Parent Anxiety Through the Pandemic
As parents, this pandemic has been incredibly difficult to navigate. I mean, they’ve got kids to watch. And teach. And clean up after. Right now, parents are comforters, entertainers, teachers, disciplinarians, chefs, nurses, managers, judges, prison guards, snugglers, providers…feel free to add some other roles onto this list that may have slipped my mind.
Then, let’s consider that many parents have jobs and careers. There are projects to complete. Deadlines to make. Quotas of productivity to reach. Virtual meetings to attend. Dinner to make…wait…no…sorry. That goes on the parent list.
Look, life is full of twists, challenges, and tantrums. And that was true before the pandemic. But all of this unknown is causing parents a lot of anxiety and stress. Maybe it shows up as irritability, fear, or withdrawing to a room for hours away from your family. I gave some ideas for teenagers that would benefit parents, too, but here are a few thoughts just for you:
Point #1 — Breath Through Your Anxiety:
Things are changing daily and no one seems to know what is going on. When we start feeling a fear or panic start coming over us, slow down your breathing. I wrote about this briefly in a previous post, but it’s so important. Be mindful of your breathing. Short, shallow breathing leads to the activation of the sympathetic nervous system, which gets our heart racing and keeps us alert. This stimulates a “fight or flight” response. Deep breaths activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which provides us with a better chance to be emotionally regulated when interacting with our kids.
Point #2 — Well Rested People are Regulated People:
I know you cannot wait until your kids are in bed so you can finally relax and watch your favorite television episode or hang out on your phone for a bit. Maybe it’s the only time that you can really focus in on your job. But, remember that sleep impacts your energy and attitude for the next day. Get your sleep when you can. Don’t feel bad for taking a nap during the day, either. Things are tough right now and take extra energy.
You can read more tips on how to emotionally-regulate in here and here.
Point #3 — Playfulness Puts Anxiousness in Place:
This one is my favorite. Playing isn’t just beneficial for kids! Adding a little bit of play time into your day adds tremendous personal value, such as lowering stress levels, improves brain functioning, strengthens relationships, and generates optimism. Play an afternoon boardgame. Chess. Tag. Legos. Shoot a basketball. Go for a hike. Run through the sprinklers. Get on the floor with your kids and see the world through their eyes (you might even find that remote control that went missing two years ago). Added bonus: you will be modeling healthy coping behaviors for your kids and your relationship with them will likely benefit from the extra fun. And that is powerful.
Point #4 — Concentrate on What You Can Control
You cannot control the virus. You cannot control how others react to the virus. You cannot control whether school comes back or in what form it comes back in the fall. But you can control what you want to accomplish during this time. You are not powerless. You have control over how you want to treat people during this time. You can control how you want others to feel around you, including your kids. As a parent, you are not powerless. You have influence over how your children will reflect upon their interactions with you 10, 15, 20 years from now when they talk about this pandemic.
You are all trying to hold on, but there is so much pressure and responsibility being placed on parents right now, and still so much that is left unknown about the future. Will school be back in the fall? If so, will it be safe? If not…can I send my kids to the grandparents for 3 months? Kidding. Sort of.
You’re not perfect, but you are doing okay. And while you have very little control over the coronavirus pandemic, you can take steps to help you control your anxiety during the pandemic. Try out some of the above tips. You may find something that helps you gain better control of your anxiety. And do not hesitate to contact a counselor if you’re in need of a little extra support.
Wellspace Counseling is located in Tualatin, Oregon and serves Tualatin, Lake Oswego, and the Greater Portland Metro Area. To find more information about Wellspace Counseling, visit the at www.wellspacepdx.com.