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April 27, 2020 • read
How to protect your family’s mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic
The global COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything. Everyone is making adjustments, but no matter how big or little your kids are, keeping them inside 23 hours a day is challenging. If you’re lucky enough to still be working, sharing the space is even more difficult. We’ve compiled a list of tips to help you share your space while safeguarding your mental health through COVID-19.
Build your routine
If you haven’t already, your first step should be to get your household on a schedule, or at least a routine. Wake up at the same time every day and try to go to sleep at the same time every night. If possible, go a step further and plan your days out a week in advance, determining which activities will happen when. If your children are old enough, include them in the planning. For younger children, consider making a visual schedule or activity calendar. Meals provide natural points of demarcation throughout the day, and you can work in activity blocks before and after them. Structure is comforting and soothing, and building a schedule gives you a sense of control in a world of unknowns. Routines can also help us sleep better and can even help kids moderate their behaviour. And don’t forget to make physical activity and sunlight a part of your everyday routine — whether it’s a trip to the backyard or a neighbourhood walk (while keeping at least two metres away from anyone else).
A place for everything and everything in its place
If you had a coworker who chopped onions in your shared cubicle every day you’d lose it. So it’s no wonder that working at the kitchen counter while your partner cooks is difficult. Even if they’re just a few feet apart, designate different spaces for different activities. Have one space marked off for work, another for puzzles, and another for TV, for example. Environmental chaos makes it hard to stay focused, so keep each activity to its designated spot and make sure everyone cleans up one activity before beginning another.
Lower your standards
A few articles have recently come out suggesting that now is a perfect time to learn a new language or take an online course. And while it might be for some people, for most of us that’s not a realistic goal. Setting daily goals is a great way to help us feel like we’ve accomplished something, but this doesn’t necessarily mean learning C++. Setting small, attainable goals like doing a load of laundry, or clearing out a desk drawer is enough. And this applies to your kids’ schooling too. You didn’t choose a career in teaching (unless you did), so don’t kill yourself trying to teach your kids French, chemistry, and music all in one day. You don’t need the added stress and neither do they! School boards are in the process of rolling out programming so you can leave the pedagogy to the experts.
Limit your media consumption
Our current situation is unprecedented, and it can be hard to unplug from what’s happening. But a barrage of news fuels the idea that things are constantly getting worse, which only heightens anxiety levels. Pick a couple of reputable news sources (not social media) and limit your consumption to specific times of day (watching the morning and the evening news for example). While it’s tempting, resist the urge to have the TV or radio on constantly in the background. Children of all ages, even toddlers, are smart and intuitive. Continuous exposure to stressful news stories impacts their mental health as well. If the silence is too much, try some upbeat music or a fun movie instead.
Practice physical distancing and social connection
Just because we’re physical distancing, doesn’t mean we have to be socially distant. Technology has given us so many different options for communicating with our loved ones, and it’s available for all ages. Encourage your parents to hold their weekly wine club — ahem, book club — by video conference, organize a teleconference playdate for your toddler, or give your teenagers the time they need to interact with their friends (virtually). And don’t forget your own mental health needs either — humans are social creatures and we crave connection with others. We rely on those we love more than ever in times like these, and separately, together, we’ll get through it.
The COVID-19 pandemic is going to be with us for another few months at least. While necessary, physical distancing and self-isolating measures are also incredibly stressful. We have the opportunity to make a real difference just by staying home, but we need to do that safely. So take care of your mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic and don’t be afraid to reach out for therapeutic help if you need it.