Reality Checks and Lessons from Self-Isolation
There was an email. Then a phone call urgently reminding me to check out email. A child in my son’s class tested positive for Covid-19. Now my son has to self-isolate for the next two weeks and get a Covid test done. My first thought – what about my self-care? Women are the most deeply affected by this pandemic, especially where child care is concerned. This is true in my house too. When my son isn’t in school, it’s my life that gets jarred the most. Even though I work, I still carry the heavier load where child rearing and the household are concerned[i].
Before I get too far into my story there’s something I want to be made clear right now: I have a wonderful partner who’s actively engaged in our child’s life. He contributes around the house and is super handy. I do not experience abuse at his hands or words. I am very privileged. What I’m about to share is not a knock at my husband or men individually, it’s about a cultural bias that we’ve all bought into and how I’ve learned to not break underneath it.
When the pandemic secured it’s spot in Canada back in March, children in Ontario were told to stay home from school. Through virtual appointments I was able to continue to provide care to my patients and pivot so that we were not affected financially (another privilege of mine that doesn’t go unnoticed or unappreciated).
Only now I had to run my business WHILE having my child home. A child with many questions about Covid, who missed his social interactions deeply, and needed more of me than usual (physically and emotionally). Many of my friends were doing this with two, three, and four children vying for their attention.
Simple things like my own lunch time turned into something completely different – it took more time, more thought, and more clean up. Suddenly I was in jeopardy of losing my alone time, rest time, and self-care time.
That’s not to mention my own mental health strains – my granny is ninety, my parents are in their seventies; how will my business be impacted by the economy when all of this is said and done…
Slowly we found a new groove. Summer brought opportunity for safe connections and social interactions. The numbers started to decline and the new normal stopped being such a drain on me mentally and physically.
Part of the new groove was shuffling my priorities and my schedule. Some of the planned projects got put on hold, or were removed from the queue altogether. My mental health and self-care took a higher rung on the ladder along with playing with my child, watching movies and taking naps.
I learned how to Delegate, Delay, and Delete.
These three D’s aren’t new to me per se. When my patients and clients are overwhelmed, I encourage them to look at their schedule with these three D’s in mind regularly.
When we take on more, either voluntarily or forcefully, we must remember to put other things down. Otherwise, the weight of it all will bury us.
Thankfully, this time I was faster at implementation than I was back in March.
To delegate some tasks means that we have to admit that we’re at capacity. That can be hard for some people. Showing vulnerability isn’t always well practiced. To say to their partner “I need your help right now” can be very uncomfortable. It also means that we have to give up control – eek. Yep, the dishwasher will likely get loaded all wrong and it may need to be run twice (either to finish the dishes because they don’t fit as many in a load as we do or because they put so many in without rinsing them that twice is what’ll make em clean). The laundry may stay in baskets for the week until they’re dug out, worn, and need to be washed again; everyone will wear wrinkled clothes for a bit. If that thought makes you want to puke, then read on.
Delaying some responsibilities or commitments is another great strategy to temporarily redistribute the load. Sure it would be nice to keep up with all of the things. But you committed to those things under different circumstances that you’re in now. Give yourself some grace and reschedule some projects, meetings, or committees to later.
A quick note here about other people’s reaction to your making room for yourself. Someone is sure to say “Kerri, we’re all struggling right now, you don’t’ see me shirking responsibilities do you?” and that can leave you questioning this strategy. Look, the only people that get wound up about me setting boundaries, are those who benefit from my lack of boundaries.
I will not longer be shamed into thinking that my basic needs are not important. They are THE most important thing in my schedule. Without them, I cannot show up for my child, my partner, my family, my friends, or my patients at my best. Since serving others is a deep value of mine, I need to take care of me in order to take care of them. Simple as that. Sometimes my setting boundaries forces them to briefly see that they don’t do it for themselves, and instead of setting their own boundaries, they challenge mine. That’s okay. It’s their process. My job is to manage my own boundaries, not theirs. I can feel compassion for them because I’ve been there. I wish them well from my side of my boundary.
To Delete some things altogether can be very empowering. I realized that I was doing many of the items on my schedule because I thought that I ‘should’. It’s like when I was still stuck in diet culture and I ate certain foods because they were ‘good’ for me, not because I actually enjoyed them. It was so freeing to just say “I don’t like kale or quinoa” and to stop trying to find a way to choke them down. There are plenty of other wonderful foods that give me great nutrition and taste amazing. I’ll stick to those thank you very much. Same thing with the rest of my life.
How many things do you do around your house because that’s how it was done when you were a kid? I encourage you to ask yourself “Is this really important to ME? Or am I on auto-pilot here?”. Maybe you do certain things for fear that others will think badly of you if you don’t. At least become aware of your real motivation behind your actions. That in and of itself can free you up to choose for yourself.
One of the major obstacles to implementing the three D’s is knowing what you value in order to prioritize. In my Living Life As A Rebel course the very first thing that we do is figure out our values. Very few of us have ever really considered what ACTUALLY matters to US. Values are often adopted from others telling us what SHOULD matter to us and then we’re left overwhelmed, unfulfilled and unmotivated.
If I had to put this into steps it would look like this:
- Uncover your values. Do some heavy lifting and get clear on what you value most.
- Prioritize your schedule to reflect those values. Put those important things first and then fill in the blanks with other stuff.
- Be sensible and realistic with your expectations. I always hated scheduling because it forced me to see that I had too much on my plate. Instead of facing the reality that I had to delegate, delay or delete, I would avoid scheduling. That let me live the fantasy that I could do it all (work, parent, self-care, date my hubby, look after the house, see my friends, take up a hobby, work out, cook everything from scratch…). It also left me feeling like I wasn’t good enough in any area of my life.
- Protect your value actions. If family time is important, then protect.
- Understand that every time that you say yes, you’re saying no to something else. Very often that no is to yourself. Your basic needs are important and need to be met. Sleep is a basic need. Food is a basic need. Rest, intimacy, connection…all basic needs. Say yes to those more often.
Wow, that turned into a much longer essay than I had intended. This is just so important right now.
The world is talking about quarantine weight gain, stress eating and the health impacts of that. New Year’s weight loss ads are starting to flood our media and inboxes.
It would be easy to add a new plan in place and call it a ‘healthy lifestyle change’ forgetting that it’s simply adding to an already stressed system. The plan is doomed because it doesn’t start with your values. It doesn’t consider your time constraints, your emotional bandwidth or your mental well-being.
Isn’t it time to do things differently?