May 2021 was a tough month for me. My first Mother’s Day without my own mother alive, the lifting–and confusion–of COVID-19 recommendations, and intense worldwide events. I knew I needed to change something about how I was going about our daily lives, but I wasn’t quite sure what. What do I need? What is my family and I comfortable with? What isn’t comfortable but we can work with? And what does my family need to say no to?
While the answers to all of these things will be different person to person and even situation to situation, finding your own answer can be even more difficult than finding the solution itself sometimes! So here are a few tools I used to help me navigate the tough life and familial decisions that were upon us.
I adore my therapist. I’ve been seeing her for almost 2 years now, which really helps because she’s really gotten to know me. Our conversations are easy, and she doesn’t mind repeating the same advice to me over and over and over! What really helps is that my insurance covers quite a bit with my therapist, which definitely wasn’t always the case. So a licensed therapist may not be within your means, but there are plenty of other helpful options like finding a peer support group, a life coach, and confiding in trusted friends or romantic partner. Also, what I have found truly useful is “cross-checking.” Talking with multiple people about the same topic really helps get different perspectives as well as helps cement the coping concepts in your mind.
For a solid 3 week period, I left my journal out on the kitchen island. I went to it to write a sentence or two any time I felt triggered, when I experienced strong feelings or reoccurring thoughts, and when I tried any coping mechanisms and how or if it helped. This was a very useful strategy to employ while tinkering with my anxiety medications with my doctor. It also really helped me learn about myself. By writing it down, you have to actively think about your experience, name your emotions, and identify your patterns. I thought it would feel like a big burden and chore because–hello!–toddler mom in a pandemic! But really, it helped tremendously and didn’t feel burdensome at all! If anything, it felt like a respite from the noise.
This strategy is especially for parents and caregivers! This one certainly is tough, considering the massive and heavy burden of isolation and loneliness from the pandemic and caring for others can place on you. How can you possibly need alone time when you’re basically by yourself all day? Consider this though: How can you possibly understand your own needs if you never give yourself the time and space to ask? I’m talking quiet alone time. Maybe that means a formal meditation or journaling session. Maybe that means knitting or crocheting with earplugs (not ear BUDS!) in your ears. Maybe that means going for a little drive with the windows down and radio off. Whatever that means to you, get it into your routine somehow. You are the person you spend the most time with. Might as well listen to what you have to say to yourself, right?
This is probably the most important one, and the above three actually help get you here! By talking it out, you have to slow down to consider your words and stories. By journaling, you have to slow down to notice. By giving yourself alone time, that leaves the field wide open for slowing down! This one certainly is the most important because you can literally do it at any time! If you don’t have someone to talk to in the moment, if you don’t have access to your journal, if you can’t get away… you can always slow down. Take a breath. And another. In and out. Expand and soften your belly. Slow. Down.
Over the past month, these tools really helped me tune into myself. I can’t say I have all the definitive answers, and those answers will readily change, but at least I’m now more in a place of content by using these strategies and less a place of hopelessness and despair.
I really hope you found this information useful! I’d love to hear your thoughts! Would you add anything else to this list? Did you try something new? Comment below!