This is a weird, strange time we’re parenting through right now. While we are busy trying to grasp onto whatever routine we can, we all need to know that it’s going to be hard to find right now. With extended Spring Breaks and the conversations about distance learning, it’s easy to lose yourself (and your mental health) amidst the chaos.
You might be lucky enough to have a fully stocked pantry and linen closet, but how is your emotional inventory? Just because you might feel disoriented in regards to schedule and routine, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay attention to your own feelings about what’s going on in this world right now.
1 It’s important to feel it all. Allows yourself to feel the chaos, feel the annoyance, feel the fear and the disappointment. Feel the joy of watching your kids play at home during the middle of the day. Feel the hope of this pandemic quickly fading. Feel the frustration from the sound of kids incessant arguing down the hall. Recognize those feelings throughout every day and name them. Aloud. Let yourself say, “I feel chaotic.” “I feel bored.” “I feel disorganized.” Giving a verbal name to those feelings helps us figure out what we need in that moment.
2. Talk about it with your people. Shoot your friends a text in camaraderie with a silly meme, GIF or just a quick note about how you’re feeling. They are probably feeling the same. Talk to your partner about the plans for your family, ask about their feelings and share in some stories about your day. I know one of the feelings I had to recognize over the last few days was the feeling of jealousy. My husband’s schedule has not changed at all. He goes to work at a small office, with minimal exposure and so his day doesn’t change. However, with three children at home, my schedule has been completely uprooted and it is making me feel jealous. I figured that out and shared that with him and now he can have that conversation with me.
3. Know that your kids will be fine. Emotionally, they might feel the disruption as well. No doubt school-aged children do. However, their feelings and emotional response have so much to do with yours. You don’t need to fake it to make them okay, you need to be authentic. Check-in with them, but don’t harp on it. We know kids are incredibly resilient and enjoy the structure. So, let them have more free time than usual because #springbreak4ever, but also recognize their inherent need for structure. Even if it’s a rough draft of a schedule, make one. Don’t get upset with yourself if you deviate because they will be fine. While it might be an undesired adventure for you, it’s still an adventure to them.
4. Look for small happies. In my family, we talk about happies as a person, place, thing that makes us smile. It might be a big happy, like a family member or teacher, but it also might be small, like pancakes, rainbows or ipad time. Find your small happies during this stressful time. Look forward to your afternoon coffee time and let the kids have screen time. Double happies, I guarantee you. Enjoy sitting on the porch in the middle of the day when you would normally be running errands or working. One of my favorite song lyrics from Brandi Carlile seems fitting right now. “You can dance in a hurricane, but only if you’re standing in the eye.”
5. Be a good neighbor. When we are doing things for others, it makes us feel better about ourselves. If you can, think of a way to help out. If that’s simply focusing on social distancing, know that you’re doing a good and important thing. If it’s dropping off extra food you might have on the doorstep of a neighbor, know that you’re doing a good thing. Sometimes, together with our children, we can talk about the difference we’re making and the goal we have. Create a daily opportunity for kindness that you can work on with your kids (or without). Perhaps drop off kind and encouraging notes on the doorsteps of your neighbors. It’s a good opportunity to get some fresh air and the kids can enjoy decorating and/or writing them. Making the extra effort can absolutely make a difference can improve your overall outlook right now.
6. Stay ahead of the emotional curve. If you are currently in therapy, make sure you have a game plan for the next few weeks. Schedule ahead of time, know your emotional needs and talk to your therapist about them. If you are feeling the very understandable anxiety due to this chaotic time in our world, find a helper- be it online or in person. There are plenty of online resources and therapy opportunities that can help you sort out your feelings from home. But most importantly, know that feeling anxious is completely healthy and understandable.
7. Recognize anxiety in disguise. While anxiety is a wildly uncomfortable emotion, it’s also one that is felt by many in several different ways. Several things you might experience over the next few weeks that are actually anxiety might be: nervous energy, stomach aches, tension headaches, restlessness, anger, sadness, quick temper, low patience, shaky hands, shortness of breath, obsessive/compulsive tendencies (incessant cleaning, watching the news, etc).
Anxiety can manifest physically as well as emotionally. It’s rooted in our feelings of lack of control; which we all feel to some extent right now. The ways you combat anxiety is to pay attention to the physical and emotional characteristics and find control in small ways. You cannot control the overall health of the world, but you can socially isolate, plan your day at home and choose to focus on positive. Those are choices.
8. Know your limits. There is currently a ton of information being thrown at you from all directions (including this article!). Know what information is helpful to you and what is anxiety producing. If being on social media is a habit, but also making you crazy, let it go. Take a hiatus and choose a few times a day to check the news, if you must. Choose your news outlet and don’t watch it 50 times. Setting limits and boundaries is always comforting for our minds. Be good to yourself by setting those boundaries and letting yourself feel all the feelings along the way. Hang in there and know that the world is wading through this together.