Are you way past burned out — even crispy, perhaps? Are you struggling to find ways to maintain your well-being while also trying to parent during a pandemic?
If you answered yes to either of these questions, keep reading for some much-needed coping strategies!
Even if you can’t take anything off your plate, there are ways to shift your perspective that can help you feel less stressed during chaotic times. This is not about moving mountains. It’s about focusing on small, manageable steps that will increase your well-being and emotional bandwidth over time.
When running on challenging emotions like stress and anxiety, your body and mind might become overloaded and overwhelmed by the thoughts and physical sensations these feelings create. With stress and anxiety as your fuel, you may experience decreased energy, troubled sleep, and racing or worried thoughts.
Here are two strategies you can try today that can help you manage your stress and positively refuel your emotional well-being tank.
Slivers, Not Chunks
Breaking any task that causes stress into smaller pieces helps a big picture idea — which can feel overwhelming — get slivered out into several small and more manageable bits, creating steps toward the bigger goal. This strategy allows us to see a way through to the end. Seeing slivers gives us a starting point. Chunks can create panic.
If you are feeling overwhelmed by worried thoughts, breaking things down into smaller slivers can be a helpful skill to try. When we worry, it’s usually about the future. And with the future comes uncertainty, and thinking about how uncertain everything is can bring on a boatload of stress. When did worry ever offer helpful solutions or predict the future?
If you are worried about the next few months — whether it’s concern about what you will do if there is another stay-at-home order or thinking about holidays during COVID — there are ways to break these worries down into bite-sized, manageable steps.
One way to start slivering is by writing it all down. Instead of ruminating in your mind, put it to a page. That way you can start to organize and create a structured, step-by-step game plan.
Think about what piece you can do first. Is it emailing or calling family to discuss options for what the holidays will look like? Or maybe it’s coming up with a list of activities you and your family can do if there is another stay-at-home order, so if that does come to pass you’ll be ready with a list of fun options to try rather than feeling stuck and overwhelmed in the moment.
Taking it one sliver at a time, one day at a time, creates structure and some sense of certainty. This helps decrease stress, fills you with positive energy, and allows you to see and measure your progress.
You Are a Priority
When you make yourself a priority and create time for your well-being, you will have more emotional and physical energy to give to your family, work, and other relationships.
How does this work when parenting is a 24/7 job and there might be little room for privacy? Taking one to five mins each day just for you can help fill up your well-being tank. It won’t happen overnight, but remember we have to think in slivers, not chunks! Slivers do add up over time, and they will get you to where you want to be. So think about scheduling in your well-being time just like you would a meeting, a parent conference, or a dentist appointment. If you can make it to those appointments, you can make time to show up for yourself for a few minutes each day.
Here are some ideas: Run errands—alone. This is one of my personal favorites because it’s one of the rare times I get to be alone. You can listen to podcasts, music, or audio books. Or just drive in silence and notice what you see and hear. And you’ll do it while feeling productive.
You can also go for a walk around the block or just stand outside and breathe, stretch, do a short guided meditation or mindfulness exercise, or practice breathing exercises — like taking five full, deep breaths.
These are just a few examples of small ways to implement this skill, and engaging in them does add up over time. When done consistently, you will notice giving yourself time each day will help your mind shift and your overall emotional bandwidth increase.
So whether it’s scheduling the time or breaking things into manageable pieces, try to do one thing each day, schedule it in, and see how you feel. Once you have that down, add another.
You can even keep track of your mood for the week, which will help you notice any improvements you feel or see — in yourself and in how you’re able to support those around you.
From one parent to another, I’m sending good energy your way!