Social Distancing While Parenting and Being a Social Worker

How many of us are feeling the effects of trying to balance our lives while social distancing? In this post a good friend of mine outlines her experience parenting, while working from home, while worrying about the effects of the global pandemic on her children. I think many of us can relate on all sorts of levels – parents or not.

Guest Post By: Megan Murphy, LCSW

I begin writing some scattered thoughts after the third night of tossing and turning and waking up with a sore jaw and neck, from all of the things my brain must be trying to work out at night.  I notice that mornings, I tend to feel strong and hopeful.  I am noticing that afternoons are really hard, and my mind truly wishes it could download or shut down, sleep or reset.

I am familiar with anxiety and depression.  I have dealt with these emotions at many different times in my life, and overall, I have been able to overcome them, or at least survive, cope with, and accept them in my life. 

This has been a very confusing time for my mind, like it is, for so many others.  My career as a Social Worker, who works with many vulnerable populations, including the severely and persistently mentally ill, has given me more strength and hope than I could ever explain in words.  I have seen people survive and thrive in circumstances, I am quite sure I would never survive.  I’ve seen the communities of the homeless, helping one another, and caring for one another.  I’ve seen families doing their best to support their own, with limited resources, sometimes limited intellectual capacities, and very often, with judgment from the outside world.  My career has taught me so much about resilience.  I am so grateful for these clients and to so many people I have worked with along the way, who put their hearts, souls, and brains into this work.  I have no doubt that the clients I work with, have taught me so much more than I could ever teach them.  I THANK them to no end!

It has been heartbreaking not to be able to support these people face to face, to help get them the resources that they need now more than ever.  However, I am grateful for a job that knows that keeping all of us (clients included) healthy in the short term, will only help, not hurt our mission, to help them in the long term.  Or, as a wise man (thanks Dad) told me, “sometimes you have to stay in the fight, to win the fight”. 

Parenting has been a whole different level of anxiety, acceptance, and resilience during this time.  I have two sons, ages 14 and 9.  We are beginning to work on schooling from home.  I have so many worries about this time in life for them.  For my 14-year-old, I worry about this time in his life.  He is supposed to be working on independence, separating himself from his parents and working on finding himself.  Peers are also such a huge part of learning and growing at his age.  It’s so hard to tell him that we don’t have answers about when life may be “normal” again.  It is so hard to say “no” to so many requests.  I am so proud of him.  I can tell he is frustrated and worried.  It always seems that right when it’s needed, he invites his brother into his room to play games with him.  He is an amazing human being.  I worry about my skills to work and teach him from home, while also paying attention to emotional needs.  

For my 9-year-old, I worry about his enthusiastic, open view of the world and an absolute need to connect, move, and be excited about life!  Lately, he has denied every request to go outside on a walk.  At first, I didn’t think much of it, but then I noticed he is anxious about it.  “Is it safe”, “what if I see a friend on a walk”, “Can we talk to each other”, “am I sick”, “are you sick”, “will we all get sick”.  “Are we safe”.  While my husband and I do our best to reassure him, we don’t have the answers.  He seems to feel best when saying, “family first, right mom”?  

While these things worry me, I am reminded of how much gratitude I have.  I do not have to parent without a partner.  We are able to do this as a team and take turns when the other is feeling overwhelmed.  So many do not have this and they are HEROES!  Sometimes, I get frustrated with my own anxieties and worries because I am SO aware of the hard times others have and are experiencing.  My life has been so easy overall.  I have never needed for a thing, and have always had an abundance of love in my life.  I feel guilty and ashamed sometimes that I have so much fear. 

I have parents who give me strength.  My father, a Vietnam marine, has this way of saying just the right things, to keep me focused and strong, during hard times.  My mom, an independent woman, who has been a caretaker of many kinds, keeps me sane with love and constant communication and ideas of ways to keep myself busy.  My brothers are both amazing and show me love and support, and I hope I do the same for them.

I have an extended family of aunts, uncles, and cousins, who check-in, send me love, and inspire me.  

I have friends that keep me grounded, strong, and grateful.  Each of them gives me something so special and unique and I cannot imagine life, or this crisis, without them.  We send each other videos, love, and ideas.  Let me tell you, these are amazing women!

The lack of answers is what continues to be the hardest.  I told my friend Jamie the other day, that while I am so aware that I am not alone, I “feel” alone.  She said, “yes, we are trying to accept and process something we have no answers to, and only fear.  We feel alone because we are not allowed to be around others”.  That felt so validating.  

So, for the moment, I plan to give myself grace.  I plan to accept that some moments I will feel strong, and others I may not.  I will do my best to show up for my family, friends, children, husband, and clients, with love, and understanding, that they too, will have good moments and not so good moments.

Upcoming Programs:

Spiritual Sunday: Communicating with something larger than yourself

Good communication begins with us. It is our responsibility to take care of ourselves and build a strong sense of self that doesn’t fear differences. This allows others and ourselves to show up authentically without feeling judged, attacked, or invalidated just because someone has a different opinion. Very difficult, but worth the try.

For us to be really good at communicating with other people we must be able to communicate well with ourselves. We need to have a strong grounding in our own values, viewpoints, and opinions and a strong sense of self. These allow us to stand tall in our own truth while allowing others to stand tall in their own. To build this strength it is important to cultivate practices that allow for reflection and communication with something larger than ourselves. 

The concept of something larger than ourselves exists in many paradigms and practices. These range from ideas related to spirit, the earth/nature, to the psychology of how mammals communicate somatically. In the end it does not matter what you chose as your paradigm of existence. 

What matters is how you cultivate your practices to maintain connection to something larger than yourself. What matters is that you recognize that we are all connected and how you act in your private life influences other humans and other systems (like water supplies for example). What matters is understanding that there is a shared aspect to everything we do. By taking time to recognize our connections to something larger than ourselves we relate better to those around us. 

When we are better able to relate to those around us, the environment we are in, and be open to the differences between us we are more grounded in ourselves and less susceptible to the vulnerability created when someone has a different opinion, value, or viewpoint than we do. This creates easier conversations and more effective communication for everyone, thus creating more acceptance, less judgment, and more openness to those around us. It also helps create a sense of responsibility for our personal role in helping to create a healthy, vibrant, and just society. 

Happy V-Day. The Emotion of Love

Are you operating out of love or out of fear? Can you tune into your capacity for connection, compassion, and acceptance by loving others deeply … even those who are not like you? Even those you do not like? Even yourself?

Many people love today, many people hate today. Today is the day we celebrate the concept of “being in love”.

Love is our most powerful emotion. It has the highest vibration and is the most talked about in all spiritual cultures. It is the emotional state we are aiming to get. This does not mean we are all working to get to intimate sexual love – but to the power of compassion, connection, and recognition of self in other.

Being in a state of compassion, connection, and acceptance allows us to integrate a number of our systems for optimal function. A healthy human is one who is integrated and has flexibility in response options to both mental and physical health issues. The emotion of love brings our systems into integration with self, others, environment. This integration impacts our physical system and moves our tissues toward physical health. It aligns our mental health with openness for experience which allows us to be flexible in our choices – thus choosing the best option for the moment we are in right now.

The difficult part … most of us have been hurt after expressing the emotion of love. We’ve been hurt by those who have pledged to love us, those who care for us, and ourselves. We have extended our precious heart only to have it smashed to smithereens (I know I’m being a bit dramatic, but that’s what it feels like to a lot of us).

As a result of this hurt, we extend our love conditionally. We open up in limited ways. We fear those who are different than us. We hold back and judge instead of open up into compassion and acceptance. We do not accept others and we do not accept ourselves.

We close ourselves off to love and its benefits out of fear. Fear and hate lay at the lower end of vibrational measurements. They constrict our physicality and mental abilities. In efforts to stay safe we rally and protect our own, cut ourselves off from others, and stay small. The energy of this constriction leads to more fear, more constriction, and more physical health problems. The way to combat loving others fully when it is scary it to begin by loving ourselves fully.

As you contemplate what love means in your life today … make sure you reach out and pay attention to yourself. Love yourself … fully … completely … and honestly.

If you are having trouble loving yourself, you will have trouble fully loving others unconditionally. If you cannot love yourself fully it may be time to do some therapy around the topic. For many of us, we cannot fully embrace the greatness that is us. In my office I ask, “what’s so great about you”? About 75% of the time people look up confused and unable to answer the question. As therapy unfolds they begin to have less problems with this question, and can answer with confidence about the greatness within.

Two things are true – you are good enough and there is always room to grow. Love yourself fully today.

I Saw God Today

I saw God today. I also saw God yesterday, and I am pretty sure I’m going to see God tomorrow. Everywhere I look, God is present. Everyday, I sit with people and listen to their stories. Deeply listen. I listen under the crustiness of day to day operations and listen into the core of who they are. Everyday, I see examples of amazing resilience and this thing we call being human. As a result of being intensely connected to another I see the pulse of our universe. I see God. 

Those of you who know me well, know I’m not what you’d call a religious person, however everyday I feel this pulse and feel the universe breathe. Everyday I hear the beauty that surrounds us and dive deeply into the moments that matter. Mostly through words and physical sensations – our innate human experience. What’s incredibly curious to me is the way we think and feel so different than everyone else, yet we are so much the same. 

Each story in my day is unique, often I have no idea how the plot will twist yet the themes of the day remain the same. Am I good enough, can I be loved, will I make it, what if I fail, will people show up to help me, can I trust myself, am I safe. When I can’t figure out the nuanced theme, I just go for the big one – am I worthy, do I matter. 

Our personal brand of wounding lends itself to all sorts of manifestations in our lives. If I feel no one will help me, I’ll learn to do it all by myself. If I feel like I am unlovable, I’ll either work really hard to please everyone or I’ll become aloof and push people away. If I feel like I am not safe, I’ll make sure to be part of communities with very clear lines and defined roles so I can rest in the safety of knowing the “truth”. In the end … we are all ok. 

We are all lovable. We are all worthy. We all matter. When we can embrace our inner essence we open the door for others to embrace theirs. When we shine our inner lights bright, they get to shine theirs bright, too. This is very very very … very … important to the world. If I do not shine my light bright, I cannot fully bring my uniques gifts into the world. If you do not shine your fully your’s do not enter either. 

This creates a situation – kinda like the one where my grandma would lose the 1 puzzle piece that completed the 1,000 piece monstrosity. The world is incomplete when it’s missing pieces. We are each a piece and must show up fully to make the puzzle complete. 

Everyday, I am surrounded by the magic that manifests when we are authentic in our personal experience. It’s like standing in a dark yard quietly watching the fireflies light up the night. When one doesn’t shine I can’t see them, when too many don’t shine the yard is dark. When they are all busy blinking off and on it is breathtakingly beautiful. 

Please allow yourself the gift of living authentically in your gifts, shining your light bright. I want my dark yard to be lit up by your magnificence. 

And as always, if you are struggling you can schedule a 15 min Q&A appointment to see if it’s time to give yourself the gift of therapy. When else can you talk about yourself for an hour with someone trained to deeply listen to your core, not just the story you tell yourself. 

Living Free From the Numbers

It’s the 4th of July!!! For today, think about letting go of all the numbers you associate with your health.

Let go of checking your weight. Instead go by do I feel better, am I sleeping better, do my clothes fit better, am I better able to do the movement my daily routine requires?

Let go of how many minutes you move. Instead plan to move more often than not throughout the day and tell yourself you are going to take all the opportunities that exist to move when they arrive – that picnic game, yeah you’re in it – the foray into the water, yeah you join – that sunset walk, yeah you did it.

Maybe even take a break from the negative self-talk you have regarding your healthy lifestyle behaviors. Are you one to tell yourself you can’t do something or won’t reach your goal or you’re such an idiot because you didn’t pay attention to how much potato salad you put on your plate? Instead fill your head with compassionate self-talk. You are doing the best you can, given these circumstances, in this moment, with the knowledge you have right now. It may be that taking extra potato salad taught you that next time you don’t need so much, but hey – you didn’t know that when you filled your plate, or if you did what else is going on that may need attention and learning?

Today embrace the freedom of living healthy, choosing the best options for yourself in the moment with compassion, and staying focused on your goals without being ridged about them.

Today be free to be the person you want to be and know that being that person takes practice and time. In every moment you have either a lesson or a blessing – see how many of each you can find, while knowing that as you make healthy choices in each moment you are on your path to living healthy and free.