I know that many people are overwhelmed with too much to do and not enough time. This most likely includes most of you with young kids at home. Others have way too much time and not enough to do. I know that for myself, if I don't stay somewhat busy, I can dissolve into an blob and get absolutely nothing done. I am trying not to let that happen. If I stop doing these weekly posts, that will be one of the first signs that I have 'blobbified'! For now, I am doing daily walks (keeping social distance while I pay attention to the beautiful city we live in, playing piano (had to dust off the keys) and I even am following along with a friend's virtual tap dancing lessons. I am trying to make sure to make calls to friends and family who are isolated.
I hope these weekly emails are a virtual hug to all of the folks who take the time to read them. You are NOT alone. I read somewhere that seeing the empty streets is a form of global solidarity the likes of which has never been seen before.
As always, I try to gather pearls that might offer bits of support. This week I collaborated with my daughter Alana to offer everyone a bit of free therapy.
This week's topic
Assessing our priorities in this time of quarantine
People are struggling as we move into our second week of the lock-down here in San Francisco.
It feels like it is worth reminding everyone of an observation that I give to new parents. From my observations, the first few weeks with a new baby are completely overwhelming to 90% of couples; Only 10% of the time it is completely smooth sailing.
The mixed up thing is that the 90% assume that there is something wrong with them for having a hard time and that those lucky 10% take it for granted that they are having an easy time. If you are in the larger group, don’t be hard on yourself. There should be an element of comfort in knowing how normal you are.
In our current situation, there is a similar divide. Most of us are treading water. Kids are home from school. Many parents are adjusting to working from home. Most everyone is stressed and scared about this virus and the widespread impacts it may have on the health of their loved ones, and the economic impact. Having older parents or a family member with underlying health issues magnifies the concerns in a big way.
There are more questions than answers. It is especially hard to put on a brave face in front of our kids. I think there are probably a lot of people going into the bathroom for a good cry.
It doesn’t necessarily help to be inundated by posts from parents who seem focused on how to create nutritious meals, or limit screen time while at the same time managing to help their kids with their schoolwork. Of course this same family is also probably meditating and doing yoga together. They are riding the wave with ease.
Stop yourself from hating them. Negative energy is not good for you. These are the 10 percenters. If you are in the other group, well, you are running with the pack. Take some comfort in knowing that you are not alone. Give yourself a hug. We will get through this.
This is a good time to remind yourself to sort things into the "in my control/out of my control" category and to spend our energy on things that are in our control.
Here is a very abbreviated list to give you a sense of what I am talking about. You can control:
You can not control:
It would be nice if you can control who you are in contact with. Many can do this. Some people with first responders in the family don’t have that luxury.
Last Friday, I took a walk to Golden Gate Park and met up with my daughter Alana, who was taking a much needed break from her remote therapy sessions. We sat 6 feet apart on a bench in the rose garden and talked about the craziness going on. Alana told me about an exercise that she does for her clients and it resonated with me. She explained about a values assessment tool from ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.) Her blog post is here if you want to read it:
Take a look at this list of these 9 “life-domains”
Now, ask yourself some questions.
Before the corona virus turned our lives upside down, how would you have ranked these in terms of what took up your time and energy? How has that changed? When things settle back to normal what would be your ideal?
Let's go back up to the "in our control/ out of our control" list and talk about some actions you can take. Alana and I put our heads together to come up with some ideas.
Perhaps previous ranking reflected employment at the top of the list, with time spent with the family lower than you’d like. Is there a short term goal you can set to help the current values align with the ideal values? For example, to shift employment lower, can you set boundaries around what time to stop checking work emails at the end of the day?
-If we want to shift family higher, maybe turn off the TV and sit at the table for dinner without distraction, or create a short routine at the end of the day. Reading is always good, but this can also be an opportunity to try to answer a new question each night. Eventually this habit can open up possibilities for very real and important conversations.
-Shifting intimate relationships higher, how can we make sure that we’re setting aside quality time with your partner? Is there any way you can get some private time?
-Health and wellness: This might include a goal for meal planning, or making sure that you’re going for intentional walks throughout the day. When you do go outside, find the road less traveled so that you can maintain the social distance.
-Citizenship/community engagement: We can even do this during sheltering in place by donating extra canned foods to the food bank, or offering to help the community by grocery shopping. The Next Door app is really stepping up to connect those who are in need of assistance with people who are offering it.
-Right now we have to get creative with social connection outside our family. For many extroverts out there, shelter-in-place can be difficult, and this can be a good opportunity to reconnect over platforms like zoom or google hangouts or face-time with friends from near and far.
-Spirituality: This can include a meditation, mindfulness practice, or feeling connected to a religious community. Many religious organizations are offering virtual sermons for those who would like to remain connected.
-There’s a lot of overlap, find ways to get creative! Want family time and health and wellness to be higher on your list? Build this time in with your families, and you too can be doing yoga and practicing meditation as a family!
It’s baby steps, don’t get overwhelmed.. Take small actionable measures - this often helps us to feel much more in control than trying to enact a long term, large change overnight
Every individual and every family has their own unique set of values and priorities. Use this opportunity for reflection, to ensure that the priorities you set align with your personal values, as opposed to feeling pressured to meet some nonsensical societal standard.