Leah Jennings

I’m going to share something with you my therapist shared with me weeks ago. And it’s about to blow your mind:

If you’re operating at 40 to 60 percent of your normal capacity, you’re doing alright. 

At the start of the pandemic and subsequent quarantine, I tried to hold it together. Really, I did. I got on Pinterest and started researching activities to keep my preschooler occupied in between the worksheets and YouTube videos provided by her teacher. I tried to pretend the whole world wasn’t falling apart outside. 

But then, things started falling apart. Outside, the coronavirus viciously touched the lives of the rich and the not-so-rich alike. Inside, my husband lost nearly half of his clients due to everyone scaling back, I was on bed rest because I was pregnant, but having complications, and hello! A preschooler wanted to be entertained every moment of every day. On top of all that, our village was kept at a distance for everyone’s safety. 

So, by the time I begged my therapist for a telehealth visit, I was mush. Emotionally, physically, spiritually—in all the ways.

Shari, sweet Shari, listened to me in that empathetic way that only therapists can and she dropped that nugget of wisdom on me—that my diminished capacity was normal—and it was likely going to be that way for quite a long time. 

I balked. Why, I’m a master multitasker! I am the reigning queen of “faking it ’til I make it!” I get overwhelmed like the best of them, sure, but I usually reach a point where I can snatch myself up by the proverbial bootstraps and shake things off. The thing is, I couldn’t find any bootstraps to snatch. I was walking aimlessly barefoot on a sticky floor among scattered toys and construction paper scraps.

We’re five months into the pandemic and I can’t say I’m much better than I was then, but I have been cutting myself immeasurable amounts of slack because here’s the truth: We’re all feeling incredibly overwhelmed. We all feel like we’re drowning. And when we feel this way, it’s hard to get anything worthwhile done in the way we used to. 

This season is forcing us to slow down, to take inventory of things we’re meant to carry, and the things we’re meant to put down. And here’s what I’ve learned so far: 

It’s better to set goals, not intentions.

How many of you have even looked at your New Year resolutions recently? I know I haven’t. This is a time when I find it better to set small, attainable goals. Who knows what’s coming? It’s best to leave the intentions for another, more stable year. 

Self-care (or a lack thereof) will make or break you.

I’m not one who has done self-care well in the past, but friends, we need our self-care game to be on point right now. We’re on limited time, and likely, limited resources. We’ve got to find some time to recharge ourselves. Read 10 pages of a book, exercise for 15 minutes. Squeeze in time for yourself whenever you can.

I have to intentionally do less.

I can’t keep up the same level of productivity as I once had. I’ve tried it and it’s impossible. I encourage you to make a list of things you give yourself permission to stop doing. 

I have to force myself to pause.

There are many moments during the day when I feel like I can’t metaphorically breathe because the demands on my time and attention are just so great. I try to find moments to be alone—bathroom breaks totally count—and simply quiet my mind and breathe, hoping that there will be an end to this feeling, even when there’s no definitive light at the end of the tunnel. 

What kinds of things have you been doing—or stopped doing—to keep yourselves sane during this new season we find ourselves in? 

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