Harmony vs not-so-harmonious times~ how to keep ourselves grounded.
I'm sure your lives are just as disrupted (if not way more) than mine due to the current pandemic. I feel pretty lucky since I am mainly at home anyway in my role as stay-at-home-mom and home based business owner. One thing I really miss is going to my yoga studio. We all miss our little communities that we normally interact with on a regular basis. I take as well as teach "zoom" yoga, but seriously, it's not even close to the same. By seeing our friends in person and going to places with our social or fitness groups, we fill our souls with that sense of belonging. The virtual world does allow us to do the yoga or see our friends but we miss out entirely on the feeling we get being with other people. For me, it's a palpable difference and I'm sure I'm not alone in this. The virtual meetings feel somewhat stilted and hollow.
My kids are certainly experiencing this feeling. They usually attend a martial arts studio several times a week. My kids are not fitness enthusiasts, to say the least. It's rather annoying since my husband and I have been endurance athletes to some degree our entire lives. What the heck? I'm convinced that it skips generations. My parents were and are rather sedentary. Both my brothers and I have been runners, soccer players and athletes since we were little kids. Maybe one day my kids will decide to be ok with sweating.
In the meantime, the most I can force them to do is go to an amazing martial arts studio called Swiftkick in Rancho Bernardo. The young instructors are kind and exude enthusiasm and joy. They are insanely patient as well. Basically, they are my angels. My kids have attended for years now. The studio sprung into action when Cov-ID closed them down. They started Facebook then Zoom classes with the same level of enthusiasm and pep as usual. Those happy, pumped voices are sometimes the only perky noise in our home these days amidst the groaning and despair. The kids do the classes but they are not excited. You know why? Because Zoom is NOT the same. I am not faulting these instructors. They do their level best and even call out to kids to tell them "nice job, Cole!" or, "kick your leg back, Dillan!". It is just energetically and psychologically not the same as being in a room with a bunch of kids, sweating, laughing and punching bags together. I feel their pain. It's easy to think, "what's the point?" I have been enforcing the classes anyway, in an attempt to keep remnents from "regular life" and some semblense of fitness. We also say, "it's better than nothing". It is, but not much.
As for school, long sigh. I am actually very lucky in this realm again. My kids are older and mainly follow directions on their own. I mainly need to crack the whip, as they say. If I notice one kid spending a little too long on a "break", I might inquire as to what they are in fact supposed to be doing. I am not teaching much at all. Thank goodness, because I suck at teaching. I am not patient and I feel an overwhelming desire to fix all the mistakes and be done with it. There is a very good reason I have never had single inkling of desire to home school. I am just not built for it. This is clearly in evidence by the fact that my sweet 11 year old boy has broken down crying on several occasions saying how much he misses his teacher. This is always during one of my attempts to teach him something. I don't take offense. I know I suck at teaching. I feel like crying too. And I have, numerous times.
Even in the best of times, I struggle. I have a long history of mild depression but I got hit with the worst bout after I had my second child 11 years ago. I had the usual baby blues with my first but it was a whole different story with my second. I'll share more about that whole awful period of my life at some point. I'm bringing it up now because that experience made me completely restructure my life. I was totally overwhelmed by my responsibilities and cracked under the pressure. In order to rebuild myself, which took years, I had to create a lot more space for myself to recover. I had to build space to breathe into my life. In addition to running, which has always been a love of mine, I became interested in yoga.
I could go on and on about the benefits of yoga, but I won't here. Feel free to contact me anytime and I will tell you more. One thing I will say is that there is a type of yoga for every type of person. I am a serious Type-A, so I gravitate towards power and more intense Hatha yoga. I notice a lot of people love Kundalini yoga, which is much less physical and more about meditation and breath practices. Yin yoga is also a fascinating practice that I had no interest in for many years, but I am now starting to embrace. So, there's my yoga push. However, that is just one type of activity that helps many people "ground" themselves. There are as many grounding practices as there are people. These activities are the things we need to focus on during times of stress and disruption, like now.
I have noticed that it is popular to encourage people to "self care". This is quite generic and I agree. The thing is, what does that mean? My daughter loves taking long baths. I really don't like baths. I get pruney, the water gets cold way too fast and I get bored. No thank you. You know what I love doing to tune out the world? Knitting. Therefore, that is a grounding practice for me. It's like a little vacation from thinking and slipping into that beautiful space of blissful effortless effort. I have tried to convert all my friends to knitters but very few have taken the bait. They have their own way to float in space, I hope.
Think of things you like to do to relax that are possible right now. Generally, I don't consider watching TV to be grounding time. It is relaxing for sure, and I zone out as much as anyone. Screens have their own issues and inject outside forces into what we are experiencing. My opinion is that to benefit the most from a self care or grounding practice, we must feel good about what we are doing. That is why needle arts, drawing, painting, woodwork etc. etc. are so great for this. By creating something (no matter how messed up it looks), we are expressing our creativity. I know many people love gardening for this practice. I have a black thumb, so that doesn't work for me.
Exercise of any kind is another great grounding practice. I'm sure I don't need to tell you the benefits to mind and body for exercise that has been confirmed with scientific study. I have heard that regular exercise is essentially the equivalent of taking an antidepressant. From my experience, this is 100% true. While we may be limited in where we exercise (gyms, yoga studios, tennis courts, etc.) we can be creative in finding ways to exercise. Luckily, we can get outside here so walking, running and biking are all fair game.
One of the fastest ways to connect with this grounded feeling is to go outside. This is nothing new but it is so easily taken for granted. For me, running, biking or hiking outdoors is mandatory. If I go several days without this, I start to wilt on the inside. We are not meant to stay inside our little homes all day. Just breathing the fresh air is like medicine to our bodies. How hard we like to exercise is based on our personality. However, I don't think anyone can survive well mentally without engaging with nature to some degree. So, exercise while in nature is like a double whammy of good brain chemicals. Just a nice stroll in nature has immense benefits.
There are so many other things we can think of that can be grounding. Interacting with our pets is a huge one. Just stopping to give Gaia (my dog) a nice rub down gives us both a moment of peace and comfort. I'm sure you can think of other things available in your life right now that give you that sense of connection. It is a feeling of having your feet firmly connected to the earth with a sense of inner calm.
We should always make these types of activities a significant part of our daily lives. They should not be the first thing to go when other responsibilities crop up. I get the impression that some people feel these practices are "extra" and a special treat. This might be from the western idea that we are always supposed to be productive. My opinion is that taking the the time daily to do these things allows you to be productive in the other moments of your day. To me, they are not a treat or optional, they are mandatory to a balanced, peaceful existence.
Sometimes, our ability to take time for ourselves is severely limited. Having small children is a good example. If we allow it, every moment of our days will be sucked up into the needs of other people. We are allowed to have our needs and space. This is why it is so important to create a structure in your day to give you this time. It is not weakness to demand time for ourselves. This is how we remain strong and resilient to life's curveballs.
Also remember that our grounding practices shift over time. Making jewelry used to be that way for me. Since I have created a business, it is less so. I heard someone say once that if you make your hobby a business, get another hobby. Best advice ever. That's why I started knitting! Be flexible with yourself. Explore new ways of finding that grounded feeling. Do this during pandemics, but also during the "normal" times.
P.S. Below I shared some of knitting projects. They contain many mistakes but it doesn't matter at all. I'm not selling them! ;)