We Will Survive... An Update from PSP Headquarters

Hey all,

I thought it was about time to send an update and some positive energy out into the cosmos and the community. It’s been a rough couple months for a lot of us, including me, and with the election tomorrow and everyone on edge about that, I thought it was extra important to send out a note of encouragement and an update on how things are going at PSP headquarters.

As the pandemic trudges on, I have to find more and more creative ways to stay motivated and energized. I don’t know about you, but most Zoom calls have lost their appeal for me, and even really rewarding work can seem less than. Winter is approaching, and the thought of hunkering down out of the cold seems like a punishment for all the hard work New Yorkers have been doing over the last few months to stay safe and keep others safe.  

Let me say that you are all my heroes. Working from home, handling remote and hybrid learning, having babies during a pandemic, pivoting on short notice, getting kids to wear masks, figuring out life in a time of such great uncertainty—you’re juggling so much. We’ll look back on this time and remember how challenging it’s been, but we’ll also look back on how we made it tenable despite the collective suck. 

 

I thought I would talk about some of the things that have worked for me over the last few months. 

 

One decision at a time, only focusing on things I can control. If I concentrate on one thing at a time it’s easier for me to break down the big things into smaller challenges. Also, if I focus on the things I can actually control, life is more doable and less overwhelming. Bird by Bird, as the wonderful Anne Lamott would say.

Creativity. While we didn’t have the Park Slope Parents Halloween Costume Contest this year, I was awed by the outpouring of creative ideas that people came up with to celebrate Halloween. I know it wasn’t what I would’ve hoped for, but I think the candy slide is a great silver lining and may be a fixture years to come. Definitely a lemonade moment! (South Slope Halloween night Photos and videos here.) Let’s make Thanksgiving and the Winter Holidays just as creative. (Join the Crafting Group to get in on the brainstorming!)

 

 

Fighting the urge to assume. Earlier in the pandemic, I thought that my kids were missing out and sad about certain things when it turns out that they were not disappointed at all. Kids have been pretty adaptable to what’s going on, and I find that it doesn’t help to get upset FOR my kids. For example, it turns out my younger daughter is not the Halloween fanatic that I am, so she wasn’t actually disappointed that we didn’t have the Halloween parade or the costume contest. So I’ve been trying to remember that my disappointment is mine alone and avoid assuming what my kids are (or are not) feeling.

Voting. Even though I know that the outcome of the election here in New York City is pretty well-known, the act of voting was very empowering. Standing in line with other Americans, exercising our right to make a choice about our elected officials, felt energizing. While you’re at it, call everyone you know in the swing states and encourage them to make their voices heard.

****Patience**** I’ve been told that absentee votes won’t be counted for at least a week, maybe more. While so many people are focused on Election Day, I’m also told it’s important to be patient with final results. Assuming the results will be final on Tuesday night may set you up for disappointment, or outrage, or any number of other frustrations. Help your kids get through their feelings as well-- they feel our stress.  

Meditation. I’ve started listening to short meditations each morning to start my day breathing and focusing. I find that when I do that, I end up having a better outlook on the day. It doesn’t have to take a long time—you can even do it in the shower (search YouTube for “three minute morning meditations”).

Exercise. PSP is still hosting a Pilates class and our Soup Can Sweat weekly. Even though some days I don’t want to make it happen, I find that if I get myself to work out, especially with other people, at a set time, I end up being glad that I did it. There are still so many virtual classes that are worth going to, as well as in-person classes happening outdoors. It’s easier to get out and exercise while the weather is still warm, and you don’t have to stop when the temperature drops—there was a great thread last week about the best clothes for exercising in the cold. 

Pomodoro Technique. This  productivity cuts up work into a pattern of 25 minutes on, 5 minutes off. This video is one of my favorites because, unlike other videos, it gives a more easily discernible alarm (otherwise I just work through the breaks). You also get to watch the person mindfully make things like tea or cut flowers. It’s like having a work buddy next to you. 

Comforting media. I’ve taken to watching some of my favorite old movies and TV shows again as comfort. Some movies where the good guys win in the end can supply me with some catharsis. I’ve also found shows like Schitt’s Creek, Ted Lasso, and other lighter fare that focuses on the good in people are giving me solace right now. 

Giving back. The winter gear drive we did this fall was a big success, with over 400 items donated. Moreover, organizing coats for four hours was extremely gratifying and made me feel like I was doing something good. (Thanks to Nancy, Delia, MC, and Renee too!) We’re working on things that we can do around Thanksgiving to give back. CHiPS needs food for Thanksgiving, and throwing a couple of extra things in your basket—whether online or at the store—will help other people as well as giving you a warm feeling inside. Also, if you haven’t spent your pandemic EBT card yet, here’s a link with info on how to get that money to folks in need.

Focusing on the little things that give me joy. While chaos and uncertainty seems to be swirling around me right now, I find that focusing on little things that make me happy adds to my sense of well-being. I’ve started watching whale videos before I go to bed because it calms me down to see those gorgeous creatures jump out of the water. I focus on the good smell of my hand soap because, since I’m washing my hands so much, I want it to be as pleasant as possible. Thich Nhat Hahn’s book Peace is Every Step (please shop our local bookstores) is a great one to help remind you how to take pleasure in the small things. (Quick video review of the book here.)

 

 

 

Cleaning. While it's rare that my whole house is clean (those of you who know me are guffawing!), I’m finding that having some areas that remain clean—like my stairs or the kitchen counter—just makes me happier. The clothes might not be put away, and there may be crumbs under the table, but just having a few spots that feel clean adds a little bit of joy.

Disconnecting from too much news. I know there are a lot of great things out there to read, but I myself am overwhelmed with too much news right now. The only way for me to feel lighter is to turn off my news notifications, skim headlines for only what’s really important, and not actively seek out news. Some folks find comfort in news, but it just doesn’t work that way for me. 

Saying thanks more often. I am finding that if I say “thank you” or send a thank-you card to someone, I get back what I give and more. While we’re not clapping at 7 pm anymore, when I see the FedEx/UPS/USPS or a food delivery person, I take an extra second to say thank you. I even set reminders on my phone to thank people, since my brain is a bit full right now. 

Ordering in. Having dinner from a local restaurant is not only delicious, but also gives me the secondary pleasure that I’m supporting a local business that’s struggling right now. Last week’s rain hurt an already tough restaurant economy, so if you have the means, help support the eateries you love. 

Shopping local. It’s very easy to click on an Amazon link and have something delivered quickly, but I’m actively trying to seek out items close by instead so that I can help keep the storefronts in the neighborhood open. If you need a heater, or a SodaStream container, or a tool, check out your local hardware or appliance store. Many will match online prices.

Thinking about the holidays. Since Halloween brought out such creativity, I am setting my sights on making Thanksgiving something fresh and amazing. Park Slope Parents is also working to find places where you can order in a delicious meal if you don’t want to cook, which supports our local businesses as well as taking some of the pressure off us to do one more thing. If we can make candy slides, just think how we can make the upcoming holidays more creative!

Checking in with friends. There were many people I reconnected with at the beginning of the pandemic, but that eventually waned for a while. However, I’ve started actively trying to set times to have tea with friends to catch up. Of course Covid comes into the discussion, but I also try to focus on other things I’m doing. Maybe we should start a weekly PSP Tea Time and just chat? If anyone needs tea I’m a bit of a tea hoarder-- shoot me an email with your address and I’ll send you some of mine!

 

 

Breathing through the bad days. There are some days that even meditation doesn’t help my less-than-happy moods. These are days when everything seems hard and uncertain. These are my “doing jumping jacks in the mud up to my waist in stilettos-- with a mask on” days.  I find that if I open up and gently embrace these days rather than fighting them, they go by faster and with less angst. That might just mean deciding not to answer a few emails because I know I’m not in a headspace to answer with compassion and light. I also try to remind myself that bad days are memorable because they’re “off” days—meaning that they’re juxtaposed with the good days that surround them.

Putting on a song that gives me energy. It might be a song I used to dance to at a club when I was in college, which reminds me of super fun times. It might be a song like Pharrell‘s “Happy” that just inspires a little more lightness in my day. It might be Don’t Stop Believing, I Will Survive, Mr. Blue Sky, or Hit Me With Your Best Shot.  And sometimes it’s a song like “The Next Right Thing” from Frozen 2, which reminds me that, even when everything seems hard, focusing on just one decision can allow me to keep moving forward.

Getting outside. When I force myself to go for a walk around the block, it always clears my head and lightens me up. On a great day, I make it to Green-Wood Cemetery, which is beautiful right now with Fall in full bloom. Collecting leaves for my favorite “leaves in wax paper/contact paper stained glass craft project” is an added benefit. 

Perspective. I find that while my problems seem to overwhelm me sometimes, having perspective helps me keep them in check. I’m lucky to have been able to keep the Park Slope Parents staff paid through the pandemic (thanks PPP and EIDL!), but I also know that there are lots of people who have closed businesses and lost jobs. To that end, we are working on career-related workshops (free for those who need them to be) and networking Zooms (check the PSP calendar). Focusing on the rewards rather than the costs also helps.

Practicing Gratitude. I’ve mentioned this before, but every night, one of my friends and I send each other the three things that we’re grateful for that day. We’ve been doing it for over five years, and while some days the thing I’m most grateful for is the possibility of a better day tomorrow, focusing on the things that are going well helps me from getting too overwhelmed by the bummers in life. 

Crying. When things get too overwhelming, I just let it all out—in the shower, mostly. I find that shedding even a few tears makes me feel better. Some of you have seen me lose it on a Zoom-- thank you for your patience with me. 

Those are the main things that are keeping me going right now. That and petting my cats and hugging my family.  Hopefully, some of these will resonate with you and bring you some ideas and solace. Meanwhile, Park Slope Parents continues to work diligently to make your parenting lives better. 

We’ve updated the website over the last few months with summaries from our mental health check-ins, coping webinars, and discussions on best practices during Covid. I’m including a list of some of the most important ones after my signature, and you can find a full list of our Covid resources here. Take a second to skim these to remind you of some strategies for making it through the next weeks and months. 

If you want to buy someone a gift membership, email the  " target="_blank" rel="nofollow noopener" style="color: #1155cc;">membership team. Renewing your membership, even if you may be moving during the membership year, will help pay it forward to parents in the coming years.  A reminder that the advertisements you see help support our local businesses, our community, and our staff so please support our advertisers if you can. 

A special shout out to the Park Slope Parents Team. We are a staff of seven, and everyone has been so wonderful over the past eight months that I can’t express enough appreciation for all of their hard work. Going from 300 in-person events to virtual events has taken Herculean efforts, and Dorothy and Carla, our Events Team, have been magnificent. Talya and Sean keep the website well-edited and membership running smoothly. Colleen continues to do an awesome job helping our community stay connected on our specialty groups as well as picking up slack in so many other areas. Rachel, the backbone of PSP, continues to approve messages at lightning speed, and run the advertising team flawlessly. Her “can do” spirit has kept me going more than she knows. 

Please remind yourself that you’re doing the best you can right now and that your children are learning resilience, flexibility, and resolve. Also, a little extra screen time or a second bowl of ice cream will not spoil or ruin your kids, especially if it leads to you being saner.

 

 

I’m hoping that today’s blustery day ushers in some “winds of change” for the pandemic and beyond. These months have been tough, but we will be stronger and our kids will be more resilient and adaptable with our support. We will make it through this and come out better for the challenges no matter what happens. 

Thank you for giving me back so much of your energy and support over these last long months. Thank you also for reading this far!) We will once again have giant bubbles in the park, we’ll have clothing swaps with awesome finds, and I’ll ask to smell your delicious babies (and you’ll look at me like I’m crazy). There isn’t a job in the world I would rather be doing more than this one. I wouldn’t want to be doing it with anyone else but the strong wonderful parents in this community.

 

Susan Fox

Founder, Park Slope Parents



RESOURCES

Expectant Parents Mental Health Check-In with The Motherhood Center ***

Helping a friend with postpartum depression: "How can I be a good friend?"

Help, Resources, and Advice for Stressed Out Parents, Post Partum Depression (PPD), and PMADs

PSP Members Advice about Post-Partum Depression and PMAD

Working Moms Mental Health Check-In: Webinar Notes ***

Tips for Leaving Work Stresses at Work

Relationship Tips for Maintaining Harmony During COVID-19 ***

Wisdom/support for serious marital rough patch

Mental Health Check-In for Parents of Elementary School Kids ***

Resources for Parents Under Stress

Resources and Advice About Therapy

*** pandemic-specific