As a mother who is now working from home and helping three children (two in elementary school and one in college) cope with major disruptions to their lives while also helping them learn in a whole new way, I get it. This is a lot. Many of us are juggling jobs and remote learning. Some of us may be worried about the health and safety of loved ones. While adults and children process stressful situations differently, it’s expected that, in times like this, kids and families are experiencing additional stress and anxiety.
I keep returning to this quote by Fred Rogers: “Anything that’s human is mentionable. And anything that is mentionable can be more manageable.” We can manage this outbreak, and we’re going to do it together. Where we must begin, though, is with self-care.
A quick google search with the key words “self-care,” “parents,” and “coronavirus” will lead you to many sources of advice for how to take care of yourselves while managing the stress of COVID-19. But I want to share with you my advice for caring for yourself as parents so that you can be more equipped to care for your children and loved ones:
Start with gratitude, then layer on the self-care.
Research shows that starting (or ending) your day by taking account of things you’re grateful for leads to a more positive outlook on life. One of my favorite movie lines is “remember to look for the collateral beauty” from the movie “Collateral Beauty.” Fred Rogers calls the opportunity to look and listen more carefully one of six basic necessities. COVID-19, social distancing, and extended closures have presented us with the opportunity to look and listen more carefully, and we’re already noticing the collateral beauty. Communities are pulling together to support one another, people are looking to put love into action in whatever ways they can, families are spending more quality time together, and we are finding creative ways to connect with one another through the gift of technology. Start each day with a few moments of gratitude. Record three things that you’re grateful for each day in a journal, a notebook, or in your daily planner and notice how it sets the tone for the rest of your day.
In her book “No Sweat,” Michelle Segar introduces the concept of a self-care hierarchy. Michelle says that we must start with giving ourselves permission to care for ourselves and identify a non-negotiable self-care habit. That’s the one self-care habit without which your day would not be awesome. Identify your non-negotiable self-care habit. Mine is solitude. I need to have a few minutes (preferably a minimum of 30 minutes) to be alone in the morning, write in my gratitude journal, do yoga, pray, or meditate. What I do during my alone time is not as important as whether or not I have it. Try waking up an hour before the rest of the family to take time for yourself. This will help you prepare for the day filled with electronic communication and taking care of the family. Solitude is my non-negotiable self-care habit. Decide what is your non-negotiable self-care habit and commit to starting your day with that habit if possible.
After you’ve dedicated a moment of quiet to reflecting on gratitude and established that one habit that sets you up for your day mentally and emotionally, continue to layer on whatever self-care habits make you feel good. Here’s a handful of suggestions to get you started, but the best self-care for you is whatever makes you feel good.
- Eating nutritious meals
- Watching a favorite movie
- Listening to a funny or inspiring audiobook
- Listening to music
- Spending time in nature
- Having a long conversation with a good friend
Know that self-care right now is not a luxury, it is a necessity. It’s a must do for all of us if we’re going to maintain our personal wellbeing so that we’re able to juggle all of the responsibilities we’re faced with – for now. The coronavirus pandemic is temporary. Our lives will one day return to normal. Maybe when that happens, we’ll have some great habits that we can carry with us for the long run.