Putting One Foot in Front of the Other
How to help yourself (and your kids) keep going, even when you’re stuck in the muck.
I’ve always been a runner, albeit with a fairly sizable interruption over the past few years as I’ve adjusted to parenthood. But pre-kids, running was a part of my daily life (and I even ran a number of marathons and half-marathons!). I’m now gradually easing back into running, although this looks a little different than it did before I had two small children! The other day, I was out for a short run and going up a hill by my house, and I remembered something that I’d read years ago in Runner’s World magazine– a short blurb, asking runners about their mental mantras to help them survive long runs. My favorite one: this too shall pass. No matter what the challenge at hand, it inevitably will pass if you can just keep putting one foot in front of another, just keep breathing. (This is true for the good times too– and in that context, this thought offers encouragement to savor those moments… and at least in terms of running, pace yourself!)
Let’s face it, 2021 already feels like it’s been a pretty long year; there are a lot of difficult and heartbreaking things that already have happened in this new year. While I’m delighted by the inauguration and progress toward vaccination, current COVID case counts and ongoing shelter-in-place orders make it clear that there’s a long road ahead before life looks more like it did pre-pandemic.
As pandemic life drags on and on, the situational stressors impacting children, teens and parents clearly are exacting a heavy toll in terms of mental health and well-being. It would be wonderful if there were a magic wand, a quick fix, a way to immediately bring this pandemic to a close (or at least a way to lessen the stresses of being a parent or a teen or a kid as we wait for the snow to melt, the ice to thaw). Instead of magic, however, what we have is this: persistence. Resilience. Putting one foot in front of another. Breathing. Reminding ourselves that this is just a season. That this too eventually will pass.
In addition to hanging onto this awareness of the way in which even challenging, dark moments come and go, we have the power to take actions– even tiny actions!– that can shift our sense of control and our day to day experience… even if the larger picture or situation is out of our hands. We can’t end the pandemic. But we can shift the tone of our day by checking in with ourselves and trying to move in a direction that will meet our needs. By scheduling in and prioritizing things that make us feel good. By giving ourselves breaks. By cutting ourselves some slack. (If this idea feels overwhelming, one more thing on top of all the relentless other things: please know that this does not have to be big. Even tiny shifts in these directions— taking a few minutes to breathe behind a closed door, starting your day with an intentional stretch, whatever DOES feel manageable— can accumulate in a way that can be meaningful.)
This is true for us as adults– AND it’s true for our kids. These are skills that all of us can learn and practice: the ability to pay attention to how we are feeling. The ability to use our emotional state as information to direct our decision-making. The knowledge that we have the power to change how we feel. So– this weekend, I challenge you to take a few moments to check in with yourself, check in with your kids, and map out a new emotional game plan for this coming week.
Finally, just a reminder– if your child is in a pandemic rut and struggling with anxiety or mood, Mighty Minds starts next Thursday (January 28)… and we’ve decided to open this session up to 2nd to 5th graders, so if your child falls in this age range, please consider having them join us. Sometimes, kids are more receptive to new ideas and skills when they hear them from anyone but their parents– so we’re here for you (and for your kids!). More below (or registration here!).
We’re all practicing all of this together! Sending warm weekend wishes your way.
A few good reads:
- Parenting while shocked (Lisa D’Amour for the NY Times)
- Helping kids (and parents) cope during COVID19 (NPR LifeKit)
- I recommend eating chips (NY Times). “Grab whatever you’ve got. Open the bag. Pinch it on its crinkly edges and pull apart the seams. Now we’re in business: We have broken the seal. The inside of the bag is silver and shining, a marvel of engineering — strong and flexible and reflective, like an astronaut suit. Lean in, inhale that unmistakable bouquet: toasted corn, dopamine, America, grief!”
- If your family is part of the community impacted by the recent deaths of a local student and his father, here are a few tips on talking to kids about death (NPR LifeKit) or about mental illness (American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry).
- There are probably exactly none of you who haven’t already seen poet Amanda Gorman at the presidential inauguration… but on the off chance I’m wrong (or if you want to feel hopeful and watch it again), click here (CNN). “For there is always light / if only we are brave enough to see it / if only we are brave enough to be it.”