We are in strange times–uncharted waters.
First, I want you to know that it’s okay if you’re falling apart. Right now grief is warranted, rage is warranted, fear is warranted, and our greatest love is warranted too. Every giant, conflicted feeling has its place as we all learn to navigate a global crisis. For those who were already struggling with mental health challenges this new obstacle may feel insurmountable, or you may feel that you are strangely prepared for an external crisis having gathered so many tools to deal with an internal one. Either way we are called upon to meet the unexpected from the small, solitary spaces of our homes. Our worlds are made tiny by the virus sweeping our planet but they are also blown open as we connect with every other human being confronting the same unbelievable events.
It is hard to know what self-care looks like in the midst of a pandemic. It may be that the things you were previously doing to care for yourself are no longer available and it may be that you can’t summon up the energy to put new systems into place. It is okay to be in survival mode right now. The internet is ablaze with ideas to occupy your time: online courses! Online exercise! Online rides at amusement parks! Home school curriculum! Readings lists! It goes on and on and on. And that can feel overwhelming. Suddenly we feel as if we must be seizing the moment and DOING something to better ourselves or advance ourselves or enrich ourselves. Maybe we don’t need to be doing anything at all except tending to the things that are essential: eating, sleeping, caring for the members of our household, lowering our expectations, doing whatever we have to do to pass the time (even if that means hours on the iPad or watching TV).
Caring for yourself right now might mean becoming an anthropologist in your own life—a person who is tasked with observing the present moment and making note of it. There might be space later to make sense of it all but it doesn’t have to make sense now. I find myself experiencing a strange feeling of dissociation on my walks through the neighbourhood. Everything looks the same, the weather is glorious, the cherries are blooming…yet everything feels ominous. It’s a bizarre juxtaposition and all I can do is observe it and then go home to make macaroni for my kids in an attempt to make the day feel normal for them. I suddenly have a chance to be present with my children that I didn’t have before in our busy day to day lives. That is sometimes a gift and sometimes a burden that I’m not sure how to carry.
Self care might mean staring out the window. The birds in my backyard are going about their lives oblivious to everything happening in the human world. This is a welcome distraction. I get out my binoculars and my bird book and try to identify them. My kids and I collect materials on our walk to create a bird “hardware store” full of sticks and dried grass, moss and fluff, that the birds might carry away to build nests. I like this activity. It makes me feel that I’m contributing to the continuation of the natural world. In a time of so much uncertainty I like that birds are still building nests and my children seem to like it too.
Self care might mean crying. It’s okay to take time to grieve and cry and work through the emotions that inevitably crop up in difficult times. It’s easy to think that we should all be diving into the tasks we’ve been putting off: cleaning out closets and cupboards, organizing the family photos, reading that book you’ve had on your nightstand for a year. But it’s okay if you can’t do those things right now. It’s okay if this doesn’t feel like some cosmic vacation that has gifted you unexpected freedoms from responsibility. For many of us with children our list of responsibilities just grew immensely. Suddenly you may be caring for children at home full time while working from home as well. It may be that you had only recently achieved some balance in your life and that balance is suddenly gone. It’s okay to flounder. It may be that you will need some time just to regulate your nervous system and find your footing. I find that as time goes on the acute panic is beginning to subside and the days are taking on a new form and structure. As I adapt to a new schedule there are moments that feel completely normal, but then the reality of this pandemic breaks through and I must meet it and find ways to quell the associated anxiety. I do this by ticking through my list of gratitudes like prayer beads: I am grateful for the internet that allows me to stay connected to my friends and family, I am grateful for the good weather that allows me and my children to enjoy the outdoors, I am grateful that I bought toilet paper right before this happened in a fortunate stroke of luck…
It’s not much but it helps a little, enough at least to get on with my day and the fundamental tasks that must be completed. I guess what I’m saying that it’s okay to be doing very little. And while it’s hard to give up the prevailing message that we must all remain eternally productive no matter what is going on in the world, it’s okay to be still. I will be posting tips and resources for navigating mental health challenges over the next while, but for now I just want you to have permission to do nothing. Just being in the immensity of this moment is enough.
The Pacific Post Partum Support Society is still open during this time and while all our staff are currently working from home we are still here to support you. Please call in if you need support at 604-255-7999. We will check messages every half hour during our regular operating hours and someone will get back to you. If you are looking for support please call in rather than using the comment section of the blog as the comments are not frequently monitored.