How are you doing this week? No really…how are you doing?
In A Funk
This past week was tough for me. On Thursday morning I woke up feeling a sense of dread. Even though we seem to be wrapping up this Covid fiasco, the days are still managing to blend together. It feels like a never-ending time warp. On this particular morning, I wanted nothing more than to pull the covers over my face and let my bed swallow me. It took a lot of mental toughness to place my feet on the floor and get moving. I was definitely in a “funk.”
Making It Through
The first thing I did after my shower that morning was flip on the lights and open the blinds and curtains. I needed allll the light. Then I turned on one of my “chill” Apple music playlists and hummed along, trying to force myself out my weird mental fuzziness. My older two kids were getting ready to do school from home (parent teacher conference week), and my chipper two year-old was gearing up to be my little companion for the day since my mom was out of town and couldn’t watch her. (Our beloved daycare provider of five years passed away in November, which threw a huge wrench in our routine. Thank goodness for my mom who has stepped in to help when she can).
Lots of sighing and pep talks to myself ensued as I got my “work station” ready. My little companion stayed by my side, playing with the computer cords and asking for more applesauce. You can do this Lindsay. Deep breaths.
I put out a couple fires involving my older two before making sure they were all set for school. All the while I am taking deep breaths to try and avoid getting flustered as I mentally prep for teaching while also straightening up the house and keeping my two year-old away from the markers. Every morning, more of the same. Having them do school from home was proving to be very triggering for me. It brought back flashbacks of being in a perpetual state of survival for most of last semester.
Next it was time to get my two year-old set up on the couch for her “learning time”: watching 80+ minutes of Cocomelon so that I could finish getting ready and then teach my first class of the day. Snacks: check. Binky that I’m trying to wean her off of: check. Cozy blanket: check.
When I finally sat down to read my email, I felt that same sense of dread come over me. I thought about how I needed to grade 40 + essays sooner rather than later, create new online lessons for the upcoming unit, attend a two-hour training that evening. I wondered how I would find the time. Knots formed in my stomach as I was reminded that we would be returning to school in the next couple weeks and so we better “get ready to simulcast teach” (teach our online students and in-person students at the same time). My insides twist up every time I think about this. I want to do a good job, but honestly, I don’t know if I have the energy to keep trying anymore. All year long, I have felt like a failure. At everything.
Identifying Negative Emotions
Luckily, I have a spirit sister in Autumn who runs this blog with me. She talked me off the ledge of inner turmoil, helping me identify emotions that were consuming me: resentment that this is my reality and has been for a year, anger that I keep having to readjust to new expectations and find different ways to make all the puzzle pieces fit, confusion about whether I want to continue teaching (why not just quit and end this misery once and for all)…on and on.
People always say, “I don’t know how you are doing it.” My response is always, “I’m not.”
As I logged into Zoom, praying that I wouldn’t be interrupted, I never would have imagined that I would end that day feeling lighter, calmer and more compassionate toward myself. But I did. I might have slogged through the week, batting away anxious thoughts as fast as they came and continuing to put one heavy foot in front of the other…but I overcame. Friday morning I woke up feeling more free.
We Deserve More Credit
I say all of this not to complain or victimize myself in any way. The truth is, I want to paint a very real picture of what it’s like to be a working mom of young kids in the middle of a pandemic. I want to give myself and others like me the credit we deserve because we deserve so much more (there’s no price that could compensate for what we’ve had to deal with, but I’ll take a $5,000 stimulus check and a personal thank you letter from the president, for starters. A fat bonus from my superintendent for all the whiplash would be awesome, too).
Here in California, we are still very much in the thick of it, which makes me feel worse about my plight. While I do try to remain positive most of the time, I am also a fierce realist in that I never like to sugar-coat things in the name of optimism. ‘Can I Be Candid’ was born for a reason, the biggest one being that Autumn and I want our readers and friends to FEEL SEEN. And trust me when I say, I SEE YOU, MOMS. Even if you’re not a “working mom,” you are still a “mom who works.” Because moms never stop working. And this year has been more than trying. Let’s just state the obvious: it’s been impossible. People always say, “I don’t know how you’re doing it.” My response is always: “I’m not.”
When boundaries collapse, survival becomes our only option. Expectations crumble and inevitably, self-esteem plummets. It takes a LOT of intention to pull myself out of the funks that threaten me on any given day. It’s ok if that’s been your experience, too. We are truly in this together, even though we FEEL like we are each on our own hellish islands.
Take Your Power Back
I want to end with a little list of things that have helped me get through/pull myself out of numerous funks this past year. For me, being in a funk means that I’m in my head and therefore, distracted from reality. Sometimes it’s due to hormones and often it’s because of circumstances being out of my control. Whether I’m feeling anxious, overthinking or just consumed to my core with an issue or thoughts that pull me away from my regular tasks and duties, I have found that incorporating these tips helps me get to the other side.
1. Turn on lights and open windows. Breathe.
These are small gestures that make a huge difference for me. If it’s too dark outside or in my house, I feel darker inside. If I can focus in on my breath throughout my day, it grounds me, calms me and offers me a temporary dose of perspective.
2. Play music while doing mundane tasks.
Sometimes singing along to some upbeat/chill tunes distracts me from my thoughts or just makes me feel a little lighter.
3. Give yourself something to look forward to.
When every day just feels like yesterday’s overflow of struggles and monotony, it’s easy to feel gloomy and depressed. So for me, little rituals matter. Exercising in the morning, sipping on my favorite drink in the afternoon, or escaping to the bath in the evening are things I can look forward to.
4. Lower your expectations.
This one feels near impossible sometimes. This whole year has forced me and so many of us to do the bare minimum. When I’m in my head about something, a lot of time it’s because I’m being hard on myself about something that happened or something that’s going to happen that I don’t feel ready for or agree with. So naturally I put unnecessary pressure on myself. I always want to be the very best version of myself, but sometimes it’s just not realistic to take on one more thing when you’re already burnt out. So be realistic about what you feel you can handle, and don’t feel guilty about sticking with the bare minimum for a bit. It’s temporary!
5. Get outside.
If the weather permits, this is HUGE. Take a walk, play with your kids, sit on your lawn or even just stand on your porch for a few minutes. I think a big reason I was feeling gloomy last week was because it rained and was cold for 4 days in a row, and therefore, I didn’t get outside much.
6. Vent to a friend.
I think it’s so important to verbalize how you’re feeling. Don’t ever feel like you’re complaining. Have a person that you can go to to let it all out, even if you can’t really make sense of your feelings. Sometimes in the process of venting, you will make connections as to why you are feeling down or troubled. Sometimes the listener on the other side can offer you loving and objective feedback to help you get through. And sometimes, just letting off some steam is all you need to feel better and keep going about your day.
7. NAME and UNPACK your emotions.
As I was texting Autumn about my conflicted feelings, concerns and just overall frustration, she sent me a text listing all of the emotions I had named throughout our conversation. Then she suggested I write them down and “unpack them”–meaning, get to the bottom of each one. Figure out WHY I am feeling these various emotions. When we feel “off,” sometimes it can be difficult to identify the specific feelings or the ROOT of the feelings. It does take some intentionality, but once I sat down that evening and sifted through each of my emotions, I felt like I got my power back. This really helps with self compassion, too.
When I went to bed that night, rather than feeling stressed about returning to school, I felt calm(er). This is because I named and identified the emotions that were creating this stress: fear and inadequacy. Getting to the root of these emotions took a lot of nice talk to myself. Lindsay, you are feeling inadequate because you don’t think you will do as good of a job teaching as your colleagues when you return to the classroom. But the truth is, your circumstances are not allowing for you to rise up right now, and that’s ok. It’s not your fault. All you can do is your best, and right now that means the bare minimum so that you can stay mentally healthy and have enough energy to juggle everything else on your plate. This practice put ME in control of the situation rather than becoming a victim to my feelings and therefore, powerless to control them.
We’ll Get Through It, But It’s Okay To Not Be Okay
We all go through funks, and the unpredictable climate we have found ourselves in this year only exacerbates them. We aren’t meant to deal with uncertainty. BUT…I promise you and I can get through those funks and come out on the other side feeling happier and more confident. It’s all a practice of self love which takes conscious, daily effort.
Of course, if you are feeling depressed and these things aren’t enough to make you feel better, then make sure you reach out for help. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to admit that you are not okay. As women and mothers, society often assumes that we will just “figure it out.” This assumption can silence us because we then become afraid to admit that we need help for fear of looking weak. I promise you that we aren’t meant to do it all, and Covid has pushed impossible standards upon us. Don’t believe the lie that we have to keep “measuring up,” taking more on and just “acclimating” to the expectations forced upon us without adequate support. It’s not fair and it’s not okay. It’s okay to not be okay.
Hang in there, mama. I see you.