Ask the Expert
Sue Badeau - April 2021
Question: Our families are reporting feeling overwhelmed during the pandemic as they try to balance work and financial commitments while navigating their children through virtual and hybrid learning environments. Families report feelings of stress, exhaustion, and isolation as they attempt to support their children’s social and emotional health.
What advice do you have for these parents/caregivers regarding strategies to ensure that they are practicing self-care?
Answer: Life for parents in today’s world can be overwhelming in the best of times. If one or more of the children in the family has special needs, parents have stressful jobs, parents are also caring for their own parents, or coping with their own health or mental health issues, the stress level rises exponentially. In the past year, the impact of a global pandemic, political upheaval, and heightened racial unrest, along with weather, social and economic challenges have pushed the stress level off the charts into new and uncharted territory. In such circumstances the call to “take care of yourself” is almost laughable to some and offensive to others. What is a parent to do?
I’d like to share three strategies I consider most important and also most manageable in times like these:
1. Hold space for and acknowledge the hard feelings. Give yourself grace and space, to be sad, angry, frustrated, exhausted, or overwhelmed. Don’t beat yourself up over the hard feelings. Don’t try to deny or push past them. Give them some space in your life, and then use a moment of joy, laughter or gratitude to bring yourself back into balance. In other words, give voice to the hard feelings, but don’t stay stuck in them.
2. Connect every day. Preventing, managing, surviving and recovering well from stress, loss and trauma is all about relationships. Start each day with two questions - (a) Can I name ONE person who I know I can turn to for support today if needed and (b) Who is ONE person I will reach out to today for connection, friendship and support? Starting your day with these two questions is one of the best self-care habits you can develop.
3. Simplify - but don’t neglect - your self-care plan.
Focus on the basics: nourish, hydrate, sleep
Take simple, small breaks throughout the day – a few minutes of listening to a favorite piece of music, taking a 5-minute walk, watching something that makes you laugh, breathing in a scent that steeps you in calm, drinking a cup of tea, writing in your journal, or calling a friend. None of these things need take more than a couple of minutes but when practiced throughout the day – engaging all of your senses and all domains of your being (body, mind, heart, soul) you will be revitalized and refreshed for the next hour of your day.