Being a parent or caregiver is challenging during the best of times. Being the parent or caregiver of a child with a disability can be especially hard. Add to the mix a global pandemic and a national reckoning on issues of race and inequality and just getting through the day can sometimes be a daunting task. These are unprecedented times we’re living in and the resulting uncertainty and anxiety can feel suffocating.
So much of what’s happening is beyond our control that it’s easy to forget about the things we CAN control. Here are some practical self-preservation tips to help maintain your sanity in these insane times.
If you have a preexisting mental health condition, make sure you’re tending to it
Keep your appointments with your mental health provider(s). Take your medications as prescribed. Be aware of new symptoms or if current symptoms get worse. Call your healthcare provider if you or others notice changes in your mood or how you feel or think.
Take regular breaks from the news and social media
A new term has emerged from the last few months of global crisis: doomscrolling. Simply put, doomscrolling is the act of scrolling through your news and social media feeds in order to seek out new information to help make sense of what’s happening in the world. Unfortunately, what happens is usually the opposite; the flood of bad news, confusing information, and sometimes ugliness of social media and the internet only serves to fuel your anxiety. Give your brain a break and close Twitter for a while. On the other hand…
Know the facts
Conspiracy theories, misinformation, and disinformation abound in our current environment. Make sure the information you’re consuming comes from reputable sources. The CDC and local and state public health agencies are the best place to go for up to date information on the pandemic. Reliable news outlets are a much better source of information than Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.
Take care of your body
Evidence suggests that taking care of your physical health can have a direct, positive impact on your mental health. It’s important now more than ever to practice healthy habits. Regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, avoiding alcohol, tobacco, and drugs, and getting adequate sleep are all linked to increased mental well-being. Easier said than done of course, but every little bit helps.
Take time for yourself
It’s easy to get so wrapped up in taking care of others that we forget to take care of ourselves. However, there’s a reason the flight attendant tells you to always put your own oxygen mask on before you try to help someone else. It’s important to carve out time to refill your tank, otherwise you may find yourself running on empty.
Connect with others
Social distancing, while necessary to help curb the spread of COVID-19, has the unfortunate side effect of contributing to a sense of isolation. Finding ways to safely connect with others is essential; humans are social creatures after all.
Give yourself a break
No one is perfect. And no one can be everything to everyone. Know that you’re doing the best you can. Forgive yourself when you’re not able to cook the healthiest meal or exercise as much as you’d like. There’s always a chance to try again tomorrow. And remember, we’re all in this together.
Bill Guetschow, COTA/L