This three-part series is authored by Shalyn Bravens (read part 1 here and part 2 here), Director of Family Connects Texas. Shalyn has been with United Way for Greater Austin for more than two years and launched the Family Connects Texas initiative in Austin. Shalyn received her MSSW from the University of Texas and has expertise in family support that spans beyond her time at United Way.
Shalyn is also a mom raising two young boys with her husband. Some of the tips referenced in this blog involve help from her husband and may not be applicable to everyone’s lifestyle. Take it away, Shalyn!
I want to acknowledge that my ability to transfer my job to an entirely work-from-home situation is an enormous privilege. If you have lost your job or income and are struggling to meet your family’s basic needs, that comes first before anything else. There are many people and organizations in our community that have stepped up to help, and you can find them by searching on ConnectATX.org or by calling 2-1-1.
I’m not the first to say that regular self-care for parents during this time will be critical to the well-being of the whole family. But let’s be honest, self-care was a challenge to fit in for most of us when our lives were predictable. We could physically go to a gym, and we could see our friends in person. The usual strategies just will not work right now, so we need to think outside the box.
My self-care plan has evolved over the last few weeks, and I wanted to share what has been working for me with you:
Get enough sleep.
Without the daily commute and change of scenery, it was hard for me to recognize when to go to sleep in the first week of being at home. I was also feeling pretty anxious about everything going on and as soon as my body was still, my mind started racing.
I’ve done three things that help:
- I set myself a bed time, just like the kids. I aim to be in bed by 10 p.m.
- I catch my worried thoughts, say hello to them, and set them aside as they are not serving me.
- I use a little melatonin on those nights when I lay in bed for a while without falling asleep.
Make time to exercise.
I liked to run before we had kids, but haven’t been a regular runner in about 4 years. COVID-19 has changed that! Now I go on daily runs when the weather allows right after the kids go down for a nap. It has helped me immensely. It also doubles as alone time, podcast listening time, and time to be outside in the fresh air. Allow yourself to not feel pressure to institute new workout routines if this isn’t a stress reliever for you. I personally need to sweat the stress out!
Digest the facts.
When things are uncertain, I crave information. NPR is my go-to source, and their UpFirst daily podcast is a life-line to the outside world that keeps me informed. It’s also bite-sized enough that I don’t feel overwhelmed. Share age-appropriate facts with your kids as well. My three year old asked, “How did the virus get here?” and that shows me that even little kids are in-tune to what’s going on and information will help calm their fears.
Prepare as a family.
I planned to be at home together for a while, but it took me a little longer to realize that we might actually get sick, too. We know to buy groceries for a few weeks if you can, and eat the food that will go bad early first. Have necessary medication, soup and crackers, and clear liquids on hand in case anyone in your family does get sick – by the end of this a lot of us will have gotten sick. I even took this as the final push to get us to make our wills. A lot of families already have one, but if not, there are lots of free resources to help – we used the Tomorrow app. My approach is to be prepared for the worst and hope for the best.
Parenting is a challenge all of the time, but we all have reasons to be thankful as well. I have been endlessly impressed by my three-year-old’s ability to do so many things for himself lately! My 18-month-old has been using dozens of new words and it is exciting to watch his development even more now that we are home. When things feel extra stressful, I try to reflect on these thoughts to bring me back to the present moment.
We are in this together. Be kind to each other. I hope some of these ideas from my blog series can help you get some work done while keeping everyone happy and healthy. Stay home and wash your hands.
What are you doing to stay sane during these challenging times? Let us know in the comments.