November 5, 2020. So, nine months later, I was excited to grab the light and reap its sun-mirroring powers. It was perfect timing (as we know, November isn’t my favourite month for weather/mental health). I gathered up my things and returned home to place the lamp on my now-permanent WFH desk. I was now living through a Vancouver November and a global pandemic. Hopefully it’d help.
The next day, I accidentally knocked it over and shattered it. I’d waited nine months to use it and now it was broken past the point of repair.
Fast forward to November 2021 (still in a pandemic!). I’d thought ahead this time and ordered a new happy lamp in October. This one. And honestly? This one is better. It has different light settings and emits warmer colours than the other one (it was more of a blue-undertone, bright white light, whereas this one has white and yellow options). It’s not a miracle-worker, but when it’s dark outside and even the lightbulbs in my apartment don’t seem bright enough, it helps wake me up. And it sort of feels like micro-dosing the sun, so I think it makes me feel a tiny bit happier sometimes 🙂
Gimme the mellow stuff.
I’ve used CBD for pain relief and relaxation but find it better at relaxing my body than my mind. Recently, I started drinking the Quatreau Passionfruit & Guava Sparkling Water (20mg CBD). It’s not overwhelmingly relaxing, and the drink’s low-calorie flavouring isn’t exactly strong enough to mask the earthy cannabis undertones, but it’s still easily the best flavour Quatreau offers. Sparkling water feels fun and fancy (pandemic purchases include a soda stream and all kinds of low-calorie carbonated alcoholic beverages), so this CBD beverage is a nice addition to the carbonation crew.
Recently, I tried this CBD bath bomb from Conscious Care Skincare. It’s a game changer. Baths are relaxing in their own right, but my mind often manages to wander even in relaxing situations. This bomb eased my mind and soothed me in a way CBD hasn’t before. I was wrapped in a warm blanket of sweet comfort that melted my stressful thoughts away. “I hope death feels like a warm bath,” I randomly thought to myself, in a morbid yet deeply-encompassed-in-relaxation kinda way. I think it’s obvious I’ll be buying more.
Come on in, the water’s fine.
If you haven’t watched Bo Burnham’s Netflix special Inside yet… why? Do you dislike works of art? Hate hilariously relatable yet sometimes somber content? Inside is an incredible feat and a time capsule of the pandemic, especially for millennials (check out the song 30). The special and the soundtrack make me feel understood, a key component in my wellness. I’m not embarrassed that my Spotify Wrapped indicated I’m in the top six percent of Bo Burnham listeners on Spotify from listening to the Inside soundtrack on repeat. Catchy music that makes me laugh but also think? Laughing through the pain without totally avoiding it? That’s my sweet spot and Bo Burnham gets it.
A moment of mindfulness a day…
I always told everyone to meditate and practice mindfulness, yet when my internal voice tells me I should do the same, I counter with nah, sounds boring. Is stress more interesting than meditation? Actually, yeah, sometimes. I thrive under a certain amount of stress. But I learned more about mindfulness through info sessions at work with Stillness Labs. It was hard not to multitask while learning, which is ironic, since “mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”
I’m still trying to find motivation for meditation and mindfulness, but mindfulness clicked for me one day while petting my cat (who we adopted in April 2021). I take breaks from work and pet her, and rather than check my phone, watch television, snack, or work while petting her, I simply pet her. Look down smiling at her. Be with her. Breathe. And it definitely helps wash away the stress of the day, even if only for a moment.
Each day, I work at my standing desk, basking in the glow of my happy lamp, listening to Bo Burnham, dreaming of a post-work CBD bath with my cat curled up in my office chair behind me. I’m not doing great (we’re in a global pandemic after all), but I am doing fine. Would my therapist be worried about my coping mechanisms? I doubt it, but I can always ask her at our next regular check-in sesh.