This socially isolated time is bringing back a lot of postpartum parallels for me. And it has required me to “suit up” to endure this challenging season. Some similar emotions being; lack of control, lots of uncertainty on the horizon, less time to myself (how I seem to truly recharge), as well as a huge shift in my life that has required adjusting too. The only main differences being:
- I am not in it alone, the whole world is going through the same thing, which is actually a little comforting. It feels like we are all in this shit show together.
- I am getting a full night’s sleep most nights (this is clutch for my mental health).
- I am not recovering from a major trauma to my body, so I can move my body!
For my family, we are luckily not overly affected (yet), but it is definitely a big change to our life and the way are used to living it. Being home with 2 young kids all day is exhausting to say the least. I know there are many mother’s out there who are feeling the pressure to do it all; be the teacher, be the mom, make the food, clean the house, all while maintaining a job and your relationship…without any support. Add on some extra anxiety due to the overwhelm of bad/scary news, potential stress of losing income, oh, and we can’t really go anywhere, all while trying to act relatively normal so your kids don’t freak out. That is what we have all been dealing with, some in greater, more exaggerated ways, and some in subtler ways, but I have no doubt that there isn’t a family on this planet that isn’t affected somehow by this pandemic.
So, instead of reiterating all the things you already know, here are a few things that I am doing myself to build up my armour which helps me endure my days, without snapping at my kids or husband too much and actually enjoying my days and this time of slowness.
1) Establishing a Schedule and Routine
Most people do very well with routine, especially if you are (like me) someone who deals with anxiety. To avoid the groundhog day-like feelings of this time (“what day is it?”), try to establish a different focus or activity for each day. After having about a week of unstructured time when this all started, I found I was anxious and unhappy, and fully dreading each new day. Now that I have a routine (and a physical schedule on my fridge), I have noticed a clear difference in my mood and the way I parent. Our schedule is pretty loose, but I will make sure to have an outing or backyard activity planned for each day. For us, that looks like walks through Jackson Park to find a quiet area of the woods we can play, a drive to one of our many lakes or rivers to throw rocks in, playing in our backyard, making and playing with play-dough, planting seedlings, or baking. So every morning, we do a different activity, then during Lake’s nap, Isla and I will try to have some quiet time, video chat with a grandma, do a “lesson” (super loose and unstructured), or we’ll draw or listen to a kids audiobook. After nap, we will go outside together as a family to play/workout/play basketball/ride bike’s etc. Then dinner and bed for the girls and Ryan and I have our own evening schedule. So for example, we do a: creativity night, technology free “date night”, “write night” (he is currently working on a book and I use this time to blog), and movie night. We have also started doing biweekly family parties (inspired by Isla) where she and I will bake a cake and we play music and eat our favourite meal and even blow up a few balloons and blow out candles on the cake. It has really helped instil a little bit of fun into a life that could easily get monotonous. And I know for a fact, these girls will look back on this time and think of it as a happy time where we hung out a lot as a family.
2) Scheduling in Some Solo-Time Everyday
It is not sustainable to be with your kids (or partner) all day, everyday! It just isn’t, no matter how much you love you kids or love spending time with them. You NEED to figure out a way to get away for at least 30 minutes everyday. Obviously, if you are a solo-parent, that will look a little different, and you may need to rely on a show or video chat with a family member to duck out, put your headphones in and have some silence.
For me, that looks like a walk almost every morning before my husband gets to work. I go out for 30-60 minutes, rain, snow, or shine and I walk, I run (less so), I think, I observe, I practice gratitude, and walking meditation. One thing I don’t do is bring my phone, I let this time just be me and the great outdoors. I’ve realized once again how much I love walking and how it really is a meditation practice for me. I always feels clearer and happier/more energized after a walk, even if I didn’t feel like getting started.
I’ve noticed on days where I don’t start with a solo-walk, I have less of a capacity for patience and find I get irritated more easily. When I do walk, the patience is there (most of the time), I am better at being present with my kids and am generally just happier. It literally suits me up for my day, it pads on the layers of patience, presence, kindness and compassion on an otherwise bare and stripped down foundation.
Try to find your thing that brings you happiness and peace, maybe that is 10 minutes of meditation, listening to a podcast, going for a drive, taking a nap. Find it and do it. Everyday.
3) Stop Following News/Social Media
This one is a biggie. Yes, there are updates on the virus, yes, it is important to stay in the know of new best practices or information about the virus. But that does NOT mean you need to check multiple times a day. That may mean you go onto a trusted site a couple times a week when you are already feeling calm and relaxed, NOT when you are already feeling anxious or right before bed. Consuming news is a direct cortisol booster (that is your fight or flight hormone), and can bring you into a stress response (sympathetic state) immediately.
That literally means, the more stressed you are, the worse off your immune system is. So, that is a very clear reason why constantly consuming news and updates are not going to help your anxiety or your health.
If you have friends or family members who are giving you all the updates and you notice your body going into a stress state, ask them kindly to refrain from giving you updates, tell them it is stressing you out. It is your life and you know what is best for you and your family, don’t let others cloud your otherwise clear waters.
In my opinion, you can choose how you want this time to be for you (for the most part, I know there are some people out there who may be seriously struggling to put food on their tables right now). But for those who still have food, still have a roof over your head, you can choose to think of it as an exciting time, a time that is challenging but will make you stronger in the end. A time where you are forced to see what is important in your life and see all those things you thought you needed but don’t actually need. A time where you get more time with your kids and partner, go outside more and do those things you’ve been meaning to do for some time. Or, you can choose to be anxious and depressed and thinking of when life wasn’t like this and we were allowed to go wherever we wanted and see whoever we wanted, whenever we wanted.
After having a little over a week of heightened anxiety, I could see myself slipping into the latter, and I knew I had to do something about it. Which is why I took these steps to allow me to actually enjoy my days. If you are still in that dark place, sit down (by yourself or with a partner), and write down:
- What you need in your life to bring in happiness
- What tiny things you can do to make your life a little easier
- Make a weekly schedule so you have a couple things to look forward to, and some structure and variety in your days
I also find that when you are following a schedule, time seems to go by faster, which is a nice feeling when this is probably our life for the next couple of months.
I hope I got your wheels turning and thinking about how you can make this a positive time in your life. Comment below with anything you are doing or plan on doing to brighten up your days.
Be grateful for today