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.
Yesterday I got slapped in the face with a real “grow the fuck up” moment. I knew going into my therapy appointment that my own quarantine habits were not helping my mental health, but damn did she lay it out for me.
Last week I snuggled in and watched movies all day. Sometimes with the kids, sometimes binging Tiger King by myself. I took a lot of naps when I could, and encouraged the kids to do quiet, indoor play on their own. I trusted that Jacen was keeping up with his Google Classroom work on his own, and didn’t intervene.
At the end of the week (Friday night) I had the biggest panic attack I’ve had in years. I couldn’t breathe, speak or stop throwing up. All coping mechanisms went out the window, I even failed to take my rescue medication. I felt like I was under rock bottom. I locked myself in the bathroom and cried on the floor by myself. The dark thoughts spiraled and they just wouldn’t stop.
‘Things with Arielle seem weird today, does she love me less?’ ‘Jacen isn’t putting enough effort into his studies and it’s my fault.’ ‘Anna is so wild, is it my fault? Am I not doing a good enough job teaching her to be a lady?’ ‘Are we watching too much tv?’ ‘Those clean clothes have been waiting to get put away forever.’ ‘The weight is getting out of control, will I ever work out again?’ ‘You’re not contributing financially.’ ‘Your mental health is a burden on the family.’ ‘you are not good enough.’ ‘you don’t contribute anything.’ ‘you are worthless.’
The tears wouldn’t stop, and I couldn’t quiet the voices in my head that were just tearing me apart. On paper I can tell you that the best things for good mental health are routine, movement, socialization, getting outdoors, organization, etc. My body just did not want to participate. I didn’t have the energy or motivation. I slept as late as I could every morning, watched tv on the couch or in bed, took an afternoon nap, and looked forward to an early bedtime. The guilt started to mound while I just ignored the healthy me inside that was screaming “Get up! Get better! You can do this!”
But no, I wasted an entire week.
Monday morning I started to whine to my therapist, but she stopped me. She was right to do so. She reminded me that antidepressants are only going to do so much, and the rest is on me. That’s partly therapy- putting in the hard work of CBT, EMDR and talk therapy. It’s also the everyday stuff- getting out of bed, taking a shower, being active, getting work done. Okay, okay. I knew this already, I was just being lazy.
Today was my new day #1. I set my alarm, and got out of bed for 9. We got through our morning and breakfast routine. Jacen and I sat at side by side desks so I could be involved with his school work. I sat down to write this. I made a schedule. Even if we don’t do every single thing on the schedule every day, or even if we don’t do them at the same time everyday, it’s at least an announcement of what our expectations should be. It’s how we are going to get motivated and stay organized. It’s going to get the whole family back on track, and I’ll be the one leading the pack. I’m excited to pull myself out of this depression, even if it still feels really, really hard at this exact moment. (I’m dying to go back to sleep! Mama wants a nap!)
So, let’s lay it out. What work do I need to put in to get back on my feet? The first thing I usually do is reference my ‘overall family wellness goals.’
My Family Wellness Goals:
Right in order, I’ve neglected my physical goals by relying heavily on processed “easy” food (due to my laziness for cooking) and skipping working out. Emotionally I have decided to wallow in my depression instead of taking time to resolve my problems. I have neglected to read, learn or grow my mind. Instead I have rotted it via Netflix. I leave Facebook messages on “received,” ignore calls, and avoid opening texts. I let myself use the “social distancing” excuse to isolate myself in every way. I have not connected spiritually as I prefer to. I have not been outdoors or seen the sun in weeks. I want to blame the quarantine, but there is no restriction to being outside as long as we still practice 6 foot distancing. Thankfully I haven’t messed up too much financially. I always feel guilty that I do not provide like Mike does, but I’m also not stupidly spending it either. I’m going to call that a point in my favor.
Simply jotting down a loose schedule has already solved so many of these problems for me. By blocking out time to cook meals, I know I will be preparing something healthy instead of microwaving something packaged at the last minute. I have time where I am expecting myself to workout, to read or listen to podcasts, to be outdoors with the kids, and to overall interact with my family more. It’s amazing that just writing these things down sparks a fire of motivation inside of me. I decided to change out of my loose, dirty sweatpants and into some workout leggings. I threw some dry shampoo in my hair, and even took out some meat to thaw for dinner.
This has not been my first day #1. It won’t be my last. Everyone goes through the cycle to some degree of fluctuating between moods, motivation and success. We can not always control the organic sources, so we have to take control of what we can change. The first being our outlook. Don’t wait for a new week, or the next Monday. Don’t wait for the first of the month. Don’t wait for another day. Don’t even wait an hour. Do it now. Think of one thing that could make tomorrow easier. Implement it today, and watch your mood lift. Trust me I’m right there with you, but I have faith we can all climb out of this darkness with effort, help, and a desire to be healthy again.
My family doesn’t usually serve alcohol at holidays or gatherings. When I turned 21 I thought it would be fun to bring sangria to Thanksgiving. It made me feel grown up, and I liked the thought of bringing something that had never been served before. I had a friend in high school who made sangria all the time. She had told me once that it was crucial to give the fruit a few days to soak in the wine. I put in about a week’s worth of work between researching recipes, shopping, and preparing. The night before the big day, I sampled the wine. It was amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever been so proud of my pot-luck contribution.
The recipe I used made A LOT more wine than I’d anticipated. I had stored it in a couple of plastic tupperware pitchers, but decided they didn’t look nice enough to bring to a family holiday. I had just started dating this guy who worked at Walmart. (9 years later, we are still together, married, and four kids between us!) He was heading to my apartment when his shift ended, so I asked him to pick up the biggest pitcher he could find.
The thing was beautiful, and huge. It looked like a giant glass wine barrel, with a fancy spigot to dispense. It was absolutely perfect, especially for a wine I was so proud of.
Mike jumped into the shower, and I focused on my wine project.. It took a bit of time to transfer all of my little plastic pitchers from the fridge into this mega barrel, and I pressed the fruit artfully against the glass. Everything was perfect.
I heard Mike shut off the water in the shower, and decided I had spent enough time on such a simple project. I grabbed the pitcher and brought it over to the fridge. How in the world did I overlook how heavy this thing would be? The pitcher itself had some serious weight to it, being so big and made of glass, and I had filled it with a massive amount of wine. Wine that had been in my refrigerator. Cold wine.Cold wine in a very heavy, glass pitcher. Cold wine that had started to accumulate condensation on the outside of the glass. I was really wishing I had thought to prop the fridge door open before picking this thing up.
You know where this is going.
As if in slow motion, the pitcher slipped from my hands. The bathroom door squeaked open, and Mike caught the last split second before the wine hit the ground. Together we watched my kitchen disappear behind an atomic bomb of sangria. I froze. What the hell just happened? Is this real life? I looked at Mike, who just dropped his head to his chest and laughed. Still gripping a towel around his waist, he shook his head, and walked away smiling. I could hear the chuckle in his voice when he yelled from the bedroom “let me find some pants.”
Mike emerged from the bedroom to find me standing in two inches of red wine. I pushed a mop back and forth, not really doing anything but spreading around the puddle and shards of glass. I looked up and met his gaze with tears in my eyes and said, “I didn’t know where to start.” As if on cue, sangria dripped from the ceiling and onto my face. I couldn’t hold back anymore. The dam broke, and the tears came flowing out.
Mike walked up to me, wrapped his hands around my upper arms and made me look him in the eye. “I got this,” he said with a smile. He kissed me on the forehead, and pulled the mop from my hand.
That was the moment, right there when he looked me in the eye. That was the moment I fell in love with my husband.
I thought of this today, and it made me smile. I hope you’ve found a smile-thought today, too.