Updated: Jul 19
My family and I recently moved to Nevada. We chose to move prior to the realization that COVID-19 would become what it is today. We were excited. We moved for opportunity, better schooling for our daughter, and a look ahead at the future. Many family members live here, or close for my husband and I. Yet, very shortly after we made the decision to move and put our house on the market, tell our employers that we were going to move from Alaska to Nevada, COVID hit with a force of a wrecking ball. We were blessed because our home sold very quickly, and we were still able to move, but everything changed for us. Jobs that we had counted on suddenly went on hiring freezes. We were blessed that our jobs in Alaska had allowed us to work remotely for a time, so that we could continue to make money, however as time passed, that too began to look more and more unstable.
Children and Mental Health
Then there was our daughter. Her anxiety began to rise as the summer progressed. One of the reasons we moved to Nevada was for family, the other was to go to a school that she was looking forward to. As the school year drew closer, her anxiety heightened. The night she found out she would not be going to school full time, she had an anxiety attack. She threw up, and cried hysterically. She had moved away from her friends, and the fear of not knowing if she would be able to make new ones, in addition to the need she had for social interaction, and her love for school in general was all too much to bear.
This is my story, and it is so much less stressful, anxiety inducing, and traumatic then so many others. Children and Adults across the country have had much more stress, anxiety, depression, and other impacts to mental health than we are talking about in our every day conversations. COVID-19 is not just affecting the physical health of this nation, it is impacting the mental health due to the ripple effect.
Health Care Workers and Mental Health
The emotional toll that it has taken on the frontline workers of America, the doctors, nurses, and all staff has been tremendous. It has caused an uptick in trauma symptoms, which has led to PTSD. This has had tragic outcomes which has horrifically led to suicide in a handful of healthcare workers across the nation. The unprecedented times that our nation has faced has led to children out of schools, parents faced with a choice of having to stay home and leave their jobs, often losing income to teach their children. Parents are becoming more and more stressed, scared, depressed, anxious, and child abuse and domestic violence are on the rise.
So what do we do? We do not know when life will go back to what it was like before COVID. So there has to be ways to cope, ensure that we are taking care of those who need it, notice the signs of child abuse and domestic violence within those around us, and ensure the safety and security of those who are vulnerable.
Tips to Manage Stress & Anxiety
Common Sense Media has an abundance of resources for de-stressing, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests numerous ways to manage stress and anxiety. Knowing the facts and the actual risks can help reduce stress in yourself and others. Take time to have conversations with your kids about their questions, concerns, or fears. Follow healthcare guidelines to model preventative care, and follow these tips and strategies to help structure your day:
Temper your expectations, and be kind to yourself
Remember, most of us were not prepared for this. Anxiety, fear, worry, and grief—these are all NORMAL reactions to abnormal circumstances. Laundry piles, dirty dishes, messy rooms—do what you can. And while we always suggest monitoring the use of children’s screen time, both how much and what they are watching, this may be a time where children have more screen time than they are accustomed to. Just make sure that your children are practicing safe online behavior. Here are some tips.
Embrace a rigid state of flexibility
Most children of all ages thrive when they have predictable routines. If your children are pre-school age or older, have them participate in the development of a daily schedule. When (not “if”) the schedule gets derailed, see Tip 1 above!
Find ways to stay informed
There is a constant barrage of information regarding COVID-19, and it is challenging to know what to think. Find trusted sources and limit your exposure to this material. Social media can be a major source of social support, but can also create feelings of fear, panic, and, for some, feelings of inadequacy. If seeing pictures of well-organized kitchen tables, Pinterest boards of fun activities, from those who you perceive “have it all put together,” are causing you distress, reconsider your relationship with social media for the time being. Talk with people you trust about your concerns about how you are feeling.
See the world through your children’s eyes
Do you remember what it was like to be a kid? Do you remember how boring it was to watch the news? Do you remember how cool it was when your parents did spontaneous things with you?
Roast marshmallows on the bbq Go “camping” in the living room Make a pillow fort Create a nature scavenger hunt
Learning can be fun
With uncertainty about the return to school, many parents are fretting about the potential loss of academics for their children. Fortunately, daily activities carry immense opportunity for learning:
Cooking teaches science and math
Yard work teaches about nature and can inspire creative art projects Reading together enriches vocabulary and listening skills Take care of your body—Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and avoid alcohol and drugs. Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy. Call your healthcare provider if stress gets in the way of your daily activities for several days in a row.
This is a resource that lists the child abuse hotline numbers to contact by state. If you suspect child abuse is happening, it is not your job to investigate. Remember that during this time, children are not in school, they are not being seen by people that are outside their home. If you suspect child abuse is happening, please report because you could be saving a child’s life from sexual, physical, mental abuse or neglect. Tensions in homes are so much higher right now, and when it is investigated, a family can get much needed help, and so can the child. Please do not hesitate to call.
If you are in a situation that you would like to reach out for help or you would like to talk to someone about domestic violence the above link will give you resources for help with domestic violence and connect you with local resources. During COVID-19, not only has domestic violence gone up, but the severity has increased. There is even more fear of leaving ones’ home at this time. Remember shelters are open and resources are still out there.
If you or someone you know is having any suicidal thoughts, please contact your local emergency provider. Do not hesitate to go to the emergency room or call 911. If you want to reach out and talk to someone, or learn more there are resources. You can also chat with a therapist by dialing 988.
Lastly remember to reach out to a local mental health professional. If you or someone you know needs help, please reach out. There is always someone who will listen to understand and validate what you are going through and help give you tools. Most professionals will see you over video during the pandemic, and if you prefer, some will see you in the office with social distancing rules and CDC guidelines, as I do.
Please take care of yourself during these times, and remember we are all affected differently by this epidemic.