5 changes that helped me stay positive in the pandemic
As I reflect on the past year, I can confidently say that I’m in my most positive headspace. I can attribute that to the challenges I faced at the beginning of the pandemic, and the realization in this process of how I had been neglecting MYSELF all these years. Honestly, the pandemic has helped put things in perspective. Most importantly, it has drawn attention to my physical and mental well-being.
As a woman I am the focal point of the family and a lot of the responsibility naturally falls on me. In the past I’ve been lucky to have had support from wonderful nannies, friends and my parents when they’ve flown down at the drop of a hat from a far off country. But with the pandemic most of us have been on our own trying to juggle. “Of course I can do it all”, the supermom in me has always believed. From my 8-year-old yelling every 15 minutes for help with his school work, to my 4-year old’s favorite question every morning “What will I do now?”, to attending back-to-back office meetings, to getting lunch and dinner on the table — being pulled in different directions has been my life for over a year now. But, barely 2 months into this new stay at home routine I noticed significant changes, both physically and mentally. My sleep was disturbed, I was moody, felt general irritability and fatigue — to sum it up I just didn’t feel like my usual self. The tipping point was when my son said “Mommy doesn’t like to laugh and play with us anymore” — this made me pause and acknowledge that something was amiss.
I knew I had to make a change. Unlike before where I was getting ready every morning and stepping out for work, socializing with colleagues and friends on a regular cadence, reading a book on the daily ferry ride, there wasn’t one thing I was doing for myself. Not focusing on my well-being also impacted other aspects of my life — I wasn’t enjoying the extra family time as there was always a running to-do list on my mind; my impeccable planning skills were now haphazard and a general feeling of being overwhelmed had taken over. So I started by making some changes to my routine, but the one change that has had the most profound impact was carving out some time for myself every day. On days when its super crazy, spending even as little as 20 minutes by myself has had a positive impact on my productivity and mood.
Drawing from all the changes I made along the way that have now become habits, I’m sharing my recommendations in hopes that these resonate and help people through these unprecedented times.
1. Focus on yourself — Go for a walk, read a book, watch a TV show or movie — take some time out for yourself to unwind/relax/unplug. I know it’s hard to find time when you are responsible for everybody and everything. I try to wake up 45 minutes earlier than usual to sneak in my yoga and exercise routine. At night before bed I do a 15-minute meditation routine. So I don’t forget to mention, I recently got my first ever pedicure — it was on a whim but trust me it felt so good.
2. Savor the little moments — Be present in the “moments that matter” — For me these range from breakfast conversations with my 8-year old without having to worry about missing the school bus, or getting myself out the door on time for the train; answering my 4-year old’s questions at lunch; playing a matching animals card game with the family every evening; or, picking out new alphabets for word formations at the dinner table. Being present in these moments is something I don’t take for granted.
3. Plan ahead –Make a to-do list and prioritize. You can plan for one day or one week at a time, whatever works better for you. Make sure you also look through a retrospective lens to figure out what approach is working vs not. In the initial weeks of the pandemic I was honestly trying to keep my head above the water. My focus was on understanding my family’s needs (e.g., school schedules, our office meetings, meal times, grocery delivery times). I initially started with one day and now we like to plan a week ahead in advance, but of course there are curve balls — let me just say that I am better at handling them now than ever before.
4. Credit yourself — Give yourself kudos, seriously do it now — trust me it’s reassuring! You are the anchor of the family, taking care of everyone around you and still keeping your sanity. As woman I feel we don’t give ourselves enough credit for what we do and how we touch people’s lives around us. I constantly tell myself what a great job I do and this helps me prepare for what lies ahead. I also don’t forget to remind women around me on how fantastic they are.
5. Practice gratitude — I think this is very important. Take a few moments and be grateful for what you have. The pandemic has been terrible for a lot of people — from losing their jobs, their homes and worst of all their loved ones. I count my blessings and say thank you every night before I go to bed. Having a job, a house to keep my family safe, and precious time to connect with loved ones is something I cherish more than ever.