As a parent of very young children, “rest” feels more elusive than ever. Honestly, illusive. Weekends are just a different version of the same non-stop grind: 24/7 child care and pretending to maintain other parts of life too.

I probably was no better at resting and recharging prior to the pandemic, but I did have many more distractions to obscure this reality. And most of the articles about improving rest and getting good sleep make me want to scream. (I won’t, but only because it would wake the baby.)

Things like…

Seriously?

Which one of these authors wants to watch my baby tonight? I would mention how that’s impossible, thanks to the pandemic, but that goes against recommendations to “manage worry.”

Rest like this no longer exists—not in my house, not right now.

Rest and re-energizing has to look different for me now than it’s looked before. So, here are some ways I’m failing, and some things I’m doing differently in 2021.

Going the extra…social distance

My preferred methods of connection are still basically off-limits. But I know I need genuine social interactions to recharge.

I’m working on going one step further than I typically would to connect. For someone I would usually text, I’ll try calling instead. While the method will depend on the relationship, I’m looking for what feels (a) most genuine and (b) least like work.

Instead of setting specific time to connect, I’m working on reaching out spontaneously. Because who wants to send a dozen messages to schedule a call that will inevitably get pushed when a child is predictably unpredictable?

(What even are schedules now anyway?)

Reflect—eventually

Reflecting on 2020 feels…masochistic. Especially since the turn of the calendar to 1/1/21 felt anticlimactic.

COVID numbers (continue) spiking. American politics (continue) spiraling. My children and I (continue) staying together, mostly within these walls that shrink a little more each day.

I’ve used the Reflection Ritual in years past, and would still recommend the process. However, the instructions weren’t as inspiring this time. Things like:

  • brain dump what was going on globally in the past 12 months (but also can we not?)
  • list everywhere you went this year (um)
  • your favorite evenings out (LOL)
  • write the names of the ten people who you most enjoyed spending time with this year…

After checking the cover to make sure I hadn’t accidentally swapped the journal for a handbook on contact tracing, I gently reshelved it.

Yes, there’s plenty to unpack from 2020, but I’m not ready to let it all out of mental quarantine. Sometimes, even six feet isn’t enough distance.

Goodbye phone, hello world

In setting aside some of the recent past, I’m finding energy in the current and upcoming present.

Much has already been written about the perils of doomscrolling. And we can see how living perpetually on-screen increases anxiety and stress.

In self-defense, I’m restricting my own smartphone use. I’m blocking distracting apps during certain hours with Focus mode and eliminating ‘free’ games or apps that run on economies of distraction. Anything that rewards daily log-ins, or demands interaction throughout the day.

My brain is putty in app developers’ hands. I’m tired of feeling like mush.

Interested in finding a similar way to disconnect? Try some practices from Goodbye Phone, Hello World. (Maybe don’t get the Kindle version.)

Staying sane.

The past year pushed us to contemplate our mortality more than we’re accustomed to.

“Fear, worry, and stress are normal responses to perceived or real threats, and at times when we are faced with uncertainty or the unknown.” – World Health Organization, Mental Health and COVID-19

A lot of us will need some more help with our mental health in 2021. I will continue meeting with my therapist, virtually—and regularly. And, when I do, I will appreciate that taking time to prioritize my mental health is both necessary and a huge privilege.

Perhaps this is the year you’ll get to “Okay.” Maybe you’ll get better than okay. Or maybe it’s the year you’re finally able to admit you’re not okay after all.

All of those are okay.

Overall, my goal for 2021 is simple: accomplish less.

Much of modern life involves mindless achievement—scrolling apps, reviewing notifications, refreshing news feeds. Wherever possible, I’m eliminating these unnecessary checkboxes.

You don’t need to track your time spent meditating to know whether your mental health is waxing or waning. Ultimately, all your apps and potential achievements want one thing: your attention.

I’ll miss the little dopamine hit from “accomplishing” these things, but I won’t miss the unending dread from everything else I’ve left undone, unliked, or unread.

Without these distractions, I’ll probably realize just how tired I truly am.

Maybe I’ll also get some better rest.

 

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