What we are going through is no less than a war. People are fighting, dying, winning, losing, helping, backstabbing, clever, wicked, stupid, foolish, insistent, cooperating, manipulating and unsupportive.
You name it, they are there. Just like war times but in the health context. And unfortunately, it is not restricted to a physical boundary. It is a pandemic. So, no matter where we are it is affecting us. Some more, some less.
Like in war, where the soldiers are on the forefront actively, our medical professionals are involved in a battle. For the rest of us being inactive and staying at home does not feel any different. It is forced; it is safe, it is uncertain. But, as much as indoors helping the bigger picture it is not necessarily helping on a personal level.
Times like these test our mental muscles more than we imagine. It is difficult to deal with it alone or just with family and little kids around. I will not say I have figured it all out and days are perfect. But here are some tips/guidance to more than just survive your time in quarantine.
1. Take one day at a time
Well, is not that what we should be doing every day anyway? Well, but now even more. Or maybe, it is a good time to start. Because every day there is something new and you cannot be prepared for what is uncertain.
2. Maintain a routine
Stick to your routine for the major stuff like mealtimes, sleep/nap times. And have at least a vague one for the rest of the day—meal preparation, bath and home chores. Children thrive on regularity and consistency and predictability. And it is stress-reducing for adults. In this time of so much chaos and ambiguity maintain stability in the little things. It adds up.
3. Limit the news
The more I read about it the more it was creating an overwhelming. I was imagining myself in worst-case scenarios and finding solutions. It was not my reality and it was not helping me. I realized that on every page, the news was being thrown at me even when I did not want it anymore.
Stay informed but do not let it overwhelm you. Too much of anything has never been good. Not of anything negative. Decide how often you want to update yourself. Once it should be OK too.
4. Be honest but not explicit
Since all we hear about or talk about revolves around the COVID-19, your kids will have questions. Be honest with them, but not brutal. Share information, tell them about how it is impacting people but also tell them about people recovering, the courage of medical practitioners and how to stay safe.
The little they are, the more careful you need to be in using your words. The virus situation will eventually die out but the fear and angst you share around it might stay and get generalized to their understanding of sickness and disease.
5. Teach life skills instead
A lot is going on about the pressure to home-school the kids while the school is closed. But think for yourself, is academics the need of the hour for a few weeks or months? Are they going to suffer from not being able to study or mug up or learn complex concepts? Would not it be better to use this opportunity to teach them to survive times like this? (I am not proposing they will, but just in case).
For those who had help like me, there is a possibility they are not coming in anymore so what better than a few extra hands. Involve them in the chores and no, they do not have to be tasks. They can be games and challenges you do together. What can make a child feel proud more than your appreciation and encouragement of responsibility or effort is done right? And you will not believe the amount of ‘studying’ they will end up doing along because of the number of questions they will ask about it.
6. Know that this is a special time with your kids
Yes, they are at home. It is not a vacation you were prepared for. Neither can you take them out to release all of that pent up energy? Of course, indulge in games and reading and building forts but know that it is OK if they get bored and you can’t think of anything to occupy them with.
Because you know what, it is OK to be doing nothing too. It is unfortunate how we have been trained over time to be constantly doing and being productive. So ‘doing nothing’ might be difficult for many of us as adults too. Know that as much as ‘doing something’ creates memories, ‘doing nothing’ together builds connection, fills our attention buckets, inspires creativity and sparks joy. Try it.
7. Let go
Becoming a parent made me raise my standards. Yes, I am particular about the nutrition factor in meals, we have limited screen time, and my environment consciousness increased rapid fold.
And I have recently decided to go minimalist. I am not advocating these choices but I am sure you have made your own decisions based on your priorities and values. I still stand by mine and I admire yours and the effort you have put in to stick to it through the toughest of circumstances.
If it helps to hear: this is a crisis. You have permission to slack, to let go, to go easy on some things that at this moment may be out of your control. I have purposely avoided examples considering the length of this write-up, but I will throw in some here.
We have limited groceries and so we have been having ‘junk’ more often than usual so that it survives longer. My toddler is getting screen time every day, and I try not to magnify the impact of the plastic containers. I ordered my dinner the other day. There will be time for me to get back to my stringency but now is not it.
8. Take time to understand your discomfort
Permit yourself to feel the way you are—in its raw form and in its entirety. Without thinking about it or rationalizing or dismissing or minimizing. But fix a limited time. And then stop. You might be angry with the way things are, or feeling helpless and out of control or worried. It is OK to feel these things. It does not make you weak or vulnerable. Just be human.
9. Take a break
Rolling your eyes? I mean it. Do what makes you happy. You might not get a lavish one hour for it but squeeze it in or wake up early or stay up in the night.
Ideally, take short ones throughout the day. But some of us might like one whole stretch. Breathe. I know there’s a lot of restriction around things we might have been regularly doing, like going to the gym or jogging.
For me, it is s swimming. Swimming was my go-to when I needed to free headspace. But now, it is out of limits. And it is hard. So I try not to miss it too much and focus on things I can do. Like paint! And when there isn’t time for that, doodle. There is no way to take care of everything without taking care of yourself. I know you know this. And you have heard it before. Do it. Try something new. I put on my first hair mask two days ago and I cannot get over how silky my hair feels since then. And it makes me feel a little better. I might start doing it regularly. What can you do for yourself, even the littlest thing, to help you lighten up for a moment?
10. Work on your marital relationship
You know that man or woman you married a few years back. The one you probably had your kids with. Do you know how we often tell them they are not the same they were before? Do you? Or is it just me? Well, here is news. They are not. And neither are you. Everything changes with time. So do people, even if you have been together through it all. The changes we experience individually are significantly different. Maybe, during this forced time of together getting to know each other. Again!
11. You will have bad days
Accept it. You are not perfect. Say that again. You never had to be and now is not the time to beat yourself about it. Difficult situations bring out the best and worst in us. Be gentle with yourself, forgive and start again. And if you feel like you have taken three steps back from your self-growth journey, know that you are a work in progress. Is not it better to know what is underneath, so you can grow deeper and not just farther or have fake progress in the first place?
Last, but not least. Pray. Maybe this is your call to tread a little farther. It might be hard to just sit in one place and do it. So, offer up the things you are doing. Both the ones you are enjoying and the ones that do not seem appealing.
Offer it up for the ones suffering, and the ones battling—for the decision-makers and the followers. There is a long way a little prayer can go. Teach your kids too.
You might agree with the above or discard it. But even if there is anyone thing that speaks to you I would have served my purpose. If you like, comment below on any point even if it is just one that resonates with you. I am always a ping away for questions or if you feel the need to connect with me.
Stay happy! Stay safe!