To keep out of the dark spaces of anxiety and depression I need these three things right now: calm spaces, self-compassion, and staying connected to family and friends
I need to build calm because my house is not set-up for remote work, crisis homeschooling (stealing this phrase from another blog and mad I did not invent it) for an elementary or high school student, nor a gym for indoor workouts. There are things in our homes and workspaces that make us feel safe and calm. It can be anything from a blanket that we snuggle up with at home, to our family photo collage at work- the things that remind and motivate us when things get hard. Build a space that will help you recharge and re-regulate when you are stressed, anxious, or upset. Your calm space should help you build your emotional and physical calmness. This may require a bit of out-of-the box thinking depending on your space; however, you do not need to be an interior decorator, or a Pinterest savant. Make a list of things for your workspace/school space that soothe you and help you re-regulate. It is important to make your list obtainable; include things that you have or have access to already. There has never been a better time to be creative for yourself, so seize this moment!
My Calm List:
- Soft Blanket
- No clutter in sight when I am working
- Easy listening music
- Bluetooth headphones for online meetings and distant learning (game changer for our house)
- Homemade (box on top of desk) or purchased standing desk
- Something inspiring like a fun quote “Today is your day!”
Before we were all staying at home my life was imperfect. Shocker! Stay at home life . . . still imperfect! I realized over this last month that I was holding my expectations to an unrealistic level. I am not winning mother of the year, crisis homeschooling teacher extraordinaire; I am going to make mistakes, overlook emails, and my house is not going to be magazine worthy every day. Just like before, I am not going to be up on the latest show that everyone is talking about. I truly feel that we have all the time in the world, and yet none of time with the days feeling like Bill Murray’s in Groundhog Day. I realized I needed to start giving myself compassion, and to acknowledge all the pressures I was piling on myself. I am paying attention and practicing self-awareness. When I start to judge or shame myself, I remind myself I am “perfectly imperfect.” My litmus has been, If the answer is ‘no,’ you are being judgmental and unfair to yourself and family. The solution is to build awareness and give yourself a mental hug. Below are a few statements I have been reciting. We all judge ourselves on different things.
Make statements that fit your judgments. Sally’s self-Compassion statements:
- The couch cushions do not need to look magazine worthy.
- Mistakes are an opportunity to grow.
- Modeling and apologizing show I am human to my children when I mess up.
- A may gain a few pounds and it will be okay (snacks are real).
- If I do not get everything done, I am back here tomorrow to finish.
Staying connected keeps me from the dark spaces of anxiety and depression.
A good friend of mine Casey taught me that we are ALL equally distant and just one link away from being connected. I am now more intentional:
- Scheduling online meetups to see friends
- Calling and chatting like I would before
- Scheduling family game night or movie night
- Talking with my children about their friends and classes so I stay informed
- Jumping at the opportunity to see my children on their zoom calls
My big take away has been we are all in the same proximity- one link, one call away. Going forward, I want to use my one link away to stay intentional even after we are allowed out in the world. I want to see and chat with the people who add light and laughter to my life!
Author: Sally Stevens, LCSW, PPSC, M.Ed.
Psychiatric Social Worker, School Mental Health Administrator
Los Angeles Unified School District
Erika’s Lighthouse Educator of the Year
Awesome blog! I can relate to many of your experiences especially in today’s pandemic crisis, grad school, and being a homeowner for the first time. I try my best in being compassionate for myself since I can only go so far. I tell myself, “Well if that’s all I can provide, that is all.” I try not to overachieve my goals when I know that as a future social worker and as a current social work grad student, compassion fatigue is right around the corner. So, being mentally aware of one’s thoughts, capabilities, and limitations is always best.
At times we forget, there is always room for growth regardless of age or profession. THANK You! for allowing the reader to see your vulnerability and adaptation to this moment. Now is the pandemic that is challenging us, at other times might be the illness, or all other sudden events. I agree with you, SELF-COMPASSION is an essential tool that helps us to be supportive to ourselves in this process. Thank You again for this.
I love this, Sally! Thank you for your humor and candidness, as I always appreciate your wit and down-to-earth approachability. My list is: also soft blanket, pet snuggles, appreciating the simple things I never would’ve noticed. Thank you for sharing your list.
We all need to find those places of self- compassion in ourselves. I’ve noticed that I do more harm than good when I put to much pressure on myself. Actually your blog post found me at a good time and was a reminder to focus that we’re all human and we need to see the good in ourselves and others during this unpredictable and difficult time for many.
Sally, thanks for an amazing book that is so timely to help our students get through this pandemic. I admire your work and find this book a useful tool for faculty and staff to positively influence our students, as it ties in closely to our SEL and Restorative Practices programmes. I am looking forward to putting a copy into every adult in our school’s hands soon.