Life is crazy these days. The pandemic, politics, the economy, schools, childcare, the weather… everything just feels messy and heavy. Maintaining sanity has proven difficult.
For moms, the stresses we are juggling are unprecedented, and it’s completely understandable if you are having a hard time managing it all. So many of us are!
As the CEO of my tiny family (admittedly a self-given title), it’s been critical for me to keep it together during this challenging season. I’ve been pulling out all the tools from my tool box to ensure I stay mentally and physically healthy as I help my crew weather this storm.
For me, the key to surviving (and possibly even thriving) these days has been adopting the mindset that despite having so much currently out of my control, there are still lots of things within my control that I can do each day that will help me stay healthy and happy.
As we forge our way past the six-month mark since the start of the pandemic, with the storm is still very much with us, I’m grateful to say the small personal actions I’ve been taking to “control the things I can” are bearing fruit. The challenges haven’t necessarily gotten any smaller, but my ability to cope with them has gotten stronger. Like so many, our family is certainly still in the thick of it, but we are feeling more resilient than ever — and I firmly believe you can also!
Here are a fifteen simple, sanity saving ideas:
1. Start a News Diet
I like to be informed, but reading the news these days makes me feel like the sky is falling. With a 24/7 news cycle available at our fingertips all day long, it can leave even the cheeriest person down right depressed. This year has taught me being “in-the-know” has its limits. I’ve implemented a personal boundary that I don’t look at the news till after I’ve eaten breakfast and then I only allow myself to check the news again right before dinner. News is best digested on a full stomach. I also cut out listening or watching the news on radio or TV, these outlets don’t allow you to filter the content you want to consume and lend to a much stronger emotional reaction.
2. Intentional Social Media Use
At the start of the year, I read a book called Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport, and it was a game changer for how I use technology. It inspired me to remove all social apps from my phon, and make intentional choices about how and when I would engage with social media. Currently, the only account I use is Facebook on my laptop, and I limit myself to ten minutes of Facebook a day. Literally ten minutes. I set a timer on my phone and only sign on to see who’s birthday it is, check a few of my groups, find a few articles from a minute of scrolling. Then I stop. I decided absorbing the collective anxiety and emotions of those in my networks without the ability to truly engage in a conversation was not healthy or productive and this boundary has served me well during this crazy time.
3. Floss Your Teeth!
The pandemic has brought to focus how precious our health is. Sometimes, the best way to start taking better care of ourselves is to start small. For me, I decided it was finally time to start flossing regularly. It may seem silly, but consistently doing this one small task that I’ve neglected for years, has actually made me feel better. Is there something small you could start doing to take better care of yourself in the months ahead?
4. Go Outside
Spending time outside is one of the cheapest, quickest, and most convenient ways to improve your mood. My son and I spend at least an hour outside every day (rain or shine), and it helps both of us sleep better. Go on a walk, just stand outside for five minutes and let the sun shine on your face, take a breath of fresh air, lose track of time gardening, explore a local park — it’s all free medicine!
5. Move Your Body
It’s fair to say you will never regret a workout. Moving your body, even for a short period of time can keep you feeling better. Over the last six months I’ve been doing yoga every morning with free videos I find on YouTube. Some days I only fit in 5-10 minutes, others I make the space for a longer exercise, but every day just taking a moment to breathe and stretch sets my day in a good direction. Even a quick dance party in the living room with your kids when you are dragging can get your heart pumping and give you some good mind-healing endorphins.
6. Feel Your Feelings
It is OK to be feeling ALL the emotions these days. As parents, we have a lot on our plate on top of trying to both care for our children and also find time to care for ourselves. When you start to notice your emotions rushing through you, whether it be fear, worry, anticipation, disappointment, frustration, or sadness, the healthiest thing you can do is accept your feelings, let yourself experience them without judgement, and realize all moods pass. Call a friend and share how you are feeling, decompress with your spouse, or find a virtual therapist to help you process the many big emotions going around these days.
7. Make Your Bed
I’ve never spent so much time in my home in my entire life than I have this year. With our whole family spending most of the day under the same roof, it can get chaotic and messy really fast, and I just don’t have the capacity to keep it as tidy as my organized-self would like. But, there is one space that I always make sure I keep clean — my room. To do this, I always start my day by making my bed. It is a simple activity that starts your day accomplishing something. If you do nothing else that day, at least you’ve made your bed. No matter how messy the rest of the house is, I know that at the end of the day, I will return to my room and it will be clean and my bed will be made, which helps me feel a sense of calm and accomplishment before I go to sleep.
8. Take A Shower
For many moms, the shower is the only place you can go to really be alone and have quiet…so take advantage of it! I find a quick reset at the beginning and/or end of my day — even just a quick rinse — does wonders for my mood and sleep. Maybe this is the one place you can indulge a little: get some good smelling soap, splurge on some shampoo, or simply allow yourself an extra minute or two of quiet.
9. Pray or Meditate
The events going on in our lives and world right now are big. By recognizing that there is a power greater than ourselves in control can help put our worries in perspective. I’ve been doing a daily Rosary meditation while I cook dinner and clean up the house in the evening, and it’s really helped calm my mind. Our family has also kept our Sunday ritual of going to church despite the pandemic. But — like everything else these days — we now do it online from our living room. To make this weekly event still feel sacred, I light some candles and set up a few spiritual images around the TV; we arrange chairs in a row instead of sitting on the couch, so that it feels different than our normal TV watching space. I am confident these activities are helping balance my stress.
10. Meet Your Neighbors
Over the last six months, our world has become very small, and in many ways, I’ve come to appreciate this. Most days, our family stays within a five block radius of our home, playing in our yard and walking the sidewalks up and down the streets near by. Thanks to the spring shelter-in-place order, more folks working from home, and the beautiful summer and early fall weather, we have met and formed relationships with almost all our neighbors. Through the pandemic, they have become our community, lending tools so we don’t have to make a trip to a store, sharing veggies grown in their yards, and helping celebrate birthdays from the porch. Feeling connected to a community helps avoid any form of isolation and is simply good for the soul. Do you know your neighbors? It’s never too late to say hello.
11. Laugh or Learn
My husband and I have curated our evening Netflix watching to shows that make us laugh or teach us something new. We decided our real lives are so full of drama and tragedy that we don’t need to use our relaxing time of the day consuming more of it. Nope, we just need more Great British Baking Show and Seinfeld!
12. Use Your Hands
So much of our lives these days take place on a screen. This has made it even more important to spend time unplugged using your hand to do something tactile. This doesn’t have to be fancy: cook, garden, knit, draw a card for your neighbor, do yard work, or go apple picking to name a few ideas.
13. Connect With People
Physical distancing doesn’t have to be social distancing. We need connection in our life to stay sane. Technology has proven to be an amazing tool to allow groups and people to get together while staying apart. Over the past six months, I’ve had game nights with family, done group dinners with college friends, and attended a friend’s art talk all via Zoom. You can also still find creative ways to safely get together in person with friends and family. I have met up with friends on patios, porches, in parks, and out for walks. My husband and I just purchased an outdoor heater for our deck, so we can continue to safely have friends over as the weather starts to cool. Each one of these gatherings has recharged my mood and helped me realize we are all in this together.
14. Hug Your Crew
If social distancing has shown me one thing, it is that I miss being able to be close to others — even strangers! In turn, my little family who lives under the same roof has gotten extra hugs during this season. Nothing is better medicine than hugging my little son.
15. Count Your Blessings
It’s scientifically proven that being grateful helps improve your health. Each night before bed I write a memory of something about my son from that day. Even if the day was rough, this simple practice ends my day with positive thoughts in my head. You will find there is always something in your days to be grateful for… and usually many things.
Moms, this list is not intended to be another to-do list to add pressure to your already filled plate. I simply want to encourage you to see there are MANY things we each have control over in our lives that can help make even the hardest of days a bit easier.
I hope you can find one of these to try or start to incorporate something simple, yet life-giving into your life. You need to put the oxygen mask on yourself first!
Find comfort in the fact this storm will not last forever, but while we are in it, let’s do what mom’s do best, and protect ourselves and our families through simple acts of love and care.