I’ll say it again! The heroes of this pandemic are the working mothers!
As a holistic psychotherapist who is busier than ever due to this incredibly intense pandemic, it is clear to me that most people are struggling in some way. Even the introverts - who were quite at peace with the prospect of not having to go out and see people that much - are starting to feel the isolation getting to them.
As we start to have more and more positive news in Ontario, with better case numbers and faster vaccine rollout, I observe that people’s emotions are still raw and similar to PTSD: trauma-informed feelings that come up even though the present moment is better. The past tends to creep into present-day consciousness.
Ontario has been one of the most locked-down areas in North America. Toronto especially. As the 2nd and then 3rd waves came upon us and more and more schools were shut down, the moms of young kids sustained repetitive emotional gut punches and side effects of those closed-school edicts.
One mom told me in an exasperated tone: “I went into a kind of emergency thinking in the first wave. It was all new! We coped… barely. But when the 2nd and then the 3rd wave came in, I started to panic! I had known the mountain I had to climb emotionally and physically to cope during wave 1, and thought, ‘I may not make it through this time.’ It was so hard! Now with the 2nd and 3rd(!!!) waves, not sure I can do this!” The struggle was, and is, real for moms and parents in general. But the moms are often the ones that carry the brunt of it!
So…. here’s a special shoutout to the moms. Specifically, to the women who are working a full-time job from home, and at the same time homeschooling their kids. To do both jobs well is frankly near impossible.
Also, a shoutout to the mothers that could not stay home and had to either quit their jobs or keep their jobs but farm their kid(s) out to someone else. That, for various reasons, has been absolutely soul-crushing and so stressful for many!
Of course, I cannot speak to all families in this province, but for the ones that I have had the privilege of working with, it is the moms that have been stuck trying to hold all of the spinning plates in the air…the job, quitting the job, keeping the job, the tough decisions, the kids, the schooling, the cleaning, the laundry, the grocery organization, the meal plan/prep, the cooking, the delegating, the home management in general, the cuddling, the Zoom meetings, the elderly parents, the no-way-out feeling, the endless worry!
I’m not saying that fathers (or same-sex partners) have not been doing lots and lots as well. And in some cases, those people are taking over all of the above-mentioned chores. I am speaking about the women that I have had the honour of working with. The burnout levels have been legendary. The near-breakdowns have been common. And some have had full nervous breakdowns and have had to manage very dark, despair-oriented thoughts.
Pre-pandemic, there were various ways outside of therapy to cope better. I could say “Go to a yoga class, get to the gym, meet up with your friends!” But none of these things have been possible during this pandemic.
The truth is that finding peace, ease, joy, and mental wellness are an inside job now, more than ever! And also, those folks who previously found their solace in travelling, shopping, live music or theatre, are also having to learn the new “inside job” skill!
What is this “inside job”?
It is using the power of visualization to change your mindset, improve your nervous system, and rewire your mind!
Left to its own devices, our mind is a dangerous neighbourhood!
If you do not use the proper tools to navigate your mind, your thinking will inevitably be skewed toward the negativity bias.
The good news is that your body and biochemistry really do not distinguish between real or imagined. If you constantly imagine a sabre-toothed tiger running after you or other thoughts that scare you, you will bring on the biochemistry of stress and fear.
Conversely, if you imagine more hopeful, peaceful, joyful thoughts and scenarios, even one hopeful thought per hour will dramatically change your outlook, nervous system, and your biochemistry. More serotonin and dopamine will be created, and your body and mind will thank you!
And in case you didn’t know this already, we need an average of 5 positive thoughts to combat one negative one!
Sooooo…. here is what to do
Sit comfortably. And visualize! (Put on some calming music and record yourself reading the passage below very slowly, and in a very calm tone, and then play it back to yourself as often as you like with your eyes closed.)
Slow your breathing. Drop your shoulders. Relax your face. Begin to imagine yourself walking on a soft diamond-white sand beach. Imagine smelling the salty delicious sea air. Feel the gentle breeze on your skin. The temperature is perfect. There is the sweet smell of tropical flowers that are growing near your beach.
Feel the sand in between your toes.
Look for a big boulder on the beach right near the water. It is a different rock. Different than all the other topography in sight. This is YOUR boulder. This is your sanctuary.
When you arrive at the boulder. Imagine yourself putting your hand on the rock and feel the heat coming off it due to the sun pounding down on it all day long.
You decide to sit at the base of the rock facing the water. The calm, blue green water.
And you feel the solid grounding yet flowing energy coming from the boulder and from the water.
To your right, sitting next to you and snuggling in, is a protective animal. You feel its soft fur and you feel its protective energy radiating into you. This animal is here specifically for you.
Your eyes meet and you realize this animal is psychically sending you lots of love and peaceful energy. You feel a profound sense of safety and calm coming over you.
As you look around you, your mind’s eye begins to see all of the colours become brighter and more vibrant. Breathe slowly and calmly; take it all in.
Memorize this scene. This is your sanctuary. This is your peaceful place.
Do this every day. And notice the changes in your mind and body.
This is your inside job. It is within your power to use this tool as often as you like!
This is you creating peace and positivity as well as a sense of calm for yourself, regardless of what is going on in the outside world.
You deserve this gift. You matter. You are valuable. And all is well… right here, right now.