When this pandemic started, this was the most consistent and valuable advice I gave to my team at work, and to my fellow working moms and to anyone I coach who was struggling. "Give yourself Grace." By definition - being kind to yourself, patient with where you are and committed to learning and freedom instead of security. What you are capable of today is expectedly far less than you were before simply because your tools and environment have drastically changed and the level of stress 10x what it was in January.
That being said, I never took my own advice. I continued to push myself to do all the mom things, all the leader things, wife things, house things and social things. Never stopping, but never achieving the level of greatness I expected of myself - constantly let down given I know my capabilities, yet I was not reaching my goals.
It has been 7 months, I am now on caregivers leave to lead my kids through virtual school and to focus on their mental and physical self. Today we close this chapter as they return (hybrid) on Monday. Still today I struggle with giving myself the Grace I deserve. Still struggling but still reminding myself that it's about my attitude and efforts - and if they are strong and positive - I can count that as a win.
Here are are few things I have learned, I felt worth sharing:
Reset you perceptions, not necessarily your expectations. I had a therapist one time who told me to "lower my expectations." I fired her on the spot. See to me, lowering them, felt incredibly like allowing myself to fail, becoming lazy, giving up, or living a "less than" life. But the more I reflected time and time again about expectations, my perception of them. and what they mean in measuring success, I began to realize that in setting them at the highest bar for everything in life was frankly unachievable. Eventually, with hard work, yes, but all at once, in every facet of life, while knee deep in a global pandemic along with all the challenges that come with that. Not likely. It was about deciding in my mind where my energy should be strongest and where I just needed to change how I was perceiving success. So I kept expectations high on what mattered most, and changed my perceptions on what great looked like for all other things.
Do not change the goal, change how you get there. I have been a life long runner and most recently have run consistently every single day for two years. I think about it as making my energy vs. something I have to do. I love the feeling after a great run. The rush of the endorphins, the confidence that you can conquer anything. But that many miles and years on a daily schedule, and on the treadmill, during this particular time locked in our houses - led me to burn out. So I had to pivot once again. My goal would still to be fit, have energy for kids, and get back into my size 4 jeans, but during this virtual time, I needed to change it up. So instead, I started taking long walks outside with my dog (that turn to runs because I am competitive with myself), taking scooter rides, play obstacle course or man on wood chips with the kids. And in heading toward achieving my goal in a new way, I am having a ton of fun along the way.
Movement matters. Change your environment, change you mood. Moving your body pumps up your endorphins. Physical activity bumps up the production of your brain's feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins. I also remember reading one time that running actually stimulates the creation of new nerve cells and blood vessels within the brain, an organ that tends to shrink as a person ages. Also, studies have shown that running may help increase the volume of the midbrain (which controls vision and hearing) and the hippocampus (which is linked to memory and learning).You will never, not one time, regret getting up and moving your body - creating more positivity.
Short term vs long term: Where are my planners out there? Please check on us, we are not okay. Planning is like oxygen to me, I want to know at all times what we plan to do as a family, what my career has in store and what our social calendar looks like for a month out. The longer term the better actually. Quarantine has challenged these plans, temporarily tearing me from my mooring from pushing to achieve big goals and chase big dreams. I have decided now to not give up on those goals, and re-adjust my thinking on what constitutes as long and short term. A long term plan may now be surviving October, by killing it on all things that month. Short term, previously known as a month in my world, may be just today, just Zooms, maybe even healthy food, a hope to do good today and if not do better tomorrow. I still have my 10. year planner, and do not expect to dispose of it any time soon, not is much of it relevant until this season is over. But in the meantime, I will chip away those goals I can achieve - all with strong attitude and effort - still completely within my control.
You have not been here before, but you may be here again. How is this season FOR you not happening TO you. What tools can you leverage and patterns can you learn that you can pack up and take with you when we eventually exit this season?? Focusing on your learns will not only give you hope, but be mindful of the tools you are adding to your kit, to tackle even tougher or longer seasons to come.
Ask how you would treat a friend. Would you berate her that the dishes are not done or that she did not lose that last 5 lbs? Would you comfort her during the tough times, understand why she failed, support and pick her back up again? Treat yourself as you would treat every one of your friends going through this season. If even anticipate an inkling of self damaging thoughts - as yourself this question. Once I started doing this my self love was so much stronger and my ability to overcome obstacles much stronger.
Have a Plan A and Plan B. This is not advice I would give to everyone, but those of us Type A, hardwired to achieve, this could be just the flexibility we need to feel we are being productive, to keep our momentum strong. Each day I now go into it with what are the top 3 things I can complete and feel great about (kids, health, house, writing). This becomes my Plan A. But on those days I have additional energy, where time becomes is more ample, I have a second list of say 5 items, Plan B, which I will conquer. The key is knowing that both Plans are a win and that each day you need to be honest with yourself, given what structure the day has before you, what you are actually set up for success to achieve.
So in the end, there is a huge amount of relief, and of freedom on the other side of giving yourself Grace. When you leverage your growth mindset, become open to new ways of thinking about success, you give yourself permission to achieve peace and happiness.
At the beginning of this journey, I planned on blogging every day, helping each child throughout the day individually, getting my house organized, preparing and cooking all three daily meals, and on and on. In the end, while I did not achieve any of these at a time, let alone all at once, I achieved and received so much more.
Below is how I realistically spent my time - I hope it not only gives you a laugh, but inspires you that we can, and will, survive this messy life dealt to us right now.
Especially now that we know it is a marathon, not a sprint. Give yourself Grace.