Safer at home may mean physically safe, but mentally, this has been a challenge for myself and many others. If you are struggling with handling anxiety through a pandemic as I have been, then please read on for some simple and actionable steps to help you find peace in the chaos.
Disclosure: I am partnering with BetterHelp. All opinions are my own.
Our New Normal
A few weeks ago, I had to have an internal discussion with myself. I had spent a large majority of the first 6 weeks of this pandemic trying to figure out how to remote school and remote teach, coping with my children’s meltdowns, and getting basically nothing accomplished, while feeling completely helpless and sad. I told myself that I will never have time like this again, that I can take this time to do things I have been putting off for a long time and I also need to settle into our new normal.
I couldn’t just sit and stream shows, or scroll social media. I had to get dressed, I had to have goals to accomplish and I had to be present for my family. I also had to make sure my kids had a routine and that we were finding a rhythm. Finding a new normal was something that I knew was absolutely imperative for my mental health, but was also sort of debilitating for me to figure out.
Struggling to Gain Control
It was honestly a struggle to figure out this new normal. After all, I am home all summer with my kids, we are homebodies typically as is and this shouldn’t be that difficult. I am not a mom that plans playdates or has a schedule of events or activities for us to do, so I was really struggling to figure out WHY this pandemic was affecting me and lowering my typical high motivation.
I started speaking with my doctor and therapist about what I was feeling and how I felt zero motivation to do anything. I felt like I was just stuck and had a list a mile long of things that I could do, but none of it was really getting accomplished. I got to a point that I was actually not able to even plan lessons for my students and thankfully my teaching team took this on (thank you guys)!
I remember telling them that I wake up and am ready for the day and I will get started on something but as soon as I need to get up to grab an item or get a snack that I get so far behind and then I am just stuck in a place where more things continue to pile up and I am not able to tackle the growing list. I tried to explain it by saying that I will sit down to grade, but then one of the kids will ask me to make breakfast and I will get up and do that, but then I realize that the dishes need to be cleaned so I will do that which also means the countertops need to be wiped down and then I need to disinfect the touch areas and so it goes. By the time the that I get back to my computer to grade, its hours later and nothing is done and more work has been turned in and my anxiety skyrockets.
Handling Anxiety Through a Pandemic
I wish I could say that it was a one step, simple process to handle anxiety through a pandemic. I have had to be purposeful in my actions and I have had to seek a bit of help to keep me on track. I wanted to share a few steps that you can take to begin to handle your anxiety if you too are feeling overwhelmed and under motivated.
Steps to Handle Anxiety
- Stay off Email & Social Media: This is probably the hardest to do, but I realized that if I make myself wake up, have coffee, do a breakfast/snack round with the kids and pick up the house within the first hour I am up, I actually am able to stay focused throughout the day. I try to stay off social media for 1-2 hours in the morning to get my mind in a good place. You can use apps to block these if you need some help staying locked out of those social distractions.
- Set Goals: Before I get out of bed, I lay there and I come up with 3 goals that I feel like I can get accomplished for the day. I keep them small and attainable, so for example instead of saying “I will get the taxes completed” I say something like “I will organize my medical receipts today”. Today I am focused on cleaning up my email inbox and putting away the two baskets of laundry. Small, but attainable and it checks things off my to-do list.
- Movement: I set an alarm on my phone to get up and move every hour…then I realized that I could wear my smart watch and do the same thing. The movement actually helped me. Every hour I get up and I either go outside for a few minutes and walk or, do a quick clean up of a space, or just stretch. Moving is helping and is something that is highly recommended in this time of being at home.
- Seek Counseling: People are struggling. It is not normal to socially distance yourself from everyone except the people you share a residence with and at that, it is SO difficult to be in those spaces with the same people day in and day out, doing the same thing over and over. I have found so much relief in taking time each week to speak with my therapist virtually or via phone. I highly recommend you do the same. It is so simple and has helped me to find a better balance through this. (Read this if you are worried about cost).
- Give Yourself Grace: Not everyday is going to allow you to feel accomplished. Some days you really did just keep the kids alive and that is ok. Allow yourself a day or two of that when needed and remind yourself that this isn’t normal, this isn’t permanent and that you can do great things.