HOW TO BUILD RESILIENCY & SELF-ESTEEM
Would you believe through a healthy dose of failure and mistake making?
Although true for anyone, this article will focus on parenting and children. In an age when we endlessly strive to build our children’s self-esteem, we risk doing the opposite, or even building a “hollow” sense of self-esteem, by not allowing our children to make mistakes and experience failure. (Yes, that is a loaded word! More on that later.) Instead, we find a way to build them up, no matter what and strive to protect them by intervening or preventing the mistakes from being made in the first place. While backed by only the best of intentions, this can back-fire creating self-esteem not based on self-reliance or trust in one’s abilities, but instead based on a belief that others should take care of them, protect them, and make it easier for them. In other words, a sense of entitlement. While this may buffer our children from the cold, harsh realities of the world, it does not prepare them well for adulthood, real relationships and challenges down the road.
We live in a pressured, fast-paced and competitive world and we feel a need to prepare our children to succeed. In doing so, we may become over-involved in our children’s assignments, grades, friendships, free time, activities and play. As parents we have nothing but good intentions when helping with our kids’ with their difficult assignments, protecting them from potential consequences, even, sometimes, defending inappropriate behavior and mistakes. This is all done out of love...and trying to do better than our parents did. A noble endeavor, indeed!
But, have we gone too far in trying to provide our kids with a successful and perfect childhood? Has a loving, healthy childhood become confused with an overly protected one, where kids aren’t allowed to make mistakes, fall down or fail? How about the value of learning about their short-comings and problematic tendencies (we all have them!) facing them, and, hopefully learning to work with or through them? Have today’s kids been denied the chance to feel that horrible, sinking feeling of guilt and regret when they’ve done something “bad” or had the living daylights scared out of them when they get caught and realize the potential consequences they now face? Are they protected from ever being in these useful, learning situations? Worse yet, are they getting intervened on before it ever happens, thereby never gaining the first-hand knowledge that comes from making a wrong decision, an independent decision, learning what happens when they choose a certain path, learning how to right a wrong, get through difficult situations, or fix it when things go wrong?
I am not advocating we let our children completely fend for themselves. We certainly don’t want to watch them hurt others, themselves, or commit a dangerous or illegal act. Every child is different and there are various degrees of appropriate support for each child, but it’s important to know that hands-on helping or interfering isn’t always better. Ironically it can prevent resiliency and self-esteem from developing because the struggle and learning process that comes with a difficult situation isn’t ever experienced. Many children need a lot of intervening and oversight, especially those who struggle to see themselves in a positive light to start with, have a traumatic past, psychiatric or other developmental disorder. However, even children who need a lot of support benefit from being challenged, being held accountable, and having the space to make mistakes and overcome them at appropriate times and in safe ways.
This doesn’t mean we leave our children alone to flail and thrash around in the water for long periods of time, especially, when we can see that they are going to sink. It does mean that we don’t always need to jump in and save them immediately, as long as they are still reasonably safe and working at it. It means, we watch carefully, let them splash around, see if they start to use their arms and legs to swim, and monitor how they are doing on their own. If they go under for a minute and swallow some water, do they cough it up and keep going? That is
success right there! Have they been given enough instruction, and do they apply that and learn what their arms and legs can do? Can they find their way out and tread water on their own? Do they have the chance to self- correct without outside help? Do they eventually learn to move forward and become good swimmers? If so, this is gold! They will say, “I did it!” It will feel amazing! This is the stuff self-esteem is made of!
Struggling through a difficult situation, not knowing what to do, trying, failing, and trying something else, followed by reflecting on what did and didn’t work, and eventually figuring it out is all part of the learning process. It is nourishes a crucial feedback loop that builds problem solving capabilities, trust in one’s abilities, self-esteem and resiliency. The teen years, especially, are about thinking for one’s self, figuring it out on one’s own, and balking at what mom and dad say in order to develop independence as an adult.
It may feel counter-intuitive, to allow your kids to fall down, make mistakes, or endure a “failure”, but if it is framed as a learning situation, a worthwhile set-back to be learned from, then it can be a valuable tool; even one that serves us better than a “success”. The word “failure” has a negative connotation and is usually couched in a ton of shame, but learning what doesn’t work is just as important as learning what does. A failure doesn’t have to be a shameful act. Sometimes, we do the right thing and it doesn’t work out. Sometimes we try our best, but we endure a failure. We also learn the most from situations that sting a bit. We remember painful experiences more because pain hurts! It tells us what we don’t want to have happen again, and we apply that learning going forward.
The key is balance! You want to point out and praise the positives, as this builds positive credits in the bank that they can draw from later when facing a consequence, making a mistake, or enduring a hardship. The ratio of positive to negative feedback should be much more on the positive side. A child who doesn’t get enough positive feedback doesn’t have a lot of self-esteem to draw from, and will not be able to withstand a lot of negative outcomes. When our children face unrealistic expectations, relentless and repeated failures, then there it is a much tougher battle to overcome and build self-esteem. This is a set up for shame and frustration that lead to a behavioral backlash. Instead, we need to tell children what they are doing right, praise them when they do indeed make a good decision AND allow them the opportunity to face mistakes with honesty and humility, not shame. Teaching a child how to honestly take responsibility for their actions, how to fairly face negative consequences, and how to learn from each “non-success” are key. It is through both positive and negative experiences that our children become independent, self-confident, good problem solvers. This will prepare them well for the challenges that life will eventually throw at them.
Below are some ideas to help build self-esteem in your children!
- Let them vent and express their frustration or difficult feelings (this doesn’t mean you necessarily agree, but listen and try to understand, as they work it out and hopefully look at their part in it).
- Tell them that you believe in them and their ability to figure it out and make a good decision.
- Assign regular and achievable chores, household responsibilities, or expectations for them to become a dependable/reliable participant in the daily running of the household.
- Give lots of hugs and acknowledge and praise them when they do a good job.
- Hold them accountable with reasonable, age-appropriate consequences when they don’t.
- Repeat the mantra: “I am the parent. My job is to be kind, but firm.”
- Don’t come to the rescue right away (depending on your child’s age and situation. This could mean wait 5 minutes with a toddler, or it may mean wait 24 hours with an older teen)
- Don’t call their teacher unless necessary. Instead brainstorm and ask your child what they can do to handle the situation directly.
- Follow through with checking to see if your child did what they said they were going to do.
- Don’t believe everything you hear. Rely on your instincts here. Your child COULD be bending the truth to avoid shame, or an undesired consequence. This is a normal, human reaction.
- Set consequences that are natural/logical, sting, and are short-lived (depending on the situation). You want them to have a chance to learn from it and quickly correct the behavior. Long, drawn out consequences are typically not effective and can cause backlash.
- Remind them, that they have good thinking, are smart, and have a good head on their shoulders.
- Be sure to commend them pointing out successes, in any situation where they earnestly tried.
- Wait a good amount of time, then ask if THEY would do anything differently, if they could do it over.
- Ask them if they need any help in figuring it out, planning, etc., but don’t jump in and take it over.
- Consult with a professional, if unsure, so as not to set your child up for an insurmountable failure, or too many failures, especially if they’ve been struggling a lot already.
© 2020 Marianne Vernacchia, MFT#35980 4990 Speak Ln., #100, San Jose, CA 95118 www.sanjosetherapyworks.com
Oh, the discomfort people feel when I suggest that they may be feeling angry! It is the one comment that I get the most pushback on from my clients. Shy, quiet, clients will even object. “No, not angry. Maybe a little frustrated.” “No, I don’t think I feel angry, just a bit irritated.” “I wouldn’t say I’m angry…it just that I get tired of...” “Not angry! No! I’m not angry, I feel more bothered, than angry, but it’s not a big deal.” “I feel tired, but I don’t think it’s anger.” In other words, “I’m really uncomfortable with the idea of feeling angry…can we move on now?”
ANGER GETS A BAD WRAP
What is the BIG DEAL about feeling angry? Nobody seems to want to feel it, or at least, admit to feeling this normal, healthy, empowering emotion. This never ceases to amaze me. Yet I, too, used to say the same thing to my therapist. How could she imply such a thing?! I’m not angry! As if, anger is a state of being, versus just a feeling like any other feeling. Anger has a negative connotation. Somehow, we have learned that it is a bad thing to feel anger, yet it is one of the most important emotions that we have. And, let’s not forget, it is just an emotion – a feeling no different than our other feelings of joy, embarrassment, pride, worry or frustration.
Anger can be an emotion that, if not expressed early on, can lead to rage or fury, or sometimes, a loss of control. This kind of event can lead to a negative consequence, like feeling embarrassed, doing or saying something hurtful, or somehow causing damage to relationships, ourselves, or things around us. It can be a scary emotion if we have lost control before, or seen others lose control of their anger and cause damage. Men can be afraid of their anger if they’ve seen or heard of other men losing control or being aggressive or violent with their anger. Some men are raised to believe that to be a “gentleman” they are not to get angry. Real men must control their aggressive feelings. Women, as well, have been socialized to believe that it is inappropriate to be angry or express anger. It is not feminine or attractive for women to act angry. Anger is a “negative” and repressed emotion in our society.
THE DANGERS OF NOT EXPRESSING ANGER
Not only can unexpressed anger lead to an outburst of rage, or loss of control, it can also lead to anxiety and depression. When we don’t allow ourselves to feel and express this powerful emotion, we give up, it goes underground (and may seep out later in other ways if not resolved)…or worse yet, we decide, there is something wrong with us for feeling this way, and a part of us goes to sleep or dies inside. We deny ourselves the existence of a very energizing and virile piece of our psyche and emotional life. We also deny ourselves the ability to recognize when we feel offended, hurt, trespassed, or just plain old “NOT OK” with something. Therefore, we cannot and do not take care of ourselves or protect ourselves.
THE BENEFIT OF ANGER
Anger has been labeled a “negative” emotion, but the truth is, there are no “negative” emotions. There are just emotions. Normal, healthy, vibrant, human emotions! And, we need ALL of them! They tell us important information about ourselves, our environment, and our physical and emotional safety. Anger helps us recognize the thoughts we have about ourselves, how we feel around others, and how to take care of ourselves. We need anger, as well as all of our feelings to act as a navigation system to help us make decisions about our lives. We must welcome all of them, decipher what they mean, and decide if we need to take action. It is only through becoming curious about our angry feelings that we can figure out how to take care of ourselves. Anger helps us to learn what we don’t like, perhaps set a boundary or limit with ourselves or others, or make a change that will improve our mood, environment, or life.
WHY DO WE FEEL ANGER?
Anger is a protective emotion that pops us and tries to defend us when we are being infringed upon, being asked too much of, being mistreated, treated less than or unfairly, or being demeaned or disrespected. Under anger is usually a felt sense of hurt. These two often go hand in hand. Anger protects us from being hurt or mistreated. It is an important emotion! It is vital and essential that we are not afraid of it, but rather, move towards it, become curious about it, and tune in and listen to it. That does not mean we walk through life throwing our anger around or purposefully flaring our temper. It does mean that we need to figure out what we are angry about and decide if we need to express our hurt/unhappiness or make changes.
HOW DO WE KNOW IF WE’RE FEELING ANGER?
Often anger starts small and builds over time if we don’t catch it. Feeling irritable, frustrated, or bothered are all forms of anger. Feeling upset, “down”, unhappy, or even “tired” can often be forms of anger that are not quite identified yet. Resentment is a more pervasive emotion that comes from unresolved/unexpressed anger. Anger can express itself physically too. A narrowing in the eyes, furrowing of the brow, teeth clenching, heat running through us, tightening of fists, a tight chest/neck, tapping the foot or hand, or bouncing a leg. Why? Because anger creates energy. An energy (adrenaline and oxygen) begins to course through our bodies as blood pumps to our extremities to prepare us instinctually to fight or flight. Often, if we pay attention to our body, it will also let us know if we are angry. If we repress this anger or energy, we can become very tense, tight, or worse yet, not allow our bodies to feel any energy and not feel or respond to a perceived threat, which is a form of depression.
HOW CAN I TELL IF I HAVE ANY ANGER?
Ask yourself! Then, give yourself permission to feel any feelings of frustration, irritation, or anger at anyone or anything.
STEPS TO FEELING ANGER
Take 5-10 minutes a few times a week to sit quietly and breath. After taking in 3-5 deep breaths, let your thoughts and mind settle. Let the mundane or “to-do” thoughts float by like clouds. Let them go and don’t get hung up on them. Come back to noticing your breath. Focus on your breath only.
After 1-2 minutes ask yourself? “What am I feeling?” Become curious about your emotions. Do not judge them. Allow them to just be.
Ask yourself, “Am I frustrated about anything? Am I angry about anything?” If something surfaces, give yourself permission to feel more than frustration. Ask yourself, how angry am I about this? Am I just frustrated or am I really angry?
Am I more than angry? Am I furious? Do I feel enraged about this? It is ok and normal to feel these emotions. Allow your body to become warm, tingly, energized, even a bit uncomfortable. It is ok. It will also pass. It will not last forever. If you want to cry, that is ok too. Often, this is a more comfortable way to release anger at first.
Express out loud or write down exactly what you are angry about using “I” messages like this:
“I feel angry, frustrated, enraged at my wife, my boss, my brother, my mom for saying that to me, for not letting me, for not trusting me, for doing this or that.”
Check in to see if you have any hurt and sadness underneath that anger. Ask yourself, “Do I have hurt feelings too?” If so, express that directly as well either verbally or in writing using “I” messages.
“I feel hurt, offended, sad that you, my brother, my dad or mom, did that.”
Thank yourself for letting you know about these feelings. They are important!
HOW SHOULD I DEAL WITH ANGER?
Do not be afraid of it! Your angry feelings are not the problem, it’s not realizing them that can create a problem. Once you are aware of any anger, and once you have expressed it OUT LOUD, IN WRITING or in a direct way to get it outside your body, then you have choices. Once you’ve calmed down from the energy of the emotion, you can use your intellectual or logical mind to decide if you need to take any action.
WHAT CHOICES TO DO I HAVE FOR ACTION?
Nothing…just feel it. Sometimes, we don’t want to do anything with it. We just feel it and it passes and we’re done with it.
Become more aware…Sometimes, we want to continue to observe a situation now that we know it has caused us hurt or anger. We want to see if this is a one-off or if there is a pattern that continues to cause us hurt and/or anger.
Express and discuss it …Often, we decide we need to let someone know their actions have hurt us and/or led to us to feeling angry. We may need to alert someone to a problem that is getting in the way of our friendship, intimacy, or relationship. Discussing our feelings can lead to increased and more honest communication, a deeper understanding, a compromise or negotiation, or create awareness and respect for what hurts and upsets each other.
Set a boundary…we may need to set a limit or boundary with ourselves or others to prevent this from happening again. Perhaps we are allowing or feeding into a dynamic that repeatedly causes us hurt and we end up feeling angry and resentful. Perhaps we need to tell someone we are not okay with something.
Make a change or get out…sometimes, we have to put distance between us and another. We may need to leave a situation, job, or a relationship if we are unable to resolve the source of hurt and anger and it continues. There may be an incompatibility between two personalities, or a toxic environment that we need to protect ourselves from.
Resolving anger can be scary and hard. It is not easy to feel the pain that may be underneath it, and it is not easy to confront situations that cause us hurt or do damage. But, like a drain that gets clogged, we must continue to maintain and clear out any clogs that get stuck in our “pipes” or emotional pathways. We will feel lighter, clearer and continue to learn about ourselves and what we like and need to find healthy, compatible situations and relationships in our lives.
© 2020, Marianne Vernacchia MA, MFT#35980
IT’S ALL ABOUT BOUNDARIES!
IMPORTANCE OF BOUNDARIES:
It is essential for our health and well-being to know our limits, wants and needs. It is part of forming and knowing who we are. Boundaries are an important part of how we do this. If we don’t know our limits and protect them, we tend to take on more responsibilities just to please others. A key word here is “others”. If we don’t check in with ourselves and determine our own limits, needs, likes and responsibilities, then others will determine these for us. This leads to anger, resentment and as sense of victimization. This will ultimately ruin the relationship and lead to depression and low self-esteem in ourselves.
HOW TO SET BOUNDARIES:
Step 1: Awareness
Pay attention to the small feelings (annoyances, frustrations, twinges of guilt, desire to push back and resist, passive-aggressive behavior) as well as the big feelings, and honor them for a minute. GO WITH IT, instead of getting down on yourself or minimizing your feelings, sucking it up and trying to shake it off – honor your feelings and respect yourself to know what’s best for you. Anger is an important, protective emotion. It lets us know when our well-being may be threatened and energizes us to protect ourselves. This doesn’t mean you never suck it up and give to others anymore, but it means you spend equal time taking care of your own needs. If you don’t there is nothing left of you to give.
Step 2: Check-in
How am I feeling right now?
Why do I feel weird, detached, or unsure of myself right now?
Am I okay with what is being asked of me? How it is being asked? How I am being talked to and treated right now?
Have I played into this or set this dynamic up somehow by not speaking up or setting a boundary before this?
Am I being respected right now?
Do I need to speak up and set a boundary?
Step 3: Speaking up
There are many ways to set a boundary. Here are some of those ways:
1. Be honest/direct: Express that you are not comfortable, and in good conscience, cannot do what you are being asked.
2. Defer/Buy Time: Let someone know you have to think about it more, check your calendar, etc. before you commit.
3. Acknowledge them while setting a boundary: Show empathy that you understand where they’re coming from (you hear them), but you aren’t okay with, do not have the bandwidth, or cannot at the moment, help them, allow them to talk to you that way, or go along with that.
4. Be honest and respectful: “I know you want help with this, but I just don’t have the bandwidth right now. I’m sorry.” OR “I’m really trying to limit my commitments and practice self-care, so I can’t commit at the moment.” “I have to be honest with you…I don’t like the way you’re talking to me. I have to step away right now.” “You know, I have to be honest with you, I feel talked down to and I’m just not okay with it. I need to take a break from this. I can’t help you right now.”
5. Express your feelings: “I feel _______ (annoyed, resentful, hurt, angry, not okay) that I’m being asked to do this. I’m sorry, but I have to say no.”
STEP 4: Congratulate yourself!
Setting boundaries is hard! It will feel very foreign and even selfish at first. You may worry about hurting other’s feelings or ruining the relationship - especially, if you haven’t done it before and the relationship hasn’t been built on boundary setting in the past.
1. Remind yourself: You can’t take care of their needs and be true to yourself at the same time. In a healthy relationship there is honest sharing and respectful behavior that strives to accommodate both people’s feelings and needs. The other person should value your needs and wants and limits too.
STEP 5: Be prepared for fall-out
Homeostasis: People will push back in order to get back to the former homeostasis in the relationship – especially if it served their needs more than yours! Remember, there are those who are unaware when they are intruding in, mistreating, expecting too much, etc. Go back to your original feelings and why you set the boundary. Your feelings are valid and important. They are your body’s way of letting you know you need to set a boundary to take care of yourself.
1. Selfishness versus Self-Care:
Selfishness is not the same as self-care. Setting boundaries is about self-care, not excluding others. It is essential for your well-being and for a relationship to be healthy. It is, however, selfish to not consider the needs of others over and over again, and to consistently only care about yourself. Most of us who struggle with boundary setting do not struggle with being overly selfish. We struggle with seeing what our own needs are and expressing ourselves in a way that protects and takes good care of ourselves.
2. Fear of Conflict:
The biggest fear of setting boundaries is facing conflict or rejection. While conflict is stressful, there cannot be a healthy, strong relationship without it. Conflict is about negotiating and accommodating both people’s needs. If this is avoided and resentment, anger grows, this can lead to depression. This would be the equivalent to one of you not really being present in the relationship and only there to tune into the wants and needs of the other. This is often described as feeling like a part of you is dying or has died – a frequent description by those who are caught up in a long-term toxic relationship.
3. The Reaction of Others:
You cannot control how others react when you set a boundary. Quite frankly, it has nothing to do with you. If you are respectful (even if angry) and non-attacking when you set the boundary, then you have done nothing wrong. In fact, you’ve done everything right, even if the other person doesn’t like it. You cannot control if they are open and respectful or if they become angry or hurt. That is an inside job for them. Some may say, “thank you…I had no idea you were feeling that way.” Or, “OK, that’s hard for me to hear and I’m not sure I agree, but I’m glad you told me.” Even better, “I’m sorry!” Others may become defensive and accuse you of being selfish, rude, etc. Some people will express feeling offended or hurt and may say things that make you feel wrong or guilty. YOU do not need to take this on and take RESPONSIBILITY for THEIR feelings. Your job is only to be honest and as respectful as possible when expressing your feelings. They are allowed to have THEIR reaction, which you did not cause.
4. Reminder: YOU CANNOT TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF AND OTHERS AT THE SAME TIME.
You would have to leave yourself and your needs to go over and create a situation that is what they want. This could be self-abandonment and lead to resentment and anger over time. This erodes a relationship and will lead to an eventual separation or cause depression in the person abandoning themselves over and over again.
Unfortunately, there are some – often narcissistic personalities – who cannot accommodate the needs of others, who have to control and dominate the relationship, who consistently put their needs first. They may overtly or subtly discount the needs of others by minimizing, challenging, guilt tripping, changing the subject, or turning it around back to them. This is the “smoke and mirrors” routine, where you thought the subject was your feelings or needs, and all of a sudden you’re left questioning the validity of your ask or limit, feeling guilty and wrong, and now are focused on the other person’s needs. These personalities are often called “toxic” and can cause harm to your ability to recognize your feelings and needs, and to be able to advocate for yourself. Ultimately, this erodes at your self-esteem, sense of self, and can cause anxiety, depression and other emotional challenges. In these cases, being clear and attuned to the kind of personality you are dealing with, setting clear boundaries and, sometimes, putting distance between you and this person are the best courses of action.
The purpose of this sheet on boundaries applies mostly to adult to adult relationships, not parent to child.
It is more difficult to determine when and how to practice self-care and set limits when you are interacting with your children. It is a parent’s job and responsibility, often, to put their children’s needs first because they can’t or don’t have the power to do so. How and when to set a limit with your child varies according to their age and determining reasonable expectations given their maturity and abilities. Parental self-care is still paramount, however, but needs to be done outside the relationship, especially in the early years. Expecting your kids to accommodate or meet those needs may often be inappropriate. As kids are able to do more for themselves, and can realistically consider the needs of others, it is important that they learn to do so. But, it is a parent’s job to always consider the needs of their children first, until their kids are adults and/or capable of taking care of themselves. The teenage years really challenge our boundary-setting! It is a time when kids are practicing to become adults. They rebel, break away from, and focus mainly on what THEY think, and making their OWN decisions, much to a parent’s chagrin. This is essential for them to become successful adults. Remember, it is necessary for them to become a bit “self-ish” to develop their own sense of self instead of always taking direction from you. However, it is ok to show them that you count too. It is essential that they learn too how to think about the needs of others in addition to their own, and how to balance that. The more you model how to set boundaries, the more they will absorb this and be able to do it themselves.
© 04/18/20 Marianne Vernacchia MA
4990 Speak Ln., #100
San Jose, CA 95118
The key to fighting off depression and anxiety is tuning into our thoughts and pinpointing negative beliefs, assumptions, or irrational thoughts. These naturally increase when we feel frightened and during times of stress. COVID-19 and SIP creates a hotbed for these kinds of thoughts. There has been much loss, and this, in no way, is meant to minimize that. But without the existence of darkness, we cannot recognize the light. So, I offer the following to help counterbalance the darkness.
This leads to greater discovery?
We experience the peace that quiet can bring?
Our bodies get more rest?
We spend less?
We come to enjoy a slower pace of life?
We do more with our hands instead of our heads?
We hear the different songs that the birds sing outside?
We experience the tranquility and contentment of a quiet moment looking out the window?
We have time to get lost in thought?
A generation of children and teens understand more about the precariousness of life and suffering?
The sky becomes a deeper blue?
We learn more about our children or family?
We spend more time organizing our space and cooking more meals?
We take time to appreciate people are who work at the grocery, post office, empty our garbage, work at the hospital, and work at farms?
Our empathy for others grows?
We realize we are really more alike and connected than we thought we were?
STAY WELL, EVERYONE!
© 2020, Marianne Vernacchia MA
Our world has shut down, and day to day activities and routines have changed if not disappeared. As creatures of habit, we thrive when we have a sense of purpose, routine and control. Here is a list of tips to help you establish new equilibrium and make the most of sheltering in place.
ROUTINE AND STRUCTURE: The normal rhythms of our day are now disrupted. It is time to get creative, as we restructure our day. Structure and routine are essential. It is possible to still maintain an order and purpose to our days by building in exercise, socializing (online or via phone), work, entertainment, and household chores. Divide your days into time periods for each activity. Shower/bathe, get dressed in fresh clothing, interact with others via internet or phone, and walk/exercise every day.
GET PRODUCTIVE AT HOME: Having a goal each day, tasks to focus on, and feeling productive are all ways to help build a sense of purpose and normalcy to families or individuals during “sheltering-in-place”. For those of you who like to feel productive in a tangible way or those who like to complete tasks – here is a list of possibilities:
Organize – tackle organizing one room at a time, or clean/organize a garage, shed or workspace
Clean – Now is a great time to do a deep cleaning of your home. Tackle the garage or basement or attic and sheds. Get on top of your finances by creating a budget – start a spreadsheet or use a template and make a financial plan.
Paint– Touch up dirty walls, stored paint in the garage can even work for an accent wall
Garden – work a little bit every day, loosening soil, creating new beds, divide indoor or outdoor plants and replant in places you’d like, weed, or clean up and prepare patio or outdoor gardens for a beautiful, enjoyable spring that you can enjoy at home.
Redecorate – rearrange furniture, redecorate a bedroom, move things around. Create a pleasant work space if you’re working from home.
Get crafty – sketch or paint objects in your home (meditative and focused and occupies your brain), paint downloaded pics from internet or whatever comes to mind. Sew – whether you have a machine or by hand (fix holes in your favorite clothing, try your hand at hand-stitching or embroidery. Try cutting out and sewing together old pieces of clothing or sheets to make a quilt. Knit/crochet – lots of tutorials online. Learn how to build or work with wood – whittling, carving or building also keeps your mind occupied and is a tangible challenge. Resurfacing/painting furniture, give small items in your home a face-lift.
Learn something new – Many museums like the Louvre in France have online tours. Monterey Aquarium and the San Diego Zoo have zoo cams and tours available online too. Visit Groupon for virtual classes like interior design. There are literally thousands of brief online tutorials and full, comprehensive classes like coding classes, computer programming and even the Master’s series by celebrities are all available for purchase online. PBS and PBS online has many activities and classes online as well. Yellowstone has a wonderful virtual tour and not only teaches you about the environment, but is amazingly beautiful!
Games – Teach your family a new card game, order a puzzle, practice Sudoku or crossword puzzles. Apps like “elevate” can offer brain exercises to keep your brain tuned up. Adult coloring books can be meditative and calming.
Baking and Cooking – Bake your own bread, can vegetables or fruit, make and freeze soups and sauces. Involve children in making dinner each night.
Exercise – Yoga, Zumba, Dance classes (line dancing anyone?) or HIT workouts are all available via apps or online video/Netflix. Set a time for this each day. Invite family to dance together. Have a dance contest. Orange Theory and Planet Fitness online are offering daily classes. Take a break from working at home and try a new way of getting active.
Other ideas – Learn a new instrument. Order a recorder or ukulele online and begin teaching yourself using tutorials. Scrapbook or Shutterfly offer great projects for organizing and making photo albums with pictures.
©2020, Marianne T. Vernacchia MA