Whole Family Health During the Coronavirus Crisis: 5 Simple Ways To Balance Body, Mind & Spirit
The two things that we have all heard over and over again (and with good reason) since all of this pandemic pandemonium started are “WASH YOUR HANDS!” and “STAY HOME!” As a physician, a health coach and a mom, I take these two directives very seriously. Our family has pretty much been on house lockdown since early March, and while it’s not easy to get a 6-yr-old to wash her hands on the regular, she does love singing Happy Birthday. And if this whole ordeal was going to last a week or two, maybe those two pieces of solid public health advice would be enough. But unfortunately, it looks like we are in for the long haul, and with that in mind, we are going to need some more tools in our toolbox to keep us all happy, healthy, sane and hopeful during these unprecedented and unusual (that’s an understatement) times.
Here are five simple ways I am keeping my family calm, grounded, and in the best shape we can be – physically, mentally and emotionally:
Create a Routine or Schedule: What day is it again? While it’s easy to slide into PJs-for-days, breakfast for dinner, and Groundhog Day on repeat (thank goodness for my iPhone calendar to remind me of the actual date!), creating some order amidst the chaos is good for everyone, especially kids, who thrive on routine. While I don’t have an elaborate home school schedule in place (I’m just not that kind of mom), I do have a structure to my own day, that helps get me in the right frame of mind. After waking up, I immediately do 10-15 minutes of meditation, then 30 minutes of yoga. That puts me in a much calmer, grounded state to tackle the day ahead. Then breakfast, followed by some home school, usually an Outschool session or two (so great!). My husband and I are both working from home, so some home office time while our kiddo does her own projects, then lunch, then outdoor time with the puppy, more learning, then dinner, a board game or puzzle, then bed (and then Netflix for us!). It’s not too complicated, but it keeps things from totally going off the rails. You can get your child to help make the schedule with you and stay involved in the process, post it on the fridge, just like the one they might have up in their classroom. Familiarity and knowing what to expect go a long way.
Spend Time Outside: Unless you are on strict lockdown or quarantine orders, getting outside is paramount to physical and mental health. Sunlight is a natural disinfectant, a source of immune-boosting vitamin D, and I know that getting my daily dose of whatever sunshine is left in Oregon is keeping me sane and energized. I’ve also developed a healthy appreciation for every flower and green bud I pass on my way to the deserted park. The flowers are still blooming. The sun continues to rise. The fact that nature goes on in the face of all of this human chaos is somehow reassuring.
Move Your Body: During this period of confinement, we can get to thinking that means we are confined to our couch. Far from it. And although we can’t go to our beloved gym or exercise class, there are plenty of ways to stay fit, both at home and out in nature. Go for a walk or a hike (away from other people of course – avoid popular, well-traveled areas, most of which are closed anyway). Check out one of the countless free offerings online ranging from HIIT like Orange Theory, to yoga classes, barre, pilates, dance, even Peloton has gotten in on the action – no bike or equipment required. Exercise has also been linked to improved mood, decreased depression and reduced anxiety, possibly through the release of endorphins and increased blood flow. We could all use a mood uplift right about now. Engage the whole family in a daily walk or yoga practice, make it a game for the younger ones, or for more anxious kiddos tell them it will help them build strong immune systems!
Connect With Family and Friends: Remember how we’re always trying to get our kids off of technology? Well, guess what, now we have to get back on and embrace it for allowing us to connect with our loved ones who aren’t quarantined alongside us. My mother is in Canada and my sister is in Australia, so we were used to the daily video chats. But now we are also chatting with friends around the block, using FaceTime and Messenger Kids (which my 6-yr-old mastered in no time!). And yes, while there is still such a thing as too much screen time, I am definitely relaxing my rules, especially when she’s spontaneously calling her grandmother to show her a new drawing she made. I’ve also attended several “Happy Hours” on Zoom with girlfriends as well as folks I’ve never met, all in the name of human connection. And it really does help to raise a virtual glass and commiserate about how hard all of this is, what our daily wins were, or even just the fact that you got dressed this morning.
Practice Grace and Radical Self-Acceptance: There is no question that this is a really, really, stressful and challenging time for all of us, but especially moms.
We have the responsibility of keeping the household running, cleaning, disinfecting, home schooling, cooking, and also likely holding down another job (or two). We are processing information from news sources that changes daily and can be terrifying, and we are trying to protect our kids from it all, while still giving them all the love and reassurance they need. And sometimes we are going to feel like we are failing at it. Don’t. Accept that this is our new normal and we are all just trying to get through it. You can’t fail. But also do try to take some time for yourself. Even if that just means a long, hot shower with some fancy soap or body butter. Maybe essential oils are your jam. Or a good book curled up in some unexplored corner of your house or backyard. Maybe it’s gardening. Maybe it’s a meditation practice that gets you there (I highly recommend it). Sing show tunes. Have a dance party. Express yourself creatively. Knit. Bake. Cuddle a pet. Whatever it takes to recharge your internal battery and fill your joy cup so that you can spread some of your light like a blanket over your family.
We will get though this. I promise. One day at a time.
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