Stress management during a time like this is very important. Stress can take a toll on the body, causing illness during a time when you need more energy than you’ve ever had. Use this month to take inventory of your stress level and how you’re managing it. If you’re not sure how to manage it with so much going on, here are a few simple tips that I know work for me and many other parents I work with.
1. Put everyone on a schedule.
Being in quarantine together while kids aren’t in school and you aren’t at the office doesn’t mean this is summer. Kids and parents do best when they have a rhythm to their days, and this means a consistent schedule.
Your kids still need to do schoolwork. If they don’t have homework for that day, tell them to find a good book to read or a math program to do online. Set a time frame for school, such as 8 a.m. to noon or whatever time works for you. Then schedule fun time, lunch, exercise, etc.
You can keep the schedule loose, but if you don’t have a schedule at all, you will find yourself needing to entertain your child or break up sibling fights far more often. This will increase your stress and everyone else’s. Make a schedule and stick to it as best as possible.
2. Determine what relieves stress for you.
Stress relievers are different for everyone. For some, it’s exercise. For others, it’s solitude or cleaning your house or prayer or meditation. What is your best stress reliever? (Hint: It is not endlessly scrolling through social media or reading news headlines right now.)
Decide what it is and then make time for it on your calendar. Literally, write it on your calendar as something you can do every day or every other day for 30 minutes to an hour. Tell your household you will be busy during this time and hold it sacred. You can take turns with your spouse, so you each get your stress-relief time.
3. Journal your anxieties.
What exactly is causing you stress? Is it your kids, your spouse, your work, news about the virus? Spend five minutes at night journaling what your biggest stressor was for that day. This will help externalize your stress, so you don’t keep it all inside.
4. Schedule virtual meetups with your friends.
You need adult interaction with people you trust and with whom you can be yourself. Make weekly or bi-monthly FaceTime meetings with a few of your closest friends. It doesn’t matter if your kids are running around, talk for as long as you can. If your kids are older, find a quiet spot where you can “meet up” with your friends and talk about how each of you is doing.
Parents, this will pass. The quarantine will not last forever and life will get back to normal eventually. Do what you can to identify and manage your stress, even if it’s just for half an hour a week. Remember, you are not in this alone. The entire world is experiencing the same difficulties. We will make it through this together, and be stronger as a result.