Managing Anxiety During a Pandemic
The world around us can be a scary and uncertain place at times. When you’re a parent, it can feel like you’re on heightened alert for things that might cause harm to your children. But a global pandemic -- certain to send anxieties off the charts.
The one thing certain is that we are in unprecedented times right now. Schools are closed. Many day cares are closed. Playgrounds are closed. Restaurants are take out only. Grocery store websites now have waiting lists just to add items to your cart and then vie for a pick up time. Parents are now trying to juggle work responsibilities while have young children at home and trying to be parent, teacher and employee simultaneously. Frustrations are high. Anxiety is higher.
It’s normal to worry about your children and want the best for them, especially when it comes to their health, safety, and education. But how exactly do you strike the balance between healthy concern and anxiety? What is rational, and what is irrational? Is your response proportional to what’s happening?
Acknowledging potential risks is crucial, as is taking precautions. But, it’s also essential to keep living your life and letting your child live theirs. So, what can you do, as a parent, to keep anxiety under control during this COVID-19 pandemic?
1. Keep up with the news, but do so in limited quantities
Yes, it is important to know what is happening and how the pandemic is progressing (and hopefully soon improving!). You need to have a balanced dose of news to continue making rational decisions. But over consumption of news and social media related to COVID-19 is certain to increase anxieties.
The other risk, particularly online, is stumbling on false information related to the pandemic. Unproven treatments, unsubstantiated rumors, etc. Do your research to discover the truth and the facts behind certain things before you let them work you up.
In order to keep your anxiety at bay and to remain focused on work and family, limit your news consumption of COVID-19.
2. Accept Your Anxiety
As a parent, it’s reasonable to want to be strong and to show your family that you’re not worried about anything. But, anxiety doesn’t make you a weak individual. Denying that you’re struggling with it or trying to hide it can make things worse.
Accept your parental anxiety for what it is. That can help you to feel as though you have a bit more control over managing it. When you try to hide it away, it can become stronger and harder to hide. Your acceptance gives it less power.
Depending on the age of your child, it can also be appropriate to talk with them about what you are feeling and experiencing and to ask them what they are feeling or experiencing. It can be a unique moment to bond and grow in your relationship with your child.
3. Make Mindfulness a Joint Activity
Practicing mindfulness can be a big help when it comes to managing anxiety. You also don't have to take up meditative yoga to practice mindfulness (although yoga is a great practice for a time like this). I talk with parents often about "moments of mindfulness". It's really bringing yourself to a new awareness of what is going on in the present moment. Simply focusing on your breath and the world around you at any given moment. Anxious thoughts can come in, and you can let them go just as quickly without holding onto them—like clouds passing by.
You can also practice mindfulness with your child in smaller doses. Take a 30-second break if you’re feeling anxious, and play a “game” with your child to listen to all of the things you see and hear around you.
4. Balance Your Thinking
A frequent concern during this time is that "This feels like it will last forever". The uncertainty of just how long we need to "shelter in place" to protect ourselves, our families and our surrounding community is one of the hardest parts. It's one thing to commit to doing something for 1-2 weeks if you know a definite end point is near. But with this evolving situation, we don't know for certain when the true "all clear" flag will wave.
But we do know that our medical community of researchers have overcome other viral threats in the past and we can have confidence that they will do so again. So flip the dreaded thought of "this will last forever" to praise for our healthcare workers and researchers who will see us through this in the end, whenever that may be. And if the uncertain end is causing you more anxiety, again, see #1, #2, and #3.
5. Take Action When Necessary
Has your daily life changed considerably compared to a month ago? For nearly everyone, the answer is a resounding yes. Everyone is doing their part now to stay home, shop for groceries and essential goods in different ways and are accessing services online. Experts tell us that these social distancing measures will have a significant impact. So remind yourself that your daily sacrifices and changes in routine are for the greater good....AND THAT THEY ARE TEMPORARY!
If you are finding you need more support during these unprecedented time, Interval Health remains open to support you. Sessions are being held by telehealth. All you need is a laptop with a microphone and camera or a smart phone.
For more support, please reach out to me today. I offer a complimentary phone consultation to all potential clients. To schedule yours in a matter of seconds, please check here.
To learn more about how counseling can help you in general during your parenting journey, please click here.
BRINGING BABY HOME: A NEW PARENT WORKSHOP IS GOING VIRTUAL!!!! A workshop for couples who are thinking about or planning to have a baby, who are expecting a baby or who have children already. Based on years of research and experience and developed by the Gottman Institute, this 12 hour workshop is designed to repair communication skills and jump start your relationship with your partner. For more information, please click here.
Jennifer Perera is a mom, spouse and Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has over a decade’s worth of experience in mental health. She has a private practice in New Jersey, with locations in Cranford and Princeton. Her passion is helping new moms and dads find their joy again in parenthood through individual, group and couples counseling. Jennifer specializes in working with parents during the prenatal and postpartum periods and those coping with a pregnancy loss or infertility. Her other passion is travelling to different parts of the world and her goal is to vacation in a different locale every time. She also has a great fondness for cats!