WARNING: This blog may be a bit long, but please read the whole thing slowly.
Effects of Sheltering in Place
My younger friends, who have children, have expressed they are very stressed and feel like failures. Lately, I been very critical of myself. I have repeatedly chastised myself for what I perceive to my gross inefficiency – it took me 3 weeks to reorganize my home office/yoga space – REALLY?.
Overnight, the world has shifted, but our expectations for ourselves and others have not budged. We still think we can and must do it all, which is not only ridiculous, but impossible.
Our responsibilities have shot through the roof, but each day is still only 24 hours long. Take a look at what is really happening in our lives as we shelter in place. All at once, without a break, while trapped in our homes we are:
1. Working from home
2. Caring for children
3. Educating our children
4. Spending way more time with our significant others
7. Spending more time cleaning because our houses are dirtier because we are home 24/7
8. Doing laundry
9. (Trying to find time to finish “Tiger King”)
10. Taking care of pets
12. Mowing the yard
Perfection is HOGWASH
Growing up, I was expected to be “perfect.” An A- on a report card was unacceptable; in fact, nothing was good enough. These expectations became deeply rooted in me and became a part of everything I did. As an adult, a well-intentioned friend once told me I was a juggler and I need to make sure none of the balls ever dropped. This advice fed my unending quest for perfection. Then, a tiny seed was planted by one of my mentors, Susan Paquet. Susan was an amazingly wonderful person and a highly respected attorney. She told me that sometimes you do not have to do an A+++++ job, it’s okay to perform at a B- or C level. WOW!!! What a concept.
As my life continued, perfection became more difficult to achieve, and my search for perfection left me very anxious, stressed out, and exhausted. Then, I found yoga (or maybe yoga found me.)* My yoga practice continues to be an experience through which I learn new and more effective life skills. All of which means, I am now calmer, happier, and more productive. Yoga may not be your answer, but my point is that if I can change, you can change.
Forming New Beliefs
Each of can make our lives easier now and post COVID19 by slowly changing what we believe. Based upon my personal experiences, recognizing and accepting the following truths will help us to shift:
1. We have created unrealistic and unattainable expectations for ourselves and others.
2. Because we are the ones who have created these ridiculous expectations, we have the power to replace them with more realistic and healthy goals.
3. With the idea that you will not accomplish everything on the list, each day, on an actual piece of paper, write out a to-do list. The list will help you prioritize and to feel confident you have not forgotten anything. Crossing out items on the list is rewarding.
4. We will never be perfect.
5. We all make mistakes all time, which is okay.
6. Mistakes are an opportunity to learn.
7. Feel grateful.
8. Stop judging and criticizing yourself and others.
9. Be gentle with yourself and others.
10. Recognize your accomplishments several times a day. For example – tell yourself “I made a great lunch for the family today.”
11. Things are not good or bad – they just are.
Importance of Quiet Minds
I am able to hear God when my mind is quiet. Needless to say, I have learned some awesome things during these times. For me, quieting my mind is like cleaning my house – I get rid of useless junk and make space to listen and to receive Divine information.
Our brains become clogged and stay on hyperdrive because we are busily trying to accomplish our unrealistic goals. We cannot focus, and we become stressed and inefficient, which leads to more stress. So, an important component of changing our beliefs is to quiet our minds.
Quieting our Minds
Meditation helps me to focus and to feel better. I encourage you to google “meditation” to learn the positive effects of meditation and different meditations you can try.
Breathing is another tool I use to quiet my mind. I know that throughout the day, when I become overwhelmed, I can calm my body and clear my mind by taking a few moments to 1) breathe slowly and deeply and 2) to focus on my breath.
The following are some suggestions for breathing which can be done anywhere at any time:
1. Slow and Deep Breathing
a. Close your eyes
b. Start by inhaling deeply through your nose and exhaling an open mouth.
c. When you are breathing, concentrate on your breath – on the inhale picture your breath travelling up from your belly to your lungs and on the exhale picture your breath going down from your lungs to your belly.
d. On the inhale, your belly should expand and on the exhale your belly should contract.
e. A double exhale is very calming.
2. 4-7-8 Breath
a. Close your eyes
b. Inhale for 4 counts
c. Hold for 7 counts
d. Exhale for 8 counts
e. Repeat 8+ times
3. Alternate-nostril breathing.
a. See https://chopra.com/articles/nadi-shodhana-how-to-practice-alternate-nostril-breathing for instructions
Finally, please remember you cannot take care of other people unless you take care of yourself first.