Social Emotional Health Should be Our Priority

So you are settled into your new “normal.” But your new normal is not normal at all. If you are fortunate to be able to work from home, you may be stressed that you aren’t doing enough. You may also feel frustrated that you are unable to have regular contact with co-workers; spontaneous office visits, or socializing around the water cool is sorely missed. There is also the frustration of balancing work life with the daily care and education of your children. Zoom brain fatigue is something else that you may be experiencing– having to gauge people’s reactions virtually, worrying about family interruptions, as well as technical issues is stressful! All of this can lead to feelings of inadequacy, and that can lead to depression.

Your children are experiencing the same frustrations just in a different context. If they are school-aged they are taking classes and doing work virtually and solely with technology. They miss their teachers. They miss their friends. They are worried about you, and don’t know how to help you. Little ones are more easily adaptable, but older kids–whose developmental stage is to find autonomy–are especially frustrated that they have lost the ability to flex their independent muscles. You may find that your children are acting out or becoming withdrawn. Like you, they may be finding it difficult to concentrate for long periods of time.

The inability to concentrate is almost certainly related to the increase in the stress levels you are experiencing. Add to the stressors already discussed, the worry of finances, the constant onslaught of scary reports coming from the media regarding the Coronavirus, the fear that you or someone you love will become infected, as well as the uncertainty of how long social distancing and stay-at-home orders will last, it is no wonder that our brains are slower and need more time to learn and process new information.

So how do we guard ourselves against COVID-19 overload? First and foremost you need to understand that we cannot control external actions or the actions of others, we can only control ourselves and how we react to situations and circumstances.

If you are constantly fighting with your children to get their school work done, talk to their teachers. Most teachers will be understanding and aware that there will surely be a learning gap once schools are reopened– they can fix that, your children will catch up– it will be harder though for them to learn if their brains are impacted by the stress of staying at home. You know your child best, but consider giving them a pass on some school work, especially if they are truly distraught.

If you are able, talk to your supervisor about adjusting your schedule. As long as you are able to meet deadlines and get your work done, you don’t have to limit your work hours to nine to five, between Monday and Friday.

Shut off the news!! Just shut it off. Constantly hearing scary statistics and world-wide mayhem doesn’t accomplish anything and can take away from the energy you need to care for yourself and family members. Watch things that will make you laugh– laughing releases healthy endorphins into your body and mind that will lift your spirits.

Stay in regular contact with extended family members and friends–call, take walks together, face-time, and if possible have social-distancing gatherings in your yard. Simply existing in the same space can lift your spirits!

Get enough sleep– stress causes exhaustion, we need to heal our bodies and minds daily, and that requires a good nights sleep. Naps are also good practice.

Dance! Sing! Move! All of these are activities that can be done alone or with your family. All of these activities will strengthen your immune system and be beneficial to your physical and mental health.

And finally, listen to your body. If you are tired and not motivated, it’s okay to do nothing. Don’t beat yourself up over it. It’s okay.

Our mental health is what we need to be focusing on right now. It is what will see us through this unusually difficult time. So tend to it, take care in nurturing and listening to your feelings as well as your family’s. If you are feeling extreme levels of anxiety and depression reach out to a mental health professional, the shared link is a place for you to call if you need to “Talk it Out.”

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