Many families are struggling right now; money is tight, being home together poses new relational challenges, and many parents are navigating schooling at home for the first time. As we enter the end of week one of coronavirus isolation (some of us in Seattle have been at this for much longer…Elise has been quarantined since March 2nd), we wanted to share a few thoughts on managing stress while navigating these uncertain times, particularly for those with kids at home.
Your stress impacts your children. No matter how well you think you're hiding or suppressing it, your children are feeling it. Stress is normal. It's a natural reaction to uncertainty and strain and you will never be entirely stress free, despite what Gwyneth Paltrow may say. That's why it's essential that parents develop coping mechanisms that model healthy emotional behavior for their children.
This is a great time to work on calling people in, rather than calling them out. When you call someone out, your accusation will often be met with defensiveness that will immediately escalate the situation or a flight response that will stop the conversation in its tracks. Try calling your spouse or your child into to a conversation instead of trying to “win” or make a point. While necessary and healthy for growth, conflict can turn nasty and have a life-long impact on relationships. If you're trying to “win”, you are already losing.
It is ALWAYS better to pause and have a calm conversation rather than wait until you slam the kitchen cabinet at your child, curse at the dog, or call your spouse “lazy”. If you are genuinely trying to see behavioral change, emotionally honest, calm, conversations are always more effective. Are you upset your kids never put their dishes in the dishwasher? Verbalize your expectation. Does it feel like you're shouldering more of the weight of homeschooling than your spouse, even though you have equivalent workloads? Have an honest conversation about how you feel and where you need them to step up without being accusatory. Seemingly small things can mount quickly and build resentment, especially when you and your family are facing other stress factors like home isolation.
Managing stress requires decompression. There is no way to avoid stress; you must learn how to cope in healthy ways. When we're all looking for ways to escape the constant stream of stimuli in our homes all day during this isolation period, it's easy to rely on depressive coping mechanism like emotional eating and overuse of alcohol. In the long run, addictive and unhealthy means of escape will backfire and compound your stress. Take the time now to create habits that allow you to decompress, even on good days. It's hard to prioritize yourself when you and your family are living under a blanket of anxiety and stress, but it is even MORE important to do so in these circumstances. While taking 15 minutes to blow-dry your hair, going for a walk or a solo drive won't solve all of your problems, it is amazing how much your body and mind can benefit from small moments of intentional solitude.
Some companies have created free virtual workout and meditation exercises to help people stay healthy at home. Check out some of those below.