It’s hard for me to imagine a single person whose life hasn’t been affected by the events of the past weeks. We are all going through an intense time of heightened emotion and uncertainty, absorbing new information, adapting to a new reality, stepping away from our accustomed routines, slowing down, and staying home. If you have recently had a baby, or remember your early days as a parent, some of these things might seem familiar to you. Of course, the current situation with the pandemic is much more serious on many levels, but I’m finding that much of what I have learned, and teach others, about the fourth trimester can also be helpful for all of us in getting through this time. So here are some gentle reminders for new parents and anyone else struggling to assimilate this new reality:
Breathe. I love this one because it’s always available, free, and everyone knows how to do it. All you have to do is think about it and you have already interrupted the rising tension of your situation. Did you know that newborns co-regulate, which means that their bodily functions, such as temperature and breathing rate, can sync to the adult who is holding them? Holding a fussy baby against your chest and taking slow deep breaths can help to calm them, and we may find that calm is contagious in any situation.
Get some sunlight and fresh air. Of course, follow all the current health guidelines, such as social distancing and being careful what you touch. But if you can get outside safely, make an effort to do so. Even a brief time in the sun can help to improve your mood and your sleep. Even sitting in a sunny window, or opening the windows on nice days will help!
Call a friend. Human beings are hardwired to seek connection in times of stress, and I have seen so many creative examples of community building without physical gatherings. If you haven’t yet, find a way of reaching out that feels right for you, whether is a group call with your mom friends, video chatting with a relative, posting online, or helping a neighbor. If you find yourself struggling, be open and honest with a safe person and don’t deny yourself help. Your needs matter.
Take care of your body. It’s the only one you’ve got. You know the recommendations about sleep, exercise, eating healthy, and staying hydrated. If you’ve let life get in the way of making better choices, now is the perfect time to refocus your priorities. Your details may vary, but any step you can take in the right direction can positively influence not only your own life path, but also those around you. Remember that the point is to build your sense of well-being, so focus on things you can do that increase your joy and decrease your stress, even if it’s not what everyone else seems to be doing.