How to Rise to the Challenge: Shift from Surviving to Thriving

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Have survived my fair share of unexpected disasters in my lifetime, natural and unnatural, expected and unexpected, I’ve been reflecting on the latest test of my survival instincts. [Sidenote: as a Virgo mom, I stocked up on an 18 pack of double roll toilet paper two weeks before the ‘stuff’ hit the fan–in anticipation of my older son returning home for what I thought would be a week of Spring break.] Instead of merely surviving, I wanted to shine a light on how to reduce stress and thrive. My boyfriend suggested I channel my energy and share my thoughts in the hopes of empowering other women.

There are tons of articles about what to do if you are suddenly in the position of entertaining your school-age children 24/7 and have run out of ideas on what to do with them. This isn’t about that. Nope!

Instead, I wanted to share some of my coping mechanisms. The obvious is to make sure you are well-stocked without becoming a hoarder. Having lived through hurricanes, typhoons, earthquakes, the DC sniper, post-9/11 DC, multiple ‘snowmageddons,’ this has become second nature at this stage in my life. Also, emergency services training thanks to the Civil Air Patrol has also prepared me and my family.

Going with the flow – painting as art therapy

After assuring I had the basic necessities, my focus turned to channel some of that (nervous?) energy. Last night I told my boyfriend I needed some ‘me’ time so that I could paint. Painting is therapeutic for me–it’s the combination of having downtime to myself, listening to music while creating that results in a sense of flow. When I spend time creating, I emerge refreshed and rejuvenated.

Another way I like to ground myself is to reconnect with the earth. We took a drive down to Penn State’s Arboretum. Although the gardens are mostly under construction and still dormant from winter, just walking around the paths with the promise of spring was relaxing. I always love the mountain view (speaking of mountains, I must confess,  I still miss the view of the Colorado Rockies from the Canadian consulate offices in Denver!)

State College – Mountain View & Blue Sky

Oh, by the way, photography is another creative outlet (from before Instagram ever existed!)

Thanks to warmer, sunnier temps, I also spent some time outside raking leaves out of the flower bed (and enlisted help from my boyfriend who finished off the task with the leafblower!

Spending small pockets of time with my 16 and 20-year-old sons has been a real treat for me. My older son is a sophomore at Penn State. Thanks to the global health crisis, he has to stay home at least another two weeks beyond spring break since residential instruction is being replaced by online learning. This is a blessing in disguise since he’s been battling various health issues.

Just being home with his cats (add pet therapy to the list!) and being able to cook has lifted his spirits. Oh and the whole family benefits from his spontaneous burst of energy in the kitchen. He decided out of the blue to figure out how to make homemade naan.

My 16-year-old — social butterfly that he is — has taken the time to share some of his photographic endeavors. His specialty is portrait photography, but he also loves to dabble in Photoshop and create some cool effects. I don’t take these short pockets of time for granted. If social distancing means seeing more of my immediate family, then I’m appreciating this special time while it lasts. Even if it means occasionally nagging my younger son to clean up the various rooms/areas in the house where he’s ‘squatting’ – ha!

I’d be remiss to omit that yes, I do put in some couch potato time with the boyfriend. ‘Netflix and chill’ time is actually Amazon Prime right now – we are currently enjoying ‘The Americans’ – an intriguing spy series that I never heard of until I stumbled upon it. I could easily binge watch that show, but we’ve been pretty good about setting limits and scheduling breaks after two or three episodes.

So, in sum, here’s my shortlist on how to spend this unprecedented time thriving and not just surviving:

Activities to Shift You from Surviving into Thriving Moving

  1. Art therapy — painting, photography.

  2. Gardening. Cleaning up the yard and admiring the first signs of spring — crocuses — in my flower bed.

  3. Pet therapy. In our family, cats!

  4. Cooking (made the best batch of Nestle Tollhouse cookies last night, by the way!).

  5. Netflix and chill in measured doses.

  6. Going for a walk with your loved one.

  7. Spending small pockets of time talking to teenage kids thanks to school cancellations.

From Surviving to Thriving

As Maya Angelou once said, “Surviving is important. Thriving is elegant.”

What activities are on your list?

Shift from Surviving to Thriving Mode

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