Sometimes I over-do my daily nap, especially when the depression is really bad. On normal or good days though, power naps renew my patience and mood. This is especially helpful for the “dinner rush” when everyone seems to be busy, needy, grumpy and ‘hangry.’ Napless evenings tend to be more stressful for everyone, and my family is famous for responding to the stress by saying “sorry, I’m just tired. I pulled an all-dayer today.” I’ve made it a routine to get my self-care nap almost every day so I can walk into the battle of dinner time as prepared as possible. Since I’m now a professional napper, here are my tips to make the most of your power nap!
5. Choose the right place.
It may be tempting to crawl back into bed- especially in the winter- but reserving the bed specifically for nighttime sleep has been shown to provide better quality overnight sleep. Instead, opt for the couch or easy chair.. Or if you’re lucky, on a beach towel in the summer.
4. Make your nap space distraction- free.
Since you’re making the most out of a mere 20-30 minutes, make them quality minutes. Choose a quiet space that’s cool and comforting. Avoid spaces with blue screen lights such as TVs, computer monitors and cell phones.
The best time of day to nap is between noon and 3pm. (for a typical bedtime of 10p-midnight.) Sleeping after 3pm can hinder your ability to fall asleep at night.
The ideal power nap is 20-30 minutes. Set an alarm, and resist the temptation to snooze. Naps longer than 30 minutes can put you into a deep sleep, making it harder to wake and rendering the nap counter productive.
Most caffeine, like a cup of coffee, takes about 20 minutes to kick in. Having a cup of joe right before your power nap will give you an extra boost when you wake up.
Take some self care time to recharge today. If you aren’t able to nap, try a short meditation podcast or some mindful breathing- anything to rest and restore to get you through your afternoon.
The mental health issues related to our lockdown and the pandemic are especially hard for people with depression. NAMI, The National Alliance on Mental Health have a 24 hour helpline: 800-950-6264. Please just copy and repost to share the helpline far and wide.
Growing up I had four girls who lived on my block and were in my grade. “Fair weather friends” is an extremely generous term to give them. 90% of the time they were absolutely awful to me, but I kept chasing their friendship because that 10% of goodness meant the world to me.
Historically September was the worst. Every year when school started the girls left a summer friendship behind, and turned into little monsters. It could mean a great morning at the bus stop, laughing and being friends. Then just moments later we would be on the bus. They would put their feet up on the seat so I had nowhere to sit. The bus driver would yell at me to sit down, and I would just panic on the inside. There is no where to sit, and on top of that my friends are being mean. I’m so confused and upset. Stop yelling at me.
I specifically remember this happening on one very rainy day. Everyone was fine sitting in the car, listening to music and staying out of the storm. When the bus pulled up, they pulled their normal shit. Every seat had a wet, muddy foot on it.
I panicked, and tried to make myself feel small. I picked a seat that was least covered, and tried to take up the least amount of room possible. When I sat down, this boy made a “booom” sound as if my fat butt had crashed right through the seat. All the girls laughed with him. He then spent the rest of the ride digging his muddy shoes into my thigh, staining my jeans and sweater. I moved as close to the edge as I could to give him space. He kept the pressure against my leg constantly, and when the bus driver wasn’t looking he used all of his lower body strength to kick me off the seat. I fell into the aisle. Mud now covered the entire length of my backside, and everyone was snickering. The bus driver just yelled at me to get out of the aisle.
The school year for my son is supposed to start at the end of the month, but our town has not released their covid plan yet. I’ve asked my son every single day if he will just agree to the full time distance learning and stay home with me. Every single time he tells me he wants to see his friends.
I’ve been blaming covid for wanting to keep him home. He is immunocompromised from his Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, and I don’t trust the other kids at school to be responsible with their hygiene and masks. Every day that school gets closer, the more time I spend worrying about it.
I realized this morning that covid is only part of my hesitation. Jacen is already getting help for his anxiety disorder, and we’ve had so much trouble with bullies in the past. He even had a child from school taunting him over Xbox live, telling him to kill himself. Like me, Jacen insists these people are his friends and they just made a little mistake. He continues to forgive them time and time again.
It’s abuse. I was in an abusive relationship with my best friends, and I see Jacen doing the same. We let people make us the victim because we don’t have the strength to just walk away and stand on our own. We let the cycle continue because we just want to be a normal kid- to pretend we have people who care about us, to pretend we fit in. I want more than anything to stop Jacen from feeling this way, feeling like he isn’t worth the little sliver of an edge of a bus seat. He is worthy of space. Worthy of existing. So was I – but that didn’t stop little bullies from making me feel otherwise.
For months I’ve been telling myself that keeping Jacen home would be PROTECTING, but I realized today it’s more so PROJECTING. I’m so afraid that Jacen will be tortured like I was, and I would love to just avoid the situation all together.
Ultimately the choice is Jacen’s. That is, within whatever the school district offers. I’ll be so relieved if he stays home – for so many reasons – but I can’t keep him isolated forever.
I’m asking the parents out there- do you protect or project? What reasons are you considering when choosing remote or in person schooling? And finally, is there anything from YOUR past that makes you fearful for your own children?
Exercise is a huge part of overall heath. Moving your body has physical, emotional, and sometimes even social benefits!
Grab a friend and a bottle of water, and move for at least 30 minutes. Don’t know where to start? Take the dog for a walk, try an exercise video off YouTube, or bring the kids outside for a game of basketball.
If you need something more specific, try my HIIT workout! (High intensity interval training) This is my actual workout for today! I’d love to hear some feedback if you try it!
Do thirty seconds of each exercise, with a one minute rest between sets. You can also count 10-15 reps per exercise with a quick water break between sets!
Vigorous side step or power walking (5 minutes)
Cross body standing high knees
Rear shoulder squeeze
Side lunges (back and forth/both sides)
Set 3: (laying down)
Leg lift left
Leg lift right
Leg curl (alternating legs)
Leg extension left
Leg extension right
Cool down with an easy walk or mild yoga
Whatever you choose, just make sure to move your body!
Track your food. Drink your water. Move your body.
Wash your hands. Socially distance. Wear a face covering.
Today I ran into someone I used to go to school with. I pulled my hat down a little and covered as much of my face as I could with my mask. I had every intention of darting down the next aisle, and getting lost among the other Target shoppers. Nope, it never works the way you want it to. Leave it to my beautiful Anna and her easily recognizable face.
They called me out. I was hoping a wave from a six foot social distance would suffice, but of course they came over to see the girls. LUCKY for me, I had just walked 7 miles at the canal in 88 degree heat, so I smelled FANTASTIC. I was living my literal worst nightmare.
At one point she said, “Hey, do you still write on your blog? I see the stuff you share, but I haven’t seen you write in a long time.” She speaks the truth. It’s so easy to click and repost someone else’s content, but I just haven’t been able to write my own.
So, where have I been? Try to imagine the lowest, deepest, darkest hole you can think of. I mean absolute rock bottom. Well, I’ve been about three floors below that. The depression has been so heavy. I’m overwhelmed by everything, even the simplest of tasks. I spend most days in bed, hiding behind my light-blocking curtains, ignoring my phone notifications, and imagining I’m somewhere else. Someone else. I have so much hate for myself that I just don’t want to be me anymore.
Once again I have hid my desk under a pile of clutter, then I tell myself it’s too much work to clean it all up just to blog. I feel so dumb blogging. Who even reads this stuff? Is it just for me? Is it worth the effort? I get overwhelmed and go back to bed. Repeat for four months.
In reality, I DO need to blog. Who cares how many followers I have? It’s for me. I need to get this stuff off my chest and set it free. In the stay at home mom world, there aren’t many tasks make me feel accomplished. Blogging does that. Finishing a task start to finish, then sharing it for anyone else to read- it brings me pride. It makes me hate myself a little bit less, and it seems like I could use every single little ‘bit’ I can find.
I’m inconsistent with just about everything. I could blame it on my bipolar disorder, or how busy the kids keep me. Those things might contribute to it, but at the core it’s just me. It’s me choosing laziness and giving into my depression.
My apathy caught up with me today, as it always does. You see, this past week has been my lowest, hardest week. I ignored my texts, calls, messages and e-mails – so I missed an important message from my Doctor. I also missed a Facebook message from a dear friend asking for a simple video wishing someone Happy Birthday. I never made the appointments I was supposed to schedule, never did the things I was supposed to do. Well, there’s a deadline for everything. I wasn’t part of the birthday video because I couldn’t get my shit together. I’m in danger of running out of my meds because my doctor can’t refill them until we set up an appointment. I’m suffering with my vitamin deficiencies because I can’t pick up the phone and schedule an infusion. I’m the conductor of my own train wreck. Choo choo.
I’d love to enthusiastically celebrate that I’m back to writing and I have a ton of great health tips to share- but I just can’t promise that. I haven’t even been able to use my own health advice, so should I really be giving it out to others? Regardless, oftentimes the first step is the hardest, so let’s hope this starts a chain reaction of awesome blog content!
Thanks to everyone who has loved and supported me through my dark days. If you’re in the depression pit just know you’re not alone. I’m cheering for you, even if it’s from the bottom of my own pit. Better days will come, especially if we stick together and encourage one another.
I believe there are six blocks of wellness: physical, emotional, mental, social, vocational/educational, and spiritual. I spend a lot of time talking about emotional and mental wellness, but I realized this week that I was in serious need of some spiritual health.
Most people associate spiritual health with religion, and of course that can be true. From a wellness perspective there is so much MORE to spirituality, and even someone who isn’t religious (like me!) can benefit from working on their spiritual block.
My personal interpretation of spiritual wellness targets the parts of you that want to connect, and find meaning greater than yourself. It’s the desire to be part of a community where you can find hope and support. My spiritual wellness includes things like healing, compassion, relationships, love, connection, joy, peace, forgiveness, hope and trust. Some people find these things through organized religion, some find it through the flow of energy with chakras and holistic beliefs. I guess I’m completely in my own world about my beliefs, but I believe in the power of positivity and community- and those two things couldn’t exist without the hope, trust, love, etc. that I had mentioned before.
On Wednesday night I sat down to write a blog post. I re-read my post from Tuesday to remind myself where I left off. The post seemed dark to me. Depressing, hopeless, negative. It was a true representation of my feelings at the time, but certainly does not show my overall personality. I don’t have thoughts like that every day. I don’t want to continue having thoughts like that. It was time to work on some spiritual healing.
When we are disconnected from ourselves, we have a hard time loving ourselves or giving and receiving genuine love from others. My disconnect this week made me hate my body. It made me feel useless and hopeless. It made me feel like my loved ones were emotionally too far from me to understand or help. Obviously these things were just tricks from the bully in my brain, but they are things that I can combat with self healing.
Spirituality to me, means that I have the choice to feel, think, and act differently. Your heart can be a portal for healing. When my heart is healthy, I can give and receive love. I feel love for myself. I have hope that the bad things in life will pass. I have gratitude for everything I have in life, I enjoy being of service to others, and can slow down to appreciate quality time with the kids. When my heart isn’t healthy, the dark feelings take over. I hold grudges against both myself and others. I feel lonely, depressed, and believe I am unlovable.
There are a ton of ways to open your heart. Most will say visit a church. The hippies will tell you to do some chest-opening yoga. doTERRA representatives will try to sell you essential oils. I don’t know if all of that is necessary. I personally believe that spiritual healing comes from within, no external sources needed.
I think the best way to be spiritually well is to practice forgiveness. Forgive yourself, forgive others, forgive society, forgive the things you can’t control. If you are holding on to hurt and anger, acknowledge that it is time to release it. When you release negativity, focus on the distance you create between yourself and it. Do you want to fill that space with hostility or healing? Understand that bad things happen. Some you can control, some you can not. But you can control the way these things affect your life by deciding to let go of hatred.
Pray and worship if you would like. Meditate and do some yoga if that feels more like you. Use nature or creative expression. Personally, I’ll be taking some quiet time to reflect on myself, let go of my anger, and fill the space with forgiveness.
Forgive. Have Compassion. Most importantly, give and receive love genuinely.
Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face. STAY HOME.
Yesterday was the first ‘completely healthy’ day I’ve had in a very long time. I got my exercise. I ate three healthy meals without purging. I saw my therapist via telehealth (at the beach, no less!) I took my meds. I took time to breathe. I felt great.
So why is it so hard for me to stay on track? Honestly, if you know the answer please tell me. I’m so tired of fighting this battle every day. I’m on the defense against a multi-front war. My head is spinning trying to address issues from all angles. I’m busy all day, but at the end of it I haven’t really done anything at all.
I’ve got my bipolar disorder sending me up and down, manic high to ultra depressive low. I have anxiety about homeschooling Jacen, and the pandemic in general. I have friends and family that I miss so much that it hurts. I have this body that I hate. I mean really, really hate. I’ve got these kids and a husband that I love. I mean really, really love.
I make a lot of plans, schedules and lists. I’m always trying to trick my brain into making good choices by convincing myself that things have been predetermined with no wiggle room. It works when I can get into a routine. If I repeat the same list every day, I have the most consecutive healthy days. Right now that’s not an option. The pandemic has shaken everything up. I don’t even know what day of the week it is. We have a routine written out, it just seems impossible to follow.
There is so much on my mind these days. When I imagine what’s inside my head, it looks less like a brain and more like alphabet soup. Sometimes I can’t even gather the floating letters to form simple words, let alone big thoughts. I guess that’s why this post is coming off so rambly and unorganized.
Yesterday was a healthy day, and I wanted more than ANYTHING to repeat it. We spent 30 minutes getting ready to go outside to be active, and opened the front door to rain. My heart sank. I unpacked the stroller I had just put SO much time, thought and energy into preparing. It knocked me off my rails for three hours. Yes, you read that right. THREE hours. Over the rain. I didn’t get my activity in. I didn’t get my fresh air. I let things get on top of me, and didn’t take time to breathe. I missed lunch. I slept when the kids napped, instead of being productive. I did, however, take my meds. So, one point to Catherine.
I want to have more healthy days. I want consistency. I want to see results in changing this awful body, and I want to feel good. I want every day to be like yesterday. I want to rewire my brain so I can be a problem-solver and not a train wreck. But what am I going to do? Write these things down? Journal? Make a list? Schedule them? Honey, I do that every day.
I usually like to wrap up my posts by taking this part to ask what small changes YOU can make to feel better. This time, I’m looking for help. What suggestions do you have for me? How do you stay consistent, especially through all of the changes the pandemic has caused?
Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face. Stay home.
I started a medication called Wellbutrin a few months ago. It’s supposed to lift you out of depression, and help get you out of bed when the depression monster steals your energy. Last monday (April 13th) I had a meeting with my prescriber. It was at that time she realized my script had been written for double what it was supposed to be. She told me the high dose was way too much, and I had to go to the half dose immediately.
The fall out has been intense.
The monday we spoke (the 13th) was the first day of being on the half dose, and my life has just spiraled out since. I have no energy. I can not bring myself to work out. I’m irritable. I’m binge eating daily. There were two nights I drank alcohol- which I hate the taste of, so I have no idea why I did this. I woke up with a hangover both times, more depressed than ever, and reaching for food to cope.
I am withdrawing, physically. I have the sweats, the shakes, and the awful, dark thoughts. I’ve watched the scale creep up a bit every day, and the three pounds I had worked so hard to lose this month have been regained. My confidence is level 0, and the weight gain has me feeling like a complete failure.
I’ve blogged to get through this, but feel like I’m lying. I post uplifting script, and tips to have better mental health. Meanwhile I’m sitting here in a blanket burrito, unshowered, desk littered with empty candy wrappers.
What is wrong with me?
I think I’m over the hump, and it seems like my withdrawal symptoms are starting to get better. I’m still irritable. I’m still tired.. But less than yesterday. Even more less than Friday. I’m hopeful it will continue to even out.
I took about five steps back this week while I adjusted to the new dose. I have a lot of ground to reclaim, and a lot more ahead of me when I keep on forging forward.
The first thing I had to do was ask for help. I had to be honest with my husband and my sister about what I was feeling so they could understand why I was acting this way.
Then I had to make a plan, including touching base with my prescriber when her office opens tomorrow (Monday) morning. I’ve also decided to start eating off the FODMAP diet for the next month, quit having any alcohol at all, and making exercise a priority- ESPECIALLY when I don’t feel like it. Most of all, I’ve opened up about my binge eating. A big part of BED (binge/purge eating disorder) is the secrecy and hiding of consuming food. By talking about it, and confessing I’m already taking steps to avoid binging today. I opened the door and wecomed my husband into my secret little world. Just by having him here, I feel less of a need to shame-binge When I can be open with him, it makes keeping any secrets feel wrong- especially food secrets.
There are a ton of factors that go into mental health- and chemicals play a huge role. Being medically treated can be a lifesaver for most people. The situation I’ve gone through this week is rare and unlikely. It has been unpleasant, for sure, but It does not make me regret seeking treatment in the least. Getting help, getting medication, was the absolute best decision I’ve made. It saved my life. Even with this little bump in the road, I still have 100% faith in my doctor and their plan. It just sucks to get through.
I’m planning on getting out for a short hike with Mike and the little girls today. I also had a cup of coffee to give me a bump of energy where the Wellbutrin has me lacking. Most of all, I’m opening up to my family and friends to get through this. They make me so happy, they distract me, they support me. Just knowing how much they care for me, and how lucky I am to have them is a major confidence bump. They love me. The greatest people in the whole world love me. That must mean I’m worth something!
Get ready guys, because this post is dedicated to my all-time favorite phrase:
You can’t pour from an empty cup.
What the heck does that mean?:
Pouring from an empty cup is the same as getting blood from a stone. You can’t fill a second vessel if there’s nothing in the first one. It’s a lot like when the flight attendant tells you to “secure your own oxygen mask before assisting others.” You have to help yourself first. If there’s no oxygen for you, you’ll pass out (or die) without being able to help your kids. The same can be applied to self care. You have to be a functioning human being to care for your children.
What fills a cup?:
Your cup is full when your needs are met. This is physically taking care of yourself like eating, sleeping, getting rest and exercising. Mental fulfillment like getting love, attention, peace, and happiness. Socially it will look like connecting with friends, family and peers. It may also include affection, security, feelings of success and productivity, or doing things that you like to do. Overall, you want to fill your cup with things that make you feel well.
What empties a cup?:
Cups are drained by negativity. Stress, rejection, loneliness, isolation, fighting, being insulted, failing and fatigue will all empty your cup.
What happens when your cup isn’t full?:
Usually, if your cup isn’t full, it’s tempting to steal from other people’s cups. This could be putting down others, fighting, or purposely making others unhappy.
Sometimes, we want to draw attention to our empty cup to remind others to fill it. This could show as children acting out or adults who are irritable or passive aggressive.
Some people seem to have bottomless cups. They need constant contact and attention. (she might kill me for saying this but-) My sister has a bottomless cup. In an adult this is a daily need to “check in” with friends, and be reassured no one is mad at you. In person she is super affectionate, and gives us all the love, hugs and kisses. She is thoughtful down to knowing and understanding all of her friends’ schedules, and has some serious FOMO- fear of missing out. She is social and loving, and wants that in return.
Sometimes we can sit still for refills- especially moms. This results in burnout, and can be avoided by taking time to ourselves, even if it’s just a moment to ‘top off’ our cup here and there.
Moms are also guilty of being too busy filling other peoples’ cups to realize theirs is empty. We tend to stretch ourselves thin by making sure everyone else’s needs are met, neglecting our own needs.
What fills my personal cup?:
Rest, taking a shower, venting when I’m full of emotion, blogging, my family, my dogs, my friends.
What do I do to make sure my cup does not run empty?:
I ask for help when I need it. This skill didn’t come easy, but it has changed my life. I take time to rest, I make myself feel better by being clean and taking a shower. I blog because I love to write, to vent, and to help others. I connect with my peeps- even if it’s just on Facebook. I love seeing pictures of my friends’ happy kids, their funny parenting stories, and who doesn’t appreciate a good meme?
What fills my kids’ cups?
Jacen tells me his cup is filled with “love, affection, friendship, family time, play, succeeding and kindness.
What happens when their cups are empty?
When Jacen’s cup loses ‘friendship’ at school, like the days he is bullied and feels isolated, he tends to lose play. His kindness turns to irritability, and then affection starts to drain. He usually tells me he needs a refill by crying. He is looking for us to replenish his affection with a hug and love. When he can go back and squash his fight with his friends, he will find his friendship and play again. Empty cups aren’t forever. There’s always a way to fill ‘em back up!
I am a die hard believer that it takes a healthy person to raise healthy people. Take care of yourself first, keep your cup full, then share with others.
Here are some sounds that keep me calm. One sound that keeps me calm are the soothing sounds of thunder. The second sound that calms me down is the faint sounds of the whistling winds. The third sound that calms me down is “Asriel’s theme” from ‘Undertale.’ And the fourth and final sound that calms me down is the nice sounds of crickets. And those were some sounds that keep me calm.
What kinds of sounds keep you calm, or help manage your anxiety? Let us know in the comments!
This is a rough time for everyone. Our routines are all jacked up, we miss friends and family, and we are all adjusting to staying home. Sometimes my kids are confused, and they ask questions. More importantly though, sometimes I am confused and I don’t know how to answer. At first I thought I was failing them, but now I realize it’s okay to not know all the answers. This is real life, and it’s a time where we can prepare our kids for the future by setting a good example. During my internship I once had a doctor tell me, “It’s okay not to know all the answers. The important part is knowing how to FIND the correct answers.” You are only human, so be honest. It’s okay to say ‘I don’t know’ when it’s the truth. Learn together, stay calm together, and grow together.
My Tips for Mama:
Girl, this is not what you signed up for. It’s frustrating to multi-task working at home and keep up with the kids’ “distance learning.” We never imagined a time that we couldn’t escape to Target, and wander the aisles with our mocha frappuccino. This is intense. It’s 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and we have no end date. This is an especially important time to take care of YOURSELF and ask for help when you need it.
What’s my favorite phrase, Mama? Let’s say it together: YOU CAN’T POUR FROM AN EMPTY CUP. You’ve got to be a functioning human to care for your kids. It’s okay to put your kids in a safe place (Like a crib, playroom, or under the care of others) and take a moment for yourself. Sometimes when I’m anxious I have to put Lucy in her bassinet and let her cry for a minute. I step out to the kitchen, get a sip of water, relax, and come back with more patience and less anxiety. She is safe to be left alone there. It’s okay to take a break.
If you need to step out, consider a moment outside where you can get some fresh air and vitamin D. Personally, I have a huge fear of accidentally locking myself outside, so I often just open the door and stand in the doorway. It’s enough to breathe and reconnect with the outside world. Remember that you also have to eat, sleep, and shower. Prioritize fitting those things into your day. It’s going to keep that cup of yours topped off.
Be realistic about the changes at home. You aren’t a teacher by trade, and you haven’t chosen to be put in this situation. Homeschooling will change your routine and the household dynamic. Working from home will be confusing with the distractions of home. The days blend together, and you don’t know if it’s day or night. The house might get a little messy. Maybe the kids miss a bath night or two. Roll with the changes and try to stay calm. You ARE a supermom, even if you can’t get everything done. Maybe even ESPECIALLY if you can’t get everything done. It means you’re putting your time into the correct priorities, and letting go of the little things.
Most importantly ask for help when you need it. Of course, as always, this means reaching out to a therapist or friend if you’re overwhelmed, but there are a ton of situations where you can get help. If you’re confused by homeschooling, email the teacher. Trust me, they will be happy to help. If you have concerns about your child’s behavior, call the school psychologist and touch base. They can give you tips to cope, and red flags to watch out for. If there’s too much on your to-do list, talk to your partner. Now more than ever communication is key. Don’t shut down and expect them to read your mind. The last thing you want is to run on high tension and irritability when we are in such close quarters. It’s also a great time to introduce older kids to new chores. There is extra time for one-on-one teaching, and for them to practice their new skill. Kids can sense our frustration. They fear our irritability too, and learning a new chore will give them a sense of helpfulness. We want the people we love to have an easier time. Even if they complain at first, deep down they will feel productive. Voice to them how helpful they are, and how much you appreciate the help.
My advice on the COVID-19 questions:
There’s two kinds of anxiety. The first is the one we try to reduce; the overwhelming, unproductive, irrational worry. The second is helpful anxiety. Anxiety is a natural, important emotion. It keeps us alert to danger. It causes fear that produces a rational response to keep us safe. For example, if you see a hungry shark you SHOULD be anxious. The anxiety should tell your brain “run away!”
Working on the bad anxiety, most professionals are suggesting to limit exposure to news sources. The media produces information with adult viewers as the target audience. Kids need to be informed in child-sized doses to avoid being overwhelmed. Stick to what’s relevant, but be honest. Lying always makes things worse. If the truth is uncovered, it takes a toll on the trust your child has for you. Avoid the “what if’s” and focus on relevant steps we can take to be healthy.
That good anxiety will trigger rational worry too. Our body is telling us to be a little scared, take this seriously, but don’t panic. I’ve found the best way to handle this situation is with validation and a plan. “Yes, the virus will make you sick. Yes, it can be serious for some people. We can avoid getting sick by washing our hands and following the social distancing rule.” Knowledge is power, so education about stopping the spread of the virus is our strongest tool.
My advice for “oh my God, there are so many hours in a day. What do I do with these freaking kids?”
Give them the opportunity to take the lead by asking if there are any new hobbies they would like to take up. Learn together. Youtube has lessons for just about everything.This can also be a chance to learn researching skills and how to identify valid information on the internet (yeah, I’m looking at you, Wikipedia- our kids won’t be falling for your shenanigans.)
Involve the kids in positive socializing. Bring back the art of a handwritten letter. Use email, facetime, or even produce some window art for the Heart Hunters Project. (HHP is the decorating of windows and doors to spread a little love and positivity in your neighborhood.) Count blessings together, share life skills like cooking or learning a new chore. Do an art project. Play outside. Exercise. Talk- allow them to vent about their feelings and frustrations.
“Wrap it up, Catherine. This post is getting annoyingly long”:
Okay, okay- I’ll try to make this as short as I can. This is uncharted territory for all of us, children and parents alike. It’s frustrating and confusing, but channel your inner kindergartener and ‘treat others the way you want to be treated.’ Try your best to be patient and calm. Validate their fears and feelings, but let them know you’re doing your best to keep them safe. Try to find silver linings and small moments of happiness. Most of all, just show them affection. I know a good hug always makes me feel better!
I’m obviously not a professional. By no means do I have my life together. My house is a mess, I undercooked my pasta for dinner (and tried to pass it off as fancy by calling it ‘al dente’) and I’m on day four of dry shampoo- but I’m doing my best. I’ve got some happy and healthy kids. This is what I’m doing in my home, and I hope it helps in yours.
Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face. Stay home.
Today we broke the rules. We snoozed the alarm, we stayed in bed. We are almost two whole hours behind schedule.
What do we do now?
We are making the choice to get it together. To know that the deviation from our routine was worth it. It was special. It was loving. The world, however, still moves on. There are things we have to do.
Large scale or small scale, it’s never too late to get back on track. Don’t consider your entire day a wash because you slept in. Don’t wait until Monday to start that diet. Don’t wait until the pandemic has passed to check on your loved ones. Make the choice right now to change, because any moment is the right moment.
Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face. Stay home.
This time quarantined has been trying for everyone. Mike is even more overworked than normal, I’m trying to juggle the mom/hometeacher/chef/maid hats, and keeping Lucy on her vaccine schedule has been especially stressful. Anna is her typical goof-ball, wild child self and Arielle has thrown us through a few loops this month. It seemed the only one keeping their cool was Jacen. He’s been playing video games during his non-school hours.(shocking I know.) He was quiet, so I assumed that meant content.
Turns out the person I worried about least, actually has the most to be stressed about. I’ve been incorporating some mental health material into Jacen’s home school work, and today was the first time he indicated any anxiety. How could I have dropped the ball on this one? His WHOLE WORLD has been rocked. He doesn’t see his friends, misses his teachers and has had his whole routine thrown right out the window. He’s trying to learn on a platform he isn’t used to, and he doesn’t have the same relationship with me as he does his teachers. We are too close, and it can be hard to be an authoritarian enforcing school work instead of the “fun mom” going to museums and zoos. He may have been able to lay low in a classroom of 30 kids, but now he has mom watching right over his shoulder. One on one. It’s a totally different atmosphere, and I’ve been challenging him. He can’t breeze through assignments that are easy for him, then relax while his classmates take their time learning at a slower pace. He’s working hard at home, he’s being watched, and he isn’t getting the social break of seeing his peers. It’s a lot on a kid.
He’s sad that his cousin’s first birthday party was cancelled, as well as our vacation that was planned for April. He’s disappointed we won’t be going to see family on Easter. He’s starting to realize that there are a lot of things we are missing out on, and I think it just sunk in today that school will not be reopening any time soon.
Today he wrote, [I’m feeling] “anxious because sometimes I feel that someone in our family is going to get it.” This was certainly a conversation starter. We talked a bit about how dad is around people while working in retail, which is confusing for Jacen because he was under the impression EVERYONE had to stay home. He also brought up his Nana, someone he is used to seeing on a regular basis. They saw each other from an 8 foot distance for about 2 minutes this weekend. It was the first time they had seen eachother in a month, and it just wasn’t enough. Nana is a nurse, fighting to help people. That means she’s working closely with the virus, and we are all a little stressed about it. We share custody of his step-sister. Traveling between our house and mom’s has raised a lot of concern for all of us, but we are still trying to stick with the custody schedule as long as we can. Jacen told me today that he is terrified Arielle will catch the virus in transit.
Those are just the people who aren’t able to stay home.
He got emotional talking about the friends and family he isn’t able to see right now, and just wants to give out a million hugs. Me too bud, me too.
Things were heavy. We were both crying, wishing things were different. I was afraid to keep reading, but the next question was “What is something you like about being home?”
“I don’t have to wear shoes.”
We both started laughing. It didn’t seem funny or silly when he wrote it, it was just the first thought that popped into his mind.. But boy did it make us laugh after such a serious conversation.
Jacen is going to remember this time more than any of my other children. I know he will remember missing his friends, staying inside, and being afraid of the things that were being said on the news. I hope he also remembers the fun we are having together, the love, and that he could do his school work while barefoot. This time is hard for everyone, but please try to find the happy moments. Some days it might seem like they don’t exist, but I promise they do.
Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face. Stay home.
The weather is FINALLY cooperating where I live, so we were able to spend some time outside. Even when we aren’t in quarantine, I stay home with the kids. I’m embarrassed to say that even with daily opportunities, I’m really bad about getting outdoors. Don’t get me wrong, we totally do big things like the beach, park, hiking, walking/jogging for fitness, swimming, etc., but we definitely don’t spend enough time casually walking or relaxing in the yard.
The pandemic has really changed my outlook. We can no longer meet friends at the canal for a long walk, or spend time at the playground. At first I had the mentality that we were stuck literally within the confines of the house. This week I’ve started to realize all of the opportunities we have outside that are still following the social distancing rules. It opened our little world, and eased our cabin fever.
On the rainy days, I cracked the windows and opened the french doors. It was good for my anxiety to listen to the rain and breathe in some fresh air. When we woke up this morning it was starting to look like another gloomy day, so I set up an obstacle course indoors. Anna was less than pleased, longing to get out of the house and go somewhere.
Awesome, stuck in the house and Anna has an attitude. Should be a fun day.
A few hours later Lucy started to get cranky in her swing. I looked over and realized the sun was in her eyes. Wait, the sun?! I didn’t even bother to change Anna out of her Christmas pajamas. I just grabbed the kids and the bubbles and ran out the door. I didn’t want to miss our opportunity.
It’s common knowledge that the sun can help lift depression. People who suffer with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) feel worse in the winter months when the sun is less available. The depression lifts in good weather. Sunlight provides a good dose of Vitamin D, which is crucial in bone health, cardiovascular function, and inflammation control. Sunlight also energizes the t-cells that increase our immunity- and who couldn’t use a little bit of that right now?
I could write pages and pages about how outdoor play benefits child development, but I’ll try to keep it short. Playing in an outdoor environment is less stimulating than an indoor play center. It gives children a chance to slow down and appreciate their senses without being overwhelmed. It has been shown that kids who are used to outdoor smells and naturally occurring colors have less food aversions, especially to vegetables. The outdoors present unpredictable challenges, which increases imagination and problem solving. Spinning, jumping and playing on naturally diverse terrain increases inner ear function, resulting in better balance. Overall, spending time outdoors decreases stress, releases serotonin, and encourages a healthy lifestyle in people of all ages.
I grew up an only child, and I never wanted to play outside because I didn’t want to play alone. (This is one of the reasons I wanted to have a big family!) I wish I could tell my younger self that outdoor play does not need to be a sport or game that requires multiple people. If I really thought about it, I probably would have realized that I could have been reading in the fresh air, eating a picnic lunch on the deck, or doing a DIY art project in the open air.
We are busy people. When the pandemic is over, people will go back to running around again. Even staying home right now, it’s hard to find time for yourself. Homeschooling is time consuming, probably more than anticipated. Keeping the younger kids entertained is hard enough, but now we also have to stop them from distracting the older kids during class time. Most people are still working from home, facing their own distraction challenges. We are busy, but please, make time.
To benefit from time outside you really only need to dedicate 15 minutes. (It could be 15 minutes on the phone checking on a family member you can’t see right now!) Start doing it today, and continue when the pandemic passes. You might think it will be difficult to fit into your day, or hard to remember to participate in. (I know, our to-do lists are forever getting longer.) Making a lifestyle change doesn’t have to be difficult, especially one that only takes 15 minutes.
Planning Stage: Decide on a goal – spend 15 minutes outside daily.
Uncomfortable Stage: It will be hard to remember or prioritize because it is a new behavior. Block off the time in your planner or set an alarm. Most importantly, just do it.
Leveling out stage: You find yourself heading outside at your regular time, even without a reminder. You may even start to look forward to it.
Picking up Speed stage: You’re excited about your new habit, and start to feel the benefits.
Feeling Normal/ Regular stage: Congratulations, you have formed a positive habit!
It’s been said that it only takes about 21 days to make an action a habit. It only takes 90 days to make it a lifestyle change. Seriously, you could be a healthier you before the pandemic is even over- all from dedicating just 15 minutes a day.
You can totally do it.
Getting outside today wasn’t exactly a day at the beach. I wish it was 75 degrees instead of cold and raw. The ground was wet, so we couldn’t really sit down and relax. Nonetheless, 15 minutes passed quickly. Anna chased bubbles, we waved to the neighbors from a safe social distance, and we watched a squirrel run across the roof and powerlines (we pretended it was playing ‘the floor is lava’ and Anna thought it was quite hilarious.)
Anna didn’t want to come back inside, but it was a bit cold to have Lucy out there for too long. When we settled in, I realized Anna was more calm than usual, sitting on the floor and nicely playing with blocks. I felt happier, and my motivation to blog and workout returned. It only took 15 minutes.
Get outside today, but keep your 6 foot social distance.
Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face. Stay home.
I needed to not be in the house today, but I wasn’t able to leave. Between the coronavirus and the weather, the best I could do was open the french doors, close my eyes, and let the rain and wind take me somewhere else. This is where I went.
I have always loved to swim. It came naturally when I was a kid, and I even swam on a team when I got a little older. Laps aren’t what does it for me though. I’m talking about the way it feels to sink as deep as you can, head all the way under, as low as you can go.
The first thing I notice is the weightlessness. Especially when I was obese, the water relieved so much physical pain and pressure. Second, the mind feels lighter. My hair floats upwards. As it rises it brushes against my shoulders and face. I feel it lift away from me. I feel the negativity lift away too. It will float up with the bubbles, and I’ll stay here under water just a little longer. In my mind I’m a glorious thick-locked Disney beauty, but in reality my hair is shaped more like the fire on top of a match.
I am aware of the breath in my chest. The air has filled my cheeks, lungs, and has even found its way to my belly. My toes stretch freely, and the tension rises upwards like my hair. My ankles relax, my legs, my hips. I feel my spine stretch taller, and my shoulders open up as my arms float to my sides. I am taller than ever, from the tip of my toe all the way up to the ends of my hair.
Under the water, outside sound begins to muffle. The deeper down, the more distant the noise becomes. Then it is gone. Just quiet. Peace, and quiet.
From the depth, I look up to the surface. There’s a spot of white, clear water from the light above. It gradients into beautiful colors as we move away from the light. White, cyan, azure, blue. Looking below me are shades of violet, grey and black. Do the colors ever end? How far do they go? The water is so vast. I feel so small in it.
I take just one more moment here, but I know I can not stay forever. Let me leave my stress, my negative thoughts, and my anxieties here, down in the depths of the water. I head to the surface, letting the passing water cleanse the last of my soul.
I return to the surface for a new breath, a new start.
When I open my eyes, I’m back at home. Staring into the backyard as the rain falls, and I’m at peace with it. Suddenly the house doesn’t feel so small, as I still have that vast ocean in the back of my mind.
Using CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) For Anxiety
Last week I suffered with some really dark thoughts. They still come and go, but I’m getting better at keeping them at bay. CBT is a great therapy to stop the ‘looping’ cycle by proving the dark thought is not real.
A perfect example of this is when I feel worthless, and my depression says things like “the kids would be better off if I wasn’t their mother.” (definitely note that I have no intention of killing myself- I question my general worth. please don’t misinterpret.) Historically, the thought would pop into my head. “They are better off without you.” I would get anxious and frustrated and try to push the thought away, but it came right back like a boomerang. This time it would be a little louder. “BETTER. OFF. WITHOUT. YOU.” It would be a battle of back and forth, the more I pushed it away the louder it came back. CBT breaks that cycle.
Yesterday was my day #1 of getting back on track. I made good nutrition choices, got outside, and have felt pretty good.. because those are the easy parts of being healthy. The hard part was facing my anxieties when they crept back into my mind. I heard, “You’re useless. The kids would be better off without you as a mother.” I wanted to swat it away and not deal with it, but that wouldn’t be progress in feeling better. I had to break the cycle. Instead I asked the voice “Why? Why would they be better off? What would Jacen, or Anna, or any of the kids say if you asked THEM if they’d be better off without me?” It stopped the voice. I kept going, kept thinking.
What would Jacen say? He would say I protect him. I keep him safe. I’ve gotten him through a lot of his own anxiety attacks, and he trusts that I would never put him in danger. He knows he can come to me when things are wrong, and I’m going to do anything in my power to make it go away. He would say that I taught my boy to read so well, so young that he is now a super star at school. School is easier for him presently because of the days we spent together when he was young.
What would Anna say? That I’ve rescued her from many failed Evel Knievel stunts just in time. It’s a miracle we haven’t had an ER trip, but those mom reflexes tend to kick in. She would say mama is the only one who clips her nails and remembers the fluoride tablets at bedtime.
And Arielle? I hope she would say nice things about me, but that girl is at an age. (Lol) She knows that I don’t always have the same interests in the beginning, like anime and monster shows, but I try my best to learn. I try to listen, support and nurture her interests. I want her to be whatever she feels to be, and do the things she wants. I want to be a part of that, and I think that behind the preteen sass, she probably would admit that she can feel it. She knows how hard I try, and how much I love her. Catch her on a good day and she might even tell you I’m pretty fun to be around.
My shame boomerang must have gotten a little scared, because it hasn’t returned since our “true talk” conversation. Are my kids better off without me as a mom? No. Absolutely not. That was the bully in my brain making me believe something that wasn’t true. CBT helped me sort out my wrong perception and the actual facts, and I saw an immediate lift of my anxiety.
Today was day 2 of kicking my ass back in gear. I got out of bed. I took a shower. I helped Jacen with home school. I put together a gift bag for a friend that I love, and it made me happy to see her reaction. I have befriended a person I never thought would be on my side, and it’s beautiful. Her kind, welcoming behavior seems to be the start of a beautiful friendship. I hope it lasts forever. I kicked my anxiety attack’s ass with my CBT. I spent some much needed down time with my husband instead of rushing into depression sleep.
I still miss my friends. I’m going to hug the crap out of my sister and niece when this thing passes. I’m going to take my nana out for a glorious day on the town. I’ll even go to bingo with her if she invites me. I’m going to let the kids pig pile on their nana and give her all the overdue hugs and kisses. Social distancing is hard. It messes with our minds, especially the minds who struggle with illness every day. Keep fighting back, because you deserve to be happy and healthy, even in a time like this. Get out of bed. Get some sun. Try your jeans on. (Trust me, quarantine snacks.)
Most of all, this too shall pass. I don’t know when. I don’t know how. But I know it will.
Until then fight for your wellness. Fight to keep our sense of community, even from afar. Fight to have good days and good relationships.