Even before the pandemic, one of my challenges was dealing with chronic anxiety. But having regular childcare for my two young children helped me manage it, as it gave me the time to focus on my work, get errands done and squeeze in exercise.
So when our state locked down, I was not only worried about COVID-19, but also about how I would balance taking care of two little ones with work and everything else that moms have been responsible for that has led to pandemic burnout.
The silver lining? I've learned to listen to my inner voice that tells me when I need to take better care of myself. As a result, I’ve picked up some new wellness habits that have helped me with self-care during the pandemic, and that I plan to keep up with.
SCHEDULING REGULAR VIRTUAL THERAPY
Before the pandemic, I tried to get myself to therapy when I could, usually for short stints of weekly appointments with months-long droughts in between. When my therapist started offering virtual sessions last spring, I was finally able to stick with a consistent schedule. My $100 online therapy session is better spent now that I am attending regularly and actively working on my health.
Also, on my therapist’s recommendation, I started listening to podcasts that help me be more focused and productive when my inner chatter starts up. My favorite is Brene Brown's Unlocking Us podcast, where she talks about universally human issues like shame, grief and connection. Hearing her talk through these topics has given me tools for managing anxiety, free of charge.
As pretty much every mom knows, it's easy to let your physical well-being slide when you're focused on your kids. Prior to the pandemic, I was able to squeeze in a few yoga classes a week to keep me centered. Once I was on full-time childcare duty, finding time to stay active became more difficult.
Luckily, I discovered an online workout program early into the pandemic. Not only is it fun and challenging, but it also offers unlimited access to classes ranging from five to 45 minutes in length. Plus, it only costs $120 per year, as opposed to the $135 per month I used to spend on my yoga studio membership. A year later, I'm still doing the program almost every day because it never fails to make me sweat and boost my mood.
TWEAKING MY DIET
In addition to making my online workout a part of my new normal, I also committed to eating more healthfully. During the pandemic, I noticed that my wine consumption was going up: I started having a nightly glass as a way to kick off the evening, rather than enjoying a glass or two a week. But I’d read in the past that alcohol can exacerbate anxiety so, after being inspired by some “quit lit,” I decided to try a Dry January — and haven’t looked back. I’m even saving around $30 a week by swapping my bottles of Cabernet for Pellegrino.
I've also made a point to make time for breakfast. Instead of just eating my kids' leftover oatmeal in the morning, I now blend up a green protein smoothie, which keeps my energy up and prevents me from turning “hangry.” I’m spending about $100 more on groceries each month — the ingredients for my somewhat elaborate concoction include lots of produce, raw coconut water and fresh mint — but it's worth it. It’s a great way to kick off my day and leaves me feeling satiated. I also make extra and freeze the leftovers in mason jars. Now I always have an easy meal on hand, which will be a benefit as my schedule gets busier.
FINE-TUNING MY SOCIAL MEDIA
I had cut off social media a few years ago because I couldn't stop comparing my everyday existence to others' carefully curated lives, which heightened my stress. But once the world locked down, I went back on Instagram for a sense of social connection — and it wasn’t long before I was back to my old habits.
This time, instead of ditching the app, I took control of my feed. I unfollowed accounts that made me feel bad, and sought out accounts that boosted my happiness — Chronically Cheerful is one — as well as those of mental health experts with meaningful content (I like Dr. Nicole LePera). Now my feed is peppered with thought-provoking quotes and actionable self-help strategies that regularly inspire me.