As a parent, you have probably noticed a shift in your mental health in the last seven months, especially if your children are school age. The New York Times articles sites several statistics that prove you are not alone if you are a parent struggling with depression or anxiety right now.
- “…research from the American Psychological Association showed that in April and May, parents with children at home under 18 were markedly more stressed than non-parents.”
- “More recent data from the University of Oregon’s RAPID-EC survey, which polled 1,000 nationally representative parents with children under 5 every week through the end of July…shows that parents of young children are particularly stressed.”
- “Sixty-three percent of parents said they felt they had lost emotional support during the pandemic.”
- “According to a study from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, 61 percent of parents of 5, 6 and 7-year-olds in Massachusetts agreed or strongly agreed that they felt ‘nervous, anxious, or on edge’ because of the pandemic.”
The article also notes that women who are pregnant or have recently given birth as well as parents who are struggling to provide financially for their children are the most at risk for mental health issues right now.
This time is trying for everyone, but the data is showing it may be affecting parents the most. You are worried about providing for your children. You are worried about what is best for your child right now as far as school and in-person activities. You are worried about the health of your family. And, you are worrying about all of this while being stuck at home most of the time and told that the world around you is a threat.
This combination of anxieties and unknowns in a stressful environment will surely take a toll on any parent’s mental health.
If you are a mom or a dad who is struggling with your mental health right now, first know that you are not alone, as the studies show above. Second, know that there is hope. We may not know when the pandemic will end, but there are things you can do now to help reduce your stress and improve your mental health even in the midst of this pandemic.
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.
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 or in the morning journaling what your biggest stressor was for that day. This will help externalize your stress, so you don’t keep it all inside.
Schedule 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 or schedule a socially distanced walk.
If you’re on FaceTime or Zoom, it doesn’t matter if your kids are running around, talk for as long as you can. Ideally, you can meet up outside the house, so you’re assured uninterrupted time, but during this pandemic, that might not be an option for you, so meet how and when you can. Emotional support from peers during this time is crucial.
Meet with a therapist.
Your anxiety doesn’t have to be extreme to warrant professional help. In fact, everyone could use a little help from a therapist right now. Most mental health professionals are offering teletherapy or therapy via an online video platform. If you are able to afford this, do it. It will be well worth your time and money.
And finally, give yourself grace.
Don’t beat yourself up for feeling anxious. Don’t get down on yourself because your depressive symptoms are back. Times like this make it difficult to thrive, so survive how you can. Prioritize yourself whenever possible, get professional help, and keep in touch with your emotional support. Even though it’s tempting to isolate yourself (and we are even being instructed to self-isolate at times), we need each other more than ever right now. Reach out.