7 Ways Parents Can Avoid Burnout During COVID-19
When it comes to COVID-19, we know that the elderly are most vulnerable. However, there’s another group that is facing a different type of risk during this pandemic. Parents are coping with more stress than ever. Broken routines, job changes, school closures, and hypervigilance have taken their toll, and it’s time to start talking about this secondary epidemic. Stress affects much more than one’s mood — it wrecks the immune system, causes digestive issues, disrupts sleep, and may produce many other symptoms throughout the body. Experts have even linked chronic stress to cancer.
So what can parents do to protect their own health and wellness during this challenging time? When we can’t remove the source of our stress, Dr. David Gutterman says the key is learning to better manage it. As a clinical psychologist with LeBauer’s Behavioral Medicine team, he works with parents (and children) who need help managing issues like stress, anxiety, and depression. Whether you have toddlers or teenagers, Dr. Gutterman’s tips can be implemented in your home.
1. Create Structure
Routines are important for adults and children alike. Dr. Gutterman reminds parents, “even if your children are not headed back to school physically, you can replicate a similar routine at home.” Stick to regular bedtimes and wake times. Have established meal times and limit snacks to healthy options. Make sure everyone has their own water bottle and stays hydrated throughout the day. Create blocks of time for focused study, screen time, free play, and especially outdoor recreation. These routines provide security and comfort for the entire family.
2. Stay Connected
Parents need to stay connected and benefit from collective energy. Chances are, your neighbor with similar-aged children is also feeling fatigued and out of ideas. Discuss things that you are struggling with and share observations around what is working well within your home. These connections are vital during times of crisis. Even if you don’t have many opportunities to visit with other parents face-to-face, utilize social media to share ideas.
3. Establish Pods
One of parents’ main worries is how to allow their children social interaction in a safe way. Total isolation is not a healthy, long-term solution, so many parents have created “Family Pods” to provide kids with opportunities to play and learn together. Dr. Gutterman advises parents to “find families who have similar COVID-19 standards and safeguards in place and discuss a system when you can take turns hosting each other’s children.” It’s not only a beneficial time for kids to develop their social skills, but a much-needed break for parents.
4. Take Breaks
Parents should take advantage of their opportunities to be alone and recharge. This may look like one parent putting in earbuds and taking a walk around the block, then switching off so the other parent can do the same. In single-parent homes, it may be intentionally waking up an hour before the kids to meditate, exercise, or read. According to Dr. Gutterman, self-care should be a priority for parents every year, not just during times of stress.
5. Limit News
We all consume news on a daily basis, but when it comes to coronavirus updates, it’s best to gather information from reliable, medically oriented sources. Stay away from the political side of the pandemic; this is a health crisis. If parents are concerned about how to best protect their children this fall, they should discuss what is right for their family with their child’s doctor.
6. Shift Mindset
Our mindsets are powerful, and one of the most damaging ways to view this pandemic is gritting our teeth and just waiting for it to be over. Dr. Gutterman encourages parents to stop asking, “when will this end?” At this point, we should be less focused on the ending and more focused on how we can best thrive through it. Parents are incredibly creative and the reality is this time can foster creativity in adults and children if we view it as an opportunity.
7. Seek Help
While stress can often be managed with simple lifestyle changes, there are times when the support of a mental health professional is needed. LeBauer’s behavioral medicine team is offering video counseling sessions for adults and children ages three and up. To request an appointment, complete our easy online form or call one of our offices near you. New patients are welcome!