Surviving when Thriving Feels Impossible

March 13. That is the last day that felt a little bit normal. March 13 was a Friday. It was the Friday before March Break. It was the Friday we announced to our students that they should clean out their lockers and bring home any assignments or resources they may need because we would not be returning to school for at least three weeks. Friday, March 13 is the last day I saw my students and my staff. And I don’t know when I will see them again.

For you, March 13 may mean something else. Or you may have a different day that feels like the last normal day you had. But we all have that day. The day when the world felt safe and predictable.

But this isn’t an article about the last normal day we had. Let’s talk about today. Many of us have been isolating with family for weeks. Many of us are working from home. We are now facilitating the learning for our children at home, navigating supporting our family members, staying safe and strong and at home.

And for some of us, the world as we knew it has changed drastically. Some of us are living alone, without the family we love and without the comforts of home. Some of us are trying to support people as they take on the massive task of teaching students from home or we are the people who have upended the work of teaching students in a face-to-face way. We worry about our kids and worry about our coworkers. Some of us are trying to navigate how to run our businesses from our living rooms and are struggling to make the connections we rely on with our colleagues, friends and clients.

We see our friends who seem to be thriving, posting their fun family activities on social media, and we feel sad because we are not with our children. We see our colleagues who are thriving in this new online world, and we may be feeling left out because we just figured out how Google Classroom works. We may not be posting our amazing family scavenger hunts or dance parties because our children are not with us right now. We may not be posting our Pinterest-worthy online lessons because we are barely able to connect each day with our students.

I want you to know you are doing just fine. You, who are working so hard to figure out how to parent and teach and work in this new world we are in.

And so are all of you who are posting your incredible family and professional successes.

We all are.

It feels that during this time of isolation like we are being given the message that this is the time we are to accomplish great things. We are getting the message that we should use this time to write a book or completely de-clutter our homes or that our children should be reaching milestones they never would have before COVID-19.

Please take some pressure off yourselves.

This is a time that is very traumatic for many of us. We are missing our friends and colleagues and family and our partners. We are struggling to get through each day, doing what we need to do to meet the expectations of our employers and teachers and others who depend on us. We are worried about how this disease may affect us or the ones we love.

Maybe, like me, you are struggling with the loneliness that comes from recently separating from a spouse. Or maybe you are struggling with sheltering in place while in a toxic relationship. Maybe you are facing unemployment or maybe your significant other has been laid off and you are met with the stress of being the only income earner.

We love our children, but having them with us 24/7 while trying to keep them engaged in learning and in having fun can be tough. So can not having them with us.

So what should we do?

Give yourself a break. Take some of the pressure off yourself. This is an unprecedented time and there is no guidebook on how to win at a pandemic. The most important thing we can do is to take care of ourselves. So here is my suggestion:

  • First and foremost, make sure you are taking care of yourself – eat, sleep, move and hydrate…every day
  • Yes, encourage your kids to engage in learning, but more important, make sure they are well. Check in with them. Make sure their stress is manageable.
  • It is okay if you channel your energy into accomplishing tasks you weren’t able to do before the pandemic. It is also okay if you don’t have the emotional capacity to do so.
  • Reach out to friends. Every day. Contact someone and just have a conversation.
  • Reach out to a therapist or other professional if you need additional support. If you have benefits that cover this, use them. If not, seek out a referral from a friend or doctor.
  • Most important…Give Yourself a Break

No one knows how to get through this. We’ve never done it before. So if you are somewhat healthy, your kids are alive and you are trying to get through each day, you are doing fine.

Remember, for some of us, this is a time to thrive. For many of us, this is a time to survive. And both are perfectly okay.

Stay home. Stay safe. Reach out. Be well.

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