Have you been feeling a bit overwhelmed lately? Does your stress level resemble a yo-yo, going up and down? You’re not alone.
We have all been through a lot over the past year. From the fear of a raging pandemic racing across the globe to state lockdowns, school closures, and friends and family getting sick, it’s been a lot for us to take in.
While some of us have been impacted more than others, the Coronavirus pandemic has touched every single one of us in some way, either physically, mentally, financially, or emotionally.
Now, with the promise of the vaccines, we are all starting to see a little glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel. Still, we will be dealing with lingering effects for years to come, especially as it relates to our mental health.
Unfamiliar and uncertain
When states shut down, workers who could were forced to work from home. At the same time, schools closed, and kids suddenly had to learn from home. Families found themselves together in the confines of their house, trying to navigate the working and schooling world.
It was uncharted territory for us all. The newness and the unknown-ness of it all caused stress and anxiety levels to skyrocket. We were concerned about our own health while feeling detached and isolated. Events were cancelled, and we grieved for lives lost and for what the pandemic had taken from us.
If that weren’t enough, we were also confronted with other serious issues such as racial and social injustice, an ever-polarizing political climate, and more.
It’s true that while many of us do our best to hold it together during the most acute phase of any struggle, we often do so by focusing on our day-to-day survival which can make us somewhat numb to the crisis. Just as things begin to improve, the sense of numbness can fade, and we begin to feel the enormity of what we’ve been through, resulting in some of us actually feeling worse.
Easier said than done
It is critical during times like these that we take care of ourselves. Of course, that can be much easier said than done, but there are small actions you can take every day to help with your mental health, such as:
- Take breaks from social media
- Establish a sleep routine
- Take regular breaks from work
Only after we take care of ourselves can we effectively take care of others, including our children, who, like you, have dealt with a lot over the past year or so. It’s critical to understand how they are doing and what help they might need, if any.
If you have younger kids, the stress they’ve experienced may show up in different ways. You might notice their behavior regressing as well as an increase in some of the following:
- Difficulty falling and staying asleep
- Separation anxiety and clinginess
- More intense tantrums
- Bedwetting (after potty trained)
Older kids and adolescents may express their stress and anxiety in other ways, such as:
- Sudden mood changes and ongoing irritability
- Withdrawal from activities
- Changes in appetite
- Difficulty falling asleep or wanting to sleep all the time
- Problems concentrating
- Loss of interest in schoolwork
- Increase in risky and reckless behavior
- Thoughts of self-harm or suicide*
Support yourself and your family
The best thing you can do for your child or children is to let them know you are there for them. Invite them to talk with you about how they’re feeling and let them know it is safe to tell you whatever’s on their mind. Sit with them just as they are getting ready for bed, this is often the time that children and adolescents are most emotionally available. A calm, predictable, steady parental presence at bedtime can ground them and make them feel safe and loved.
At the same time, recognize that younger children may not understand what they are feeling and how to express it in words. Your older children may struggle to verbalize their feelings, or they may retreat because they don’t want to burden you.
Of course, each child is different, and while some might prefer to talk, others may need more time to open up, or they may need another way to express themselves, like by painting or drawing.
But, you don’t have to deal with your stress and anxiety alone.
Talk to your provider about what you are going through, and they can tell you what kind of support is available, such as Hudson Physicians new Behavioral and Mental Health Program. Please note that this program will be starting with a focus on pediatrics, but over time they look forward to adding adult mental health services as well.
Call us today at 715-531-6800 to schedule an appointment with your provider. You can also skip the trip and make a virtual appointment via telemedicine, for your convenience.
*If you are worried about suicide, please seek help immediately by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK or texting the Crisis Text Line by texting ‘HELLO’ to 741741. Print a PDF of emergency resources.