Surviving In Difficult Times – Give Yourself a Break

Times are tricky right now, there’s no denying it. All of our lives have changed drastically in one way or another in a very short space of time and we are all attempting to adjust to this new normal. With schools closed lots of us have our children at home with us far more than we are used to, while trying to work from home too. Some of us have been in self isolation for many weeks now, not able to see family, friends, or even nip out for a coffee alone and the affect than can have on someone’s mental health shouldn’t be underestimated. Some of us are front line workers – NHS workers, retail staff, police and fire crews, teachers, cleaners, postal workers and so many more, and I truly cannot imagine the stress and the strength that go along with that. Whether you’re picking up extra hours to help our society carry on or you’re staying home to flatten the curve and keep safe – things might be really, really tough.

The biggest change for many probably came with the school closures. Having your child/ren home 7 days a week when you’re used to them attending school or nursery for at least a few days, plus suddenly feeling solely responsible for their education is a big thing to add to your to do list. Especially if you’re balancing additionally needs/children of different ages/working from home/tolerating a partner 24/7… it is very tough! Although we have a slightly unusual education set up, Dil does usually attend Forest School three days a week and the other four days of the week we usually spend on days out with friends so it’s definitely been an adjustment for us, and I know that a lot of people will be feeling it far worse than me.

Lots of people find comfort in structure and routine which is awesome and something many people thrive on. We are not those kind of people though, and if you’re not either then that’s okay too. I think right now it’s essential that you do whatever (and I really do mean whatever) works for you and your family and helps you all to cope. That may change day to day or week to week depending on your set of circumstances and your kids, and I think it’s okay to roll with the punches and just keep adjusting wherever you need to. None of us have been in this situation before, and so none of us really have all the answers when it comes to how to cope. It’s all a little bit trial and error right now and the only aim really is survival, as shown in this handy flow chart below.

The To Do List

If you are thriving on routines, worksheets and crafts then that’s awesome – but I’m seeing an increasing amount of parents feeling the dreaded guilt for being unable to Do It All during this time. The ones beating themselves up for being unable to cope with keeping on top of the house and all of the usual list, plus now home schooling their kids, possibly working from home, maybe having no break from the people in their household, managing the stress and anxiety of a global pandemic, finding their way through the unprecedented situation of not being able to see friends or family, unable to visit places of leisure or hug loved ones, worrying about the elderly and vulnerable people in our communities, manage food shops and not run out of toilet roll, plus still have fun and make memories and all the other magical stuff. And those are just things off the top of my head, without the added social media pressures like doing PE with Joe every morning and baking banana bread. Is it really surprising that one human would struggle to excel at everything on that list?

Give Yourself A Break

I think that the most important thing to recognise right now is that things are difficult for all of us. Big changes, lots of stress, lots of unknowns and confusion – for the adults and the kids in your house. I believe it’s important to cut them and us a very big break. The bottom line is this – the world will not end if your kids spend the next 4+ weeks sitting in their pants on the sofa eating snacks, I promise you it won’t. You’re doing a great job by carrying on, regardless of how you get through each day.

Something else to remember is that learning opportunities take place every day without you even realising. If you can’t get your kids to sit at the table and do a worksheet they will still be learning loads. Baking some cakes? Get the kids to weigh and measure the ingredients. Painting a picture? Experiment with mixing colours, talk about primary and secondary. Going for a walk? Count the trees, look out for insects, discuss how flowers grow thanks to bees helping them pollinate. Eating some chocolate? Get them to count the squares as they eat. Seriously, it all works. Even as they watch TV or play on a tablet – there are hundreds of fairly educational and still entertaining shows and apps that kids can watch if you need to get some work done/empty the dishwasher/hide in the toilet.

Throughout the day different questions will come up and conversations will lead to new topics of interest. Teaching kids to pursue things that interest them – how to research, how to find more information, how to seek out books or TV shows that will teach them even more, that’s encouraging them to have a real joy for learning, and teaching them that is far more important than how to solve any maths sums.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Someone made this great point recently in my DMs and I think it’s worth mentioning here because it will really help you understand why you may be struggling to thrive in what is a really, really difficult time. With people suggesting that we use this time for self improvement by learning a new language or skill, writing a book, becoming a professional chef, or just making amazing magical memories; it’s important to recognise that the stressful situation we are in right now is just about the worst set of circumstances to try to achieve much at all.

I first studied Maslow’s Pyramid during GCSE Business Studies. It’s a motivational theory which puts our basic needs into order. Without the bottom steps of the pyramid you will never reach the top. Without having your basic needs met it is very difficult to remain motivated, to thrive, or to achieve much of anything. Most of us probably come from some level of privilege. Most of us have homes, we have running water, we probably have a bit of food in the fridge and some clothes in our wardrobe. But with the current global pandemic even some of those physiological and safety needs may feel under threat. We may have lost work, lost our jobs or businesses and be worried about where our next rent/mortgage payment is going to come from. We may be struggling to put food in the fridge. Lots of us are also struggling to be so detached from our friends and family, maybe craving intimacy from someone you aren’t able to physically connect with right now. Is it then surprising that you’re feeling low when your basic needs aren’t even being met? Is it then surprising that you don’t have the brain capacity to learn how to knit a scarf? Give yourself a break. This is temporary. Take it a day at a time, just survive this if that’s all you feel up to. You have the rest of your life to learn French and cook the perfect roasted duck. 


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Here is an important reminder. You do not have to “home school” your children every single day. You do not have to learn to be a gourmet chef and produce 5* meals with basic ingredients. You do not have to master a new instrument, learn a new language or take on any new hobbies. You don’t have to clean your house, or use this time to declutter or to redecorate. You do not have to make anything ‘magical’ or ‘special’, and anyone who makes you feel that way needs to go take a nap. This is an unprecedented situation, this is brand new territory and it is fucking hard and it is fucking scary. Your feelings, all of them, are valid. It is absolutely 100% okay if you just survive this period of time, and if you do that on a solid diet of Netflix and snacks – the world will not end. Your children will not be failed, no one will think any less of you and everything will still go back to normal eventually. Survival is the goal, keeping yourself and your family unit going in whatever way you can is the only thing you should be focusing on (obviously if doing all of the above is what’s keeping your spirits up then carry on doing that too!). If you’re struggling and you can manage any kind of self care then please do, just finding 5 minutes a day for yourself will really help. Keep talking to each other, keep seeking out help whenever you need it, and most importantly keep giving yourself a break because if you’re finding it tough then you’re not alone there. Be kind to yourself, be gentle when you’re feeling low and keep your expectations realistic. Don’t get sucked in to the need to try to achieve a long list of things, when all you have to do right now is just be. Take it one day or one hour at a time, and just keep going because everything is going to be okay ❤️ #stayhomesavelives #covid_19 #notestomothers

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