I’m 39 weeks pregnant and slowing down but the world around me is moving faster than ever. One week ago, on a very normal day, I shared stories on DC Area Moms Blog Instagram. A few days before that, I had a baby shower among friends. With the coronavirus pandemic happening right now, you don’t need me to tell you how things have changed. We’re all running on survival mode. So here are some mental health tips I would like to share, as a wife of a firefighter/EMT and a homeschooling mom to almost five children.
Keep A Routine
I make sure our basic needs are met early in the morning, to get them out of the way. That’s when we take our vitamins and when we do our chores. Our simple chore chart is more of a list to keep things minimal and prevent nagging. A posted calendar also helps my kids know what to expect and has always included a lot of free time. It’s important to our mental health that everyone feels they still have a normal life of some kind. Bedtime for my kids is one thing that I haven’t changed because it’s so important for overall health. That’s when I decompress from my day, but don’t forget yourself. Sleep keeps our immune system strong and helps mood regulation.
Get A Handle On Food
I like to plan meal options so that I’m not overwhelmed with endless questions about what’s being served next. It also helps prevent food waste. Budgets are going to be tighter and food options are fewer. To cover anything else, we have shakes and vitamins. Precooking my meals or cooking more than one at a time has also worked great for me and I love my Instantpot.
Avoid Stress Triggers
Grocery shopping is one of those necessary trips that can cause stress. When shopping in person isn’t avoidable, I’ve chosen to go during off-peak hours to avoid panicked crowds. My suggestion is to order pickup or look for a delivery service. Since this is happening in the spring, all of the local farms are starting up their CSA’s (community supported agriculture) which have delivery or pickup options available. News is another big trigger so to minimize exposure, I signed up for push notifications to my phone to stay informed. Limiting social media is also something that really helps me.
Plan Ahead For Special Occasions
You may want to buy gifts, gift-wrap, balloons, special meals and treats in advance for any upcoming holidays. I bought favorite meals and boxes of brownie mix and cake mix! I wrote on the boxes with a sharpie so that everyone is on the same page. Making sure we still feel the magic in our special moments is going to help keep up morale.
Be One With Nature
We shoot for spending an hour, minimum, outside every day. Sometimes, I send my kids outside to play while I fix lunch because it’s warmer and I can have a moment of peace to myself. Studies show that being outside for just a short time makes us feel happier. We also need to keep an eye on our vitamin D levels. During the influenza outbreak of 1918, hospitals found that patients recovered better from illness when the hospital beds were brought outside! As many gyms close temporarily, we can get our exercise outside which boosts endorphins. With trips to the grocery stores being what they are, now is the time to learn to #growyourown food! Plus, just touching soil or standing barefoot on soil, called grounding, can be beneficial. But even the act of gardening can be a calming distraction. Cuddling up with our pets when we have a free moment is also one of those little things that’s underrated. If you’re lonely or have more free time than usual, try adopting or fostering a new pet.
Managing A Full Household
Most kids are more alert in the earlier part of the day, so we use this time after breakfast for learning. We keep it very light, no more than a few hours, and we try to wrap it up by lunchtime. I’m planning to add a friendly “On a Call” sign to our office door or workspace so that my kids know when someone cannot be disturbed. Just make sure that if you do this, you don’t forget about the sign or it won’t work after long. A “red light, green light” system would be a quick visual for non-readers. There are also a ton of educational resources online for kids who are stuck at home right now. If you can’t get your job done before or after the kids are awake, try instituting a “quiet hour” so you can power through an hour of work. I also have a quieter “calm down” time after dinner that helps everyone wind down before bed.
We’re choosing to use this time to be present with one another. This can be an opportunity to spend time as a family and to be grateful. If you’re new to them, family meetings are also safe spaces for kids to ask questions directly and to get things off their chests. Be open during these meetings and ask everyone what their personal interests are and what they’d like to learn about or do with their free time!
Look After Yourself
Letting go of little things that don’t matter is key to mental health during the coronavirus. If you feel compelled, tackle just one area of clutter a day, and forgive the rest. Everyone should be pitching in—it should not all fall on you. From a stay-at-home-mom, I would also suggest not wearing pajamas all day. Try to get your day going, as usual. If you have strong emotions one day, let yourself feel them. Have a good cry in private then reach out to a trusted friend. One of the beautiful things about this situation is that people are checking in on one another more. I’ve started scheduling remote religious services, live meditations, and online playdates for the kids. My friends and I have also noticed that we’ve taken up old interests again or rediscovered new ones! I’ve also started a neighborhood support group to increase that sense of community and to provide faster help, if needed. I started keeping a gratitude journal, as well, to write a list of things I’m thankful for before I go to bed. This helps me sleep and get out of the cycle of needing to control the situation and back to counting my blessings.
Know When To Get Help
If you’re struggling with coping, don’t wait to get help. Social distancing or even isolation can be hard on mental health during the coronavirus but we aren’t truly alone. We are in this together. We will come out of it stronger.
- Text 741741: crisis counselors
- Call 211: local resources
- Vent app: privately express your feelings
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: find resources
- 7 cups of tea: free peer-run service
- Professional Counseling: Better Help and Talkspace
- Inspire app: online support groups
- Yale University: free online course through Coursera
- Meditation apps: Calm and Insight Timer