Survival Mode Series: Seeking and Appreciating Beauty


April 29, 2020

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(Also, see the January Edition: Tending to the Body, February Edition: Mental, Emotional and Spiritual Health, and March Edition: Organization )

When we started this Survival Mode series in January, we had no idea that a pandemic was coming. No one did. We chose to run this series because we wanted to provide you with different ideas on how to combat survival mode—because when you’re in survival mode, you can get stuck there and after a while it feels like your drowning. Sound familiar?

Well this goal with this series still holds true.

But now, more than ever before, the struggle is REAL.

How do we get out of survival mode when we’re in the middle of a pandemic? It’s not an easy question to answer, especially when many of us are missing our normal support mechanisms. And I’m not going to pretend to provide you with a perfect solution. 

Quite honestly, there is no substitute for prayer. 

But it’s our hope that in addition to this, some of our tips in this series will help you during this especially difficult time as you do your best each day to keep everyone alive, happy, and healthy in your home.

This month’s collection of tips is focused on seeking and appreciating beauty.

Intentionally seeking out beauty can help pull us out of the gloom that surrounds us in the news. 

So, read on to learn some simple, low-cost ways to add beauty into your quarantine life at home—and combat the anxiety of Survival Mode. 

Bring green into your home

Did you know that there’s power in seeing the color green? 

The color green is said to produce relaxing/calming effects on our mood, which is one of the reasons why we feel so relaxed after spending time outside. Bringing plants inside our homes produces a similar effect.

Studies have shown that those who have a plant on their desk at work have as much as a 37% reduction in stress and 58% reduction in depression. (Not to mention that they clean your air!) 

Clearly, it’s well worth adding a few pots of green plants in your home! Set them on your counter, your coffee table, a fireplace ledge, or in a pot on the floor—there’s no room that can’t benefit from a little green. But keep in mind that you’ll reap more mental health benefits by putting them in the rooms where you spend the most time.

You can find potted plants at just about any grocery store, but also, Joanna Gaines’ favorite houseplants from ship straight to your front door!

If you’re thinking: “That’s great, but plants just aren’t aren’t my thing”—then read on.

Emily Ripperger, mom of 2, who runs the Instagram account @therootedmom, shared with us her best tips for growing indoor plants and what she’d recommend for beginners:

“My number one plant that I recommend to everyone [for beginners, especially] is a Sansevieria. They are super trendy, yes, but they are also hardy! They like sunlight, but they can tolerate extremely dark spaces and many different watering conditions. There are several kinds; my favorite right now is the moonshine variety. 

My next pick would be Pothos. It is a beautiful choice as a hanging plant or to put on a high shelf. Whatever plant you want to start with, I would begin by deciding what the light level is where you want it to be in your home. Watering levels and container size can always change, but unless you want to have grow lights all over, the light cannot be adjusted as easily.”

For Emily, plants are a hobby, but they’re more than that. They play an important role in her home and family.

“[Plants] bring beauty and life into our home and I believe they have served my children as well because they get to see these little miracles, too.

That being said, do not beat yourself up if you kill a plant or two. Give yourself grace. You do not need to create an urban jungle in your home if that is not the hobby you want to spend your precious time on! Have ONE plant. Enjoy watching it over the years. Get more if you want, or don’t.”

Read the full interview with Emily on how to grow houseplants here.

Turn on some happy music

For those moments when everyone’s starting to feel a little off, you may need to find a way to brighten the mood—quickly. Nothing does that better than turning on some good music.

Shannon Webb, musician and mom of one, has curated a perfect playlist of classic favorites that you As a musician herself, music has always played an important role in her home. She says:

“A good song can turn your day around. More than once, a fresh tune has taken me from languishing on the couch, to finding the energy to tackle a sink full of dishes. It’s like throwing the windows open on a spring day.

Sometimes I ride the musical time machine and listen to old songs that revive memories of childhood, loved ones, and past adventures. Playlists my husband and I exchanged in our early days of dating have a strong impact on me still. Music has an incredible power to connect people, and sometimes the reminder that we are not alone is enough to pull us out of Survival Mode.

Anytime we have guests into our home I like to have some music playing quietly. I think it puts people at ease. Why not set that same tone for yourself and your kids? Create a mood-elevating soundtrack for the kind of day you want to have! It’s a great way to express yourself and live artfully. If you need to scrape a banana off the floor, you may as well scrape a banana off the floor to the zippy sounds of 1960’s French Pop (or whatever makes you smile) and dance with your baby in the kitchen!”

Change up your wall art

Sometimes something as simple as changing the art on your wall can have a huge impact on your mental well being. Art can cheer us up after a bad day, make us remember, or inspire us.

And thankfully, there’s easy ways for you to do this.

Maybe you start by just switching around the art you already have! As Shannon Webb mentioned in her home tour on our Instagram, if you’re quarantined in a small space, sometimes just switching things can make it feel more fresh.

But, if you’re looking for something new, you can find some really amazing downloadable prints—printable from a home printer or from Staples online (which currently has free delivery!)—from a variety of online shops. Print and frame an inspirational quote for your kitchen, add a small landscape print of your favorite location, or finally tackle that gallery wall you’ve been meaning to do forever.

Here’s a few of our favorite spots to buy downloadable art: 

  • Be a Heart design has some beautiful religious art, like this one. And, we love these watercolor church paintings, like this one and this one, from ModvinCo. 
  • In general, though, Etsy is a great place to hunt. 

Whatever you decide, Katherine O’Cello, mom of one, recommends that you take Mari Kondo’s words to heart and choose pieces that ‘spark joy’—pick piece you really LOVE to look at. You may be forced to spend all this time within the same set of walls, but at the very least, you can enjoy what’s on them!

“The way a home is decorated tells the story of the family who lives there. Through furniture, art, and other decor, we are able to share a piece of our heart with those we invite into our homes.

Choosing art for our home should bring us joy, but all too often this creative opportunity is stifled by stressful things like our budgets, expectations, and feeling we simply can’t keep up with the Pinterest-perfect homes we see online.

The thing is, creating a home for your family isn’t about making it perfect. For my own home, I’ve found peace in following what feels natural for us, and for letting God use me and my home as a source of inspiration for my family and as a witness for all who enter.”

Read more for Katherine’s tips on how to choose art for your home here.

Keep a gratitude journal 

There’s beauty surrounding us everyday, but oftentimes, we just fail to recognize it. Keeping a gratitude journal can help us intentionally acknowledge the goodness and beauty around us. 

In fact, studies show clear links between gratitude and improved well-being, mental health, and happiness. 

If you don’t already have one, perhaps consider purchasing a pretty journal—something you want to actually use and open—to help prompt you to take a few moments each day and jot down a few things down that you’re grateful for.

Julia Ubbenga, mom of 2, shares just how much keeping a gratitude journal impacted her mental health for the better:

“In Dr. Rick Hanson’s book Hardwiring Happiness, he explains that the more you exercise your “gratitude muscle,” the bigger the area of the brain that controls empathy (pregenual anterior cingulate) becomes. Increased empathy leads to improved life satisfaction and better relationships as one’s ability to identify with others improves.

Increased happiness, better sleep, better relationships, less fatigue – yes, I wanted in on the power of gratitude. But how?

After identifying a gift and saying thank you, I would write it down. I used the Notes App on my phone so I could record things on the go. A beautiful sunset. Big brown toddler eyes over a strawberry ice cream bar. My husband’s golf swing. Hummingbirds over fuchsia flowers at the Kansas City Zoo. Being told ‘Mama, thank you for taking good care of me,’ at 3 am. The taste of Pinot Noir. My favorite NeedtoBreathe song being played in a store while shopping. A quality phone conversation with my mom during nap time. Small fingers creating candy patterns on Christmas cookies.

I tried to record three things a day. If I couldn’t record something the moment I observed it, then, I would pause before plugging in my phone at night, reflect on the day, and record three things I was grateful for. And As I began practicing gratitude, the things in my day didn’t change, but I did.

As I became more aware of joy-filled moments by recording them and thanking God for them, I began to feel joy more deeply. I realized I was content more often, not longing for what might happen in the future, but thankful for what was happening in the here and now.”

Read more from Julia on how to Grow Your Gratitude here.

Drop what you’re doing and just be

At the end of the day, sometimes, when things are getting really out of control—when the dishes and laundry are piling up, you’ve got emails to respond, and everyone seems to need something all at once—maybe the best thing to do in that moment is to take a pause. Let go of the to-do list. And sit on the floor with your kiddos—for just 20 minutes.

As EM editor, Gabby Kewell, explains, “There is beauty in the appreciating the little details of our kids’ features and imaginations up close.” And this has been her go-to way of getting things back on track during the long days of quarantine. She writes:

“When I need to reframe my perspective at home, I do so physically. I literally sit down on the floor. If you ever feel bogged down by busyness and need to reclaim the beauty of Today: I highly recommend that you try it.  Just sit. And yes, it has to be on the floor.

If you’re not lucky enough to have 90’s shag carpet like me, put a pillow down on your beautiful hardwoods and just hang out for a few minutes. Put your phone on the counter, and then just sit there and watch how your kids respond. See them right there in the moment.

You don’t have to sit there forever. It can be for 20 minutes at a time. I stop, drop, and sit whenever I start to feel bothered that my kids’ behavior is “interrupting” my day. For me, that’s a solid indication that I need to bring everything to a halt and focus on what matters.

And the best part? Sitting on the floor isn’t an activity you have to prep for. There’s nothing you have to say or do to make it work. You just have to pause, and sit in your kids’ realm and follow their lead.”

Read Gabby’s full piece here.

Share your suggestions below! How are you bringing beauty into your home during these unprecedented times? 

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