Our world has undoubtedly slowed down in the past two months as we shift into a life of managing and stabilizing within a pandemic. Our typical ways of working, schooling, and celebrating life have been forced to shift, compact, and twist about in a new fashion. We have entered into a place of recognizing the grief and loss many families and kids endure due to this change in life – the loss of graduation ceremonies, proms, being near loved ones. Now, we’ve come to find a semblance of maintenance in the temporary changes. Yet, the future appears hazy and filled with uncertainty. Will we be able to have our wedding? Will our kids be able to attend college this year? Will classes continue to be online? Many of these questions are left without answers for now, or answers that fill us with a feeling of grief and loss. Families are faced with this overwhelming anxiety – What do we do? How do I support my family when I’m left without certainty?
Understand your Anxiety – Be able to name it when it shows up. For some, Anxiety presents as a rapid heart rate and racing thoughts; in others, it’s seen through irritability and an ‘on edge’ sensibility. You may find yourself with low patience; finding it easier to snap at your loved ones. Perhaps, you notice these responses show up for your loved ones. Understand how Anxiety shows up and portrays itself within you. From there, find strategies to help you cope and manage your distress. [For ideas of how to cope and manage anxious distress, see my article: https://traversecc.org/covid19_anxiety/]
Talk About It. Provide open, safe spaces of communication for your family. This whole ordeal impacts every member of your family, most likely in very different ways. Additionally, stress and anxiety may present differently for each member; while some may withdraw, others may lean into social contact. Take time to regularly check in with each person individually, and altogether as one team, to hear what the struggles are. Actively listen and validate the emotions, thoughts, and frustrations – you won’t be able to fix the problem, you can listen and validate. It is healthy to have these regular, ongoing conversations together. For parental leaders, name your own stressors in this, normalize the array of emotions and thoughts that we all experience due to the impact of the pandemic. Every emotion is normal to feel.
Take Each Day as It Comes. We only have control of what we do right now in this very moment. We can carefully plan and prepare for future events, however, focusing our time and energy on the ‘what ifs’ can be too overwhelming for our mental health. Day by day, we can care for ourselves, for our work, our school, our physical and mental health. When we take time to care for ourselves on the short-term, it can greatly impact our functioning long-term. With each day that comes, we learn about ourselves and the world around us a little bit more, helping us make healthy decisions for our families.
We can, and we will, get through this together. We slowly adapt to the ever-changing world around us. We figure out how to do life that fits within our values. Our future plans may look differently from how we originally dreamt them to be. Weddings may be via Zoom, or our kids may continue distance learning. When we shift our focus to the meaning and the value of our plans, we can still fulfill our wants and needs. Our kids will still be able to learn, couples will still be able to marry. Life looks different, and that doesn’t take away the value and meaning we set forth for ourselves.