This truly is an unprecedented time and one we and our children won’t soon forget.
The current isolation requirements have contributed to additional stress for parents as we try to maintain some sense of normal life for our families.
As I was reflecting on a list of the best possible Power Habits I could offer during this exceptional time of stress and anxiety, I noticed a theme emerged (and I’ve always loved a good theme).
The ultimate goal of each of these Power Habits is to help parents be more present and to stay in the moment as much as possible. Under the circumstances, this may seem like an unrealistic ask but I would like to suggest otherwise. The Power Habits listed in this post are tools that can help bring more “presence” into your life through SELF-CARE. They are basically a gentle reminder that, to get through this or any challenging situation, you need to put your own mask on first.
Self-care isn’t just about our own health (and sanity) – it’s just as much, if not more, for our children’s benefit. Being in the moment offers a sense of control and, especially during a time of uncertainty, this can be extremely therapeutic. Self-care is the key to staying present so we can reassure and respond to our children’s needs with calm and grounded energy.
Power Habit #1 – Create a Gentle Routine
We are creatures of habit and this can work both for and against us. In my experience, structure can help frame the day and ensure I achieve a goal or two. However, because this is a huge transition for most families and every family is in a different situation, more or less structure may be a better fit for you. The point is, you do you. I’ve chosen to ease in to a gentle schedule with my kids. We sit together every evening and agree on the next day’s agenda. We include time for:
- Reading and writing
- Pet chores
- Gratitude practice and journaling
- Like-it-or-not play together*
- *During which time mommy can do ______ (fill in the blank).
It’s really more of an outline. If the kids are happy reading, a grandparent calls, or one of them sleeps in (this has yet to happen but I’m staying hopeful), we make time for what’s important in that moment and go with the flow.
As time goes on, there may come a need for more structure, but for now the ease of our flexible schedule has been appreciated by all and, at the same time, helps to ensure a few things get accomplished, including time for self-care.
Power Habit #2 – Practice Gratitude DAILY
Attempting to stay in a healthy frame of mind requires seeing the positive in every situation. If nothing else, COVID-19 has caused a temporary pause in our normal routines and within that, an opportunity to slow things down. Kids are home from school, extra-curricular activities are on hold, and many parents are unable to work outside the home. This is a huge transition for families but one that comes with at least some potential, if we choose to see it.
I’ve written about gratitude before and believe it to be one of the most powerful habits we can practice. It takes just a few moments a day and can be as easy as giving thanks at the supper table or keeping a running list that each family member adds an item to every day. It’s a great way to start or end your day.
Regularly taking time for gratitude helps rewire the brain to look for things to be grateful for. With practice, it becomes an attitude.
Power Habit #3 – Get into Nature
Research has shown that spending time outside can ease depression, reduce feelings of stress, overall improve mental health, and strengthen your immunity!
A great study done at Tokyo’s Nippon Medical School found that women who spent six hours in the woods over the course of two days had an increase in virus- and tumor-fighting white blood cells, and the boost lasted at least seven days afterwards. Pretty remarkable stuff!
Make nature part of your self-care protocol by scheduling nature breaks in your day, driving with the windows down, or sitting on the front step to enjoy your morning coffee. These little moments add up to a lot of benefit.
Power Habit #4 – Rekindle a Passion
When was the last time you did something you love to do just for the joy of doing it?
When I ask kids about passions and hobbies, they are often able to provide a long list of things they love to do – and make time for. Adults, not so much.
Self-care is about giving yourself permission to feed your soul. What could you spend the next 15 or 30 minutes doing that would be food for your soul? Do you love to paint? Does journaling leave you feeling restored? Does dancing rejuvenate your spirit? Whatever it is, figure it out. Go do it. Do it again the next day, and the next. Then make it a habit.
Power Habit #5 – Take a Deep Breath. Then Be Like Ana & Do the Next Right Thing
Yes, it’s a Frozen 2 reference.
During one of my low points as a parent, I went into full out windmill mode with my purse, swinging it with both arms around and around and smashing it on our kitchen counter. Stuff went flying and when I turned to face my kids, they were starring at me, open mouthed and completely silent. Not my best moment.
After a few minutes, I caught my breath (windmilling a purse is actually great cardio), and I was able to do the next right thing – I offered an apology to my children. Once the fear and astonishment drained from their faces, they couldn’t hold back the smirks and we all laughed together and then hugged.
We are all trying our best AND we are human. Our children actually expect very little from us. They want our time and attention but they don’t expect us to be perfect and they certainly aren’t keeping scorecards. We make mistakes and with longer days and more time together, it’s very likely we will make more of them. But every moment is a chance to offer our best.
When in doubt, breathe. Deeply. Then, when you’re ready, be like Ana and do the next right thing.
As with all of the Power Habits, they are strategies that I have seen work, personally and professionally. By no means is it an exhaustive list, nor I’m I suggesting that you must incorporate all of them into your life. But perhaps, they will serve as a reminder of all that we have to be grateful for, even in the midst of chaos and uncertainty.