How has the last number of weeks been for you? Have you been in Isolation? We have, like many many others. However, I have found myself struggling a lot more than I thought I would. I tend to be someone who embraces a challenge as I like doing new things, so I thrive in circumstances where I find myself under pressure, but somehow this new challenge facing us all I have found a lot harder than I thought I would. I have felt so incredibly tired this week despite feeling like I am doing less, obviously seeing fewer people and not having to go out. It’s taken me a while to even realize that we’ve been going through a major transition without officially stopping to recognize it for what it is and allow myself some grace.
I’ve realized that I have been putting myself under so much pressure to not only manage the things I normally would in a different context (i.e. working from home with small kids) but to manage more responsibilities too, whilst also transitioning a new church to host its activities online. I somehow thought I was going to be able to look after my family, work my two days a week uninterrupted (who was I kidding?), catch up on all the ‘jobs’ we’ve not got round to as a family, have time for exercise, start new hobbies and maintain old ones, as this seems to be the ‘new norm’ that people are documenting on social media. I feel this has been the secret message of lockdown or quarantine that we should be able to do it ALL. Despite having to do the normal tasks of life under more pressurized circumstances we have also heaped extra pressures on ourselves. Whether it is learning an instrument, taking up art or whatever the thing you have always wanted to do, those ‘dreams’ were never dreamt up for starting under the curfew of a pandemic.
It will be no surprise then for you to hear that my week ended in tears and me feeling not good enough…again. Why do I set myself up for this kind of pressure? I seem to only realise this once things have got too much and I’ve locked myself in the bathroom crying.
It got me thinking, that when we are put under pressure from external sources whether that be work, family challenges, career choices or personal pressure, it tends to bring out the worst in us or uncover hidden issues in our lives that have been lying there dormant for some time. Unless we have placed methods of responding, and not reacting, in place to help us navigate these pressures and stresses differently, it can become a perfect storm. Although I know this, this is so much easier said than done. Things we thought were sorted all of a sudden don’t seem sorted and raise their ugly heads in our lives. Maybe this has just been our family this week?
This week myself and my husband have definitely argued more. There hasn’t been anything ‘particularly’ wrong other than trying to do the craziness of work and kids under one roof. I have recognized and noticed the small voice in my head questioning my ability to be a good mum, to manage to do my job well, lead a church and be a good friend etc. It is under pressure that we tend to think the worst of ourselves and those around us without even meaning to. Sadly I have been in that trap this week without realizing it.
When I come under pressure I notice that I have my go to things that I look to bring me peace. I have my helpful go to list and the not so helpful. You can guess which one I go to more naturally or my heart tells me I need. I am meaning the Netflix binge, the social media scrolling or the eating of more chocolate then I need to, although I would argue this one!
It’s not that these things are bad in themselves, but they do not satisfy the need that I went to them for in the first place. I’m craving a brain break, a chance to switch off, to feel better or get a rest. But I instead fuel the cycle of tiredness and frustration by going to things that don’t bring me peace.
Whether it’s not completing my task list or feeling like I’ve not spoken to my friends as often as I needed to, my go to has been social media this week. I’ve told myself that it’s about ‘staying connected’ but in fact it has reminded me of my lack of connection. It hasn’t helped my loneliness, my lack of patience, but instead has fueled my frustration and insecurities.
As a result this week I felt so much pressure to be doing lots of stuff with my kids. Up till Covid 19 became a reality I wasn’t feeling the pressure of teaching my kids anything other than play. However, I’ve seen so many amazing news feeds of mums on social media sharing all the great activities they are doing with their kids, (there is nothing wrong with this) all of them brilliant examples of parenting but they have left me feeling overwhelmed at the sheer volume of stuff out there. In turn I somehow took this to mean I should be using this ‘lockdown time’ better than I have been. I decided that I would bribe Josh (always a good parenting method) with looking for sticks if we practiced our counting skills (he loves sticks so I thought this would be a hit). It went something like this…1, 2, 3, 7, 10…1,6,7,10…you get the picture. Instead of giving up as I should have as it is okay if he hasn’t grasped this yet, I kept trying to make it work. It ended in both of us crying. What lesson did he learn that day? Not sure it was a counting one!
Clearly I need to work on my patience and self-control. This lack of feeling good enough has also been raising its head with keeping fit which is important to me. But with gyms closed for good reasons I’m having to adapt. This all has reminded me that it’s okay to have not completed the latest Les Mills workout and that a run down the drive will have to suffice. This is the thing. We are in this ‘lockdown’ for some time and I need to find the resources to recognize my insecurities and learn to respond to my frustrations better. So here goes. These are some of the things I’ve found helpful and am trying to put in place … you can keep me accountable.
- Start your day right …with God. As a Christian I believe that God has a good and perfect plan for my life and wants to help me in all I have to face. He has given me the best guide to this in the Bible and through it I can find the wisdom I need for my day. I need to start my day by reading it. Even if it’s just a little bit. The days I manage this well are days where I can keep my perspective right and find I feel more strength and peace than the days I don’t manage to read it. Fact.
- Pray. Pray about everything, my worries, fears, for friends, for the news. I’ve started praying on my run (I’m trying to do this most days) or walk with the kids for our daily exercise. It helps keep my perspective right too.
- Gratitude. We have started a gratitude tree. The leaves are things we are praying for and are thankful for. We do it over breakfast after reading the Bible with the kids and it helps us know that we have so much to be grateful for especially when I find myself moaning about unimportant stuff like cheese and coffee.
- Limit social media. I’ve learnt that more social media time does not equal feeling more connected. I’m trying to limit myself to using it for work or once a day for personal use.
- Do exercise. Even if it’s at 10 o’clock outside and you have to improvise to use your husbands garden tools as lifting equipment. (AKA Thursday night… I would recommend actually if you’re missing a bar, a rake does just fine!)
- Write about how you’re doing – one of the reasons I decided to start this blog now. I don’t know if anyone is reading it or if it’s helpful for anyone else, but it’s been helping me process a lot of things during this crazy time.
- Speak to people regularly who bring you life and have a laugh using any kind of video app.
- The issues in my family that have ‘risen to the surface’ I’m choosing to engage in and not ignore.
- Prioritizing family time.