Look for the calm within yourself
How can we find a sense of calm during a global pandemic.
Wow! It's been a crazy few weeks, right? Many of us are well into our third week of "stay-home," "shelter in place" and still trying to get some sense of grounding and calm. How in the world do we obtain a sense of calm during a global pandemic which brings with it a complete shift in our day-to-day life? Suddenly schools are closed, parents are expected to implement some version of home-schooling, while also maintaining their own work schedule which has (for many) suddenly shifted to home as well, and social distancing. For many, this "new normal," has created many unforeseen challenges. Especially for parents trying to explain to their children why, suddenly, they cannot play with their neighborhood friends, or play on the neighborhood playground or park playground equipment. Yes, you can still be outside taking walks, riding bikes, (it's actually strongly encouraged, as long as you maintain social distancing), but when you have young children, how do you walk that fine line of, "Yes, we can go outside and ride bikes, but you cannot stop at Joey's house and play with him in his driveway," or "Yes, we can talk a walk, but no, we cannot go down the slide or swing on the swings that we pass along the way"? Not to mention, depending on where you are in the country, not everyone is under "stay-at-home" or "shelter in place" orders and the fact that, even under those orders, each individual and family seems to be handling social distancing in their own way. This can be confusing for a child if your family's version social distancing, or the way you choose to keep your family safe, looks very different from how others in your neighborhood may be practicing social distancing, so to your child, this can make it seem that you are being the "mean" parent/s. Whew! Seriously, this is a LOT!
"How in the world do we obtain a sense of calm during a global pandemic which brings with it a complete shift in our day-to-day life?"
So, how do we find some sense of calm? Calm within ourselves that we can then share with our children? Here are some basic ideas that you can adapt to meet your own family's needs and interests.
Create a daily calming/centering routine
As humans we all thrive on some sense of routine to calm us, especially at an unprecedented time in history such as this where things are changing day-to-day. Try your best to create at least one consistent calming/centering routine per day to connect with yourself, and to connect as a family. This may be implementing a "morning mindfulness" practice into your daily routine such as taking a moment to ground in nature before starting the day, or an "end of day mindfulness" practice which consists of naming at least one positive from the day and talking about how that feels in the body. Do what feels right for you and your family.
"This may be implementing a "morning mindfulness" practice into your daily routine such as taking a moment to ground in nature before starting the day..."
Creating consistent routines supports our nervous system and gives us a sense of feeling like we still have some sense of normalcy in our day-to-day life. This is particularly important at a time like this when so much in the outside world is changing day-to-day and when many of our past routines have been upset by this current pandemic.
Consistency in at least one area if you can
Beyond a daily calming/centering routine, being able to participate in at least one activity that you and your child participated in before the pandemic shut everything down is a great way to support you and your child at this time. Especially for our younger children or those with special needs who thrive with consistency, we want to do our best to honor that even during these challenging times. For example, if there was one activity your child enjoyed that he/she/they did outside the home that you can still do now, do it! If they participated in a class, therapy session, consistent play date that they looked forward to each week, see if you can maintain this virtually. Many practices, like my own, have moved to virtual sessions and many of us are working on a sliding scale so that we can still meet the needs of clients who may have lost jobs or have limited expendable income at this time. For some of my clients whose entire routine has been up-ended, those weekly sessions with me are a source of calm as it provides them with a sense of normalcy. Their smiles on the other end of the screen say it all (this also provides ME with a sense of normalcy)! The same can be said for play dates. If you are able, set up virtual play dates for your kids where they can interact, engage in parallel play such as building legos and showing one another what they built, coloring and sharing what they drew, reading books together, or just *being* present together.
The same goes for you, the adult. If there is a way for you to be consistent with at least one activity that you participated in before social distancing, and there is a way for you to do it now, do it! Doing your yoga or Pilates class online, having a weekly "happy hour" with friends virtually, maintaining your book club meetings virtually, etc. Your health and well being is just as important as that of your child/children! If you are not in a place of feeling calm, your children won't be either. Those mirror neurons are a powerful thing!
I know it may feel impossible at times, but try to find things that get you inspired- creatively or otherwise. This could mean picking up those paints again and doing art projects with your kids, getting back to playing the piano, writing poetry, making an obstacle course in your backyard and host your own family "Olympics." Or you could explore some of the great at home science experiments people have been posting online, get out in the dirt and tend to your garden (your kids would benefit from that too). Heck, it could just be rolling down that grassy hill in your backyard! Get messy, tap into your inner child, and have some fun! Our souls need that now more than ever!
A final note
Remember to be gentle with yourselves and breath. Things are not normal right now. All we can do is take it one moment at a time. We cannot expect perfection ever, but especially not now! And if there are days you feel sad, overwhelmed, frustrated, anxious- share those feelings with your child. This is a great way to model social-emotional skills and that all feelings are ok. We all have them, and sometimes they are big emotions that are HARD! Our kids learn how to navigate emotions by our example. It is ok for them to see you struggle, fall apart, cry. It's ok to talk to them about it. If you snap at them at a time of stress or anxiety, it's ok. You are human. We are all human. It happens. Just be sure to acknowledge it and apologize (if appropriate) so that they learn that important lesson too- sometimes emotions overwhelm us and we snap at people we love even when we don't mean to. That the important thing is to acknowledge it and talk about how we can do better next time.
I have said it before in my Instagram posts, but one of the positives I am trying to take from the current state of the world is that we will all get back to a place of true connection and compassion as humans. I see it happening already everyday. This is a great opportunity for learning and growth to come out as better humans on the other side.
And, if you are looking for a "new read" while isolating at home, I highly recommend "Becoming Better Grownups: Rediscovering What Matters and Remembering How to Fly" By: Brad Montague.
I wish you all well! Stay safe and healthy. We are all in this together!