Our family is going on week five of the COVID-19 stay-at-home routine.
I call it a routine, but it has not in any way come to feel like a new normal. Five weeks of my three kids not physically in school, five weeks of me working from home via Zoom, and five weeks of my husband sometimes away at work and sometimes not.
I have read about how for some people, life has slowed down and how we should take this time to enjoy this “slower pace” of life. I have seen videos and pictures of how around the world our physical environment is improving because our human imprint has lessened.
But in no way do I personally feel that life is moving at a slower pace. Being stuck inside does not mean life has slowed down.
In many ways, I feel as though my responsibilities have more than doubled. Yes, my three kiddos being home has a lot to do with that. I am in no way a homeschooling parent. I literally danced in the street as I walked my third child to full-time kindergarten years ago. I love my kids, but I need a little space.
I am a complete extrovert. I love people. I love being in the present and physical moments with people. When the social distancing orders went into place, I went from counseling in an office to seeing clients through a screen.
Although the transition was not as bad as I thought it would be, the experience overall is exhausting. Maybe because I was not used to being in front of a screen for hours at a time, or maybe because in between all of my “work work,” I have my full-time parenting job waiting on the other side of the door.
My kids are at an age where they can take care of their basic needs, and they perfectly understand that they cannot bother me for anything other than “we need to call an ambulance” events. But they too have schoolwork, housework, busy work, video games, and television time that I need to monitor.
I definitely feel overwhelmed at some point in everyday. I must remind myself to practice some of the relaxation techniques I so regularly teach to my clients.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a simple concept. It is bringing your awareness and focus to the present moment. With kids in the house, life is always moving – whether literally with kids running all over the place or just the constant use of dishes, making meals, laundry, taking care of animals, and all the noises that come with that movement. Practicing some mindfulness exercises can help quiet and calm things down to help you feel a little more grounded. When we feel calm and grounded, we are able to practice more patience and make better decisions. I believe mindfulness is critical to self-care.
There are many different types of mindfulness exercises you can find on Google, YouTube, and the like. Please remember that these exercises are not just helpful for you but for your children to practice as well. Here are a few of my favorites:
Deep Breathing: Find a quiet place. Sit in a relaxed position. When first practicing deep breathing, try to set a timer for 5-10 minutes; 10 minutes may be best to start with because it gives you time to be distracted and bring back your concentration. Expect your mind to get distracted.
Start with a slow deep inhale, about 4 seconds. Hold for 4 seconds. Slowly exhale. Notice your breathing and your chest expanding and deflating. Notice how your body feels. Notice your emotions and thoughts. Bring your concentration back to your breathing, and repeat.
5-4-3-2-1 Senses: This is one of my favorite exercises to do with kids. It reminds me of the game “I-spy” but we use all our senses.
Find a comfortable position to sit in. What are 5 things you can see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste? Take your time with each sense. Look for details you do not notice on a regular basis. For example, instead of “I see a pillow on the couch,” take time to describe the shape, texture, and design of the pillow and how it is resting on the couch. When using your hearing, try to notice sounds in the distance that you may usually tune out: birds chirping, the wind, or water running in through pipes in your house.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation: Progressive muscle relaxation takes you through tensing and relaxing different muscles in your body, usually working from feet to face or face to feet. I like progressive muscle relaxation exercises because it helps make me aware of tension in my body and how good it feels to relax. Find audio scripts online that will talk you through these exercises. These can help you relax a little more easily than having to read a script yourself. Here is a link for one.
Take time for yourself and your family to practice some of these mindfulness exercises. Allow yourself to feel the calm in the current storm of life. I assure you that it will leave you feeling calmer in your chaotic days.