This article was written by Shari Botwin.
For over a year we have been longing for our lives to return to “normal.” Everyone has been affected by the COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions. Working moms in particular have reported an increase in anxiety and depression and children of all ages have been experiencing more mental health disorders. For over a year many moms have been juggling full time jobs while monitoring their children in online schooling. They have had to cope with these changes while losing outlets to relieve stress due to gym closures and a halt in most social activities. Many parents have resorted to self-medicating with alcohol, drugs and food to relieve themselves of the isolation and panic. Therapists and psychiatrists have been inundated with calls for help.
On May 12, 2021 the CDC announced a lift in mask mandates for anyone that had been fully vaccinated. Moments after the news broke people began expressing anxiety about the loosening restrictions. Many of the moms I spoke with told me they were not comfortable umasking or sending their children to other people’s homes. Many questions about trust and safety became the focus of conversations with my patients and friends of mine with children.
It is normal to experience an increase in anxiety and stress during a transition, even when the change is for the better. Questions about the changes could not be answered in the course of a day. During the last few weeks I have noticed that most people continue to wear their masks, even where it is not required if fully vaccinated. People are starting to gather indoors, but with much trepidation. While the shutdown has had a detrimental impact on mental health, people got used to be physically distant. People struggling with insecurities and body image issues have struggled with being out and seen in public. I talked to a few patients who have been unable to leave their homes because they worry “what people will think of me.” Others are talking about trust in the system, one person said to me, “How do I know I can trust what the government is telling us about the Covid numbers?”
When changes happen without our control it can trigger a tremendous amount of stress. For months people yearned to go back to normal. Moms want to head back to their offices and send their children off to school without worrying that they could transmit or catch Covid-19. Rather than deny feeling anxious, here are some things we can do to manage the emotion!
- Acknowledge feeling anxious: It is so normal to experience some fear and concern, especially after living through a health crisis.
- Keep talking about your feelings: Call friends and express any concerns you may have.
- Stay informed, but use the internet and social media wisely. For specific questions about health concerns reach out to your pediatrician or family doctor. Everyone has different circumstances and health histories.
- Practice meditation or incorporate mindfulness into your daily routine.
- Keep to a structured schedule.
- Continue monitoring your relationship with food and get a good night’s sleep.
- Get outside for at least fifteen minutes every day. Taking a hike or sitting in the park can alleviate a build up of anxiety.
- Stay connected to friends. If you do not feel comfortable socializing in person, continue setting up zoom and facetime calls. Try and talk about what is really going on, not just the superficial conversations about the weather!
- Stay connected to gratitude. Each day think about the things in your lives that are going well. Think about the silver linings to the pandemic. Find ways to implement these changes, even as life gets back to normal.
- Affirm yourself. Be proud of all that you are managing. Rather than focusing on doing more, validate and commend yourselves for what you have already done!!
For more information or help to manage stress read this fantastic article in Psychology Today.
Shari Botwin, LCSW has been counseling men and women in recovery from trauma, abuse and eating disorders in her Cherry Hill, New Jersey Private Practice for over 24 years. Her second book, Thriving After Trauma: Stories of Living and Healing (Rowman & LIttlefield) is a compilation of stories of patients who have lived through and healed from childhood abuse, cancer, combat, domestic violence, gun violence. life threatening illness and sudden loss. Botwin launched her first podcast series, Warrior Women Speak: Because Your Voice Matters, with Judge Rosemarie Aquilina earlier this year.