These are hard days. We’re living in a state of collective anxiety. We’re dealing with completely changed routines. We’re worried about people, illness, money. We don’t know how long this will last.
I knew I’d need a solid game plan to keep depression and anxiety at bay. Here are the strategies that are helping me keep my equilibrium:
- Elizabeth Gilbert’s six words of advice: “Make your bed and get dressed.” Have kids do the same. I find real clothes (who remembers buttons?) really help.
- Tactical: One water bottle per kid. Used at every single meal, during the school day, and overnight. Washed once a day.
- Noise-cancelling headphones. I wear them when I clean. It’s turning cleaning into a delightful oasis of silence. My kids know that when I’m wearing headphones, it means that I’m not available except in an emergency. I explained to them that I’m a person who needs some quiet time each and every day. Most of us do.
- Tactical: I’m remembering Ellyn Satter’s perfect advice about feeding children. Grown ups control the when, where and what. Kids control the whether and how much. If someone shoves the veggies to the side and eats just buttery pasta, I am letting that go. That’s hard for me, especially now, but I’m doing it. I control the when. Our kitchen is open five times daily (which is a lot). If it is not one of those times, the kitchen is closed. Grown ups too. I’m accepting my own need for order.
- Tactical: Snacks can only be eaten outside. More time outside is a good thing, so I’m linking it to something they want (Goldfish).
- Synchronized screen time. Since school in now online, I don’t want the kids on their screens all day. I also hate to police screen time. Our solution right now: They’re all able to use screens for the same hour, every day. Otherwise screens are in a bin. Bonus: It gives me a dedicated hour to get work done or take my run. My kids are having their daily hour as I write this.
- I’m asking for affirmation. When I felt myself getting winded on the very first hill of this marathon, I reached out to my adult family members and some close friends asking them to tell me what a good job I was doing… and to keep the praise coming. Embarrassing to admit, but I know myself. I love gold stars. Gold stars can get me up many a hill. We all need cheerleaders right now. Our friends and loved ones need a shout-out for how bravely they’re facing loneliness, long days, hardship, and anxiety. Our kids do too! Tell your people all the ways you’re seeing them shine.
- I’ve been running every single day since August, and I swear by it. It washes my brain with feel-good chemicals. After learning that 79 year old Dr. Fauci has cut his daily run down to 3.5 miles, so he could focus on, you know, saving the world, I’ve decided to meet him there. 3.5 miles daily. I tell my family I’m going out to do a Fauci. Sometimes I take a kid or two with me on bikes. Nothing beats a good sweat.
- I made myself two killer playlists. One I listen to when running. One I listen to when I need to chill. Music = medicine.
- I’m not drinking, and I’m limiting myself to one delicious dessert a day. (Okay, trying to limit myself.)
- I told the kids that Adam Rohdie (the head of our school) says that they have to be in nature every single day. He is an authority figure they admire and this has cut down on grumbling about daily hikes, which keep us all sane. (He didn’t actually say this, but I believe he’d be on board.)
- I’m making as few decisions as possible each day. I’m wearing the same three outfits. I’m eating the same breakfast. I’m even committing to doing the same activities that I know relax me at the end of a long day. I need my brain to be as rested as possible.
All this, and I still have DAILY moments of overwhelm. Man! This is so real! It’s hard! And it keeps on coming! I was having one of these moments as I sat down to write this post.
Whenever those moments strike, I try to go back to my list and look for ways to calm myself down a little. I try to let go of the mindset that I am either “doing well” or “failing” — one or the other. I expect wobbles. I try to rebound. And I give myself credit for just doing my best.
From the bottom of my heart, I hope you do the same. You’re doing a good job.