Periods of isolation and sudden changes in circumstances create heightened levels of stress, and it is vital to find ways to manage stress and maintain physical, mental and emotional health.Protecting your mental health and general wellbeing can be achieved through following a routine, taking regular exercise, utilizing support services, maintaining social contacts, following a balanced diet and being productive.
1- Follow a routine
Familiar routines can be enormously beneficial to every member of the household. Keep the family on the same sleep patterns.Try to eat at the same time every day and follow the usual patterns for playtime, chores, study and relaxation. Sticking to a routine will reduce the stress on you as a parent and will make children feel more comfortable and less anxious because they are doing normal things daily.You may need to establish some new routines if everyone is spending more time at home. Do this as early as possible and involve everyone in the process of establishing the routines. Create a plan for household chores and try to share the load.Give children time to play and relax, and even invent new ways to keep them occupied and happy.
One of the biggest disruptions people are facing right now is the change to study for school students and university students.School students need to be supported and motivated to continue studying even if they are not attending school. Consult their schools and teachers for resources and support, find a space and a time for them to study, and check in on their progress and any doubts they have.Also, understand that they are not going to be able to complete the same amount of work at the same standard while they have limited contact with teachers and classmates. Give students some leeway at these times and try to be a supporter.University students are more independent and self-motivated, but also need time and space to study, and someone to talk to if they are feeling overwhelmed by having to study alone.
Get your body moving and your heart pumping every day. Physical activity promotes physical health, of course, but also improves mental and emotional wellbeing.Exercise outside if you are allowed and if you have space. Even a few minutes of fresh air and sunlight will greatly boost your mood, so make some time to walk, jog or move in the outdoors.Even if stuck inside, it is still possible to exercise. Many fitness coaches, personal trainers, health authorities, gyms and sports associations are posting online fitness videos, hosting virtual classes and distributing resources to help people do physical activity at home.Do some searching and find the exercise routine that is best for you, and even involve your partner and your children in a structured routine or some spontaneous, enjoyable play.
4- Use support services
Counselling and support services are reaching out to people in this time of need, and are available over the phone or online. Search for these official services and take advantage of the chance to talk to someone, ask advice, share and acknowledge your feelings or ask for help.Support services are staffed by trained professionals who can guide you through this process, and they are available at different times and in different languages.Also, many apps exist or have just been created, to help people cope with anxiety during uncertain times so that you can access support directly from your phone.
5- Stay in touch
Organize virtual playdates or meetups with other parents. Use technology to keep your children in contact with their friends and allow them to see each other, even if it’s not facing to face. Simply seeing a familiar face and communicating with them can greatly boost a child’s mood. The interaction can be planned and full of activities for the children, or just spontaneous.Don’t forget to take some time for yourself to stay in contact with friends and family, using the same technology. Share a story, share your feelings, or even chat about the TV series you’re watching.
6- Turn back the clock
Remember pen pals? People connected this way before the internet, and the postal service is still operating, so it is possible to write letters to people from far-flung countries (or in the same city) and to learn about their lives and personalities.Finding a pen pal for your children has the bonus of working on their literacy skills and handwriting.
7- Eat well
A healthy diet will strengthen your immune system and protect you from illness. It will also help protect the health of people around you. Avoid the temptation to overeat comfort food, follow a healthy diet, and allow yourself a treat from time to time.
8- Practice patience
Everybody feels more stress and can experience more frustration at times of great uncertainty, especially when being forced to stay inside for long periods. So, if a child is crying more than usual, a teenager is moping, or irritable more than usual, or siblings are fighting more than they would normally, remember the cause of this behaviour.Don’t dwell on situations that could have turned out differently and don’t be too hard on yourself or others for little things that get on your nerves. Remember that days are going to be hard for everyone and try to be patient and forgiving.Remember to be consistent when disciplining children. Set and enforce limits that are appropriate to the child’s age and development. Also, open communication with your children to ask how they are feeling and to tell them how you are feeling as a result of their behaviour.
9- Be productive
Getting tasks done and achieving goals greatly boosts self-esteem, so find ways to be productive while at home. Apart from working from home, to pay the bills, there are other ways to stay productive.Take a course online, learn a new skill online, check in on family and friends to see how they are coping with change, or make use of the time to complete household tasks that you had been planning to get done for some time.Also, make time to do something enjoyable. Dust off the enormous puzzle and challenge yourself and your family to complete it. Invite your children to carry out some (safe) science experiments or to complete an art and craft project. Tap into a child’s imagination and make up stories which they can write and illustrate, before reading them to each other, to friends, to grandparents or others.It can be useful to plan activities that can be done in an hour, a day, or an extended period, and to congratulate yourself and each other when they are complete. Keeping your mind busy during isolation is extremely beneficial.
10- Switch off
Avoid spending too much time watching the news and following social media. Most of the news is inevitably going to be negative, and this can directly affect your mood and your mental health.Try to put a limit on how much time you will spend on social media and on watching, reading or listening to the news, and try to do the same for your children.When children are exposed to constant news about crises, this can cause worry, fear and stress, which can, in turn, lead to irritability or acting out, unhealthy eating and sleep habits, excessive sadness, inability to concentrate and generally poor wellbeing.
11- Trusted sources
Experts also emphasize the importance of using trusted information sources during these times. Search for official organizations and health experts to find the most accurate information, and try to ignore information from unreliable random sources which always surfaces during these times.Furthermore, learn about COVID-19 from these trusted sources and how to best protect yourself and your family from the disease.Finally, take some time out for yourself. Find an activity that helps you to escape from your surroundings or to escape into yourself, and try to make this time every day. Do some yoga, read a book, listen to music or play music, do some gardening or cook a dish you’ve always wanted to try. Make time to treat yourself and do something that helps you to relax.So, find some time to create a plan for following these simple steps. Establish a routine and do everything you can to stick to that routine. Eat a balanced diet with occasional guilty treats, and use technology to help you and your children stay in touch with friends. Make an effort to do some exercise and take some fresh air where possible, and make use of existing support services if you are feeling under pressure.Most importantly, don’t forget to take some time to be by yourself and do something that makes you happy. This way, you can maintain your physical, mental and emotional health during times of unprecedented change.