In the age of COVID-19, parents have more responsibilities and stress than ever before. Many are expected to parent full time, work full time and teach full time—all at the same time. This does not leave much leftover time, or energy, for self-care. However, more than ever, this is the time to make a conscious effort to practice self-care.
Here are some tips:
Realistic Expectations: This is the time to challenge your perfectionism and self-criticism. Anxiety is high, the future is uncertain, and the many tasks and roles parents are forced to balance leave everyone exhausted. Be kind to yourself if you do not cross off every item on your to do list, or if you do not complete a project in the exact way you envisioned. You’re doing the best you can right now, and the best you can is good enough.
Media Diet: The news can make us feel anxious and overwhelmed. Set boundaries around how much news you will consume. Decide how often you will tune into current events. Consider one daily update from a trusted public health official or a set number of times per week you will watch the news. Be mindful of how you feel when you peruse social media. Comparing ourselves to how others are doing (or how they project that they are doing) makes us feel depressed and stressed. Regardless of whether or not others inflate how well they are handling home-schooling or their relationships during lockdown, we may assume others have it all together while we are struggling to keep our heads above water. This makes us feel inadequate by comparison and leads to increased depression and anxiety. Limiting social media use can lead to greater happiness.
Time Alone: Your old routine may have allowed for an opportunity to recharge through some alone time. Whether via a commute, a night out, your children being at school or even running an errand, those moments do not exist during this time. We need to be more intentional and purposeful in creating space for ourselves. Find small opportunities, such as taking a warm bath, reading a book when the children go to sleep or a solo walk when the children are in the safe care of another adult. Parents have no healthy time apart from their children, and creating these small moments can help us refuel.
Make healthy choices when possible: Workout outside when safe. Use online videos to try new forms of exercise. Healthy choices include emotional choices, as well. Set boundaries with people who make your anxiety rise with their own worried feelings and worst-case scenarios. Meditate and practice mindfulness.
Use Technology: Fill your cup up through social interactions using technology. Organize virtual calls with friends. Virtual game nights are a fun way to connect with others. Consider joining a book club over video chat or connect with spiritual/religious groups that meet virtually.
Self-care will not only help calm you during this destabilizing time, it can also help you find the physical and emotional energy needed to best support your family. When you feel tapped out, it can feel nearly impossible to give others any attention or energy. When you practice self-care, it won’t just help you feel better, your whole family will feel better, too.
Graziella Simonetti is a parenting coach with Parenting Pals (firstname.lastname@example.org) and works as an early childhood social worker for the New York City Department of Education. She holds an advanced certificate in parent education from Adelphi University and is a NYSPEP credentialed Parenting Educator. Simonetti is a former kindergarten teacher and the mother of a toddler.