Months ago, it would have been hard to imagine life now—closed schools, social distancing with loved ones, and mom and dad left to work, teach, and parent simultaneously. Add in a suffering economy, the scare of the virus, and talks of a second wave in the fall—it can all feel very overwhelming. So how do we carry on and care for ourselves and our families during these trying times?
We’ve tapped Suzy Reading, Chartered Psychologist, yoga instructor, and author of Self-Care for Tough Times: How to Heal in Times of Anxiety, Loss & Change to share some wisdom for parents during this period of quarantine.
How to avoid stress and burnout
While many of us are at the brink of burnout, Suzy affirms that we must go gentle on ourselves. She says, “Compassion is essential. With so many competing demands and genuine worries, we need to temper expectations of ourselves, our output and standard of work, and cut ourselves some slack when it comes to parenting practices.” This means loosening screen time rules when needed and being at peace with bored kids. She also wants parents to give themselves permission to attend to work. “This is how we keep a roof above our heads and model for our kids how we can make a contribution to the world.”
With tight schedules and lots to accomplish each day, Suzy recommends “pockets” of quality time and connection. “It’s amazing how powerful just five minutess of joyful connection can be,” she reminds us.
What to say to your kids during this period of uncertainty
Suzy recommends having an open but age appropriate dialogue with your kids so that they feel in the loop. Sharing our feelings with our kids can also help validate their own, letting them know they aren’t alone and their emotions are normal. Suzy explains, “This is a powerful opportunity to explore our feelings and build a soothing toolkit of practices together that help us identify our feelings, express ourselves, and move through our emotions in safe ways.”
TIP: Keep the conversation around quarantine positive and constructive: “We are safe at home” vs “We are stuck at home.”
The importance of building a self-care toolkit
In Suzy’s new book, she delves into the world of self-care, explaining how self-care is really health care, nourishing our heads, hearts, and bodies. It’s importance to our well-being cannot be understated, especially under current circumstances. “These nourishing practices help us cope in tough times, they help us restore and heal from big emotions and challenging experiences, and they give us a protective buffer against future stress. They also give us access to our best selves which is so vital in these close quarters!”
Building a self-care toolkit is a great activity the whole family can participate in. To get started, Suzy suggests you, “Make a mind map of all the things that make you feel lively or calm and hang it on the wall. Different things will appeal to different people and you’ll need different things in different moments too, so having lots of choice helps.”
“You can think of self-care like a deposit in your energy bank,” says Suzy. “Your energy bank basics are food, hydration, movement, sleep, rest, social connection, time in nature and fun! So self-care can be anything from curling up with a book, listening to a guided relaxation, enjoying the scent of baking cookies, making a nature collage, or having a kitchen karaoke session.” It’s important to fill up your energy bank not only for yourself but for your family, too.
How to use yoga and breathing during tough times
One meaningful way to fill your energy bank with movement is through yoga and breathing exercises. Together, they have the power to change how you feel and build your mindfulness muscles to help you manage your thoughts and emotions, says Suzy. Yoga is a great activity for little ones. “Kids enjoy movement, so yoga is naturally appealing to them. Yoga can uplift and energise, help you focus or calm you down—different poses for different goals. Try a warrior pose to feel courageous, a tree pose to help you concentrate, legs up the wall to help you relax or a child’s pose to calm you down in preparation for sleep.”
Self-Care for Tough Times: How to Heal in Times of Anxiety, Loss & Change is available now as an ebook before its 2021 print publication.
Suzy is a mother of two, an author, Chartered Psychologist and Coach. She specialises in self-care, helping people manage their stress, emotions, and energetic bank balance. It was her life experience of motherhood colliding with the terminal illness of her father that sparked her passion for self-care which she now teaches to her clients, young and old, to cope during periods of stress, loss and change and to boost their resilience in the face of future challenges.