We are in a very, very hard season of our lives. Plain and simple. The uncertainty and overwhelm is real. Running a household, homeschooling children, getting work done, being in a partnership (for some of us), taking care of older loved ones (either in our own homes or away from us) and managing our own fears and anxiety through all of this not knowing what the next day, week or month will look like—is very unfamiliar territory for all of us.
I am in the thick of this myself. Yesterday evening I went to bed with tears in my eyes after I returned from our local downtown and saw the impact firsthand this global pandemic is having on the small businesses we have fondly visited for years.
And often what many of us end up doing at 8:30 pm once the kids are finally in bed is binge watch TV or scroll through social media (or both at the same time!), simply to tune everything else out. There are moments when that comedy show you’re looking forward to watching is just the thing you need to relax before getting ready for a good night’s sleep.
And there may be other moments when that isn’t the best thing for our hearts and bodies. When our heart might be craving something else, something more soulful—but we are too tired, depleted and overwhelmed to even pay attention to that voice inside of us, let alone act on it.
Fear, anxiety and uncertainty can be incredible levers to tap into our purpose, creativity and contribution. It is hard to make space and time for acting on and processing your emotional energy when we are already feeling so maxed out—I fully get it and experience it myself too, almost daily. Yet in so many ways, valuing the parts of ourselves that want to feel seen, nurtured and cared for which may give us more energy and space to attend to our work, families and everything in between.
Here are some ways we can try to attend to that creative, purposeful and joyful part of ourselves during quarantine.
1. Reflect on what you may be called to do
Think of your life before COVID-19 or perhaps even before you had kids. Don’t add any constraints yet—simply go into daydreaming mode.
What are the problems in the world that need to be solved? Where, inside those problems, do you feel called to contribute? What messages does the world need to hear more loudly? What do you feel like creating and making (I am not referring to mac and cheese for your toddler, FYI)?
You don’t need to go on a retreat to answer these questions. Just grab a journal and spend five minutes writing down or reflecting on these questions in the shower or while brushing your teeth. Keep it simple yet give yourself permission both to dream and to feel all parts of yourself—without judgment.
2. Now narrow down the list
You can add some constraints and get more specific here. Pick something from your list that you can make progress on with only one to two hours a week to start. Pick something that makes you feel alive but won’t feel like one more thing on your list.
Here are some ideas to help you get started:
Volunteer: Find an opportunity to lend a (virtual) hand in your community.
Make art: You may have always wanted to paint or build something. Remember that scrapbook you always wanted to create? Time to go for it now. All you have to do is start by dedicating a few minutes two nights a week.
Write: No, I am not talking about writing the next NYTimes bestseller. Maybe a blog post or even a simple yet meaningful social media post. Your voice matters now more than ever.
Cooking: Did you always want to learn more about Thai cooking or how to make pizza from scratch? If so, the weekends may be your chance to nurture that part of yourself. And who knows—it may turn into a fun date night with leftovers your kids will actually enjoy.
Movement: Note, I didn’t use the word ‘exercise’ as I’d encourage you to think about this in terms of movement that helps you experience joy and connection to yourself. Dance for 10 minutes between meetings or do a restorative yoga session before bed.
Strengthen relationships: Sure, you can’t grab dinner with your best friend this week, but perhaps you can send her a handwritten note or set up an intentional video chat at night with your favorite beverage once all kids are in bed so you can connect over something meaningful from the week.
3. Plan in advance
Now here’s the thing, you need to prioritize and plan somewhat in advance so when the kids are all tucked in, you don’t just pick up your phone to read the latest news. Create a list of five-minute, 10-minute and 30-minute activities so you have options to choose from.
Planning is what will help you execute. You’ll be prepared with yeast in your pantry so you can try out that new bread recipe you found because of planning. Yes, I know the laundry and dishes are piling up and it may feel more efficient to get those done once the kids are in bed, taking the time to write one note a week or to try one new recipe a month may give you that much-needed dose of joy and connection that you might be craving.
4. Hold yourself accountable
Find a friend or join an online community to find the momentum you need to keep going toward something that feels meaningful to you and brings you joy.
There will likely be weeks with no room for anything outside of your to-do list—but in between the busy days, I hope that you also find days and weeks with a few small moments of calm and purpose to remind you of your own power, wisdom and brilliance in making our world a better place.
We are all in this together and collectively we will come out braver, kinder and more connected as a human species—forever.