Here’s what I want you to know about creating calm, steadiness and resiliency during this uncertain time of coronavirus pandemic.
The first thing I want you to know is that you’re allowed to feel however you feel during this time.
You might feel scared, angry, numb, in disbelief, anxious, or sad. You might feel all of these things at different times.
For me, I have felt huge waves of sadness that I couldn’t put words to at the time. My advice to you is to allow the emotions to come up and don’t feel the pressure to understand them or to “fix” them either.
If you’ve already contracted Covid-19, you might be terrified of transmitting it to your family, and feel shame about contracting it yourself. This can intensify your sadness, depression, anxiety and sense of fear and isolation. My hope is that you can let go of any shame and focus your energy on healing your body, and being kind to yourself in the process.
Sometimes emotions are greater than we can fully understand in the moment. This is okay. You’re allowed to feel however you feel, and no one can tell you it’s wrong.
If you’re a new mom, or have young kids in particular, you’re probably quite concerned about the increased isolation over the next few weeks or even months. The idea of being trapped at home with the kids isn’t a welcome scenario.
The increased pressure to entertain and educate your kids at home has already upped the expectations and mental load of motherhood – so notice the mom-guilt as it creeps in and see if you can check those expectations.
And if you’re struggling with postpartum anxiety or depression, this is an important time to get support where you can (likely through online avenues) and continue to maintain as much self-care as possible. We know that as stress rises, so do mental health challenges.
The most important thing you can do to manage your overall stress during this time is to stick to the coping strategies that work for you. What that means is that if you know you need exercise and 8 hours of sleep to feel well, then don’t go off path. Hold on to these tools, they’ll be the best thing you can do for your mental health.
But with social distancing and schools, daycares, camps and extra-curriculars closed, postponed or cancelled, you’re going to need to get creative about this.
Google at-home body weight workouts.
Get outside and soak in nature, at a distance from everyone else.
Set up FaceTime family dinner parties.
I urge you to find new ways to meet these needs. Don’t drop your self-care because your usual methods are no longer available.
HOW TO NOT LOSE YOUR MIND AT HOME
Okay, so I get it, I’m a mom too – a big concern coming out of this situation is that we’re now at home all the time with the kids. A honestly, this is a terrifying thought.
Moms are feeling worried about how the isolation will impact them, and how they’re going to get through this all without completely losing their minds (not to mention get any work done).
Here’s some strategies to help you manage being at home during Covid-19 (coronavirus) Pandemic.
Limit your time reading news, social media, or talking about Coronavirus.
Although the news always makes you feel like you need to watch it 24/7 for breaking updates, it’s not good for your mental health.
When you’re constantly plugged in, your brain is perpetually fed anxiety-provoking content. This can activate a threat-response in your nervous system (because it logically perceives this all as very threatening) which is hard for your body to deal with for prolonged periods of time.
Hearing about the pandemic all day can be very upsetting.
I urge you to get protective with your energy and emotions. Let in the information required to be informed and make good decisions, but otherwise unplug and allow your system to settle and your attention to go to other important areas.
Create a schedule.
Saw this coming, right? ?
I’m not talking about a super rigid schedule that causes more stress than it relieves, but just something that creates structure. Kids thrive on structure; parents thrive on happy settled kids. It’s a win-win.
See if you can involve your kids in creating the schedule. Ask them what kinds of things they’d like to learn about, what they’d like to explore outside, what they want to help you make for dinner. And I know, sometimes their idea of “help” actually just adds 30 minutes of mess for you to clear up afterwards, but you’re rolling with it all, right?
Having a schedule also allows you to pass on some accountability to your kids (yes, even young ones) so that you don’t feel like you’re bossing them around all day. It also removes the decision-making energy for the billion on-the-spot requests like “can we go play” and “can I do painting now”… to which I say:
“Is it in the schedule?”
Don’t forget that the schedule can be fun and create some space for you.
Make sure you schedule quiet time where everyone does their own thing. If you have young children, I encourage you to purposely take time just for you and let them see this. For example, sit on the couch and reach a book for 30 minutes… they’ll probably interrupt you 47 times initially, but they’ll eventually understand that mommy needs some down-time too.
And what do I think about scheduling screen time? 100% do it. I am leaning on devices, unapologetically. There’s nothing wrong with weaving in some screen time for learning and just for the fun of it!
Allow yourself a break!
Don’t expect yourself to run a home-school.
You’re a determined and committed mom, I know. That’s why you’re reading this right now. So of course you’re thinking about how you can create a stimulating learning environment.
But before you start stressing yourself out about planning educational blocks and buying new workbooks, I want you to notice your expectations. Have you given yourself (and your kids) time to adjust to the changes? Have you allowed yourself (and them) a break? Are you expecting yourself to step into home-schooling-mom-mode with zero background in this?
Create a new rhythm of life that works for you.
This takes self-awareness (paying attention to how you’re feeling and how Coronavirus is affecting you), and then adjusting accordingly. It also takes compassion for your family. How are they adjusting? What do they need?
While the school and daycare systems have to create schedules that work for them, you have the opportunity to let your family flow into it’s own unique way.
When do your kids naturally wake up? What’s the easiest flow to your day?
Let it be simple. Let it be easy. Don’t force it.
HOW TO WORK FROM HOME WITH KIDS
It’s one thing to adjust to a lack of playdates and closed coffee shops, but quite another to figure out how to work from home (sometimes with your spouse there with you) while also parenting.
The challenge compounds for families who’ve lost their normal support like daycares, libraries, and access to grandparents or other friends.
The truth of the matter is that your work will likely be disrupted. And so my first suggestion is to see where you can surrender and let go of this stress, if possible. Particularly in situations where you’ve been required to stay home, there’s little you can do to control the situation. Is there a way you can step back, take a big huge breath, and surrender?
When you have to juggle parenting and your paid job from home, you’ll have to get creative and dial in your efficiency, and it all comes back to that schedule.
When are your littles most occupied? Can you plan to get your most time or attention-consuming tasks done (or at least started) during these chunks?
You can also experiment with working alongside your kids at the table – they do their learning activities and you type away on your laptop. It’s completely okay to tell them that you are focused on your work for a period of time, and that you’ll be able to play with them afterwards.
Of course they’ll pull for your attention. Of course you’ll feel guilty. But it’s okay, all of it! Remind yourself that this isn’t ideal, but it’s tolerable and it’s what needs to happen.
Another reminder: it’s good for kids to get bored sometimes. Boredom leads to creativity. When we solve the boredom problem for our children by putting something interesting in front of them, we rob them of the chance to solve it for themselves.
Validate their boredom with kindness, and tell them that you’re completely confident they can find something to do. Then get back to work.
What I find works well for my family is to set a timer and let them know that when they hear the bell, I’ll put my work away and we can do something together. This also keeps me accountable to my promise.
DEALING WITH ISOLATION AND LONELINESS
Social connection is the most important factor for mental wellness in postpartum years and beyond. We need each other. Meaningful connections are not a nice-to-have, they are essential.
So how do we reconcile this during the Covid-19 crisis?
Well, I think we have to get creative, and refuse to disconnect from those who are most important to us.
Maybe you dislike talking on the phone, or texting feels impersonal, but I urge you to put that aside for a while and connect in whatever way you can digitally. Some connection is better than no connection.
Create time to hang out with friends on Facetime or Google Hangouts video, or even have a Facetime party with multiple friends.
The same goes for your kiddos. They’ll be missing their friends too, even if they don’t express this. Allow them time to have connection with their pals through the phone or video chat even if this isn’t something you’d normally do.
You might also consider social media platforms that help you feel heard and validated, as well as online meeting spaces offering support.
HOW TO TALK TO YOUR KIDS ABOUT COVID-19 (CORONAVIRUS)
This entirely depends on the ages of your kids. But usually your kids can pick up on more than you’d think. They are so smart! Even if they can’t understand your words, or the extent of what’s happening, they can certainly pick up shifting energy in the home. They can tell you’re worried. They notice that the routine is off. So you need to talk to them about it.
Filter your messages to your kids and only share basic and simple information. Try to explain in a way that they’ll understand, and also reassure them that they’re safe. Tell them that you’re doing everything you can to keep the family and your community healthy, and that you understand they might be sad about some things like cancelled playdates, camps, or prolonged absences from school. These are all understandable.
Also, kids don’t have the ability to put this in perspective.
They care more about their missed playdate than the global crisis because they don’t understand the global crisis. They don’t have the capacity to understand it’s full extent, and that’s okay. Let them have their emotions. Soothe them, and reassure them of their safety.
I encourage you to limit their exposure to news as well. Again, since they don’t understand, they can create scary ideas in their minds and fear can quickly escalate to anxiety. Helps them manage this by limiting what media and conversations they’re exposed to.
WHY WE NEED GRATITUDE + APPRECIATION MORE THAN EVER
When your social media feed is covered in posts about Covid-19 and your entire life is off-routine because of it, not to mention if you’re sick or someone you know is unwell, there’s no shortage of fear and concern. Now, more than ever, we need to work to create balance in our minds and emotions.
The way to do this is by creating (or returning to) a gratitude practice so that you also include the awareness of positive things in your life. They are there. There are many things that are the same, or that still bring you joy. We need to tune into these areas so that we don’t drown in the negative.
Is there a way to look at your situation in a way that serves you better, that doesn’t feel so daunting and scary? Is there something you’ve been wanting to do that now you might have some time for? Have you been longing to slow down, to spend more focused time with your kids?
When you focus on positive things in your life, you reinforce pathways in your brain that with time, become stronger and eventually fire on their own. Our thoughts are directly related to how we feel, so if you think about happy things you’re more likely to be… happy:)
And remember, gratitude isn’t about ignoring the severity of the situation or living in denial of the Covid-19 tragedy that’s unfolding, but rather, to allow your brain to create some sense of balance, and to hang on to the things that lift you up.
Sending love, ease, and compassion to you and you families.