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Navigating Stress Through a Pandemic

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For parents, everyday stressors—managing our family’s schedule, work, relationships, and even family dynamics—tend to cause the most wear and tear on our well-being. The constant needs tend to bog us down. But with the pandemic we are currently sitting in, that stress has now increased exponentially.

Welcome to Stressville!

Your new everyday stressors may add up fast, whether it’s managing your new work-from-home schedule along with coordinating your family’s schedules, trying to actually get work done while your child is desperately trying to engage with you, deciding when to go to the grocery store, worrying about financial changes or a loved one who might be at higher risk for getting sick, or something else—the list goes on and on.

At the moment we might not be able to change most or any of these daily stressors, but we can learn how to better manage them. We all experience and get triggered by stress differently. What can stress one person out might not even affect someone else. So while it is important to think about why something is stressing us out, it is also necessary to be able to notice how we are feeling during the stressful event. If we can first observe what emotions we are experiencing from stress, such as feeling anxious or overwhelmed, we can then figure how to best manage the stress so the emotions we feel do not eat us alive.

Here are two quick strategies you can try today that can help in managing this new increase in stress.

1. Break tasks into slivers, not chunks. Breaking any task that causes stress into smaller pieces causes a big picture idea—which can feel overwhelming—to get slivered out into several small and more manageable bits, creating steps toward the bigger goal. This strategy allows us to see a way through to the end. Seeing slivers gives a starting point. Chunks can create panic. Sliver out your next task and see how you feel.

2. Don’t forget to tend to yourself! When we are feeling stress, we tend to think the solution is to take things out of our lives. But that often backfires. It may sound counterintuitive, but try adding something in: Make time for yourself. Get out of the house alone even for five minutes, FaceTime or video chat with friends, or schedule in some downtime. It may be very different than before you had kids (or before this current crisis), but we can find a way to take care of ourselves.

I recently started setting my alarm 30 minutes earlier in the morning in order to lounge in bed. I haven’t lounged in bed in the morning since our daughter was born two years ago, and I have missed it.

Adding this back into my life has helped me have an easier time getting up in the morning and managing my own stress. So even small add-ins or adjustments can make a huge difference! So take it a step at a time, and don’t forget to take care of yourself.

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