Consider the following story as it relates to this week’s topic.
With COVID-19 spreading, I have to work from home. In addition to this, I now have my kids at home full time. Since school has been canceled, I’m about to start being their at-home teacher, social director, and all-day companion! As a single mom, you might say that I’m completely overwhelmed. There aren’t enough hours in the day to do all of this! I usually take deep breaths throughout the day to manage my stress, but lately, it’s been impossible. And my work, health, and parenting are suffering because of it. What can I do?
In a previous blog, we discussed dealing with the uncertainty that the COVID-19 (or Coronavirus) outbreak has caused and how to better deal with it. This week, we’d like to talk about how the stress from this situation can be overwhelming, especially at a time where many businesses and schools are closing due to fears of spreading the virus. This leaves many wondering how they’ll be able to make ends meet without working as well as caring for kids who now need someone to guide them through their lessons at home.
Learning to effectively cope with your stress can make you and those around you stronger. The problem is, how can it be done? In this week’s blog, our licensed psychologists and therapists would like to delve a little deeper into this topic.
Stress During the Outbreak
Try to recognize that everyone reacts differently to stress. Some factors that can influence how you’ve been responding to the outbreak include:
- Your age and physical and mental health
- Your family status (single, divorced, widowed, married, or have kids)
- Your job, especially if your employer has had to close due to the outbreak
- Your community (urban, rural, etc.)
People who tend to have more difficulty handling the stress surrounding this pandemic include kids, teens, older people, and those dealing with chronic diseases that make them a higher risk of infection. If you’ve become stressed during this outbreak, then you might be dealing with one or all of the following:
- Fear about whether you or loved ones might get sick
- Difficulty with or changes in your sleeping patterns
- Trouble focusing on things you need or want to do
- Increased use of tobacco, alcohol, other drugs, or even unhealthy food
What You Can Do to Help Yourself
We like to think that the best way to avoid stress is to remove ourselves from situations that cause it. But what if the situation is happening worldwide? What if we’re reminded of what’s happening everywhere we look and listen? Here are some things you can do to lower your stress:
- Take breaks (but don’t completely cut off) from the news. Constant exposure can be upsetting and even traumatizing. Consider letting yourself watch or listen to the news for an hour in the morning and evening. In between, try to steer clear.
- Understand that school and business closings, social distancing, and calls for self-quarantining aren’t a response to panic but are instead a safeguard to prevent the virus from spreading. Many people who contract COVID-19 will require respirators due to difficulty breathing (because of developing pneumonia) and many will die. It’s serious business.
- Take some time to relax by breathing, stretching, or even meditating. This is important if you’re working from home. Get up, walk around, and actually schedule breaks! Don’t forget lunch!
- If your job has closed, spend time at home doing constructive things like tidying up, yard work, organizing the garage or that junk drawer you’ve been meaning to get to, etc. Anything to take your mind off of things and give you a sense of accomplishment and feeling productive. Netflix and video games won’t give you that feeling! And remember, these shutdowns aren’t permanent.
- Eat healthy foods when you can and exercise since these two can really help your mental health.
- If your days are filled with working from home and/or homeschooling your kids, then taking breaks for five minutes every hour or so is very important.
- Do some fun things to take your mind off of what’s happening in the world. Play board games with the kids, have a movie night at home, let your dog know that there is a world beyond the confines of your backyard, etc.
- Social distancing doesn’t mean staying locked up at home. Get out of the house every day for a walk or drive. Open the windows. Do you have the option of working from your back porch? Some fresh air can really put you at ease.
- Stay in touch with friends and family. Ask how they’re doing, if they’re dealing with stress, and how they’re coping. Taking their advice can help you, too.
What You Can do to Help Your Kids
Kids can also become stressed by the COVID-19 situation. They may not understand the implications of the virus spreading. And not knowing the “why” behind social distancing may cause them to become less than cooperative. You may also notice:
- Excessive worrying and sadness
- Overeating or lack of appetite
- Oversleeping or sleeping too little
- “Acting out” behaviors like talking back and yelling
- A drop in grades
- Lacking interest in activities they once loved
Seeing your kids dealing with stress is tough, but there are some things you can do to help:
- Let them know that they’re safe at home and that it’s okay to be worried or scared. Share your feelings with them as well (within reason and in a way that’s appropriate for their ages). More importantly, pay attention and really listen to what they say.
- Explain the COVID-19 situation in a manner that’s appropriate.
- Share your methods of dealing with your own stress. In fact, do these things together so they won’t feel alone.
- Monitor what they see and read on TV and the internet. The news is often scary and it’s easy for kids to jump to conclusions based on a tidbit that they hear, which is something your stressed child doesn’t need.
- Continue living life at home as usual as much as possible, even if their schools and your job have closed. Reassure them that this time can best be spent as a family.
- Encourage them to keep in touch with their friends through social media, text messaging, FaceTime, etc.
- Reassure them that it isn’t the end of the world. Life may be different for a few weeks or months, but eventually, everything will return to normal.
We’re Here for You
Stressful times can be tough to bear, but with our licensed psychologists and therapists helping you out, they can be easier to manage. Although we’re also practicing social distancing, know that we’re still available to help through online sessions. Contact us today to learn more.