It’s been...a day. After balancing working from home and yours kids’ remote learning, you can finally crack open a bottle of red and watch this Tiger King show everyone’s been talking about. You feel good. But then, the shame creeps in. Should you really be relaxed when the world is crumbling? Is it fair that you get to dive into the strange world of captive big cats while your friends in healthcare risk their safety every day? While your favorite restaurants and stores suffer? When people are out of work and struggling? Hold up—this is called guilt spiraling. While these are all worthy issues, letting them soar around your head endlessly like the Wicked Witch of the West is helpful to exactly no one. Instead, try hot potato-ing.
Uhh, what is ‘hot-potato-ing’? Well, we may have just made it up, but it’s working for us. Remember the game hot potato you played as a child? You'd pass around the ball/bean bag/real potato pretending that it was too hot to touch. Whoever wound up with the “potato” when the music stopped was eliminated. In our version, there are no losers (yay!) or winners (ugh, fine). The idea is that you think of your guilt or anxiety as a hot potato, constantly being passed around the circle of your close friends and family. When you're holding that ball of nerves, it's yours to own and to experience. And when you’re not, it’s also OK.
So what do I do when my family or friends are holding it? Just let them experience it and support them by listening. Respond with a heartfelt,“I’m so sorry this is happening right now,” and, unless someone asks for it, refrain from giving advice, which can feel like a new layer of burden to overcome.
Why is this helpful? We’ve found that acknowledging our feelings in this way relieves our anxiety. We don’t all have to hold the potato at the same time. It's OK to relax, re-recharge and, hell, do a face mask, if it helps you take on the day, whether that involves home schooling, being a parent, working remotely, taking care of others or just trying to be positive as you stay home. In the moments when you’re feeling OK, follow Michelle Obama’s lead and find some ways, big or small, to show up for your community. When you do wind up holding the potato, or feeling that guilt or anxiety, it’s a relief to know that it will probably pass.