Whenever I get super overwhelmed, I find that writing usually helps me feel better. I’ve been writing this blog for over a decade, but long before that I used to keep hand written journals. I find it gets all of the jumbled mess out of my brain, helps me organize thoughts, clears the slate. I think it’s safe to say we’re all feeling it this week as we roll through the first handful of days of social distancing. Even if no one reads it, open a journal or a word doc, get it all out on paper — I find it really helpful. This post today is just that — a release of all.the.feelings — emptying my brain, a little writing therapy, and sharing what’s helping us stay sane.I think like a lot of people, my emotions have been a roller coaster. The ups: feeling very grateful that we’re able to work from home, feeling grateful we have a safe place, room to play outside, food in the fridge. Feeling even a little teeny tiny bit of gratitude for the quiet, a break from the go-go-go. The downs: general panic about the uncertainty of everything in front of us, worries about how this is impacting my business, and so many feelings about all of those around us who are feeling the impact already.
I have also been thoughtful about keeping this roller coaster on a quiet course, trying to hide it so that things appear normal for Jane. She doesn’t know what’s going on, and I’m doing my best to keep it that way. So we move through our day with some level of normalcy. With school and activities cancelled I rolled up my sleeves on day 1 and was determined to fill our day with tons of detailed activities and craft projects. Oh my that optimism and stamina all faded so quickly, didn’t it? After the first few days I’m aiming to be realistic from here on out, tuning out what others are doing (for example: screen time is fine in our household and frankly, necessary!), and trying to be thoughtful about what’s working and what’s not.
What has worked? Slower starts to the morning; instead of rushing out to activities I’ve been letting Jane watch a movie at breakfast while I get a few small items off my to do list, like answering emails and scheduling content. Outdoor playtime, and way more of it than we are used to. When it rained this week I thought I was going to lose.my.freakin.mind. Yesterday morning we took a very long walk in a nature preserve by our house and it made a huge difference in our moods, and resulted in a really solid nap time. Small craft projects, with low-expectations. I wrote a big post about all of our favorite craft supplies and creative toys, and I’ve been parsing them out each day. We max out at about an 18-minute attention span for any project, so I’m learning to keep them small and focused, and letting her take the lead (which is SO hard for a crafting nerd/perfectionist like me, but I’m working on that, ha). I also think linking our craft project to a more creative/imagination play idea is a good way to extend the time we spend on something — like digging for “buried treasure” in kinetic sand and then playing make believe pirate ship games where we have to find the treasure to dig for. Or building spaceships and aliens with our cosmic craft kit (a favorite!) and then going outside and pretending her bike is rocket ship.
Jane was only in school 2-3 mornings a week, but I’m realizing now how much of our time was spent outside of the house doing errands, doing activities , or taking advantage of public spaces. I feel like preparing activities to keep kids occupied at home is a HUGE undertaking and I’ve never been more in awe of teachers for their creativity, planing and patience. My friend Alison started a big Facebook group for parents to share resources over the next few weeks, it’s a good place to look to for ideas. But take everything with a grain of salt, some of the things have worked for us, some of them haven’t. So many people recommended streaming Cosmic Yoga for toddlers and it didn’t end well for us (her: in hysterical tears, me: yelling with maybe a strained muscle?), and I thought she would love some of the live videos that zoos were posting on Facebook but she couldn’t care less and asked for “maybe a different show?”
While we’re all trying to become homeschoolers, keep things normal for our kids and generally minimize panic-levels, I’ve also been thinking about things that help me push through the anxiety and keep spirits up. In no particular order, here are things that are working for me right now:
Movies that always make me feel better: You’ve Got Mail, Almost Famous, Dirty Dancing, and Newsies (free on Disney+, it was the first thing I watched when we signed up, ha). TV Shows that always make me feel better: Great British Baking Show, I mean, obviously. What is more calming than adorable British people baking pastries in a countryside tent? Watching cake decorating videos on Instagram is another soothing, zen-like escape. Music that always makes me feel better: anything by James Taylor and blasting Motown in our kitchen for an impromptu dance party (Jane loves this more than anything, her hilarious dance moves makes me feel better too!). Reading is a huge escape for me and I’ve been loving Josie Silver’s new book: The Two Lives of Lydia Bird. Her first book, One Day in December is one my favorite romantic reads if you need something to fill you up. And pick up any Nora Ephron book to instantly feel better; if you’re not usually a reader I think her books are a great place to get back into the practice — her breezy, humorous style is so easy to read. I have a list of 29 books I read in 2019 with quick book reviews if you need some reading list inspiration to get you through social distancing.
I think what always makes me feel best during anxious times is having something to do. Keeping my mind and hands are busy prevents me from endlessly scrolling through Twitter and hyperventilating about everything I see. We have a three-season porch off our bedroom that is full of atrocious dark wood paneling, and I’ve been talking about painting it for years. So guess what we’re finally tackling this weekend? And I’m eager to expand our little home veggie garden this spring; getting some seeds started indoors and the garden beds cleaned up is going to be on my list of projects to tackle too. If gardening sounds like a good thing to pick up right now, I just read a great book — Growing Good Food, by Acadia Tucker — about the positive impact home gardens on the environment with lots of practical steps about how to get started. I highly recommend giving it a read!
If you need a little more escape, I’ve got lots of content on the blog to keep you busy: a big list of my favorite kids craft supplies and creative toys, an affordable skincare line I got the chance to test and review, some fun St. Patrick’s Day ideas you can pin for next year. Plus a few newish recipes to try with staples from your pantry and freezer like homemade hummus, frozen cauliflower tot waffles (any frozen tots will do), and a simple rigatoni dish (frozen or canned veggies can be swapped in).
That’s it for now — if you made it this far in my long and winding post, I’m sending you all love and good vibes, XOXO.