Parenting is already hectic, challenging and stressful. Adding a global pandemic on top of that is bound to significantly raise anxiety and stress levels.
At the forefront, of course, is the physical health of your children. On top of this are concerns that the pandemic may be affecting your kids’ own mental health. So…it’s certainly not an easy time to be a parent.
Although anxiety and stress are normal reactions, it’s important to pay attention to how much, and how often, you feel like it’s too much. Over time, stress can build up to levels that significantly impact your mental and physical health. Having strategies to manage these feelings in the moment can help you stay healthy in the long run. There’s no silver bullet, but these three tips may help:
Acknowledge the stress.
You may be tempted to ignore uncomfortable emotions like anxiety and stress, but acknowledging them is the first step to managing them head on. Share how you feel with your partner, other parents and friends. It’s very likely that many others are sharing the same feelings and can offer words of encouragement or, simply, a compassionate ear.
It’s also a good idea to try and identify your stressors. These can be both external (noise, darkness, cold weather, dealing with endless emails) or internal (fear, uncertainty, self-esteem). Take a moment to write down the things that trigger your stress the most. By identifying your sources of stress, you can start developing strategies to manage them.
Also – it might be a good idea to minimize those sources of stress you can. (Think social media or news consumption.)
Park what you can’t control. We also have to accept that things are uncertain, and will be for a while. School rules and routines continue to change, and will require you to adapt and be flexible. Rather than letting your mind go to “what-ifs”, focus on what’s in your control in the short-term (i.e., over the next few days or so). This includes focusing on the new school routines you’ve established to remain safe – regular hand washing, wearing a mask, distancing – and the new routines you’ve established at home (e.g., getting ready for school, how lunch is packed or working from home).
Seize opportunities to look after YOU. With the increased levels of stress faced by parents, it’s more important than ever to take the best possible care of yourself. Remember: it’s not selfish to take “me” time! Knowing that you are likely time-strapped, keep it simple:
Take time every day to be active, even if it’s a short walk
Connect with someone who you can chat with honestly at least weekly
Make nourishing meals together as a family
Sometimes, let go of the serious – and get silly!
Set healthy boundaries at work and home – it’s ok to say no if you’ve reached your limit
Pare down the number of activities you are involved in
Maintaining your good mental health is critical – especially now, when stressors are through the roof. If you need help, please reach out.
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