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

Building Calm

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!”
  • Self-Compassion

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