Within the limitations of quarantine, my partner and I have been asking these questions:
What can we experiment with in these uncertain times?
What IS working well?
If something isn’t working, what’s an alternative to try?
We've become all the more observant and appreciative of what IS working in these unusual circumstances — and, more curious and creative about how to meet various needs, individually, as a family, and as part of a larger community.
These are some things that continue to work well for us -- important before, but even more essential now:
💻 Mindful Media Consumption
This is possibly the most important thing for me, without which I have to work twice as hard to recalibrate!
For me, mindful media consumption means:
~ Choosing to find sources of information that feel balanced, encouraging, thoughtful, compassionate, and not inflammatory… easier said than done these days!
~ Noticing how it feels in my body to read or listen to certain people, stories, perspectives, or ideas -- when I hear that statement or see that image, do I contract or relax? Does that take me into Fear, or into Love and Trust? Not judging, just noticing my embodied response. What's underneath any resistance or tension that I notice?
~ Tending to my body and spirit before and after any media consumption -- making sure to re-center myself as needed (with practices shared below), so that my nervous system feels regulated to engage with my family and my work, rather than continuing to let what I've read or heard pull my energy in an unhelpful direction or become stagnant in my body.
~ Only engaging with media at certain times of day for a limited amount of time -- when I already feel sufficiently resourced. Not looking at media when I'm extra stressed, or when I'll need to be present with my son or clients.
~ Sometimes taking a few days away from media altogether. Especially when there’s deep inner work to do about a topic, it’s vital to take some space to Be With any uncomfortable feelings — without further external influence, to better process the learning opportunity that’s arising, tend to fears, and come to Inner Clarity.
I know that when I practice such mindful media consumption, I’m much more available to my family and my work in the ways that I want to be. And, I simply feel better! When my own nervous system is well-balanced, the next step of Inspired Action naturally becomes clear -- in ways that aren't possible if I'm disregulated and reactive.
It also helps me to remember that there are always multiple perspectives and interpretations available. I can best tune in to what's useful, relevant, and supportive (for myself and others) when I keep returning to my own internal center, to feel empowered in my body and in my focus of attention.
Things are constantly changing and being re-evaluated, and really, we’re all in the Mystery together.
🔮 Being in the Mystery with Gentleness & Spaciousness
No one has a crystal ball about what the future will look like.
We're all "living into the question" as best we can.
Amidst so much change and uncertainty, it feels Most True simply to accept Being in the Mystery, and to give myself and others extra gentleness and spaciousness as we navigate new territory, trusting that the next right steps will become clear at the right time -- and not until then.
In my experience, Mystery is best navigated by maintaining awareness of my own and others’ current Window of Tolerance (which is often narrower in times of stress!), as well as being aware of our current access to resources for both practical and emotional support.
We all have different resources available, with varying ability to access those resources at any given time -- which can vary with our past trauma history, our current stressors (including finances, safety at home, & the relationships between the larger culture and our own identity). Even if we do have plenty of resources available, our ability to utilize whatever emotional regulation skills we have will vary within the confines of our current environment.
No one knows what that full picture looks like for anyone else, and we ALL deserve compassion.
This awareness allows us to Be in the Mystery with gentleness, spaciousness, and deep compassion for each of us, as the unique humans that we are. It's ok to feel All that we feel, as we live our way into the Unknown.
Not always easy, but certainly worthwhile to soften into compassion and gentleness with ourselves and with those around us, trusting we're doing the best we can with the resources we have. (And, if those resources are depleted, looking at ways to replenish them sustainably!)
What can blossom when we soften and open?
Noticing and naming what I'm appreciating (however big or small, specific or general) and letting that feeling of gratitude permeate my whole being is so nourishing! I make a point of naming my appreciations everyday, especially any time I need a boost.
Noticing what I *can* appreciate in any situation or experience always shifts my energy positively, even if other things remain challenging. As soon as I make that shift in myself, everything feels easier, such that I can open up to more creative options to cultivate more of what feels nourishing.
"What we appreciate, appreciates." And it certainly feels better to appreciate and give more energy to what we DO want than to what we don’t want.
(Some folks may take issue with that idea, as it could lead to covering up or denying our feelings... But the truth is that there are always multiple perspectives and realities alive at any given moment. And it feels a whole lot better to choose where we put the majority of our attention -- even in complex, difficult situations, it helps to "look for the helpers" (as Mr. Rogers would say), and to put our attention on what we can do to help. It certainly serves us better to have a growth mindset about what else could be possible, as we experiment with making the best of challenging circumstances. For me, that starts with gratitude, and grows naturally from there!)
Expressing our appreciation to others is also a powerful way to amplify our gratitude, tune into the support of our inherent interconnection, and to lift the other person up too — it feels good all around!
My partner and I are both naturally very appreciative people, and express our gratitude to each other multiple times every day — which of course makes sharing extended time together feel much more easeful and mutually supportive.
We do our best to focus on what IS working, and to amplify that, before addressing anything that needs some tweaking. (It’s delicious to be in a home environment where this is true!)
And, my son seems to be increasing his awareness of acts of service that inspire our gratitude, as well as in his natural expression of gratitude to us, simply by being around it so constantly. Gratitude makes our home feel like a more healthily sustainable ecosystem for all of us.
💞 Heart Hugs
If you’re quarantined with someone else open to it, Heart Hugs are amazing! My partner and I enjoy having regular, full-body-contact, heart-to-heart hugs, held long enough for our breathing to settle and our nervous systems to co-regulate. Through this regular practice, we re-center together, and can let the resource of our connection support the rest of our day.
We’ve found it to be even more effective lying down, so there’s also the regulatory effect of the deep pressure of shared body weight — which sometimes results in a Heart Hug Family Sandwich on the couch! (Although that’s about to shift, as my pregnant belly grows too big to be squished!)
And, standing up works too. It’s so worthwhile to prioritize having intentionally nourishing, centering physical contact! 🤗
Photo taken last summer by our beloved friend, Cathy Vartuli
Solo?? No one around to hug?
Weighted pillows can be amazingly helpful, as a way to get that deep pressure to regulate the nervous system. This doesn’t have to be fancy — bags of rice or beans stuck in a pillow case work great!
Lie in a comfortable position and place weighted pillows across the hips, over the heart, on the legs or ankles...
Need to be sitting upright, but still feel anxious? Place some weighted pillows across your lap to help ground your energy and remind you of the Resource of your deeper, wider center. (No one will even notice, if you're on a Zoom call!)
Experiment and see what works best for your body, which will likely be different on different days — stay curious!
Add in some gentle breathing practices or embodied compassion meditation, while grounded and supported by that weight, and notice what shifts. (This is also an excellent pre-bedtime practice to help fall asleep.)
And, in the absence of fellow humans, hugging a tree or a pet can be immensely helpful too!
💆🏽♀️ Self-massage (or a massage exchange)
Daily practice of long, loving, moderate pressure strokes along the meridians works wonders to smooth the flow of Qi and regulate the nervous system.
I typically recommend going down the inside of the arms & up the outside; across the chest; belly circles; lower back/kidney circles; down the backs of the legs & up the inside; deep pressure to the hips and torso (& anywhere else that feels good); finishing with gently massaging the face, ears, and head — all with love and gratitude for these miraculous, vulnerable, resilient bodies we get to inhabit!
Even if you’re not around other humans available for heart hugs or a massage exchange, this practice of self-massage can deeply soothe the nervous system, and gently help down-regulate intense emotions, so you can come back to feeling centered and supported.
As an acupuncturist, I've also been needling myself regularly, and doing Zoom calls to guide private clients through doing acupressure, moxa, gua sha, and other Daoist medical self-care techniques at home. (Click here to learn more about those offerings, or to schedule a free phone consultation!)
Our bodies need regular tending to support our emotional and physical balance, so we can have healthier responses to stress, deeper sleep, calmer emotions, and a more resilient immune system. However, since acupressure isn't always easily accessible to those who haven't tried it before, general self-massage is a great starting point -- and belly-rubs in particular!
☯️ Qi Gong & Breathwork
Spontaneous Qigong is an easy, effective way to move emotional and physical energy, allowing us to quickly shift feelings of overwhelm, anxiety, and stagnation.
Kidney Breathing soothes and nourishes the Water Element, recharging the batteries of the body and gently encouraging the transformation of Fear into Wisdom.
Healing Sound exercises can help us quickly, palpably shift our felt experience of challenging emotions held in the body, as we consciously clear out what we don’t need, and revitalize our radiant True Qi.
(Videos of Kidney Breathing & Spontaneous Qigong, & an audio Healing Sound practice are part of my free mini-course, Embodying Courage in Challenging Times — along with several guided meditations. Click here for free, instant access to learn these techniques.)
These practices are excellent ways to nourish ourselves, move through emotions, and let our nervous systems release energy, so we can return to center.
🌀 Bonus: even 60 seconds can make a significant difference! I’ve found that just ONE MINUTE of spontaneous qigong, and/or just a few deep, conscious Kidney Breaths, a few times a day, significantly supports my emotional resilience in challenging times. It's worth pausing to add these practices in, and just see what shifts!
(These micro-doses of self-care are extra essential for anyone at home for hours with kids, as our kids regulate better when we regulate ourselves first — and often, kids are happy to do some of these practices with us too! For mamas who want more effective, quickly rejuvenating self-care practices to help navigate the Unknown, check out my new Thriving Mama Circle monthly membership here!)
Not sure about qigong?
A dance party helps move Qi too! Even dancing to just a song or two can work wonders for shifting our energy! 💃
Meditation can be practiced in many different ways, and I have several free guided meditations available to download HERE.
I tend to prefer body-centered meditation practices, often including sound, breathwork, movement, and/or body-centered visualization, such as the Daoist Microcosmic Orbit practice.
My partner prefers silent seated meditation, often best for him before sunrise.
Both of us are clear that our meditation practice is ESSENTIAL to our well-being, and we make sure to schedule it in daily. (It’s quickly apparent if we miss a day or two, as other things start to slide... which is a good reminder to prioritize what we know works best for us, especially when home together so much.)
Baths, showers, even just washing hands with the intention of letting go of anything not serving us — all are nourishing and soothing! And, drinking enough water to stay healthily hydrated too, since having enough Yin fluid in our systems helps us be more comfortably Present With all the feelings we may be experiencing.
Plus, being hydrated inspires regular bathroom breaks — which can become wonderful opportunities to pause, breathe, let go of what we don’t need, and reset.
☘️ Outdoor Time
If at all possible, taking a walk everyday for exercise and soul-nourishment, or (since I know that’s not possible for everyone now), at the very least, consciously breathing fresh air for a few minutes, even if just through an open window…
Ideally, actually let your bare feet touch the Earth or your skin contact a tree, to feel that natural exchange of energy & support.
I especially love doing breathing and qigong practices with trees, drawing energy up from the Earth, consciously letting it nourish my body, and letting go of anything ready to be composted, with gratitude for the Earth’s continuous support.
(For a nourishing guided meditation that includes bringing up Earth energy, collecting Full Moon energy, and returning to your own Inner Wisdom, click here for free, instant access.)
✨ EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) Tapping
This practice is my partner's specialty, which I've found quite helpful too, as a powerful, simple way to shift emotional energies quickly. Easy to learn and implement, anytime, anywhere.
Never heard of EFT?
My partner, Rick, offers numerous free introductory EFT practices, as well as several options for live, online Emotional Freedom Circles, currently including 2 months free -- check out these nourishing resources here: https://www.thrivingnow.com/circle/
Listening to fun, meaningful, soothing, and/or inspiring music can improve a mood so quickly! Singing & playing music ourselves is also deeply nourishing, even if that’s with a made-up instrument, like a bunch of jars filled with different amounts of water. (My son loves that!)
We’ve been enjoying musical improvisation with our tongue drum, guitar, other instruments, and voices a LOT these past few weeks, and I love learning (and inventing) new songs with my family! Opening up the voice naturally moves a lot of energy, and it’s empowering to feel that immediate shift in the vibration of both my body and the room.
(Want to make music and other art into a fun daily practice, with some sweet online community? My dear friend, Asher Leigh, is facilitating the free Pandemic Expressions Facebook group, which you can join here.)
My son playing our tongue drum -- soothing for all of us!
🚀 Focusing on what’s within my Realm of Control
This means noticing (without judgment!) if I’m doing what I can to support myself, my family, and community locally, with the resources I have available in the moment, and whether I’m getting drained by letting too much energy go to things that I can’t resolve. There’s only so much in my (or anyone’s) realm of control at any given time, and sometimes sending love and compassion (and money if we have it, votes, signatures on petitions, or any other relevant resources) is all we can do for what is beyond our immediate realm — which naturally changes over time.
It doesn’t help anyone to feel guilty about tending to our own family’s well-being, with the current level of resources we have available. We do what we can with what we have, and we ALL deserve compassionate support — including from ourselves.
For us to be able to Be Present With ourselves, our work, and our families in a sustainable way, we need to be aware of our own energy input and output, of our capacity to show up helpfully and authentically without getting burned out, and of what ways we can collaborate with others to create systems that allow sustainability to be possible for ALL of us — including in health care, social justice, childcare, education, finances, etc.
When dysfunction shows up in times of crisis, we can let that inform what choices we want to make for a better future — AND we can start by creating and modeling that in our own homes, to the best of our ability, since that’s the realm of influence most available to most of us right now. (Hence, the original questions: What’s working? What are you experimenting with? What are some alternatives to try next?)
Want to participate in further discussions about how supporting our families’ thriving can contribute to the co-creation of more loving, respectful, sustainable communities and structures?
My partner’s recent podcast, "In These TRYing Times... What Shall We TRY?" (click here to listen) is what inspired this whole post. In it, he also mentioned some NEW things we’ve been trying that are working remarkably well for us, including:
🗓 Block Scheduling
Because we’re all home & need time to work, connect with each other, and tend to ourselves, we’ve been more intentional about utilizing our shared calendar, both for work and for self-care, just to be sure it all happens! (Otherwise, it’s easy for hours to slip by, and needs to go unmet, which means a downward spiral for everyone...)
What’s this look like?
We sit down every week (or two) and look at when we each need specific times for appointments, clients, or time-specific projects. We block those out first, so the other person will be the point person for the (very chatty) 6-year-old at those times — which sometimes means homeschooling or Special Time with him, and sometimes means tending to other household tasks, either with his help or while he amuses himself.
Then, we look at the flow of the rest of the week, and block out time everyday for each of us to be uninterrupted — whether it’s for work or self-care, we know we can count on having that time to ourselves, which is hugely important for the two introverts in our house! We also are sure to schedule in some quality family time (usually for walks and dinner) and to allow free time, where we simply go with the flow of that part of the day.
We put all of this very simply into our shared calendar (just with an initial of who’s on with the kiddo at what time), so it’s easy to reference, in case we need to schedule something else or want to tune into how to prepare ourselves for the day ahead. And, of course, we communicate about any changes as they arise.
For us, this is how we create our rhythm. It’s not the same set schedule each day, but it creates time containers that allow everyone’s needs to be met as well as possible. It’s working incredibly well, and it decreased our overwhelm dramatically as soon as we started it! It also increased Ease and Joy, which are vital to our sustainable well-being.
This is not something my introverted self was excited to try with my extroverted child, but having been forced into it, and having implemented all of the above systems and self-care strategies, it’s working amazingly well for us... so well that we’re now planning to continue it this coming school year.
We noticed that we’re ALL happier, and our days are overall much smoother without the morning push to get out the door on time, as well as with increased flexibility in timing of our activities. We all enjoy deep connection and Being in Flow, and having this flexibility at home together is naturally supportive of both. Plus, it offers myriad other opportunities that aren't as easily available if we're locked in to the school calendar (which seems subject to continuing upheaval anyway).
Of course, this only works because all 3 adults involved are entrepreneurs who already set our own schedules; we know it’s not ideal or possible for most families, but it’s working well for us now. (And, we’re not trying to make our child do class Zoom calls or worksheets for hours; we extend our full compassion to families facing distance-learning challenges with the current setup and all the future uncertainties!)
It’s rather surprising how much we’re enjoying homeschooling together, so we’re celebrating it!
Those are the main things that are working really well for us, and the more we lean into them, the more Ease we experience.
In general, these all add up to support us in continually returning to curiosity, openness, acceptance, loving presence, connection, and gratitude.
How about you?
What’s nourishing you and your loved ones to feel grounded, connected, and supported these days?
What IS working well?
What happens if the things that ARE working get celebrated and appreciated even more?
What new things might you try, with openness, curiosity, gentleness, and resilience?
Sending infinite love and gentleness to all.
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