Canaan, CT – With the pandemic showing few signs of slowing down, many parents are struggling to adapt to the prolonged pressures associated with quarantine. Juggling homeschooling or childcare responsibilities during the stay-at-home order has been the norm for some families, with parents trying to maintain work-life balance as they hold down their careers outside of the office. The additional emotional labor often demanded of this time can create a perfect storm for caregiver stress.
Caring for others can be a job in itself – one that can place those who dedicate themselves to assisting the vulnerable at a heightened risk of experiencing chronic stress, depression, and anxiety. According to the American Psychological Association’s latest “Stress in America” survey, the pandemic has exacerbated everyday pressures felt by parents. On a scale of 1 to 10, parents rated their stress as a 6.7 on average, compared to 5.5 for non-parents. The majority of participants cited economic strain, the federal response to the pandemic, and the need to supervise their children’s distance learning as their primary concerns.
“If you are feeling the pressure mounting as a caregiver, it can mean that you are outputting more energy than what you are receiving or giving to yourself,” says Anthony Nave, LCSW, Senior Manager of Outpatient Services at Mountainside treatment center. Nave recommends implementing each of these tips three times per week at minimum:
1) Set aside time for leisure activities. The need to be both a parent and teacher can constitute a significant time commitment, leaving caregivers feeling depleted and lacking time for themselves. Self-care is essential not only for parents’ mental health but also to set an example for their children that there can be a balance between work and play. “Have fun! Is it streaming a show? Doing arts and crafts?Make sure it’s something you know will consistently bring you joy,” Nave recommends.
2) Keep in touch with those connections. Social distancing is not synonymous with social isolation. Parents should remind themselves of this and maintain a support network consisting of fellow parents experiencing similar obstacles, or others they trust. Nave suggests, “Call a friend, create a Zoom party with family, talk to someone about what’s been causing you stress… a problem shared really can be a problem halved.”
3) Nurture the spirit. During these complex times, parents may need to make an additional effort to slow down, recognize that these are not “normal” circumstances, and be flexible with their expectations of themselves and their children. When parents catch themselves ruminating on fear or self-doubt, Nave advises, “Connect to your spirituality, whether through organized religion, meditating, or simply by being in nature, whatever spirituality means to you. Opening ourselves to the idea that there’s something bigger than ourselves can lift some of the weight of stress.”
Parents are the foundation of the family unit. As quarantine and coronavirus concerns intensify parenting challenges, parents must therefore try to treat themselves with kindness. “Being a caregiver can be both rewarding and overwhelming, so we must remember to periodically check in with ourselves and our own needs to reach our greatest potential as helpers,” says Nave.