More than half of Australians are currently in some form of lockdown.  It’s no secret that emotions are running high and energy is running low for many mothers in particular.  On 31 August 2022, “7:30 Report” on ABC News ran part 2 of a program called, Why Women are Angry”.  This episode was about unpaid labour, and examined the mental load that mothers and carers carry.  During her interview, political journalist Annabel Crabb stated:

“Women have changed the way that they live their lives hugely in the last half a century. What they haven’t done is move out of their domestic roles essentially. Everybody knows families where that’s not the case, right. But the big patterns are undeniable. Women moved into the workforce and just took on that extra work in addition to the domestic workload they already have.”

This has left many women, and mothers, in particular, feeling the weight of these lockdowns.  Lately, social media has been awash with calls for women to invest in their self-care during this time.  However, the conversations I’m having with the women on the receiving end of this well-meaning advice is that self-care is: 

  1. Another item to add to their to-do list and 
  2. A glaring reminder of the things they’re not doing to invest in themselves which leaves them feeling guilty or overwhelmed

While I usually speak about thriving in motherhood, I recognise that so many mothers are focused on just getting through these lockdowns right now.  Sometimes ‘surviving’ is more top of mind than thriving.  So, instead of creating a list of traditional self-care ideas, or telling you to constantly look at the bright side, I’ve written up 5 Ways to Manage Lockdown Lows to share with you instead:

1. Acknowledge and reflect on your feelings

Speak them aloud to a friend, a therapist, to the birds in the sky, or write them down or type them up.  These emotions are normal.

Most of the feelings I’m hearing from women are those of disappointment, rage, resentment, sadness, loneliness, or grief.  So many have cited the birth of a child as a time they were looking forward to sharing with friends and family and the disappointment they feel towards having to make introductions via Zoom or Facetime.  Similarly, there have been milestone birthdays or job changes that have had to be celebrated in non-traditional ways.  Not to mention countless holiday plans that have gone by the wayside.  The welcome respite from our day-to-day that usually comes via a holiday looks far off for so many of us and there’s bound to be resentment that comes with those constant postponements or cancellations.  

My group of girlfriends swears by speaking to a therapist, while others I know believe sinking internally into their spiritual side or getting in sync with nature will help them to cope with the corona-coaster.  Try a few different outlets and find what works for you, and absolutely acknowledge those feelings.

Andrea from Made to Mother Co - 5 Ways to Manage Lockdown Lows

2. Pick one small thing to achieve every day and celebrate your accomplishment!

This could be putting on a different pair of leggings, making breakfast, doing a handful of push-ups, or sending that work email you’ve been avoiding. Think of how you’ll celebrate your accomplishment and follow through with the celebration.

I’ve seen a lot of people share their ideas about making this time in lockdown valuable: learn a new language, brush up on a skill, get a hobby.  That might work for some people.  It may even have worked for you… during lockdown #1, or #2, or even #3.  Now, so many of us just need little mini achievements to feel like we’re moving forward with our lives.  

The key here is to set a mini goal and celebrate when you achieve it.  This helps to rewire our brain with a real sense of reward.  Think of it this way: if you’re constantly adding things to your to-do list, completing them, and not celebrating, you’re telling yourself that it doesn’t matter how much you accomplish, it’s not good enough.  There’s no reward!  

I’m at the point where I set 1 mini goal every day and then something a little bigger to achieve by Thursday.  When I achieve that it may mean bringing out a bottle of bubbles, or treating myself to something equally decadent as a little internal “thank you, job well done, you did it!” moment.  

3. Plan something fun that is within your control that you can look forward to in the upcoming weeks.  

The keys here are: fun + in your control (so they can’t be canceled by government restrictions) and easy (but out of the ordinary).  

My husband and I have been long-time fans of the at-home date night; so much so that it’s become a bit of a tradition in our home. (6 lockdowns will do that to you…)  We alternate planning date nights for each other.  Whoever is in charge, picks the theme: dress code, cuisine, music, etc.  So far we’ve been to Italy, Colombia, Cuba, the Southern States of the US, Mexico, Vietnam, India, Japan, and Indonesia.  

Don’t underestimate the fun of a virtual dinner party.  Sure, Zoom can get tiring after a week of corporate video calls, but have you ever had a virtual Murder Mystery Dinner party?!  Neither had I… until we did this one recently for my husband’s birthday.  

My husband’s birthday. Virtual Murder Mystery Dinner party

Another personal favourite of mine is the backyard (or driveway picnic).  I love a good theme and lately, it’s been DIY “Italian-American deli” sandwiches for the win!  There’s just something about sitting out on a picnic blanket for a meal in the fresh air and sunshine that just lifts my spirits.  

Other ideas include playing ‘I Spy’ on the balcony or out a window or on a walk, family dance parties, or movie marathons.  Side note: have you ever spent an entire weekend watching ‘The Godfather’?  I think that was lockdown #1 for us… Anyway,  these are all varying levels of effort for however ambitious you’re feeling at the time.  

4. Get outside daily

No matter what, and even if it’s only 5 minutes.  Fresh air and a small change of scenery can make a huge difference.  

According to a Healthline article, “sunlight and darkness trigger the release of hormones in your brain.  Exposure to sunlight is thought to increase serotonin.  Serotonin is associated with boosting mood and helping a person feel calm and focused…. Without enough sun exposure, your serotonin levels can dip.”

We all know that spending time in nature is beneficial, but sometimes it is really easy to feel tethered to the indoors.  There’s always something that needs to be done: clothes to be folded, dinner to make, dishes to wash, conference calls to listen to.  On days like that, try to get out of the house even if it’s for 5 minutes of fresh air across the street from your home.  

For me, it’s forcing myself to get out for a run a few times a week or to ask my work colleagues if our Zoom call can be changed to a good old-fashioned phone call, and then I pop my headphones in and walk and talk.  

5. Treat yourself with compassion

You’re doing the best you can.  Say it out loud every day: “I am doing the best I can with what I have available to me right now.”

Speaking to ourselves with kindness and empathy can feel difficult.  Amy Taylor-Kabbaz calls this negative voice within us, the “Inner Mean Mama Voice”.  The Mean Mumma voice says we’re not doing enough, we need to do more, do better, be more.  The way to combat this voice is by speaking to yourself with kindness and compassion.  Think of the way you would speak to your best friend or your child.  How would you build them up?  How would you make them feel better about the situation?  

In her book, Mama Rising, Amy recommends starting from a place of compassion.  “A place that acknowledges that you’ve been trying to figure this whole thing out without having a clue of what you’re actually meant to be figuring out…. And so, with the understanding that this was part of the path, we would forgive ourselves.  We would have heard our own inner voice say, ‘It’s okay.  You’re just learning’”.  

Coffee table, Iphone and flower

We are all doing the best we can during this crazy time.  The sooner we can begin to appreciate this, the sooner some of that weight will be lifted off of our shoulders.  I hope the ideas above have provided you with some little ways you can get through this difficult (and unusual) time.  

What are some ways you’ve managed your lockdown lows?  Where have you found pockets of happiness in your day to day?  How will you change your mindset when things are outside of your control?  If you feel like you could use some help or encouragement to create some tangible steps in this area, please schedule a call with me today.  

For mental health and additional pandemic-related support, please check out the Australian government’s website: Living with lockdown.  Here you’ll find phone-based and online resources from some of Australia’s most trusted health organisations along with a range of digital resources.  

Sources

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