Top 10 ways to manage chaos with two little ones at home
Experiencing a bit of shortness of breath? Chest feel tight and your stomach heavy? No, you probably have not contracted Covid19, but battling the big a-word, anxiety. Even the most mentally fit may be feeling under the pressure with this global lockdown, experiencing anxiety for the first time, trying their best to keep it at bay (or are ignoring it all together).
I’m here to help you understand your feelings, provide constructive solutions on managing them with kids at home, and move on to make the most of this sudden 24/7 time at home with our families.
As a mother to an infant and toddler, and wife to a husband who works in an “essential industry”, I don’t have time to practice hour long self-meditation techniques nor can I lose myself in self help books. Binge-watching The Wire or downing a bottle of wine are not viable options, either. That being said, I have been able to structure my day taking care of two little ones and filling it in with calming strategies to keep my feet on the ground.
So what exactly is going on in my body? Anxiety tends to play out as a physical manifestation of the uncertainty in our environment. How long will we be in lockdown? Should I worry for my senior parents? Will anyone I know or love die from this virus? Will we be able to pay the mortgage/rent if we’re laid off?
We are all asking ourselves these same questions. The constant stream of negativity in the news-- as well as the world around us-- is filling our minds and bodies full of dread and uncertainty. But you don’t have to succumb to the anxiety; and there are many things you can do right now, today, to manage them and move on. It’s important to keep in mind that it’s not just you under this pressure - your children are observing and absorbing your behaviors and energy.
Let’s talk about managing these feelings and what I do with two babies pulling on my sleeve.
Recognizing and accepting your feelings is a start. That discomfort in the center of your chest and the heaviness in your gut is anxiety-- and giving in to it is detrimental to your health. In fact, leading expert David Kessler, a world renown author on grief as well as specialist in disaster services and traumatic events with the Red Cross and L.A. Police Department, told Harvard Business Review: What many of us are collectively feeling across the globe is more than just anxiety. It’s grief, and not only grief, but anticipatory grief - normally focusing on death. It is the feeling when the future is unknown and masked with worry. Of course with grief come the five stages to look out for: denial - this is all an overblown flu, it won’t affect us; bargaining - If i quarantine my family for two weeks then we can go on our vacation in June; anger - how dare the government imprison me in my own home; sadness - I don’t want to get up; acceptance - this is happening, how will I manage this? So what to do with these new found emotions? Definitely don’t ignore them, as it will only exacerbate your feelings. Instead, accept what you are feeling, know that these emotions are temporary and understand that just because you have anxiety now does not mean you’ve suddenly developed a life long anxiety disorder. Allow them to pass through you.
1 - Be present and practice mindfulness.
How can you do that? Be physically present in the here and now. Stop the tape playing over and over in your head of all the uncertainty. Look at the room around you. Feel the rug beneath your feet. Take a deep breath in and smell that delicious coffee brewing in the kitchen. Ground yourself into The Now. You and your family are okay, you have your health, a roof over your head and food in the fridge.
2 - Listen to music.
But actually listen to it: the lyrics, the beat. Music is a powerful tool. My family and I start every morning listening to oldies classics over our cup of coffee and there is no better, nor more immediate, mood enhancer.
There is also a lot to be said about building a community by building a playlist together. Here's one we prepared earlier. I've added three of my favorites, actually...
3 - Try breathing exercises.
I tend to do this in the kitchen as I prepare my toddler's meals. A great one to try out is box breathing: breath in 4 seconds - hold 4 seconds - breath out 4 seconds - hold 4 seconds. Repeat. Hatha Yoga teaches breathe in for 8, breathe out for 8...and to only do this through the nose, without opening your mouth to release the breath. But I find that even the 4-second count "box breathing" technique used in Martial Arts and other disciplines helps to ease the chaos.
4 - Exercise.
Take walks everyday if you can. I’m living in a part of the world where it’s basically illegal to go outside so I’m stuck doing indoor exercise. The thought of only depending on higher intensity workouts seems to be the back burner to what my body is craving. I’m missing more natural and casual movements and starting yoga has been a godsend for both me and my two year old. We practice yoga everyday during my infant's first nap to a kid friendly yoga program on YouTube 🙏🏼 “Mamaste”.
5 - Get off social media and actually connect with your friends and family
(Maybe WHILE walking), but with video calls, you will feel much more connected and present in their lives and your kids will too.
6 - Limit the news.
We know we’re in a global crisis and it is scary. Follow up on what is necessary for you and the community you live in and move on. My husband and I limit ourselves to 15 minutes after we put the babies to bed and quickly turn the channel.
7 - Read.
I’ve always been a book worm. It is so lovely having the power of your mind take you into another world. Of course it’s not easy with taking care of two little ones - I’m limited to when I breastfeed my infant and put her down, and before I go to bed. Since libraries and book stores are no longer an option, I’ve discovered an amazing app that allows you to use your library card with access to thousands of ebooks, Overdrive. Try it out!
8 - Get outside:
Vitamin D has natural healing properties and being outside, especially in nature, is an automatic soul booster. Whether it’s limited to your sunny terrace (as is our case) or the freedom to get out for a hike in the woods, get your family outside. Feel the warmth of the sun on your skin, listen to the trees above you rustle against the wind and take in a big gulp of fresh air (and hopefully less polluted with us all on lockdown). The kids will love it.
9 - Have fun with your children.
Try to plan one fun and different activity a day. Not only will the fun with mommy and daddy be great for them, but a super distraction for you, and something to look forward to.
10 - Create a routine.
Babies and children thrive on routines. It doesn’t have to be strict, but keeping yourself to a loose routine will benefit both your babies and yourself while giving your day an extra boost of purpose. Above all...This is all temporary. Know and understand that not only will the global pandemic be overcome, but all the emotions we are struggling with shall pass too. Our normal nine-to-five will resume, and society will make its way back to normalcy. Perhaps this sudden mandatory staycation with the family is something we can take advantage of and make the most of what truly matters in this world anyway: your family. In his books, Kessler added a sixth stage of grief to contemplate when experiencing the phenomenon personally: meaning.
What will you take from this global experience to create meaning for you and your family? What things will you find you appreciate more? What will you learn about yourself, about your desires for the life you want and the aspects that are the most important in achieving?
CONTENT DISCLAIMER. Our Blog Articles are written by fitness fans and health-loving mamas and papas around the world. Health claims herein have not been reviewed by the FDA. Brainiac Brands (Nutrient Elements and Calm-a-Mama) products are not intended to replace medical and professional advice. Neither is it our field of expertise to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease. Calm a Mama is a registered business in USA, under Brainiac Brands, Inc. and the writer may receive compensation for sharing this opinion article.