Mama, You Need to Take Care of YourSELF During the Shutdown
This Longterm Shutdown Means We Can’t Just Coast By and Ignore our own Needs
A few weeks after schools shut down in Michigan, and I’m still figuring out how to care for my family, let alone myself.
But like I’ve learned (the hard way) in the past, I can’t take care of others if I’m not taking care of myself.
I don’t want the stress over the unknown to stop me from staying healthy, productive, and functional, but to do that, I have to be really intentional.
If I don’t pay attention to my own needs, things will unravel quickly at home.
5 Types of Self-Care for Parents During Stressful Times
Sickness, anxiety and isolation are not new to me.
I have Seasonal Affective Disorder. Sickness, depression and anxiety are an unavoidable battle for me every fall and winter. Add in a kid who’s more susceptible to illness, which has drawn our family into extended isolation periods, and basically, I’m trained to survive something like COVID-19.
And I’m sharing that intel with you.
Over the years I’ve cultivated actionable ways to get through stressful times like this and I think they can help us all right now.
Here are 5 ways to take care of yourself during this coronavirus shutdown. Somehow or other, practice each of these, however you can:
1 – Maintain Physical Health
2 – Maintain Mental Health
3 – Stay Connected with Others
4 – Keep The Household Sane
5 – Seize the Day – Make Lemonade out of these Lemons!
We are Living in Extraordinary Times; Self Care is Crucial Right Now
My friends have lost jobs. Others already struggle with clinical anxiety and are now being pushed even further to the edge. And still others are in precarious health and at very high risk.
This. All. Feels. Hard.
There’s uncertainty about the virus in general, and the scope and spread is changing daily. How long will we be called to stay home? Who in my life will become sick? How will this affect my community? My job? My husband’s?
Trying to keep track of a stream of communications from multiple teachers, creating a schedule, then trying to get your kids to adhere to said schedule, on top of trying to cook every single meal and keeping up with the sudden overflow of dishes trying to figure out how to go to the grocery store without kids.
These thoughts are quickly pushed to the side to deal with the arguing between my three kids, who are themselves wrestling with the sudden shift in routine paired with the depressing absence of their extended family and friends.
I need to stick to a few things to help my sanity, and health.
Here are ways to stay mentally and physically healthy, keep the peace at home and connect with others through it all.
1 – Moms and Dads, Don’t Ignore Your Physical Health
“You can’t pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first.” – Unknown
Get Outside Every Day
I believe strongly that getting fresh air is good for both prevention and treatment of illness. I’ve written about how sunshine is a cure for SAD, but it also goes far beyond that.
An article I read this week looks back to the history of the 1918 flu pandemic. Of open-air treatment clinics it says, ”Put simply, medics found that severely ill flu patients nursed outdoors recovered better than those treated indoors.”
There is a lot out of my hands right now. But for my kids at home that are still holding mine, I can lead them outside!
You can Exercise At Home, In Your Yard – Anywhere
Many places/people are offering FREE online or live workouts. Check out these 10 well-known fitness studios offering free classes during this time.
Not into classes? Get out for a run! Go out for a walk! The gyms may be closed, but thankfully the sidewalks are not! Grab a jogging stroller, have the kids bike alongside, whatever you need to do. Even if they only last for 10 minutes, the exercise can help!
Eat Well – Resist the Urge to Stress Eat
What you put into your body directly affects how you feel. It’s tempting to sit down with a pint (or gallon) of ice cream after the kids are tucked in and eat your troubles away.
The occasional indulgence is perfectly fine, but if it’s part of your daily routine, it will take a toll on how you function and feel.
Are you a goal setter who finds comfort in rules? These next few weeks could be the perfect time to try a new way of eating! Whole 30 (which I’ve done and loved) or the 21-Day Fix (which I’ve never done, but I do appreciate all the little containers for lunch-packing!) each have a timeline that may fit perfectly into this time of trying new things at home.
Avoid Excessive Alcohol
I’ve seen lots of people joking around about their survival kits filled with lots and lots of wine. I laugh, and I get it. It’s nice to wind down with a partner or friends (via video chat) over a glass of wine. But be careful that alcohol is not the thing you turn to for help if you’re feeling upset.
Alcohol can often increase depression and anxiety. Yes, it can make you feel better for the evening, but even just one glass can make the entire next day – or even next few days – worse. This is a time more than ever that I need to be at the top of my game for my kids. If alcohol is going to get in the way of that, this is not the time!
2 – Mental Health – Ways to Ground Yourself When You Feel Out of Control
Worry is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained. – Winston Churchill
It’s hard to see the world that we so often feel is our foundation start to slip from beneath us. It’s disorienting, scary, and can feel overwhelming at times. But there are things to do to steady ourselves in the midst of it all.
Press Pause When Feelings Overwhelm
When you’re starting to feel like it’s all too much, take a moment to stop, press pause, and just breathe.
Taking time alone to breath, stretch, pray, meditate – whatever can help ground you back to the present and focus on the good of all that’s around you and in you.
Practicing mindfulness just means that you focus on what you’re sensing and feeling that’s right in front of you (instead of the “what ifs”), and it can instantly reduce stress. Try these 6 mindful exercises.
Read Books Instead of the News
My friend (and pastor) Justin Detmers recently wrote, Pay attention to what you’re paying attention to.
I stopped and thought about what I had been paying attention to lately, and why.
I had been taking in a constant stream of news articles and it was not boosting my mental health.
Now I’m paying more attention to what is grabbing my attention, and intentionally focusing on books, art, or virtual chats with family and friends. I’m turning off the news. Mentally, it’s helping.
It doesn’t benefit me to check the news more than once a day.
Check the News From Your Trusted Source
Whenever you do check the news, make sure it’s from only your one or two trusted sources. Many news headlines use fear tactics in order to grab readers, and this just isn’t good for mental health.
Don’t check the news first thing in the morning. I wait until the end of the day after the kids are in bed. This way, it’s not affecting me as I try to work or parent through the day.
I heard some great advice the other day on NPR about how it helps to share how you’re feeling. I tried this the other night when I was having a weak, fearful moment. Instead of ignoring it and bottling it up inside, I let it all spill out to my husband. The next day, the fear and emotions were gone, and I was able to go through the next day in peace.
Also, if you know someone in another country, talking to them can really bring a sense of “we’re all in this together.” LFF Team Member Carla has done this with her friends overseas, and can personally attest to this!
Journaling can also help you process what you’re feeling and work through it.
You can also write on your positive experiences in the day. This gives you the ability to maximize and savor the good feelings you had in your day.
Get Outside – Yeah, It’s for Both Physical AND Mental Health
Even if it’s just in your own backyard. It’s the perfect place to practice that mindfulness mentioned above. Nature has a way of assuring you that there’s beauty and serenity in the midst of it all.
Focus on Others
Anxiety fades when you focus on others. If you’re starting to focus too much on the problems, take a second to focus on the people around you.
What do they need? How can you help? Try to pick one small thing to do each day for someone else, and watch your perspective shift.
At the end of each day, I try to think of 5 things in the day that I am thankful for. There are so many uncertainties out there right now, but there’s always something to be grateful for. What are your five things?
3 – Stay Connected to Others
Connections were what kept people tied to the world. Without connections, there was nothing left to stop them from simply floating away.- Eliza Maxwell
Connect with others is vital right now, and thanks to our age of technology, we can do that.
If you don’t already use this app, I highly recommend checking it out. Marco Polo has been one of my favorite video apps to stay in touch with family across the country, and now is proving useful to stay in touch with family and friends across town! My kids love keeping in touch with their cousins and friends this way, too.
Zoom is often used for work meetings, but lately it’s proving to be a great way to meet up with friends.
Before coronavirus, my husband and I would meet with friends every Friday night at our place.
We’re now replacing our Friday night home hang out with an online Zoom chat so we can keep doing life together, and keep each other laughing through it all!
Pick Up the Phone
Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and dial that number. A text, or better yet, an actual phone call where you can hear someone’s voice, is a little thing that goes a long way.
Mail a Letter
Remember when it was fun to go check the mail? Let’s bring those days back! Sending a handwritten card to someone can brighten their day and add a special, personal touch.
4 – Ways to Keep A More Peaceful Home, When EVERYONE’S At Home
He is happiest, be he king or peasant, who finds peace in his home. – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Try a Schedule. Maybe.
With so much uncertainty in the world right now, a schedule or simple routine to the day might help give your family a sense of stability, always knowing from one day to the next what exactly to expect.
My family thrives on structure. We’ve tried it both ways, and when we don’t have plans for the day in place, it’s a hot mess. My kids like to know what to expect for the day, and having a regular routine gives them a feeling of safety. I love this sample schedule.
I do say this with a caveat though. Every personality is different. You may be someone who needs a break from the schedule, and who can benefit greatly from this time without one! You may be a working parent who can’t implement a schedule right now.
So if one way of doing it isn’t working, drop it, and try something else! There’s plenty of time to figure it out.
Everyone in your house is learning. Every house will look different as every person in that family different. And every day will look different as every person will feel differently depending on the day.
If you have a schedule, don’t feel like you have to stick to a specific time – it’s more about the flow. If the kids are playing well, don’t feel like you have to stop them because the schedule says so. Let the good-moment flow – snack time can simply be “the next thing.”
5 – Seize the Moment and Roll With It
The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience. – Eleanor Roosevelt
There are so many amazing opportunities for a family during this time!
Notice and Do Things You Never Used to Have Time For
Yesterday my kids saw sandhill cranes in the yard and wanted to go outside and watch them. Normally I’d be rushing them out the door to school at that time, but now…well sure, why not?
It was a beautiful moment, listening to their calls, seeing my kids excited at the beauty of the birds so close to us. And then, that moment as they lifted up to the sky and flew powerfully and gracefully away, my delighted four-year-old exclaimed, “Look, they’re floating away!” It was a beautiful and magical moment together.
All because we had all the time in the world to sit and watch instead of trying to rush off and be somewhere else.
Minimizing can reduce stress, and while you’re at home, why not get started! My friend Rochelle over at Abundant Life With Less explains Why Now is the Time to Go Minimalist.
You know all those things you’ve had grand plans to improve, but just never had the time for? Now’s the time to paint that room, hang that rack, or swap those frames!
For me, this extended time at home has fallen at the perfect time as we are in our last month of renovating a new house! We’d love to see pics of what you’re doing in your own home in the comments below!
Time to Cook, and Involve the Kids
Gone are the days when right after school we have to somehow magically create dinner and have it done and cleaned up in our 10 minute window before heading out for nightly activities.
Also gone are the days when we might not feel like cooking and can head out to the nearest restaurant.
If you like to cook, this is such a treat! I hate to cook, but, I’m still recognizing that is good time to create more healthy food for my family, and let my kids get their hands in the mix!
Dump out that junk drawer (or if you’re anything like me, those 5 junk drawers) and get to work sorting and organizing!
If you’re kids are bored, grab a drawer, gather everyone around, and DUMP. It’s amazing what a drawer of miscellaneous items can turn into! As your kids sort through, take this time to trash or donate anything unnecessary, and put other things you want to keep in their actual place.
This is a time in history we will never forget. Fear or uncertainty might be coloring how you see things now, but you’ll look back at this down this road and see it in a new light.
Taking pictures or writing things down can help pin things down to look back on in order to remember the sweet, special moments that are taking place.
What are some things you’re doing this week that are helping you make through? Please share your tips and ideas with us in the comments below!