Here we are heading toward the tail end of 2020.
Back in March, when we got the notice that school was closing for the rest of the year, I remember thinking, “Okay, well, we’ll get through the last of my daughter’s 2nd grade year, and then in the summer things will be better.”
Then, when summer camps announced they were moving programming online and churches stayed virtual and social distancing remained essential, I remember thinking, “Okay, well, we’ll get through this summer and then in the fall things will be better.”
Then, mid-summer, our school district announced we’d be doing distance learning, along with a few days of in-person school per week and a mask mandate went into effect.
Then, just a few weeks ago, we went back to 100% distance learning. Things just aren’t getting better in the ways that I want them to be getting better.
Clearly, things aren’t going “back to normal” (whatever that meant for you pre-pandemic) anytime soon.
So where does that leave us?
Where we are is not an easy place to be – no one I know is fully equipped to navigate the state of the world. So many are struggling just to get through each day.
Stress is high and coming from all directions.
Parents, from those who work outside jobs to those who were already staying at home with young kids, are struggling to do all the things.
What if you’re a parent who’s also a teacher? Overwhelm city.
As a working mom myself, I feel stretched thin trying to facilitate distance learning days while also maintaining an acceptable work performance and sanity as a parent.
Some days it feels like I’m failing at everything.
There’s hope for surviving pandemic parenting
As the saying goes, “We can do hard things.”
Hard things are made more palatable when we bring some tiny intentional actions to the days.
Here’s a list of twelve intentional actions that are immediately accessible. Give them a go – you might just be surprised what helps.
When I practice them, I feel better. The hard thing may not be better, but at that moment, I am.
Pandemic Parenting: 12 Tiny Coping Strategies
1. Take 3 deep breaths
Returning to your breathing, that thing that’s always with you, is immediately grounding and reorients you to the present moment (instead of lamenting the past or worrying about what’s next).
2. Look all the way up
When the ground feels shaky under your feet, bring your gaze to the sky – remembering there’s a vast world out there of which you are a part can help keep things in perspective.
3. Step outside or open a window
Interacting with nature and getting some fresh air is a mood booster and has positive impacts on mental health, even if it’s just for five minutes at a time.
4. Call a friend
Living through a pandemic can be isolating – even when you crave solitude after months of being at home with just your family.
It can take energy to reach out when you are feeling low or overwhelmed by caring for children. But we were made to exist in community. It can take energy to make the call, but that energy is usually returned in kind.
5. Read something you love
Books are a great way to travel when your vacation is cancelled, or when you need a break from thinking about the next issue on the list.
Plus, you get to choose your pace and when to step back into real life. Even a few pages before dropping off to sleep or while waiting to pick kids up can make a difference.
6. Drink a glass of water
Especially when caring for young children, it’s tempting to let your own needs slip to the bottom of the list. Especially for moms.
Taking care of yourself is often easier said than done, but hydrating properly is a gateway to practicing self-care more often.
7. Roll your shoulders back and down
Tension and stress often lead to rounded shoulders as you protect yourself or try to manage fatigue – take a moment each day to straighten that spine- it’s like a mini rejuvenation session.
8. Write a letter to someone you care about
When you aren’t able to visit as much as you’d like, pick up a pen and paper.
If your kiddos are old enough, invite them to write or decorate their own. Sending a real letter to a loved one is a tangible way to extend love when you can’t give a hug.
The kids will love it, and you just might too. Lift up your voice – talent not required.
10. Appreciate something
Practicing gratitude isn’t easy when you feel like everything is falling apart – but that’s often when it’s the most powerful tool at your disposal.
11. Notice the air on your skin
Tune in to your physical body and notice how it feels, without judgement. What does it need?
12. Put your device down
Stop “doomscrolling”, or comparing your parenting strategy to others’, or zoning out to the attention economy gods.
Unplug regularly, ideally at least an hour before you go to bed. (Get an old school alarm clock if necessary – they still exist!)
What tiny things help you cope right now?
Heidi Barr is a Minnesota based writer and wellness coach. 12 Tiny Things: Simple Ways to Live a More Intentional Life, co-authored with Ellie Roscher, is forthcoming from Broadleaf Books on January 5, 2021. Pre-order your copy today.