Support yourself and your family through the challenges of COVID-19
We all go through the stress and anxiety of challenging times during our lifetime. In the face of the COVID-19, we are being challenged in a number of ways because of isolation, financial and employment uncertainty and disruptions to daily life. Some challenges, like this one, are beyond our control. Now, it’s more important than ever to find ways to stay well, stay calm and stay mentally healthy.
First, let’s acknowledge that feeling stressed or anxious is a normal reaction to what’s going on.
Individual reactions to stress can be negative or positive. Depending on the person, too much stress can be overwhelming and debilitating. It can lead to persistent negative thinking and feelings of hopelessness. Some people may react to stress by increasing their use of substances to help them cope, which can impact their overall health.
But stress is not all negative. It alerts your body and mind to impending danger. It can motivate you to complete a task or prepare for an event. It can improve your brainpower by producing chemicals called neurotrophins that increase concentration and productivity. It can also increase your resilience, showing you that you can not only cope, but also bounce back in the face of adversity.1
Talking with your kids about the risks of substance use during COVID-19 and planning family activities that you can share together are just some ways to alleviate the tension.
Here are a few suggestions to help you find more positive perspectives and healthy ways to manage your own anxiety, thoughts, feelings, and actions during these trying times, and pass them on to your children.
This can be an opportunity to help you get closer to your kids by sharing your feelings with them and finding things to do together to make your lives feel more normal.
Tips to reduce the anxiety and stress you may be feeling:
- Communicate – Share your thoughts with your loved ones and invite them to do the same. Instead of shutting off feelings and avoiding talking about a difficult situation – have age-appropriate conversations with the members of your family. Be sure to accept all expressions and interpretations of an issue with neutral and calm understanding. Your children may experience totally different feelings and emotions than yours. Just being able to express these feelings in a safe and non-judgemental environment can help to improve anxiety.
- Connect – While your family is self-isolating, reach out and connect on a regular basis with family and friends to chat or celebrate special occasions virtually.
- Just the Facts – Your kids may be listening to what their friends think, and they may be getting conflicting information on the social sites they frequent. Go online together and find reliable websites to check the facts, so that you are all working with the same information. Be aware that too much media exposure may contribute to increased stress and anxiety, it might be a good idea to limit time spent on news media.
- Have age-appropriate conversations with your kids – Your children may experience anxiety in different ways, depending on their age. They may also be reflecting your stress reactions. Try to manage your own stress and identify exactly what each child may be worried about, and find age-appropriate ways to help them manage any negative feelings they may have. Young people may feel stressed because they are isolated from their school, their friends, and sports – you can help them understand these feelings.
- Collaborative problem solving – Have a family brainstorming session to think about ways to handle the current stressful situation. Come up with family and individual activities that everyone in the family can enjoy. Be sure to include a variety of fun, educational and health-related activities. In these brainstorming sessions – all ideas are accepted without judgment. Once the ideas are gathered, you can create a schedule and action plan that works for everyone, so that you can all do the things you enjoy, making things feel more normal.
- Find the positive – We are going through physical distancing and isolation because of the COVID-19 global pandemic, but all families go through everyday stressors that may result in angry outbursts, pent up emotions, and episodes of sibling rivalry, teenage emotional rollercoasters and overwhelming worry or concern about personal issues. Come up with positive and healthy ways that you and your family members can diffuse things and be temporarily removed from any tense situation.
We’ve put together additional information to help you and your family get through the COVID-19 pandemic in good mental and physical health.
Here are some other valuable resources to help you take care of your family’s and your own mental health during this pandemic.
- Wellness Together Canada
- Kids Help Phone Line
- Hope for Wellness Help Line
- CAMH – Mental Health and the COVID-19 Pandemic 2020
- Canadian Mental Health Association, Stress, 2016
- Health Canada – COVID-19 Updates
- Crisis Services Canada