If you are this strong person who is usually the one to check on others, and are a leader who simply “can’t afford to fall apart,” these seven practical tips (beyond journaling, meditating, and exercising) will help you keep holding, moving, and doing so much.
When the pandemic was first declared and our world shut down, I almost felt a sense of relief. In an odd way, slowing down and returning to our roots – nuclear family – felt somehow therapeutic. No more morning rushing to get the kids out the door and on the school bus on time.
No more triple-checking calendars to assure I’d be done with business meetings, client calls, and other commitments in time to be back on the bus stop when the school was over. No more negotiating with the family on whose turn it is to make a 3+ hour drive or 8+ hour flight to see each other.
And, eventually, the “wait, you conduct the business virtually and are not actually coming on-site?” got seamlessly replaced with “Hey, see you on Zoom, can’t wait to see the puppy, too!”
Instead of panicking, my daughters and I hunkered down in our home; we set up their home-learning stations, reorganized my office, and were ready to rock and roll in our new-found rhythm and routine.
Above all, feeling this contentment was crucial for one more reason: as my husband continued to commute to his NYC office where he took on additional responsibilities, he also took care of all the shopping to keep our exposure to the minimum. Eventually, he became our only contact with the outside world. It was therefore important to have everything in place so that he could remain as relaxed, focused, and safe as possible.
As the weeks turned into months, more and more of my ancestral memory kept arising – this felt familiar, we were here before. As an European who went into hiding when the Balkan War broke out, and as a descendant of WWI and WWII war survivors, putting lives on hold and fighting enemies was not foreign to me. Being a strong woman, becoming the one who “has it all together, who checks on others, and is the listening ear and voice of comfort in most tiring times” was my natural next step.
It wasn’t until nearly a year later when I began to notice something: fatigue. Like millions of others around the world, the pandemic burnout has finally caught up with me.
My brain began fogging, attention depleting. I would look for ways to escape, and distract myself with aimless scrolling through my phone. Not to mention, my productivity slumped (although my friends would argue about this one: “You are parenting, running a business, launching new partnership, writing a book, holding the house together, and are always there for us, how do you do it all?”)
And then, there was this sense of guilt and shame.
How dare I complain because I have it so easy!?
While millions were literally dropped into this overnight, I had nearly a decade to master the work-from-home-while-raising-kids dynamic! Moreover, my kids were born into it.
While millions were literally losing their jobs, homes, and loved ones, I was spared.
While millions were confined to the 4 walls of their city apartments, we had a spacious home, a backyard and quiet neighborhood with plenty of safe outdoor space.
How can I rebound?
Here are 7 practical tips (beyond journaling, meditating, and exercising) to help you keep holding so much – especially if you are this strong person who usually is the one who checks on others, and are a leader who simply “can’t afford to fall apart.”
As much as we want to see ourselves as invincible, as much as we want to see ourselves as strong, fierce, independent, we are still just a human. There will be overwhelm, resentment, self-judgement. And, a different choice.
As someone who recovered from severe burnout that had sent me to the ER (more than once), I used to resent the shallowness of self-nourishment. Nonetheless, as a former elite athlete, I was trained to persevere, to push through.
But self-nourishment is not the massages, manicures or pedicures. It’s the art and science of self-mastery. It’s having the awareness of how you perceive, see, treat, and speak to yourself. It’s being selective of what ideas, conversations, and environments you are and are not available for. What energizes you? What nourishes your soul? At least, it’s the beginning.
Having been raised in a multi-generational home with 5 other people sharing one bathroom, having lived with teammates, and now having little kids at home 24/7, I know how challenging it can be to find physical space for yourself. And it’s not just about the physical space but also the mental and emotional one.
One of the hardest things I had to learn was to establish boundaries. “Mami is having coffee right now, you can either wait or go ask daddy.” Or “I see you are feeling stressed about this issue, and we can discuss facts without projecting fears and stories.” Or “Let me take the kids for the day, you enjoy some alone time.” Or something as simple as “No.”
I noticed how much easier our life as a family has become once we introduced so-called “date nights” with the kiddos. Every month, we put on a calendar some uninterrupted 1:1 time with each of the girls. Whether it’s playing with Legos, snuggling and reading a book, or taking a walk, giving them undivided attention helps them feel seen, heard, and understood. It also helps us stay in the loop with what’s going on with them.
Not to mention, doing so has made it much easier for them to be content when my husband and I require longer hours to focus on work, or to take alone time for ourselves.
When you are this fierce, strong, independent person who is holding and moving so much – not to mention all the responsibilities towards your team, your company, your community, asking for help can get tricky. Sometimes it’s the logistics, other times it’s (lack of) resourcefulness. Most often, it’s the ego (and fear of how other may perceive you).
But we were not put on this planet within 7 billion other people if we were meant to do it all, all on our own. Give yourself permission to identify what you need, and grace to ask for it (and, if needed, forgiveness for accepting it).
One of the most counterintuitive methods to increase productivity (or to dissolve a block or to gain clarity), is to step away. Certain things simply cannot be forced. Instead, get the energy, creativity, inspiration, flowing in other ways. For some, it’s drawing. Reading. Cooking. Dancing. Orgasming. Or maybe, simply taking a nap (to reset your nervous system and recalibrate energetic frequency). Don’t have time for that? Do you have time to stare at the blank paper for hours? For fixing, redoing things again? For beating yourself over it?
To piggy-back on the previous point, batching your time in a different way can open up floodgates of new-found energy, inspiration, and motivation. Instead of trying to cram everything into every day (and operating in an hour-by-hour rhythm), experiment with expanding the windows of time.
Nonetheless, every day of the week corresponds with different planetary energy, offering naturally auspicious times that best support different focus, porijects, and tasks. Mondays, for example, are ruled by Moon (which corresponds to deep, intuitive, feminine, mystical energy); Wednesdays correspond with Mercury’s clear, thorough, playful, thinker energy.
Just as we grow and evolve, so do our bodies. Remember Friday nights when at 10pm we just started to think about where to go, and what to wear? The other day, I put the kids to bed at 8:30pm, and wished my husband a good night right after, with my to-do list still unfinished. There is no shame in re-prioritizing in accordance with your needs.
So give yourself the gift of understanding your body’s natural rhythm – on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis (hello, hormones!). And just a side note: days or weeks after working really hard on some major creative project, or a massive launch, it’s totally normal to feel empty, depleted, exhausted even. Give yourself (and your team) some grace. Nourish yourself.
This time has been especially challenging for those who were finally forced to face our inner demons – afterall, there is only so much to do when the typical distractions and outlets are removed. It’s you, the mirror, and the reflection staring back at you.
As I write these lines, I am fully aware that you have heard or read most of this already. My hope is that perhaps, this time it just lands a little bit different. Maybe, this time you are ready to take the next step.