Wow. What a week it has been. The normalcy of last week feels like a lifetime ago and now most of us are hunkered down at home fulfilling our social responsibility of social distancing. As much as we all know that we are doing the right thing and helping save lives, this is still very hard. Overnight our lives changed and now we are not only parents, but also our children’s school teachers and only playmates. Many are juggling all this while trying to work and figure out the logistics of this new life. If it all feels like too much at times, you are not alone. This is an overwhelming time on so many levels. And while your priority right now may be keeping things as “normal” as possible for your kids and figuring out a new balance you never anticipated, it is also essential that in the midst of all this chaos you are also taking care of one very important person…yourself.
But how do you self care in quarantine? We can’t book a massage or go get a pedicure. Gym’s are closed and it’s childcare went right with it. Meeting a friend for coffee or a glass of wine is dangerous. Even those solo trips to run errands are no longer safe. How do we fill our own cups when we are stuck at home and our kids need us more now than ever? How do we navigate all this that is in front of us while also taking care of ourselves? I don’t have the answers, but I do know one thing I’ve learned as both a social worker and a mom- when times get hard it is even more important to prioritize taking care of ourselves. So yes, self care may look a little different while social distancing, but with all the new full time roles and responsibilities we have taken on (while also being isolated from others), it’s going to be an essential part of this whole journey. Below are some ways you can take care of you during this difficult time. What are some of the ways you are prioritizing you while practicing social distancing?
Give Yourself Grace
This is a strange and scary time for all of us. There are so many unknowns and none of us have been through something quite like this before. When you’re on social media and see all the color coded schedules and Pinterest worthy posts, remember that there is no “should” right now. You have to do what you need to do so that you can stay sane and healthy yourself! Your kids need that more than anything right now. If that means your kids get way more screen time than you ever imagined, then so be it. Chances are almost all of us are doing the same! There is no right way to quarantine (well, except for actually staying away from others so we can keep everyone healthy!). I know I put a lot of pressure on myself to be a “Supermom”, but what that means right now is a SANE mom. And some days that may mean fancy worksheets and themed science projects, and some days that may mean movies and popcorn for dinner. My kids will remember this time with me, so I’d rather be the happiest version of me I can be- even if that means that means I swap schedules for screens some days! None of us know what we are doing right now, and that’s ok. This is not a normal situation for anyone! We need to give ourselves grace and let go of all the “shoulds” we feel so we can just get through this day by day.
Just like we keep saying our kids need to be outdoors, so do we! Being stuck in the house without even the option of a Target trip is daunting. I know I go insane looking at everything that needs to be done or every mess I see. Even if it’s just 5 minutes, grab some fresh air (and hopefully some sunshine!) and take a few deep breaths. Let the kids run wild while you feel the grass under your feet. Take a walk around the block. Getting out of the house will help you remember that even though we can’t be near other people, life exists outside our houses and one day we will all be reunited again.
Designate 15 Minutes Just for YOU
One crucial survival technique I’ve implemented since becoming a stay at home mom is taking a moment alone before the chaos of the day begins, even if just for 15 minutes. Some days I get up and go for a run alone. Or if it was a long night with the baby I opt for a hot cup of coffee alone in bed while my husband takes over with the kids. Both scenarios allow me to center myself before I’m constantly needed until bedtime. It’s a way to make sure I start the day off on the right foot and make sure some of my needs are met before I go and meet everyone else’s.
Feeling overwhelmed and like you may scream at every person in the house, even the dog? Taking a few minutes to meditate may save you from losing it. It doesn’t need to be a perfect 30 minutes of a clear mind and total zen, just something that grounds you, even if just a few minutes. There are some great apps out there to guide you through the process (I love the ones that just help you practice deep breathing, quick and simple!). Meditating for me is often just taking a few minutes alone, putting the phone down, and relaxing each part of my body while I focus on breathing. Or I go for a”mindfulness walk” where I label all the things I see/hear/smell/see. It makes me focus on other things besides of all the chatter going on inside and outside my mind. Just a few minutes of quiet to clear your mind can change the whole tone of the day.
Change Your Clothes
This one may sound silly, but having just gone through the newborn phase where I was at home most of the day everyday- making sure I did simple things like putting on new clothes (even if it meant swapping one pair of leggings for the next) or brushing my teeth can create some semblance of the normalcy and routine we are all craving. The days where I stay in PJs and don’t shower seem longer and harder. I know it sounds nice to spend the day in your comfy flannel pants with no bra on, but after awhile it may feel good to take the time to do those little things for yourself. Whatever you need to help you feel human and like yourself during this surreal time.
Utilize Your Resources
Most of us never expected to be homeschooling our kids. And with 24 hours in a day and very few places to go outside of the house, that’s a lot for a parent to unexpectedly take on. Don’t put all the pressure on yourself. As I mentioned above, this is a time to really give yourself grace. You do not have to create your own curriculum from scratch for each child (but if you do, please share!). There are so many amazing educational resources out there right now that you can use when you need some space while your kids still learn. My Facebook feed has blown up with different websites to help parents during this coronavirus quarantine. Zoo’s around the country are putting on tons of cool programs, certain educational apps are waiving fees, and so many activities that were happening in person can now be done virtually. Think of the new and different things your kids can be exposed to during this time period! Sure, most of it may involve a screen, but your child is still learning and you can take some of that pressure off yourself and use that time to focus on you. This morning my daughter did an online live Yummy Sprouts cooking class and then watched a virtual “Ask the Zoo Keeper” from Henry Vilas Zoo. She loved both and learned a lot. Meanwhile, I got to sit down with some coffee and do some writing which I needed to do for me.
Move Your Body
This does not mean that you need to take up a whole new fitness regime or start marathon training (though props to you if you do!), this is just about listening to your body and doing whatever movement feels good to you. Taking a moment to connect and move your body can really help calm your mind. Even simple things like a few minutes of light stretching can go a long way. Enjoy a walk outside alone, go for a run, do some new and different workout videos at home. If you need to get the kids involved then have a dance party or put on Cosmic Kids Yoga and join in on the fun! Even if exercise isn’t your thing, doing movement that feels good to you can help your body and mind feel better when cooped up all day.
Take a News Vacation
It’s everywhere. You can’t turn on the TV, Facebook, or even open your email without seeing or hearing about COVID-19.This is a very serious matter, and it’s also very scary, which can be a lot to absorb. It’s ok to step back and turn it all off. Being inundated with scary news 24/7 it can wreck havoc on our mental health. If you need to step away from the news or social media, do it. We can’t deny the reality of what is going on around us, but we can protect ourselves and take care of our mental health by taking breaks when we need them. Give yourself permission to turn off the news and focus on the things that bring you joy.
CALL or FaceTime Someone
Yup, that says to call someone on the phone. If you’re like me, you send most calls to voicemail and prefer to text- but with the isolation that we are all going through, there is something so nice about hearing someone else’s voice. Just because we have to practice social distancing does not mean we cannot be social. We need to be there for each other in the ways that we can. Sure, a text will work, but when the only people you’ve talked to all day are the ones that call you mom, it sure is nice to hear the voice of another adult every once and awhile. Just like I’m setting up FaceTime “play dates” for my kids, I am setting up phone and FaceTime “mom dates” for me. We all need each other now, so call a friend or family member. I guarantee you they will be just as excited to hear your voice as you are theirs.
This is hard right now, and it’s ok to reach out for more support. As a social worker and a therapy utilizer myself (not to mention I am also married to a therapist), I can tell you that in times like these it is so important to prioritize your mental health. What’s happening in the world right now can bring up a lot for people, not to mention the effect that isolation can have on a person. It’s ok to not be ok. We all need lots of support as we muddle through this unknown. Having a professional to work with during this time is a great form of self care. If you already have a therapist, talk to them about phone/video therapy sessions. Or check out services like Talk Space and Better Help. And if you find yourself in a crisis situation, you can contact The National Alliance on Mental Health crisis line or call 911. Reach out, you don’t have to do this alone.
If you’re anything like me, there are a lot of thoughts swarming through your head right now. Instead of ruminating on them and feeling overwhelmed, get it out on paper. It may help you feel better or see things in a different light. Journaling is a great way to relieve stress and organize your thoughts. It can also serve as a memento of this wild time in years to come!
Do Something You’ve Been Wanting To Do
Have a book you’ve been meaning to read? Want to try a new recipe? Have that project you’ve been putting off? Sure, you can’t go cross sky diving off your list right now, but it may feel good to accomplish something you’ve been wanting to do. This isn’t to say you should stress over cleaning out every single closet in the house, but if doing something helps you feel productive and gives the day a purpose, then do it. That feeling of success can be great for your mental health. We don’t have a lot of control over things right now, so if crossing something off your list or trying something new you’ve been wanting to do feels good, then go for it.
Take It One Day at a Time
I know it sounds cliche, but right now this is about all we can do. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring. We don’t know when life will resume its new normal. We could spend every waking minute asking the millions of questions we all have. But that isn’t good for our mental health either. Take some deep breaths and try to stay with just today. Do something you love today. Call someone you love today. Focus on what you can do today. I know the unknowns are scary. I know how overwhelming this all is. If we focus too much on all the uncertainties of the future, we may find ourselves full of sadness, fear, and anger. And that will make this whole ride unbearable. So as you hunker down and help save lives, remember to stay as much in the moment as you can and do the things you need take care of you too.
Stay safe and thank you to everyone who is doing their part to help flatten the curve.