Mums in lockdown faced more challenges than ever as supportive roles normally served by the community, such as schooling and childcare, were no longer available.
Daily routines that held everything together are disrupted: time seems to stretch out and the days drag. In contrast, life is more hectic than before due to the extra work that homeschooling and having the kids at home brings.
The pressure on for many women, like you, to take on extra tasks and shore up your family’s emotional wellbeing while trying to find time for yourself.
You still have to show up for those who need you, often with little respite, support or even understanding.
As a mum of two boys, I know it’s hard to keep going as the days monotonously roll into one, so this article offers a few ideas on how to manage self-care in difficult times.
Mental Health Crisis
Isolation and fear of infection have given rise to anxiety and depression during the pandemic.
According to the Office for National Statistics, the rate of adults experiencing moderate to severe depression almost doubled during lockdown from 9.7% (July 2019 to March 2020) to 19.2% (June 2020).
Women raising families are vulnerable to mental health issues if they don’t get the support they need.
The Main Stress Factors
Whether working from home or for frontline or essential services, those who juggle work with childcare may feel they are failing at both.
Furlough relieves the work pressure but brings financial worries or fear of redundancy. Maybe you simply miss the social and mental stimulation work brings.
Stay-at-home mums, you still need a break too especially if your partner is working full time and the bulk of childcare falls on you.
Couples locked down together struggle to get the necessary space that relationships need to thrive. Individuals are missing out on the hobbies, activities and time with friends that create a well-rounded satisfying life and this leads to stress and resentment.
On a brighter note, some couples have grown closer as they can dedicate more time to each other without distractions.
Parenting is hard at the best of times. Some parents may get little or no respite from children and the constant round of feeding, entertaining, soothing, and breaking up of fights they bring.
The impact on children is not to be underestimated as they experience their own stress, problems and fears. They may miss their friends, feel scared about the virus, or be upset by the change in routine and the behaviour of the adults around them.
They might act out in aggression or withdraw and feel anxious. Naturally, you want your kids to be happy but it’s tough dealing with their emotions when you are stretched to breaking point.
Running the Home: Cooking, Cleaning, Laundry
With everyone at home the workload increases – endless mountains of laundry, constant mealtimes and a stream of dirty dishes. Conflict may arise over who is not pulling their weight and even the most laid-back parent feels despair at the endless mess.
Doing it all While Staying Safe
And of course, lurking in the background is the fear of infection of ourselves, family and the people we love.
It’s easy to be hard on yourself and think that you’re failing at everything, but the truth is you are doing your best given a really difficult situation.
So, the dilemma is: how to tend to your own needs while meeting everyone else’s?
Making Space for You
Some days you might think: “It’s all good. I’ve got this" and other times it’s hard to keep your chin up and keep going. It’s not easy to step out of the maelstrom of daily life into a space of calm.
There is a tendency to get caught up with thinking you have to get everything done, but not dedicating time for you leads to burnout, which is no good for the people who need you.
Even so, what can anyone say to help when all you really want is practical support? What use are more ‘things to do’ when you just need someone to come and relieve you of your duties – even if only for a few hours - and give you peace?
It’s ok to feel overwhelmed but I invite you to believe in the possibility of finding little pockets of peace in your day.
9 Simple Self-care Strategies
Each of these requires setting a firm, but loving, boundary with children and partners and anyone else who needs you. If they complain, assure them you may be taking this time out for you, but they will reap the benefits of a calm and happier person on your return.
1 Slow Down
Take your time as you go through your day. This helps you operate from a place of calm so that you can accomplish those important tasks with a little more grace and ease. Easier said than done, it’s true.
Do you rush through each task? Maybe it makes more sense to rattle through the dishes, for example, as your mind casts ahead to the next thing. Maybe not.
Try making it a contemplative experience as you feel the soapy suds glide over the plate and watch the hot running water rinse it clear. But, perhaps you are not convinced yet. That’s ok. Let’s move on.
2 Cultivate Stillness with the Breath
The best thing to do whenever you notice your body getting tense or your mind buzzing is to focus on your breath.
A quick and easy technique is to stop what you are doing and just place your hands on your tummy, hold them there gently, relax and see what happens.
You should feel your breath naturally fall into your belly.
Diaphragmatic breathing (also known as belly breathing) is known to reduce stress and anxiety. Regular practice of breathing exercises can help you feel relaxed, lower blood pressure and even boost your immune system. [link]
3 Seek New Ideas
The constant demands of children drain even the most positive parent and it can be boring operating in their world for too long.
There’s nothing wrong with stepping out of that world once in a while. In fact, it’s mandatory if you want to stay sane.
Learning about a topic that interests you through reading or enrolling in an online course can be a great way to fill your intellectual cup.
Spending even just fifteen minutes learning a few words in a foreign language, a new recipe or anything else you find fascinating, stimulates your intellect and reminds you there’s more to life than ‘Paw Patrol.’
4 Stretch and Move
Give your busy mind a break and move your body. Gentle stretching exercises like yoga and Pilates loosen off tension and help you relax while toning your physique.
Dancing is a great way to express pent up emotions, taking you out of your head and into your body. Depending on your mood you can move slowly, really feeling the music or energetically and get your heart pumping.
Find the exercise you enjoy doing and make time for it. It will give you the headspace, time in nature and exercise in one go.
Doing yoga, meditation or breathing exercises on waking is a great habit to get into, but if you don’t have much time a few simple stretches from the comfort of your bed helps to set you up for a good day.
5 Stay Social
When you’re not on the school run or going out to work you don’t have the same casual interaction with people day to day.
It can take effort and planning to stay in touch with friends – especially when you are busy taking care of your family - but you need your friends.
And they need you.
The simple act of reaching out to a friend will not only give you that connection but may lift her spirits too. It’s hard to extend yourself when you feel like turning inward, but other women feel the same as you.
So, have courage and open your heart to a friend by making a Facetime call, sending a message, an email, or even a letter (there is something personal about a physical, handwritten letter that makes it such a joy to receive).
6 Shower or Bath
When you are agitated or out of sorts a shower can wash away negativity leaving you feeling refreshed not only in body, but in spirit.
Adjust the temperature depending on how you feel. Take a warm shower to rinse off a bad day or if you really want to shake things up and flip the script try a blast of cold water, Wim Hoff style. ‘wim hoff’ https://www.wimhofmethod.com/
Submerging yourself in a warm bath– with optional bath salts or bubbles - might be all the therapy you need when you are down.
Isolation and the lack of touch has been difficult for many. The warm water surrounding your body feels nurturing and can stimulate your tactile sense when you haven’t got a partner or supportive adult around to give you a hug.
7 Indulge your Senses
Noisy kids can be a sensory overload and it’s easy for sensation to become a blur when you’re rushing around thinking about the next task and the one after that. But making space to delight your senses lifts your spirits and reduces stress.
This might include:
Aromatherapy: Create a relaxing mood after a busy day with your choice of essential oils in your diffuser or massaged gently into tired feet with a carrier oil like almond or jojoba Calming essential oils include lavender, patchouli, ylang ylang, rose and bergamot
Resting your eyes in the evening from the glare of screens and chilling out by candlelight
Listening to your favourite music (option to dance along)
Enjoying the sight of beautiful flowers - smelling them is also known to reduce stress
Taking time to enjoy each sip of tea, bite of chocolate or taste of your favourite food
8 Stroll in Nature
Nothing reduces stress and refreshes your soul like being in nature. Depending on where you live you might be able to walk through the forest, hike up a hill, stroll along the beach, or wander by the river.
If it’s safe to do so, take your shoes off and feel the ground directly on the soles of your feet. [link to grounding article]
Even a few minutes pottering in your own backyard can be soothing – just be aware that the garden doesn’t become another ‘project.’
Or for those living in the town without access to private outdoor space, visit your local park.
Find nature where you can and appreciate it. As little as being outside beneath the wide-open sky can be enough to connect you to the natural world and bring you back to center.
9 Crystals Can Help
Crystals have healing properties that can reduce stress and increase well-being. Read our introduction to crystals to find out more. [Link]
These ideas are simply suggestions and not all will appeal to you, but you deserve to feel the love that you give to others.
Express this love by showing up for yourself each day, even in the smallest of ways. In time, perhaps, you’ll be surprised at how your ability to deal with the daily struggle improves.
Lockdown Mum, you are responsible for so many more roles than you signed up for, but that doesn’t mean you have to collapse under the weight of them. You can still be strong, still be you, and still work towards your dreams while being there for everyone else.
Hopefully, we are nearly there now, not long until the children go back to school, less than 2 weeks.... We got this!