Here’s some ways you can make the most of it.

Just like an annoying houseguest, ‘Failure’ is there for the party.

Most of us try to avoid failure because it feels bad. So we avoid things where chances of failure are possible, such as: applying for certain jobs, trying Zumba, painting or piano lessons, or taking an emotional risk in romantic or friendship encounters. The good thing about quarantine is that it gives us the chance to fail at so many things: work, school, chores, raising children, personal hygiene, fitness, hobbies, friendships, and relationships. Failure.. you did it!  

And guess what… you survived. 

You are facing failure and while it might be painful, missing out on failure-possible opportunities is painful too. So now that you know both sides, you can choose to accept that failure is part of life. Try the Zumba class and fail away – be the worst!  Make yourself a lopsided birthday cake.  Because done is usually better than perfect.  Because trying and failing may not be any less painful than not trying at all. In fact, trying gives you the chance to improve, succeed, complete a task, or just have a funny story to tell once the sting wears off. 

Swiss cheese is known for its holes.

When things turn out imperfectly, you can pivot the situation into something new. Cake pops were born from rejected cake scraps!  Ugly Christmas sweaters are now a thing. Bad karaoke can make others smile. What have you been holding back on because of fear of failure? If your “failure” fear came true, how could you pivot in order to make the most of it?  

Failure also gives you the chance to work on cultivating patience towards yourself, your loved ones, and the mail carrier who coughed on your parcel during COVID quarantine while you watched through the window. Humans make mistakes constantly. Now’s a ripe opportunity to practice grace, forgiveness, compassion, and patience with yourself, and others. 

An arrow can only hit one target.

As you notice yourself failing in multiple areas, you can decide what is most important to you.

If you can choose a few areas to succeed, what would you prioritize? Do you want to play with your kids and do the dishes later?  Do you want to skip the shower to meet a work deadline?  Do you need a day off work to clean your house and meal prep?  Is it time to turn off Netflix and Facetime a friend?

While habits are useful, there may be times when flexibility is needed. You now have ample opportunity to notice and prioritize what you need and want to do, when you don’t have time to do it all.  

Among the crumbs, notice the coins in your couch cushions. 

It’s extremely easy for us to notice our failures.  Now’s the chance for you to find the diamonds in the rough.

Train your brain to notice and celebrate the wins, both big and small. Maybe you made your bed today. Maybe you wore a dress shirt in addition to the yoga pants at your Zoom meeting. Maybe you got outside for a walk during lunchtime.

Taking time to notice and appreciate our successes is something we need to train our brains to do. Because the more you train your brain, the stronger and easier it gets. Practice, practice, practice. And then appreciate that you practiced. And then appreciate that you appreciated it. 🙂

Tuition is free.

There’s nothing like serving two toddlers hot herbal tea before you realize that only one of them is able to do it without burning themselves. Similarly, the phrase “Please stay away from the dog poo” is also ineffective.  Don’t lose these hard-won nuggets of wisdom.  Learn things one mistake at a time.  What has an unfortunate experience taught you recently?

Self-soothing vs. Self-indulgence.

If you’re social distancing from loved ones, it might be hard for you to bear that much time apart.  If you’re living alone, it might be hard for you to have that much time to yourself.  If you’re living with others, it might be hard for you to spend that much time with them! 😉 All possibilities pose challenges, we can’t win.  

Coping strategies for interpersonal stress, such as food, alcohol, tv, or videogames can seem tempting to use at times. 

It’s OK to use these in a way that is nourishing for your particular situation or staying completely away if that is better for you. If you decide to engage with something, try to be mindful of when pleasure actually starts to cause problems, and make sure to step back before you cross the line.

For example, many people try to scarf down “bad foods” as quickly as possible, which can lead to binges.  If you decide to have a yummy treat, take your time to enjoy it mindfully, so that less is more satisfying. And keep in mind that these comfort strategies usually only have short-term benefits. 

Mission Impossible.

The current situation is pretty much set up for you to fail at something, if not several things.  For people balancing work with kids – it’s mission impossible.

How can you homeschool like teachers or educate like daycare educators for 35+ hours a week, while working your usual 35+ hours a week, plus make all the meals (limiting restaurants or takeout), do all the chores (no outside help allowed), plus do errands like groceries that take 5 times their usual amount of time due to lineups and decontamination practices once you’re back home, plus oh yeah I almost forgot: be an amazing parent.

You simply cannot do it all. You can’t violate the principles of high school math. There just aren’t enough hours in the day if you want to sleep too.  If you don’t have kids, you still face many of these same challenges, it’s not easy! Everyone also has inner demons to face when working from home, like how to stay focused on work with so many distractions on hand (laundry anyone?)

Get Back on the Horse.

The old idiom to get back on the horse that bucked you off still applies today. For many of us who feel like we are failing at something, there’s only 2 possible patterns we can build:  Fail, fail, give up OR fail, fail, try again.

Which pattern sounds more like the person you want to be, in an important area of your life? For things that don’t matter much, walking away might seem wise. But for important things, get back on the horse… Today you can stop drinking, resume healthy eating or exercise, take a shower or make your bed, limit your toddler’s quantity of Peppa the Pig, or finish that work task you’ve been avoiding. 

In the words of Miranda July, it’s “Me and You and Everyone We Know”. 

Since we are likely all failing at one or more things right now, (I’m failing at being the perfect mom by writing this instead of spending time with my kids) the collective experience gives us the chance to reassess our standards based on new community norms, and to enhance our sense of community through shared experience.

Since we are all failing at various things, we have a shared sense of humanity. It’s not only you snapping at your loved ones or cleaning up spilled milk with your sock, we’re all in the same storm.  Let’s weather it together, 2 meters apart. 

Note: This article only has 9 tips because I failed to meet my self-imposed goal of 10 😉

love your life

This post is part of the blog series "Love Your Life", mental health advice by Dr Emily Blake, Psychologist.


Dr Emily Blake, Psychologist

Dr. Blake is the owner and director of the Blake Psychology clinic and a regular contributor to the blog.

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