As someone who has suffered from anxiety her entire life, I've always found great value in following rules and sticking to a consistent routine. Even now as we adjust to a "new normal" at home (I'll be sharing my full routine soon), I find that setting some basic parameters to our daily schedule helps give us a sense of stability and ownership over our lives. Some of our new household "rules" are really just simple guidelines that help ensure we are doing everything we can to take care of ourselves during this unprecedented period. We certainly recognize how fortunate we are at this time, but my hope is that in sharing what works for us, it might catalyze your own search for normalcy and comfort. Here are a few of the things that, in the short time we've been living in this new reality, have helped our family feel a bit better:
Mornings have become something of a sacred time for our family, before the day really gets started. First thing when I wake up, I try to find some time for myself that's peaceful and calming. Some mornings, this is as simple as taking a few deep breaths and listening to the birds outside, but you can also choose your own adventure: Journal for five minutes, go for a walk, do some yoga.
The rest of my morning is spent connecting with loved ones and seeking out "joy triggers." I don't like the term social distancing—I think it should be called "physical distancing," because we should still be connecting. If you live with other people, ask them how they're feeling; and if you live by yourself, now is the perfect time to Facetime with your friends or call your family.
G and I keep our phones (but more importantly, the news) out of sight, put on fun music, and brew coffee while Sloan brings her coloring things into the kitchen so that she can play while we eat breakfast.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, one of our biggest changes has been to strictly limit unnecessary use of phones, especially in our sleeping space. While I obviously still check my phone regularly to connect with loved ones, my team, and all of you, I've turned off all news alerts. It's important to stay informed, especially as the news develops each day, but it's crucial that it doesn't become all-consuming, to the point of being detrimental to your mental health. We can't control the news or what's happening outside, but we can change the way we are absorbing it, letting it affect us, and employing our privilege to pay it forward.
G and I have decided to only take in news twice a day: once mid-morning (but not the first thing in the morning because it really sets a negative tone for your day) and once again in the early evening. When I do check the news, I set a timer for 15 minutes because, beyond that, I'm just reading clickbait and unnecessary information.
That said, as we have limited our "screentime" with our phones, we have allowed Sloan to increase hers. The other day, I wrote about how we are finding creative ways to keep Sloan active and occupied each day, but, let's be real, being able to turn on a Disney movie and tend to work emails is necessary sometimes.
If nothing else, this experience is teaching me the value of being flexible with your kids, even if that means they're watching more movies than ever before. My goal first and foremost is isolating and keeping my family, and others, safe, but, second to that, I want to make sure Sloan never feels the weight of our concerns. Every time she tells a friend she's "happy" or "excited" to be home, I feel like we're doing something right!
Every morning after breakfast, G or I take Sloan outside to get moving. We've been doing a lot of "red light, green light" because it basically has her doing wind sprints, jumping jacks, skipping, and jumping rope, as well as obstacle courses and relay races—essentially anything that gets her blood pumping and gets us both fresh air! I've been trying to do the same, whether a walk around the block or a quick workout on G's Tonal machine, since my regular hiking trails have recently been closed.
Look, this does not mean you have to put on a power suit and heels, but even just changing from old sweats into new ones makes a huge difference. Wash your face and, if you're really feeling it, even consider throwing on jeans and a bright lip. One of the moms in our daily Zoom playdate with Sloan's friends had a fun lipstick on the other day and it inspired me to do the same. Those little parts of your routine can be the most important in terms of maintaining a sense of normalcy! Plus, the 10 AM meetings hold both Sloan and me accountable to looking at least relatively pulled-together by mid-morning.
Kids like to have an idea of what they're up to any given day, so each morning, G and I walk her through her loose schedule for the day. We plan which movie she'll watch, when she'll have independent time in her room, and I give her little projects to do. The whole "it takes a village" thing even comes into play when you can't connect in person. Every day, my parents Facetime with her for an hour. They'll play imaginary games, which is one of the hardest things to do when you're tapped-out emotionally and creatively, while I go workout or hop on a work call.
This is not the time to let your inner critic get the best of you. Indulge in trashy TV (I loved Love is Blind), pour yourself a glass of wine, reconnect with people, take long baths, light candles, bake something delicious. Just remember to do the little things to take care of yourself.
Our day is really based around meals, so we start unwinding around 5 or 5:30 pm when Sloan eats her dinner. After her bath, we play with her dolls. I've always been more than happy and willing to play legos, color, and have dance parties but imaginary play has always been a little difficult for me. I had the most present, incredible mom growing up, but even she would say, "Imaginary play is for your friends." That rule has since gone out the window since I feel terrible that Sloan doesn't have the ability to play with her friends in person. After reading books and putting her to bed, I go downstairs.
At the beginning of sheltering in place, I had been reading the news then going straight into wine and TV until I realized that if I'm going to read the news, I have to follow it up with something that feels calming and meditative. So, after the news, I will literally lie down in front of our fireplace for a Headspace exercise or read in bed. At that point, G and I will begin happy hour and pour ourselves a drink, then watch something lighthearted and funny with dinner.