With mindfulness and a little strategy, you can preserve your sanity, your health and be open to receive the gifts of family life during COVID-19
I am convinced that, as we debated whether 2020 was the beginning of a new era, none of us expected it to be so life-changing.
As our lives made a 180, we’ve been pushed into a reality of uncertainty and isolation. Detached from most of that which feels normal, we’ve all had to adapt to new rules, and adapt quickly. Most of us are still struggling to construct new routines and deal with the many challenges life insists on throwing at us.
But as we adapt to (and perhaps accept) this ‘new normal’, I question whether it’s possible that 2020 isn’t an experiment gone wrong.
Could it be that this year was what we’ve needed all along?
For years now, I make it my point to start each year with a brand new notebook. And in addition to turning it into an all-in-one version of a diary, planner, calendar, and to-do list, I take the time to write down my goals for the upcoming year. Besides those boring “make a better living to support my family” or “Marie Kondo my closet,” I usually focus my aspirations on personal growth.
Most of the time, I want to learn a new skill, be more in touch with my feelings, or work on developing my relationships with friends and family. But the truth is, a year never goes by that I’m 100% satisfied with how much I’ve done in this regard.
Actually, that’s really not a surprise. With two small kids and being self-employed, I consider myself lucky if I don’t miss a yoga class or manage to go for a morning run during the workweek. Where could I possibly find the time to also learn Italian, enroll in a pottery class, and go on a self-discovery retreat twice a year?
But then again, I’ve written before about how important it is for parents to take good care of themselves if they want to do the same for their children. And if nothing else, 2020 has taught me just how important it is for us to take a moment every day and do what we need in order to thrive.
I spent most of March and April trying to juggle work and family (all ‘conveniently’ forced into our comfortable, but not-too-spacious home). Then, at some point, I started to realize that going forward at my previous pace was not going to happen.
If I wanted to remain sane, something had to go.
The first thing I did was to weed out all distractions. I deleted all social media apps from my phone. I limited what websites I could access from my browser by using a desktop productivity app. I ditched my tablet and went with the healthier traditional print for my bedtime reading so that I could fall asleep more easily. Then, I wrapped up all projects that weren’t bringing much value to my life.
Yes, I gained a precious three or four hours of my life back. But then again, I was still dealing with two boys who were constantly at home. Angels, by all standards, but small kids nonetheless.
At the end of the day, both my partner and I were collapsing in bed from exhaustion. We’d be drained by work, anxiety, and parenting, all mixed together in a fun little package called lockdown with kids.
By May, we realized that this age of isolation wasn’t going to end anytime soon. So, we figured it was time to make a few more significant changes in our routine.
We agreed that, if we wanted to stay sane, we’d have to take a few breaks during the day.
My husband still has to work during office hours, so he asked for a long morning exercise session and a 20-minute post-lunch nap. During this time, I keep the kids busy and quiet (not the easiest of jobs), so that he can have his peace.
My biggest struggle, on the other hand, isn’t routine, but the lack of time to focus on myself. So, the agreement is that every afternoon at 5:30, I get to nip away by myself and do whatever it is I need at the moment.
Sometimes, it’s a long walk listening to my favorite podcast. Other times, it’s a guided meditation in the backyard. And sometimes, it’s closing my office door and doing a bit of drawing to relax.
In a matter of days, we both noticed a huge improvement in our energy and motivation levels. And our connection was more harmonious as well. As for me, instead of waiting for each day to end so that I could go to sleep, I started to feel grateful for the time I was getting with my family. I found it easier to focus on my work and stopped going through life waiting for the other shoe to drop.
What I’ve Learned
Though we’re still finding our footing in a world without childcare being taken care of, I truly believe that our family has managed to thrive during this difficult period. And for the most part, that’s in thanks to realizing early on how important it was to take good care of ourselves. Yes, we do have bad, frustrating, and downright exhausting days. But others are marked by personal achievements, mindfulness, and effective communication.
So if your family, too, is struggling with the way 2020 is going so far, try to find a way to dedicate a bit of time to whatever makes you happy. Whether that’s learning, self-care, virtual social interactions, or exercise, you are sure to find that this year isn’t all that bad. After all, it has managed to remind us of the things that truly matter in life — health, family, and knowing how to be thankful for small, everyday blessings.
You may also enjoy reading Kids, Quarantine & Devices: Managing Screen Time During COVID and Beyond, by Joshua Wayne.