I am by no means an expert in this field, as I have never studied or experienced parenting during a pandemic, race riot, or murder hornets. As I’ve said before, nobody gets to tell you how to parent during a pandemic. You get the right and responsibility to make those decisions on your own. You also get the weight of the consequences of those decisions. So, I’m going to share with you a few of the techniques that are working for me as a Mama and us as a family.
First, it is fair to preface this by saying that I’m a panicker and suffer from all-or-nothing thinking. If you are a calm-bodied spirit, let’s be friends, you bring the wine, and this article is not probably as helpful for you as it might be for my fellow anxious mamas. So here goes, in no particular order, here are five techniques I’m using to keep myself grounded during this time:
- I’m making the best decision I can in the moment, saying that out loud, and letting the weight go.
“Should she wear a mask to school? Should we play at the park? Am I comfortable with a friend coming over? Can Grandma give her hugs?” In April, we decided that as a daily practice, we would avoid looking too far down the road, and focus on each week. So as these decisions come up, we preface each answer with “This week…” We say this out loud. For real. Then we move on.
- “This week we are making a joint decision to allow Grandma to hug the kids.”
- “This week we are comfortable having a socially distanced gathering on our patio with one other family who we have already been in contact with.”
2. Morning gratitude practice and small goal setting
The first thing I do each morning is brew strong, black espresso. The second thing I do is sit down, open up my notebook, and write five things I am grateful for. I have doubled down on making sure this happens each morning. My typical morning routine would also include goal-setting practice, and those goals are often long-term, audacious, big goals. I’ve got the vision board, the 5-year plan, the pictures, basically anything Oprah or Rachel Hollis have recommended, I’ve done it. However, I have found it extremely helpful to keep that list at the back of my notebook, but then write five short-term weekly goals. This shift has made it easy to focus on the things I can control and the adjustments I can make in my week. I make them, and celebrate the wins.
3. Focus on health.
Here comes my soapbox: Gosh darnit, anybody who is not grateful for their health and focusing on
improving it right now is missing the point. It is a privilege to be able to breathe on your own right now. It is a privilege to be able to move your body, no matter what that movement looks like. And as far as I know, the only thing left that I can do to prepare for a COVID-19 outbreak is to make sure that my body and mind are in the best shape possible. So I work out every morning. Every. Morning. No. Matter. What. I’m adding a few minutes each week. When I’m working out, I’m reminding myself how free it feels. I’m thanking myself for providing the endorphins that help me with the positive outlook and give me the gusto to lead an organization during this time. I’m filling my body with vegetables and nutrients that I believe will help me fight off any illness, and gosh darnit, it feels good! If you are a person who doesn’t workout regularly, but wants to start, you only get two rules. 1. Start. 2. Only complain about the workouts you don’t do. (Credit to Heidi Gaugert for that).
4. Choosing very intentionally the amount of media I expose myself to.
It’s pretty hard to open an internet explorer right now without finding something that makes you feel like the world might be in serious trouble. I feel the need to be informed, but do find that any overload of information, and the conflicting information, causes a spike in my anxious thoughts . So I pick my time wisely (after a workout, during a lunch break, not right before bed), I limit my website perusing to no more than three for no more than twenty minutes, and then I move on to working on that goal list from above.
5. Visualizing the best, over and over again, when I’m in a spiral of doom.
The four techniques listed above are habits. The longer and more consistently I practice them, the better they work out. Now sometimes none of these things work, and I find my brain in a tailspin of horror going through worst case scenarios and what ifs. Perhaps you have experienced some of that too. If I find myself in one of these moments, I stop, take a deep breath, remind myself that this is not helpful, and flood my brain with the most beautiful moments I can envision in the future. For me, these include my kids’ first day of kindergarten, a tropical vacation with my husband that is on my bucket list, laughing at the holidays around the Christmas tree, connecting with a new parent at work, laughing with my leadership team, tasting the best food ever, and watching my husband and the most amazing father ever do a silly dance that makes my children giggle. All of it. I close my eyes and visualize all of it over and over again. Then I go for a five-minute walk. That’s it.
Listen, mamas and daddies. None of us thought we signed up for this unique parenting challenge. What we can do is double down on our awesome habits, and support each other during this time. Reach out if you need support. You are doing important work, and it’s so essential that you spend some time working on yourself during this time.