Dr. Megha Jain, Clinical Psychologist At Apollo Spectra Hospital, Hyderabad
The pandemic has forced millions of families to follow new routines and adjust to a new way of life. As the schools across the country continue to stay shut and work from home becomes potentially indefinite, the excessive screen time and the adjustment to new routines has caused an increased level of family stress. Lockdowns and restrictions are particularly hard on toddlers who are yet to explore the world and step into academic lives. Working from home comes with its own challenges and parents have to learn how to cope with a new kind of work life balance. While many managed to adjust to the new normal, a number of parents had to bear the brunt of these changes and the mental wellness has been put on stake.
A study conducted by University of Oxford in December 2020 suggests that the level of stress, anxiety and depression has increased amongst parents with the pressure of lockdown. This also means that there will be a rise in health conditions like cardiovascular disease, hypertension, obesity, thyroid and more. In this chaos, it is extremely important for parents to understand how to deal with the increased level of stress. The key is to understand the challenges and address them while dealing with the changes in life.
A few simple steps as listed below can go a long way in creating a healthy family routine while keeping excessive stress at bay.
Assign time for yourself – Take out an hour every day to do what makes you happy. Prioritize yourself along with all other responsibilities and indulge in something that helps you unwind. If being alone is a challenge, do something with your child or spouse to take your mind off all the chaos and rejuvenate
Set Realistic Expectations – When it comes to family and responsibilities, there are no hard and fast rules. Set realistic goals and work on them and remember it is okay to fall behind sometimes and not do that project with your child because of a work call that ran long. Forgive yourself and accept that being perfect is not important.
Do not get forced into feeling guilty – Like every child, every parent is different. Do not let anyone make you feel guilty for not doing things in a defined way. As a family, find your own way of doing everything and tell yourself it’s okay.
Set Boundaries – Have a discussion and set a few boundaries as a family on what is negotiable and what is not. Limit the screen time not just for the kids but for your own self too.
Celebrate small wins – It is a good idea to celebrate the small joys of life in this stressful time. Indulge in cooking a cake over your child’s first project or about that work call that got cancelled on a Friday evening.
Being a parent is filled with multiple emotions and can get overwhelming especially in times like these. The fear of getting infected, the frustration of being locked at home and the disrupted sleep routines can all lead to anxiety and depression. It is crucial to pay attention to small things and to take a break every now and then. Divide the responsibilities between you and your spouse to ease the burden and have a better mental state. A catastrophe like Covid -19 pandemic has brought a new set of learnings for humans and mental wellness takes priority in such circumstances.