Modern life already felt harried—too much work, too many chores, not enough sleep. A global pandemic only compounds those emotions and makes you really feel like you’re trapped in a hamster wheel. Many of us now find ourselves in new roles with new responsibilities and in way over our heads. If we felt like we were barely treading water before, where do we find ourselves now?
When Girl Scouts River Valleys staff switched to all-remote work last month, we were reminded that what we’re facing is a marathon, not a sprint. With any race, there will be peaks and valleys, moments where we’re in the groove and on a runner’s high, and slogs where we feel like we can’t go any further. Because we don’t know just how long this marathon is going to be—a half? An ultra?—it’s critical that we pace ourselves to avoid burning out. Read on for five tips to implement to make sure we all cross the finish line together—and finish strong.
Listen to Your Body
To continue with the marathon metaphor for a bit, runners know that aches and pains are their body’s way of telling them to ease up or modify their training. This holds true for non-runners. When you overtax your body—taking on too many responsibilities, not getting enough rest—it will send out distress signals. This can show up as fatigue (mental or physical), irritability, inability to focus, anger, and insomnia. Many times, those distress signals are your body’s warning signs—take care of this now or suffer the consequences of not doing so.
Fill Up Before You’re Empty
One of the first things you do before you go out for a long drive is to fill up your tank. No one wants to be stranded in the middle of nowhere because they didn’t have the foresight to stop at the gas station before they hit the road. Schedule time in your day and week to replenish your self-care tank. Ensuring that you’re intentionally building up your emotional, physical, and spiritual reserves means that you’ll have that to dip into when you need it. But if you’re always running on empty, you’ll likely get nowhere fast.
Make a List
Great, it looks like you have 30 minutes to recharge! If you’re like me, you’ll spend 28 of those minutes figuring out what you feel like doing. When time is scarce, it’s important to use it wisely, especially when it comes to caring for yourself. Take a few moments to jot down some things that lift your spirits or help you re-center. Make sure that this list is full of activities you actually like doing, and not things that you feel “should” help you relax. For example, I like raking the yard (I find it both meditative and tangible), but don’t understand the appeal of baths (Pruney skin? Hard pass). Include items that don’t take a lot of time and planning as well as ones that more complex or time-intensive. That way, you have a variety of options depending on your time constraints.
Give Yourself (and Others) Grace
Whether you’re trying to figure out how to manage remote work while helping your kids complete their distance learning or you’re suddenly caring for loved ones while still having to work outside the home, everyone these days is on a steep learning curve. It can sometimes seem like each hour brings a new and different challenge. We are all figuring out how to cope and manage, so cut yourself (and those in your life) some slack when someone drops the ball, when someone’s crabby, or when something doesn’t go your way.
Daily life can start to seem futile when it becomes a list of onerous tasks. Dishes again? Didn’t I just wash those? It’s important to look for and create joyous moments to get through the hard parts. For our family, that means cranking up the tunes on Friday night for dance parties, long walks with the dog, and making paper hearts to tape to our front door so our neighbors know we’re thinking of them.
As we conclude our sixth—out of who knows how many—weeks of quarantine and social distancing, we might personally be struggling with what feels like an uphill battle. It’s times like these when we need to remind ourselves that though we might be physically apart, we are enduring this pandemic as a community. And in community, there is unbelievable strength. Singer-songwriter Bill Withers passed away recently, but the message of his most famous song is everlasting: “Sometimes in our lives, we all have pain, we all have sorrow. But if we are wise, we know that there’s always tomorrow. Lean on me when you’re not strong, I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on.”
Lily Yu –Lily is a Program Resource Specialist at River Valleys. She earned her BA in comparative literature and Japanese from Hamilton College and has a background in publishing and advertising. Though she wasn’t a Girl Scout growing up, Lily is making up for lost time as a volunteer and troop cookie manager for her daughter’s Brownie troop. In her free time, she enjoys going for long walks, reading, and spending time with her family (And rescue dog, Neil!).