By Melissa Griffin
It seems like many people are using our current social distancing requirements as an opportunity to learn new things, be more creative or hone a skill. At least that’s the picture being painted on social media. That’s not the case for me as a full-time mom and full-time employee. Maybe you’re feeling a similar, just-below-the-surface type of panic. There’s not enough time in the day. There’s not enough energy. And so on.
Those of us who are blessed to continue working, despite the chaos, have to get really creative. But finding creativity under pressure can be stressful. Many of us not only have to be creative in what we do, but also in how and when we do it. It’s an overwhelming task, juggling all of our responsibilities simultaneously.
My husband was deemed essential, and it’s difficult seeing him leave for work every morning as if it’s any other day in our lives. I tried, at first, to work from home and “mom” at the same time. When I realized that my toddler wouldn’t take well to me working all day, I needed to get creative with my scheduling. I started waking up earlier, working during his naps in the afternoon and working after he goes to bed at night. I was working on Saturdays and Sundays when my husband is home and our son is well cared for and occupied. Then I realized that work was consuming all of what should have been my free time. I was burning out fast.
I decided that what’s best for everyone, including me, is to evaluate my expectations of myself. Frankly, I needed to prioritize me. I also needed to come up with some easy ways to shake off the stress and enjoy myself while handling my work life inside of my home life.
No doubt you’ve heard these tried-and-true solutions before, but maybe now the stakes are high enough for you to give them a real try. It’s time to get some stress relief, bust up the creative blocks and increase your productivity. Understanding that not everyone is a trained artist, not everyone feels free enough to spend their time creating art in order purge themselves of the stress they’re experiencing right now, here are some things that anyone can do to get some relief immediately.
Cures for the pressures of our “new normal” may include:
Declutter Your Space
Working from home often means working in a space that wasn’t meant for work. Cleaning up your surroundings (like bills, laundry, paperwork, your kids’ toys, etc.) can mean freeing your mind of the pressure the clutter represents.
Kitchen tables, couches, beds, and countertops are often cluttered by regular life activities, and now we’re trying to squeeze work life onto those surfaces too! It’s starting to all blend together, and there’s a good chance we’ve misplaced our sanity somewhere in that mess. Let’s clean it up! It only takes a few minutes to tidy things up, and you’ll gain immediate release from the stress.
Music, Music, Music
Music is my favorite stress reliever, especially if it’s coupled with dancing! It's good for the body and the mind.
Yesterday, I spent the late afternoon on the floor with my toddler, playing in our blanket “boat” he built for us and listening to old classics from Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and little Fats Domino. It was fun to share these old favorites and tell him about the fond memories I have of being his age on a swing in my grandparents’ backyard. While my grandfather sang songs like “Summertime” and “Blueberry Hill” for us, my grandmother would sit next to me quietly reminiscing.
Sharing with my son like this was a stress-free way to end an otherwise “new normal” day.
Forget about it!
Do something completely different like take a walk, doodle (try our #chalkthewalktangi program—find it on our Facebook page), play with your pets, make a paper hat, write a letter to a friend or exercise.
I like to color with my toddler. He loves the quality interaction, and it’s calming for both of us.
Expert tip: Don’t keep work on your mind while you’re doing a “Forget about it!” activity. Reason #1: Your toddler will know! Reason #2: The point is to put down that which is stressing you out—not to carry it around in your head.
Try your hardest to make yourself laugh. Tell a terrible joke out loud when no one is listening. Make funny faces in the mirror, or do dance moves from the ‘50s. Lie on your back, look at the ceiling, and try to remember all the slang words from your childhood. That’d be rad or maybe it’s fetch or swell—really, I don’t know how old you are.
Draw on the creative energy of others. Take an online class, listen to a TED Talk, or visit a virtual gallery. (HRAC happens to offer the first and the last of these three suggestions!)
Whatever tactics you choose to relieve stress just know that we’re feeling the pressure too. Try to keep a good perspective, and set realistic expectations of yourself and those around you. And if the above suggestions aren’t working for you, lower those expectations again. It’s safe to say, you’ve never faced these same pressures before. Productivity comes and goes—don’t sweat it. What you have to offer the world is exactly what the world needs right now. Save the rest for later.
But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31, NLT