WOW! What an unprecedented time we are living through! Uncertainty is rampant as we move through this global pandemic. Undoubtedly, we are all going to experience a wide range of emotions that may change over the course of our time at home with our families. I want to offer a couple of tips for managing our own (adult) stress during this time of COVID-19.
Since the onset of social distancing and distance learning at The Independence School, I have partnered with our school nurse, Linza Godfrey, to host “Wellness Wednesdays.” During these informal Zoom meetings, the sentiments are always the same: Families are trying to make sense of this unusual time, all while trying to juggle work responsibilities, care for kids and other family members, and keep things positive, uplifting, and structured for everyone.
The truth is that we've never lived through a global pandemic like this before. This is everyone’s first go at it, so I want to offer these thoughts as we grapple with our feelings during this unusual time.
- Allow yourself some time and patience to settle into a sense of the “new normal.” This is very new for everyone. There is no playbook, so we have to be patient as we find our stride during this time.
- Look for small wins. It is unreasonable to expect perfection (at home, at work, or at school). Every day can be better than the previous day. One day, we will all be experts at Google Classroom! Maybe tomorrow will be the day that everyone got everything done, and if not tomorrow, maybe it will be the next day!
- Make time to take care of yourself. Finding time for self-care activities is important. We started twice-weekly “distance workout” opportunities for Independence school parents.
- Engage in balanced thinking about this situation. For example, instead of thinking that we are stuck at home, think that we are all safe at home. We are not working from home. We really are at home working during a crisis, trying to work with all our kids around!
- Care for your personal, physical, and emotional health. This is more important than anything else. If you are OK, you will be able to help your children be OK.
- Allow yourself to be OK with grief. This whole pandemic has to be thought of as a series of losses (hallmark school events and traditions, team sports, graduation ceremonies, and countless other milestone celebrations for both kids and grownups). Even just the loss of a sense of normalcy or freedom to move about is hard to grapple with. We will be grieving all these losses in some way. We have to be kind to ourselves and allow ourselves to be OK with the range of emotions that can come with grief.
- Limit the nature and amount of news you consume. Uncertainty leads to anxiety, and these are definitely uncertain times. We have to be mindful to watch how we are coping, perhaps by limiting the amount of media we consume or being extremely judicious in what we decide to consume. We may not only want to look at the number of lives lost but also the number of recovered cases.
- Use technology to stay connected with friends and loved ones, as this is essential to managing stress. We can see technology as a gift right now. If you and your kids are spending more quality time on screens (whether it’s connecting with friends, family members, Zoom playdates, etc.), this is good, and this is healthy. Physical distancing is a necessary public health mandate, but we have to maintain social connections.
- Know that this is not going to last forever. Anything we do during this time is temporary (even slight increases in screentime). Our children are resilient and so are we! We will be able to once again moderate screens, be back in the classroom, and engage in many of our preferred activities. When that day comes, what we will want to ensure is that our kids are doing OK and that we were able to reap some benefits from all this extra family time together.
- Focus on the positives that have been thrust on us, as that will help us find some balance and peace.
- What are some of the benefits of being forced to be at home with our families?
- What have you learned through seeing your children up close as learners?
- With no extracurricular activities, how are you spending the extra evening hours with your family?
Finally, here are a few links to reputable organizations with guidance and tips for helping all of us during this unprecedented time:
- 10 tips to help keep the calm at home (from the American Academy of Pediatrics)
- Parenting in a pandemic (from the American Academy of Pediatrics)
- Tips for quarantined parents in the times of COVID-19 (from the American Psychological Association)
Most psychologists have moved to a telehealth practice and so additional support is there for you or your loved ones.
We are all in this together, and together, we will get through this.