The new year brings a sense of déjà vu, with the boys learning at home as they did from March last year. It’s tough, and for those of us with younger children, we are far from having “more time” in lockdown: we’ve actually got far less. It took me a while last time to find my feet, and figure out my lockdown survival plan for balancing it all.
The days feel pretty relentless – from getting up until going to bed, it feels like one long string of things that have to be done, with no down time to gather my thoughts. The six hours of the school day was work time, but it was time I could manage for myself; the breathing space in which I only had myself to organise; the hours when I had the freedom to go at it full tilt, or sit back and take stock when I needed to; and it’s suddenly wiped out. Everything that used to be done in that 6 hours now has to be done in the other 18 of the day, which were already pretty full themselves – and just getting work, school and home done is a struggle once again, never mind finding a minute to do something just for me.
This time, though, I have experience on my side. I know I managed to find some balance to all this last time – and I think I remember some of the practices I employed to do it, as well. All I need to get through this with my mental health intact is the knowledge that I’ve done my best: that I’ve done all I can to support the boys, keep working, and have a little space for myself too. It may not be perfect, or the same ‘best’ that other people can achieve, but that’s all I can hope for. So that’s the intention – now I need the lockdown survival plan, using what I learned last year…
1 – Section my time, and most importantly, stick to it
After a lot of trial and error – and plenty of stress – this was my most important lesson from last time: concentrate on supporting their lessons when it’s school time, and only turn to work when they don’t need that support. Any deviation from this just leads to overload for my poor brain, and if I so much as check my email while they’re trying to figure out their maths problems, I will most likely get anxious that I can’t concentrate on helping a client, answering an enquiry, or producing some work until later on. I also know that this makes me irritable and short tempered, and definitely not in the best frame of mind for schooling. I’m happier and much nicer when I leave work alone until it’s time to give it my full focus.
2 – Seize the down time and stay off social media
There are times when the boys are able to work on their school tasks independently – although a bit like their naps when they were tiny, this doesn’t always happen at the same time! – and I do kindly allow them the odd short break, just like at school. I need to train myself to use these little nuggets as down time for me, too: time to collect my thoughts, come up with a plan for the rest of the day if I need to, get a hot drink and enjoy it, and maybe even a few mintues to read my book: small snatches of sanity. The one thing I must not do i these moments is start scrolling social media – it’s the thief of time!
3 – Exercising to feel good
Until the summer lockdown, I would never have thought of exercise as anything other than a necessary evil – I ought and needed to do it, but I didn’t look forward to it, and certainly didn’t enjoy it. But I found myself looking at it in a brand new light last year, largely down to the encouragement and commitment of Joe Wicks and his PE with Joe sessions (read my post on it here). His view is that the greatest benefit of exercise is to get you feeling good; that hit of the serotonin hormone is like nothing else for turning your mood and motivation around for the rest of the day. The health and fitness benefits are just bonuses. Once this little light had come on in my head, I started looking at those 20 minute workout sessions as precious time for me as much as the boys. They need to exercise as part of their PE lessons, so we do it together, and I’m setting myself a target of at least two sessions a week. We’re also walking the dog every day, of course – sometimes all four of us, sometimes fewer. These are also good opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, and take a breath, with all the mental and emotional benefits that brings too.
Lockdown 3 needed to be done, unfortuntatly, and we’re stuck with it – but with this lockdown survival plan, I’m going to get through it. I’m always happier with a plan, and I think this is starting to look like one.