Stress can be beneficial in small amounts as a motivator to change what needs to change and an activator to respond to situations that need our attention. Chronic stress however, such as an ongoing global health crisis, changes in our way of life not of our choosing, social distancing, job loss, and financial crisis can wreak havoc on our minds, bodies and spirits. Throw in a side order of tumultuous presidential election. If you are somehow not overwhelmed by all that, then there are the issues of global warming, oceans filled with plastic and the threat of extinction to an unprecedented number of species, possibly our own. Very few of us were unaffected by the perfect storm that has been 2020. As Rachel Hollis says, “didn’t see that coming!”
Even if you haven’t been juggling being your children’s teacher, working full-time, contemplating how to stay safe and trying not to lose your mind, what we are experiencing right now calls for exceptional self-care. We’re not talking about stocking up on toilet paper and vodka, although not running out of those is definitely important. We all have some level of mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual resources and self-care is how we replenish our personal supply of each of them. When one is depleted, they all suffer, and we suffer. And when we suffer, everyone in the house reacts to our low, anxious, angry, frustrated energy. Am I right? While we all know about bubble baths, here’s what you can do in the middle of the day or if baths aren’t your thing and you’ve already binge-watched everything on Netflix:
1. Stop, drop and play. Be committed to random acts of play, especially when you or the kids are about to meltdown. Anyone in the house can call stop, drop, and play and unless you’re on a zoom call for work (and if you are but don’t love your coworkers), everyone participates. Tension interruption. 5 or 10 minutes of dance party (bonus if you add bubbles), loud sing-along, or swinging in the rain. Let your crazy out. Whoever calls it chooses the activity. Fun is the name of the game.
2. Unleash your inner creative. Do something you’ve never done such as painting, Improv comedy, or photography even if you think you’re not good at it. Or return to something you used to love but haven’t done in years. Got ballet slippers? Dust off that musical instrument or get out that journal. Finger painting is an acceptable place to start. Write that murder mystery. Leave self-criticism behind and let yourself go.
3. Kill your inner critic. She’s (he’s, they’re) a judgy bitch. You’re slaying it at homeschooling, staying safe, working your day job, and not losing your mind. And if you are losing your sanity for a bit here and there, crying, breaking down, day drinking wine, and swearing in front of your kids (because no one is leaving the house!) so what? So is every other parent and caregiver and most of the rest of us too. This struggle is a real, unprecedented kick in the privates, and you are doing great at handling it. You’re human. That’s what kids need to know. You’re not perfect which gives your kids permission to not be perfect. They see you lose it, but the part you don’t give yourself credit for is that they also see you pull it back together. And get up the next day and do it again.
4. Get nostalgic. Get out those board games, card games, Legos, and Lincoln logs. Write letters on stationary and send them to relatives and friends. Take turns with your kids (all ages) reading books out loud to each other. The key is to spend some time together with your favorite humans without technology. Play or write by candlelight for a really old-fashioned night. How about joining the roller-skating resurgence? Take Polaroid photos to capture the occasion. And if they’re really funny, share them with me! I’ll do the same.
5. Take an online class. Learn something new. Use the time previously spent taking daily showers, doing makeup, chauffeuring kids, and commuting to learn something that interests you. This is not the time to be practical; no work-related stuff or how to lose the quarantine 15. Study something that makes you feel happy while growing new neurons and sloughing off the stress of the day.
6. Decide what you want post-pandemic life to look like. Being decisive will help you feel in control but also will help you create a life you love, focusing on what matters most to you and what makes you happy. We have an opportunity in the challenge of quarantine to decide how we want the rest our lives to go. There is a gift in not rushing back into doing what you always did; instead, do what you always wanted to do. Life by design not by default.
7. Set goals. Just like you are more likely to workout if you wake up and put on workout clothes, you are more likely to achieve goals if you set them. Make a list of what you love and like, look for clues and open your mind to receiving signs, breadcrumbs, and puzzle pieces. Prioritize what you want most to do, have and become. Pick the goals that mean the absolute most to you and create a vision board that will remind you everyday where you are going. Put sticky notes everywhere to cheer yourself on. Don’t take no for an answer. Follow your heart, trust your gut, and take one small step every single day.
8. Find the good. There may not be good in every moment but there are amazing moments in every day. There are gifts in the challenges. Look for them. Write them down. Gratitude is not only the antidote to anxiety and chaos, but it also helps you to keep your perspective in check. We are biologically programmed to focus on what went wrong but acknowledging what went right prevents us from catastrophizing and thinking the day, week or year was a total shitshow. Finding the good is not only a gift you can give yourself, but it is also one of the most valuable lessons you can teach your children. If you look for the silver lining, you will surely find it.
You’ve got this!
You have handled one hundred per cent of the challenges you have faced so far. You’re resourceful and resilient. You are doing a great job at life. I don’t know what 2021 will bring but there is no reason to not feel hopeful and optimistic. Plan for what you want to achieve and how you want to feel each day. Feel confident you will handle whatever comes because you already have. What I know for sure is that your thoughts create your reality. And even in the muck, life is a party if you decide it is.