Although 80% of Americans claim to experience daily stress, it’s likely that your stress levels have never been higher than during the current COVID-19 pandemic. While the new normal of social distancing and mask-wearing is enough to get used to, many of us are grappling with other major changes that have considerably disrupted our daily lives. Whether yours is one of the 70% of failed business partnerships reported in an average year, you’ve been laid off due to coronavirus closures, or you’re attempting to work from home, it’s likely that you feel emotionally overwhelmed during this time.
That high level of stress is even more likely to be experienced by parents. Around 5.4 million students attend private schools nationwide, while another 50.8 million children are enrolled in American public schools. But no matter where your child normally attends class, they’ve probably been trying to learn from your living room since March. And with school reopenings creating a major divide across the country, parents will have to make the impossible choice between sending their kids into a potentially hazardous school environment or continue supervising their education through digital means.
Understandably, both parents and kids might feel like they’re drowning in a sea of stress right now. But there are some things you can do to manage that anxiety for yourself and for your loved ones. While there may be no perfect solutions right now, here are a few tips that can help your family handle pandemic-related stress in the interim.
Try to Stay Flexible
When your entire routine has been thrown out the window, you might be inclined to panic. And while it’s true that maintaining a schedule can be highly beneficial, especially for your kids, that doesn’t mean your approach has to be completely rigid. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that important details can change quickly. So in order to adapt and not get frustrated with things beyond your control, you’ll want to keep flexibility in mind. Rather than scheduling everything down to the second, create a basic routine with blocks established for both your children’s activities and for your own work. This can give everyone a sense of what to expect without producing anxiety if plans for a given day need to change at the last minute.
Prioritize Physical Activity
It’s easy to forget how big an impact our physical health has on our mental and emotional well-being. But fitting in your fitness activities can do wonders to regulate your stress hormones, allow you to sleep more soundly, and provide you with more energy during the day. You’ll be a lot less snappish with your kids and spouse if you work off some of that anxiety and release some feel-good chemicals with a daily walk, a bike ride, or a dance party in the backyard. Although most gyms are closed (and, if not, should be avoided), there are plenty of options for getting some safe exercise outside with your family. Explore some local hiking trails, plant a garden, or divvy up the household chores to get your bodies moving.
Don’t Forget About the Fun
With so many tasks on your to-do list and so much worry about virtually every aspect of life during the coronavirus crisis, parents might be inclined to forget how important having fun can be. Engaging in playful activities is more than just enjoyable; they’re often necessary for our well-being and can play an important role in your children’s cognitive development. Don’t discount activities like fruit-picking, putting on skits, or jumping through the backyard sprinklers as pointless. In many ways, they’re actually vital. There are a number of safe activities your family can enjoy, both inside and outdoors, that can provide a welcome escape from reality during this time. It’s a good practice to actually work these activities into your schedule to ensure everyone can reap the benefits.
Make Time For Yourself
Most parents are spending more time with their spouses and children than ever before. And while that can present a wonderful opportunity to bond and make lasting memories, it can also lead to a lot of extra tension in the house. Spending every waking minute with your family members isn’t always a bed of roses. Without some time alone to recharge, you may end up resenting their presence and losing emotional control much more than usual. If you’re in a position to do so, carve out some alone time. Whether you wake up before everyone else to jog around the neighborhood and water your garden or you ask your spouse to watch the kids for a couple of hours while you spend some time at the park or reading a book in the backyard, remember that self-prioritization isn’t something to be ashamed of. Too often, parents put themselves last — and unfortunately, this ends up being to everyone’s detriment. If you don’t care for yourself, you’ll have a much harder time caring for others. Reframe your self-care routine as a necessity, rather than an indulgence, to keep stress levels low.
At first glance, it probably sounds like managing stress during a pandemic would be much easier said than done. But maintaining your emotional well-being is both possible and essential right now. With these tips in mind, you’ll be better equipped to take on everything this health crisis throws your way.