The past week and a half has been A LOT. (And has it only been a week and a half?) Like so many others, I’m sitting here at my desk in my home office. And in the background, I hear Eric helping our 5th grader with math homework, our younger daughter (in Kindergarten) is running up the stairs to show me the story she wrote and illustrated, I’m on my third cup of coffee and it’s just 9:30am. I haven’t showered. (And forget about makeup and doing my hair.) I’ve been on an average of about 3 Zoom calls a day (between work and checking up on my family and friends) and my iPhone has informed me that my screen time has increased by an hour and 42 minutes in the past week. Wow. That would be overwhelming if I felt secure that we, as a world community, were not suffering. If I were able to be together with friends, celebrate our upcoming holiday with family, travel for Spring Break with our kids – this still would feel hard. And yet… this is our new “normal”. To be honest, this isn’t a life I want to settle into for a long period of time. I’d prefer to feel more calm and less anxious.
As a working parent, it’s easy to feel like I’m not “good enough”. It often feels as if I can only excel in one area of life at a time. It’s work OR parenting, mothering OR partnering. But what this upheaval is teaching me is that – whatever I’m doing – it’s definitely enough. I don’t have to be great at everything, and certainly not perfect at anything.
Every day is not going to go well. There will be days where the kids don’t do anything educational. Days where we don’t get exercise or fresh air. We may eat chicken nuggets 2 days in a row. We will not fall apart. I’m sure many of you read the article in the NY Times, “I refuse to run a corona virus homeschool”. Reading it gave me permission to let go. Deep breath. We will get through this.
I wanted to share a few of the things I’ve been doing that have been helpful to me in the past week. (I’ll share the healthy habits and will just mention that in addition to these helpful habits, I’ve also been eating junk-food and watching too much mindless television…it’s all about balance, right?!)
It’s so simple. We do it every few seconds. But sometimes, it’s important to do it with intention. I took a MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) course at Penn a few years ago and have tried to dust off what I learned. It takes practice and patience but it really does work. Just 5 minutes a day to stop everything else and focus on my breath really helps. And if I can, 5 minutes in the morning and 5 before bed makes life feel less overwhelming. To start, I highly recommend letting someone guide you through a meditation. I love the free app called Insight Timer. You can look for what you want/need there based on theme AND time limit! (Start with short sessions!) In a few days, I’ll be leading a mindfulness session for our virtual Akeela community and you can come listen to what I find helpful in my own practice.
Discover a hobby or task that brings you joy
I love to bake bread. I love the fact that I have to stop and focus on one thing at a time. I love the way the dough feels and I love creating something that I can then share with others. (Maybe I’ll lead a bread baking session online for the Akeela community too!) What makes you feel good? Did you have a hobby a long time ago that made you feel that way? Maybe you had to stop because you didn’t have time. Try again now. Knitting? Writing? Singing? Playing an instrument? Yoga? Dance? Gardening. Don’t do it WITH anyone. Do it yourself and enjoy the solitude.
Engage in a task that makes you feel in control
Go through your closet and get rid of the clothes that don’t fit. If you’re like me, you have old suits from the 90’s that no longer fit, are out of style and are no longer needed! (I don’t know any camp directors who wear suits to work!!!) Maybe sorting through your Tupperware will make your cabinets feel roomier, and kids are great helpers with sorting! Have your kids look through their clothes and put a few bags aside for future donations.
In a time where we feel trapped and without choice, doing something that feels useful and organizing can give us the same internal sense of organization that we’re all craving now.
I’ve heard from many people that they’re struggling to get a good night’s rest. Me too. I pride myself on getting a solid 8 hours a night of high-quality sleep. Well – that’s not currently the case. I’ve been tossing and turning this past week. A few thoughts about healthy sleep:
- Keep your screens out of your bedroom. You should not be looking at a screen an hour before you want to fall asleep.
- Try to meditate or stretch for 10 minutes before you get into bed.
- Wake up at the same time every day. Our circadian rhythm is set by our wake time so it’s important that we stay on a regular schedule.
- Get outside – sunlight is really important for sleep cycles and while you’re outside, get exercise! (But at least an hour before bed!)
Turn off the news
It’s hard not to become glued to our sources of news. We want to know what’s happening. But you know what? No one really knows. We need to wait and see and that’s not what we want to hear. Things are changing rapidly and I know I’m struggling to keep up. I’ve found that reading too much or watching too many news stories just amps up my anxiety. Take an inventory of where you are. Do you feel more anxious, grumpy, impatient, physically ill after engaging with news? Does reading about other people’s complaints, struggles, illnesses on Facebook make you feel worse? Then stop reading it! Just put it away. Take a break. Maybe tomorrow you’ll feel stronger, better, less hopeless.
Finally… hug your partner, your kids
Call a friend who makes you happy. I had a virtual cocktail hour with my cousins – the last time we were all together was for a funeral over a year ago. This was a perfect excuse! Find joy in the small things and, if you’re anything like me, you’ll need to remind yourself that this is temporary. When I was little and afraid of thunderstorms, my parents would get out a book by Mr. Rogers who said that thunder storms never last more than 15 minutes. (He’s really right, by the way!) We just need to weather the storm.