Raise your hand if you’re feeling super stressed these days ?♀️??♂️
Me too. That’s because we’ve got the perfect ingredients for a Stress Pot Pie:
SEPTEMBER. Always a stressful month. You barely have time to wash off your sunscreen before you feel the energy of the school year starting and workplaces kicking into action.
BABY (and toddler?) No amount of coffee can offset the sleepless nights and method-googling frenzy, no gym class compares to the incessant picking up of baby, carseat and stroller, no remote island comes close to the isolation and cut off from friends feeling.
Now for the main ingredient – COVID.
Ratchet all that up with endless uncertainty and worry, with foreboding news and fear of anyone breathing too close to you, with no ability to plan for more than a week in advance.
What a combo! ?
So this week I want to offer a few strategies to deal with the pie that’s knotting u your belly, weighing on your shoulders, and sitting just above your eyebrows.
I made this list because I needed it myself. Although I don’t have a baby, my family just relocated to Israel for the year and I’m having some of the same sleepless nights, physical exhaustion and intensity that you are (you can read all about it here.)
No one solution works, but maybe there’s something here that you can add to your mix:
Name your fears.
Did you see that Mr. Rogers movie with Tom Hanks? In it there is a quote from Mr. Rogers that has been my motto ever since: “If it’s mentionable, it’s manageable.”
These days It’s impossible not to be carrying around a huge load of fear on our shoulders. COVID is scary and there is so much unknown. Also, so much is out of our control (which may make you buckle down on trying to control things related to Baby.)
In the spirit of Mr. Rogers I have been finding it helpful to just name my fears and put them out there. No need to hide them.
Think of your fears like a gas swirling inside you. When you name them and say them periodically it puts the gas in a jar with a lid on it.
Here are some of mine. Feel free to add your own:
I may get Covid
My kids may get Covid
My parents may get Covid
A friend may get Covid
The kids may need to do remote learning
If that happens I won’t have time to work
The kids might not learn a thing on Zoom
The kids may fight more because they’ll be home
Covid may be around forever
People may keep dying from COVID
Poorer countries may not be able to get the vaccine
And the list goes on…
Contrary to superstition, saying our fears out loud doesn’t make them come true. It just gives them a name and contains them so they don’t take over our minds.
2. Don’t try to confirm your fears
Have you ever noticed that when we fear something we tend to look for signs that our fears are confirmed? Of course we don’t want bad things to happen, but the anticipation of them is sometimes even more unbearable than the thing itself.
We search for bad news in the paper, we wait to hear that COVID is spreading in the schools, we expect to hear that a friend’s family got COVID or that a new variant has arrived.
It’s as if we’re driven but the desire to say – “I knew it!” Just so we won’t be living in the uncertainty of it any longer.
So next time you notice yourself doing that, see if you can tone it down a bit. These next two points might help with that.
3. Acknowledge some powerlessness
In my kids’ school here in Israel there is a different approach to COVID than I’m used to from NY. They don’t wear masks. The parents (who are mostly vaccinated,) just don’t see the point (my thoughts on this here.) After raising some havoc I realized it’s a cultural issue that I can’t combat on my own.
This virus has put a magnifying glass to our dependence on our social networks. We are at the mercy of friends, family, colleagues, teachers, their friends, their colleagues, on and on. Every person’s actions affect another.
Aargh!! It’s crazy making, anger inducing, all night obsessable, punch the wall causing.
So we do what we can to make a change toward what we think is right, but then we need to acknowledge the boundaries of our power and ACCEPT it.
4. Focus on Certainties
These days we can’t buy tickets a year in advance like we used to. Even making dinner plans for next week seems risque.
What we can do is take off our long distance glasses and focus on what is right in front of us.
Acceptance means a constant surveying of what THIS MOMENT looks like. What you have now and see around you – those are certainties.
What is your baby doing right at this moment? How does their expression look? Are they moving their hands? Do you hear birds? Do you feel the sun on your skin? Is there a slight breeze on your cheek?
And perhaps most importantly – what does your breath feel like? What does your stomach feel like as you breathe? How about your forehead? ears? hands?
5. To get out of Defcon 1, imagine steps to Defcon 2
Don’t you love when people tell you not to forget about self care right after you’ve had a baby? How can you even think about going to a yoga class or steaming broccoli when you slept two hours last night, had goldfish for breakfast, and may shower next week if you’re lucky?
You can’t get out of a state of emergency when you’re not in a minimal state of comfort.
This last month in Israel I’ve been in Defcon 1. I can always tell I’m there when my phone is the last thing I look at before bed and the first thing when I wake up. Forget yoga, meditation, journaling, and playing music. Unless the yoga is for my pinky which is sore from the phone resting on it.
If you’re in that place THAT’S OK.
There is no point in self-flagellation. Let this voice go- why am I spending hours scrolling? Why does that mom have it so together and I don’t? Why can’t I get it together?
Here’s how you bring it down a notch to defcon 2 – IMAGINE what the first step would look like for you. For me it looked like putting the phone a bit further away from my bed when I went to sleep so I wouldn’t comfortably reach for it in the morning.
For you that might be pulling some yoga pants out from the back of your closet or asking around about a postpartum yoga class. And then you let that sit.
It takes time to dig yourself out of defcon. Simply imagining what a step toward self care would look like is an affective first step. It might be weeks of imagining before you actually put those yoga pants on.
Do you want some support in finding your way toward self care? A Baby in Tune class is the perfect means. It’s enrichment for your baby and therapy for you.
So how are you dealing with the uncertainty of it all? Comment below and tell us what you’d add to this list. We need to support each other!
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