The coronavirus has created a new normal for us all. Especially working parents. In my family, just like everyone else, none of us were prepared for this new world.
From working at home to trying to figure out how to arrange childcare for the kids, everything became so much harder than it already was.
I weighed all of the options. Do I take on the cost of putting my children in daycare and risk exposing my whole family to the virus? Do I try to juggle working from home and watching my children at the same time? Neither option was even close to ideal or even manageable.
I spent many nights tossing and turning, not knowing what to do. My family’s safety and financial well-being were on the line. The stress started consuming me.
Eventually, I decided to take one for the team and work from home while watching the kids. Taking on that challenge made my stress levels soar even higher. I was risking my performance at work, missing deadlines, and only half-watching my kids the entire time.
My kids experienced many falls and accidents that could have been avoided if I were more attentive. It felt like I couldn’t do anything right.
And I know I’m not the only one. Many have had to balance working from home, helping their children with remote learning, watching their kids when there was no school, or risking exposure and stretching the family budget with daycare.
All of this change can result in mental health concerns and tons of added stress.
Not only does stress result from having to balance children and work, there are many other mental health implications of the coronavirus for parents.
For one, it causes isolation. We are no longer in a work environment with our co-workers and colleagues. Being away from our communities can cause loneliness and depression.
Others are facing serious repercussions of the virus, including job loss. Working from home is stressful enough with kids to think of. That stress becomes far greater when we aren’t getting an income to support our family at all. Plus, losing a job results in even more stressors such as being uninsured.
In the last week of March in 2020, about 19,000 filed for unemployment in Delaware. The record before that was 9,800 in one month.
And for those of us who do still have a job, the virus can pile on more problems, including restricted hours and less business and therefore less income.
And then there are those, like me, who are doing it all. Work and childcare. There are many frustrations that come with this situation, including not being qualified to teach our children. Not knowing what to do makes helping with homework that much more difficult.
No matter what circumstances we’re facing, there’s no easy way to be a working parent during this time. We are likely experiencing little to no time to ourselves with remote work and school. Everyone in the family is likely at home, making us all a little too close for comfort.
So what can we do to manage these seemingly impossible situations? The key is to still take care of yourself and your mental health, no matter what life looks like right now.
It’s common to struggle with mental health concerns but it doesn’t look the same for everybody.
Something as simple as stress can impact our lives. You don’t have to have a diagnosed mental illness or the need to get inpatient psychiatric care to address the problem.
Mental health issues also develop in different ways and have different causes. Sometimes they develop over time or they can come on all at once.
There doesn’t have to be a family history or even personal history of mental illness to experience concerns. It can be the result of a whole range of environmental factors/stressors, including but not limited to: trauma, neglect, loss, family dysfunction, loneliness, stress, life changes, etc.
Therefore, it’s perfectly reasonable for mental health concerns to pop up just because of the impacts of the pandemic. And you can take steps to address the concerns.
The best thing you can do for yourself as a working parent during this time is to make self-care a priority. But what does that mean? And what else can we do to protect our mental health?
Self-care includes anything that is intended to support our mental, emotional, and/or physical health. It includes meditation, practicing mindfulness, therapy, setting aside time for a hobby you enjoy, exercising, eating well, getting enough sleep, etc. It can even be as simple as taking a bath.
It’s important to note that self-care doesn’t mean numbing our senses or tuning out (with substances, social media, etc.).
However, the main reason people don’t practice self-care is because 44% of people nationwide think it’s only for people with enough time while 35% think it’s only for people with enough money. Other barriers include demanding jobs, burnout, or not addressing it with your doctor.
Self-care can be done in a few short minutes with something as easy as a breathing exercise or a walk around the block. And many self-care activities don’t cost a dime.
Another great way to protect your mental health is to set clear boundaries around work, school, and play.
Boundaries essentially mean knowing and communicating your limits. They allow us to take charge of our own life and maintain healthy relationships with others, including our family.
Boundaries also allow you to make self-care a priority. Boundaries can be different for different people and situations.
Boundaries can evolve and are based on our needs and values. They are different for everyone and require self-reflection. Remember to be assertive about your boundaries and be able to say “no” without feeling guilty.
Routines can help us feel grounded, even in the most unpredictable situations. And it helps us accomplish things, which can be especially helpful when balancing work, kids, and a full house.
You can make a routine by thinking about what you do on a daily basis and incorporating time for each activity. Make sure to incorporate some time for yourself and self-care, time to connect with friends and family, and time for work.
There are many benefits of therapy to our mental health. Therapy can help us cope with issues and stressors in our lives, which are plentiful during this time.
Therapy helps with problem-solving, managing symptoms of mental health concerns, setting boundaries, taking care of ourselves, and many other life skills.
One of the most common forms of therapy is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT helps us identify unhealthy thought patterns in order to improve both how we respond to difficult situations and our behavior in general.
The coronavirus has also contributed to changes in the healthcare field. Many mental health practitioners, along with family doctors and others in the healthcare field, have switched to seeing patients virtually.
Virtual therapy offers the same benefits without having to risk getting the virus.
No matter what your situation is like during this time, remember that you aren’t alone and that everybody has a new normal.
And even through the toughest, most unpredictable circumstances, there are ways to mitigate stress and take care of yourself. You have the power to add more structure into your life and to ask for help if you need it. And we could all use a little extra help right now.
At SUN Behavioral Health, we have the resources to help you during this time and beyond. Schedule a no-cost telehealth consultation to get started on improving your mental health and quality of life, or give us a call at 302-604-5600.