Ways to Find Joy in Tough Times

When COVID-19 reached my country of the Netherlands, there was a press conference from our prime minister and suddenly we were put on an “intelligent lockdown.” We were allowed to go outside, but only for groceries or a walk.

I had to homeschool my kids while working as a therapist and finishing edits for my book, This Is Postpartum: Free Yourself from the Perfect Mother Conspiracy. I never aspired to be a homeschool teacher and I have to admit: I wasn’t good at it. At all. As a therapist who specializes in postpartum depression (PPD), I work with moms who are feeling anxious or insecure, and also a group of new moms who are experiencing PPD for the first time. The new moms are having an incredibly hard time during the pandemic. Not seeing any family to help you or support you and being cooped up in your house all day is especially difficult for moms suffering from PPD.

There is also currently a lot of unrest in the US: racial violence, police brutality and protests, not all of which have been peaceful. In my country, there were protests and civil unrest, too. Everywhere we turn, there is so much going on and it can sometimes feel like the entire world is on fire. As you work through this pandemic, while homeschooling your kids and watching the constant news cycle, relaxing and finding joy can be especially difficult. So, how do you manage all of this and still find some positivity in your life? Accept your feelings—and talk about them.

Accept the uncomfortable and negative emotions you’re experiencing. Most of us tend to suppress negative thoughts or feelings. The more you do this, the more it will come back to you, like a boomerang. Try to accept what’s going on in your head and mind and then try to let it go. These thoughts and emotions won’t last forever, they will pass.

Open up about how you’re feeling. Bottling it all up will make it worse and may cause you to lean more and more towards the negative side of things. Once you’re in that downward spiral, it can be hard to find your way back out. Talk about it before it starts to linger in your mind. Talk to your partner, your mom, your friends, other moms, your sister. It doesn’t matter who you confide in, as long as you start talking about what is going on in your head and body.

Find “me time.”

Try to find some relaxing time during the day and night. I know this sounds difficult when you’re working from home with your kids. Try to make a schedule together with your partner and write down who works when, who watches the kids, who gets some “me time,” etc. This way, it becomes clear when each of you can relax a bit while the other one is watching the kids.

Practice mindfulness and meditation.

When I learned about mindfulness, it changed my entire life. Reading a good mindfulness book is a great way to unwind and be present in the moment at the same time. Meditation can also do wonders for stabilizing your mood. Start meditating, at first once or twice a week, and as you get more comfortable, you can try to do it every day. There are free apps and YouTube videos which can help guide you through your first meditations. As a busy working mom, I do these meditations twice a day. It helps me keep my sanity—especially now, when everything seems to be coming to a head. With meditation, you learn to recognize thoughts and remember that they will pass. Focusing on your meditation and your breathing will help you come back to the present.

Find your inner yogi.

Maybe your favorite yoga teacher teaches through Zoom. Sign up for a weekly or monthly class. There are free options, too. My personal favorite is Yoga with Adrienne. You might notice you can feel some tension throughout your body when you first get into it.

You’ll learn how to release this tension and how to focus on your breathing. Just a few deep breaths can lead to noticeable changes of your mood and relaxation level. Now, imagine what an hour (or just 30 minutes) of yoga could do for you!

Start a daily journal.

Write down a list of what went right for you personally each day. Maybe it’s something that went unexpectedly well, especially given the current circumstances (“I cooked today and everyone ate it.”), or just something that made you made you feel good (“I dressed myself nicely today instead of my sweatpants.”) The more you write down, the better. On days when you’re feeling down, writing just one item is fine too. It will help remind you that even in moments of darkness, there is still light that seeps in.

It’s perfectly normal to feel some negativity or anxiety when you watch the news these days, especially amidst a pandemic. It’s important to remember to switch off once in a while to give yourself some peace of mind. Try to limit your news intake—check the news once or twice a day instead of having notifications turned on.

Lower the bar. If all else fails, remember this: You’re doing the best you can and that’s good enough.

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