December mental wellness check-in

Today I was on a Zoom meeting where the host suggested that we each go around and answer three questions. 1: How are you feeling? 2: What worries are holding you back from being fully present in this conversation? 3: What’s one thing that’s keeping you energized?

One person shared that she is pregnant AND has COVID. Major yikes.

My stuff, by comparison, is very mild. I’m tired. We all are. Tired of work, tired of being stuck, tired of this pandemic. I’m not really thinking about the fact that I haven’t seen my family for a year, because honestly, what’s the point of dwelling on that? The thing that’s keeping me energized is getting to spend some time alone in the Swiss Alps over Christmas.

I also miss corn dogs a lot. They don’t sell those in Switzerland, last time I checked. I blurted this out during the call, and the rest of the group laughed at me.

In late September, I wrote about several tools I planned to employ to combat seasonal affective disorder. I was right that the grey skies would be all-consuming, bleeding energy and joy from our lives. I don’t think I’ve seen the sun in Geneva once since November, which is kind of shocking: I had never lived anywhere in the world that just didn’t have the sun. I would have expected it in Sweden, but Switzerland? With its snowy peaks and azure lakes? How dare you.

Updates on the tools

The wake-up light that I got has come in very useful. Now that the sun doesn’t rise until 8am, I set it for 7:45am. It sits a few inches from my face, emitting an increasingly warm and golden glow until the radio clicks on. It’s also an excellent light source at night.

Food-wise, I’m not doing so hot. The unexpected move in late November / early December completely disrupted every aspect of my routine. Because most of my furniture took ages to deliver, I slept for nine days on a mattress on the floor, among half-opened boxes. This meant almost no real cooking besides microwaves and toast ovens. I’m still getting back on track!

As for travel, the deteriorating COVID situation in Switzerland has made that difficult. I’ve since visited Basel and Chillon Castle (strongly recommend both!), but this isn’t really a good time to be hopping around different cities. Switzerland just announced today that it’s locking down gastronomy for a month. Some ski resorts are closed. I had hoped to go to Domodossola in Italy in late November, but that was defo not realistic.

I have actually gotten into meditation a tiny bit. Usually I can’t tolerate it because my mind races a thousand miles a minute, but then I figured out that I can actually meditate while walking. I use a free app called Oak. When I’m at the office, I put on my earphones and pace around in the back garden for about 10-15 minutes while listening to the meditation guide. I usually do this right after lunch, which helps with digestion. It also reminds me that lunch time is for me and my health, not work.

When I’m at home, though, it’s harder to keep work and life separate. One thing that has helped tremendously is getting a separate desk for work. (Someone on Twitter joked that the difference between rich and poor people is that the former don’t have to work from their kitchen table, ha!) My work was willing to reimburse up to a certain amount for home office equipment, so I bought a desk, a chair, and a 21-inch monitor. Here’s the Instagram version.

Yep, that’s a tea towel serving as dust cover for the monitor. Picked it up at the gift shop of a nature reserve in Christchurch, New Zealand and it’s been a staple of my various homes ever since.

And here’s reality. A tangle of HDMI and USB cables, the box for my hand vacuum propping up the laptop for video calls, and my work phone acting as a hotspot because I can’t get Wi-Fi installed in the apartment until the 23rd of this month. At the end of each workday, I put everything away immediately: the monitor is unplugged, the charger and mouse go back into the drawer, the work phone goes on mute, and the tea towel hides the monitor from view. I have my home life back again.


This move was one of the best things that happened to me all year. It’s the thing that’s been keeping me going since late October, instead of slumped in a corner. Packing and unpacking. Picking out furniture that I liked and assembling almost everything by myself (three chairs, two tables, a shelf, a floor lamp, and a kitchen trolley). Running back and forth multiple times to Ikea, a store I now loathe and refuse to step foot in for at least another year. I can’t wait to do a tour of the apartment once all of the pieces fall into place.

Also: I love cleaning now! I think I gained a new appreciation for it as I was deep-cleaning my old apartment after moveout. If I had put just a little more effort into my regular cleaning routine, I wouldn’t have left Future Me with such a mammoth task at the end. I am currently obsessed with my vacuum, which is the size of a wine bottle and can also act as an air purifier.

In the last few months, I’ve learned to be more patient and to allow things to happen at their own pace, or to resolve them myself. For instance, the toilet lid fell off my toilet, but the régie wouldn’t respond to my requests. I ended up using an extra nail left over from a piece of furniture to affix the lid myself. As the British would say, brightly, “There’s that sorted.”

Earlier this week, my downstairs neighbor knocked on my door, terribly upset. Apparently every time I showered, the water would leak directly from his ceiling. Not only was it understandably annoying for him, it risked the ceiling caving in. When I called the tiling company, the earliest they could come was January 12. An earlier incarnation of me would have fretted. January 12? Literally a whole month from now? But now I just shrug. I can shower at my coworker’s apartment a few blocks away. I can shower at work. I can shower at the hotel. Life is too short to worry about dumb stuff like this. I’m choosing to set myself free.

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