Finding Comfort



I think it is fair to say it’s been a hell of a year, and although we are seeing hope in this part of the world, so many others are still in the throes of this pandemic.

The reckonings, changes, losses and cumulative impact of the coronavirus have taken, and continue to take their toll.   Reports of increased mental health and substance issues are widespread.

Self care is a term that has been thrown around so often that it seems as though it has lost its potency so I am hesitant to even use it.  I was trying to think of a good substitute, and realized  that when I think about what I have done during the past year plus to manage my own anxiety and stress (i.e. ‘self care’) the word that comes to mind is not self care, but comfort.

It is not surprising that comfort is a word often associated with parenting children, as in comforting a child to sleep, or comforting a child who has skinned their knee.  Comfort is a practice used to alleviate pain, stress, or distress – all of which we have been or are experiencing during the past year.

So – here are some behaviors, practices and activities that have comforted me during the past year.  I invite you to take a moment to think about your comforting activities and share them in the comments.

Pets.  We recently said good bye to our beloved labradoodle of 14 years, Keiko.  It was heartbreaking, and as I grieve this loss I realize what a comfort she provided during the past year, as she was at my side every day here at home.

Cooking.  It is no accident that the term ‘comfort food’ is a common term these days, but I’m not referring to Krispy Kreme consumption (although they are amazing, and literally walking distance from my house….)    I find cooking, especially baking, to be extremely therapeutic.  During the early months of the pandemic, I was baking almost every day.  It is a mindful activity, in that it forces me to pay attention and keep myself focused – or risk a baking mishap!  It is also a finite activity, with a defined start and stop, and has a reward at the end.  Although we were practicing social distancing, I was still able to connect with others through baking by bringing my finished products to friends and leave on their doorstep or back porch.

Walking and nature.  I have always enjoyed walking, but I had not realized the connection between walking outside and my emotional well being until this past year.  There is growing evidence that forest bathing reduces stress, and I have found that even a short time spend outside is restorative.

Gardening.  My family will tell you that I don’t exactly have a green thumb, but I do enjoy it!  I have always found weeding to be a bit of a drudge, but during the past months it has actually been enjoyable – for the same reasons baking is therapeutic, it is a short term activity that produces results.  I can spend 10 minutes weeding an area, it looks nicer and improves my mood.

Comfort reading.   Books have always had a soothing quality for me– they provide a feeling of nostalgia.  So it is no surprised that I turn to children/young adult books when I am seeking comfort.  My go to books:  anything by L.M. Montgomery (Anne of Green Gables series), Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, the Wrinkle in Time series, and the Chronicles of Narnia.

Yup, binge watching is on the list.  Specifically TV for me – I find that I don’t have the attention span for movies when I am feeling stressed or anxious. Much like books, my TV watching is carefully curated and quite feel good. Among my favorite comfort TV shows:  Schitt’s Creek, Jane the Virgin, The Good Place, the Crown, and The Durrell’s in Corfu were among those that provided a sense of joy and comfort.

I would love to hear about your comfort activities.  Please share in the comments below!


About Author

Kim Andreaus

Work Life Program Manager

Kim Andreaus is the Aging and Eldercare Program Manager for Work/Life. She has experience in geropsychiatry; both inpatient and in a community mental health setting. In addition, she has been a faculty member at NCSU, UNC-CH and Wake Tech and has taught courses in gerontology and conducted training in geriatric mental health.

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