By: Kellie Cole, MEd, LPC, RPT-S
If you’re like me, you did not see this pandemic coming! The changes brought on by COVID-19 are being felt by us all. Here is some information to help mitigate the stress or anxiety COVID-19 might be causing for you and/or for your children.
What is a “normal” response to stress?
Remember that experiencing stress as a result of change is NORMAL. We are all experiencing significant change in our routine, purchases, and lifestyle as a result of school closures, cancellations, and a barrage of news and social media information. If you find that stress is leading to worry, ask yourself, “Is this productive worry?” If you are ruminating on information, finding yourself being pessimistic, or not able to turn away from news and social media, your worry is causing some negative reactions.
What can I do to manage my stress?
Here are some things you can do to be more productive with managing your stress:
- Drastically limit social media and consider avoid checking social media or news more than once per day
- Get your information once-a-day from the same reliable news source (e.g., WHO, CDC’s site at coronavirus.gov)
- Do not have the news on at any other time than the time you have established
- Establish a routine to keep you busy
- Include daily exercise, good nutrition and relaxation (e.g., try Calm or Headspace apps)
- Avoid depressants like alcohol
What can I do to manage my child’s stress?
If you have children, remember, stress is contagious. If you are stressed or anxious, they will be too. Here are some tips on how to talk to your kids about what is happening in our country right now:
- Normalize and empathize. Let them know it is normal to feel a little more stressed or concerned and it is ok to talk about those feelings.
- Ask them open ended or neutral questions:
- “What is on your mind about the corona virus?”
- “Is there anything you would like to ask me?”
- Provide reassurance and apply logical thinking (highly unlikely they will be affected).
- Avoid projecting your worry on them. Talk to your adult friends about your own worries.
- Limit information exposure. Do not talk incessantly around your kids about what is happening. Do not have the news on at home.
- Give them control when you can (e.g., what to wear, etc.)
- Have a structured routine while they are home from school that includes: plenty of exercise, imaginary play, tasks to complete (e.g., puzzles, coloring a picture, reading, cleaning out a drawer, emptying the dishwasher)
- Remember that distractions can help calm a worried child (e.g., go outside and look for butterflies, collect rocks, pinecones for art projects, etc.)
- Find the silver lining! This is an opportunity to get to some spring cleaning tasks for yourself or with your children.
- Think about cleaning out closets, school papers, etc.
- This is also an opportunity for family time.
- Play monopoly, put together a scrapbook, make homemade play doh together, cook something, put on a play.
Summary: Keep Calm and Carry On
Change is hard and especially when not expected. But you can learn to take advantage of this opportunity and use it for good. If you have questions or concerns about how you or your child is managing stress or anxiety right now, please contact your clinician. If you are feeling overwhelmed and do not have access to a mental health professional, there are many competent professionals in The Woodlands/Spring/Conroe area to consider.