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Coronavirus Triple Duty: Juggling Working, Parenting, and At-Home Learning

Heather Lyons, Ph.D.

The new realities of working from home, homeschooling, and social distancing from other family members, close friends, and colleagues require adjustment. 

In a recent study by the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 40% of U.S. adults reported experiencing mental health challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Psychiatric Times, stressors related to the coronavirus outbreak—including social distancing, financial concerns, school closures, and working from home—can further exacerbate mental health concerns, such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance use, and other mental health symptoms.

Adapting to significant lifestyle changes—while managing the fear of contracting COVID-19 and worrying about those close to us who are particularly vulnerable—is challenging for everyone. So, how can you juggle working, parenting, and at-home learning while taking care of your mental health?

juggling responsibilities as a parent during covid

Create new routines for your household.

Between working from home, parenting, and home-schooling, it can feel impossible to stick to a daily schedule. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), parents should aim to maintain familiar routines at much as possible, or create new routines, especially when staying at home.

  • Set alarms to wake up on time and go to bed at the same bedtime each day. Even though school closures can encourage children and adolescents to sleep in, encourage them to maintain consistent sleep schedules.
  • Eat healthy, balanced meals at regular times and set aside time for physical activity. If you’re a homeschool parent, try coordinating your work schedule with your children’s homeschool schedule to create time for family meals.
  • Balance your work life and personal life by allocating separate time for working and resting to avoid burnout. Whether you have younger children or adolescents practicing distance learning, make sure they don’t become overwhelmed with schoolwork. If possible, put their desk in a separate room away from the bedroom and living room.
  • Support your child’s homeschool curriculum by helping them answer questions when needed, reviewing their workbooks, staying up-to-date with lesson plans, and staying in touch with their school district.
  • Spend quality time with your whole family. Fight boredom with fun craft projects or walks around the neighborhood. Ensure that your children spend time away from screens each day and avoid spending excessive time playing video games or on social media. Instead, spend time doing offline activities together that spark your child’s interests.

Intentionally create time for yourself. 

With more family members spending time at home, most of the personal time that used to be part of our routines is no longer available. Without alone time, it’s important to be intentional about setting aside time to recharge and de-stress.  

  • Take time to unplug. Be aware of how much time you and your children spend in front of a screen each day. Make sure you take regular breaks from activities that require screen time. Additionally, take some time to unplug from social media to reduce stress.
  • Focus on your physical health. When it comes to fighting stress, physical fitness is just as important as mental health, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Set aside time for physical activity—whether that’s yoga or walking around your neighborhood.
  • Avoid alcohol and drug use. Limit the amount of alcohol you drink or avoid drinking. Furthermore, avoid turning to alcohol and drugs to cope with fear, anxiety, loneliness, and boredom.
  • Spend some time by yourself. If you’re in lockdown or quarantine, it can feel impossible to find time away from your husband, wife, or children, especially if you’re a caregiver. Even if it’s only a few minutes, intentionally creating alone time each day can help you step back, take a deep breath, and de-stress.

Stay connected to your community.

With social distancing and other safety guidelines to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease, it might feel challenging to maintain friendships and social connections with family members—especially those at higher risk. However, socialization is essential—it can help combat feelings of loneliness and isolation, especially among younger children. 

  • Take safety precautions. If you’re meeting with close friends or family members in person, follow the CDC’s safety guidelines. Remember to maintain a physical distance of at least six feet, practice regular hand-washing, reduce the number of people at social gatherings, and wear a mask to minimize the spread of the disease. Additionally, be sure to follow your state law and local governments’ regulations.
  • Avoid in-person meetings with at-risk individuals. Pregnant women, people who have a pre-existing medical condition or chronic illness, and people with compromised immune systems face increased risk factors for COVID-19-related complications.
  • Arrange video chats. Find new ways to stay connected, such as arranging FaceTime or Zoom calls with loved ones.
  • Join a support group. If you need to open up to someone outside of your household, consider joining a virtual support group. Online support groups are available for caregivers, essential workers, and individuals with mental health conditions. For further information on support groups, visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness’s website.
  • Support your community. Take opportunities—online or through your community—to thank essential workers, health workers, and frontline workers for their service during the coronavirus pandemic.

Don’t hesitate to seek professional help.

The coronavirus crisis is a stressful time for everyone, especially those with pre-existing mental health disorders. Remind yourself that it’s important—now more than ever—to take care of your mental health. 

  • Reach out to a trusted professional, such as your family practitioner or pediatrician to ask for a referral to a therapist.
  • Search for an online therapist or use an online therapy platform. With relaxed HIPAA regulations and increased access to mental health services, you can access a therapist, psychiatrist, psychologist, counselor, or social worker from the comfort of your own home.
  • Research different treatment options to gain a sense of what you’re open to and what you’d like to avoid. If you’re not sure where to start, cognitive-behavioral therapy and psychodynamic therapy, two popular types of therapy, treat a wide range of mental health problems, including mood disorders, substance use disorder, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorders.
  • Remember that immediate support is available. If you’re struggling with substance abuse, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357. If you’re having suicidal thoughts or need immediate support, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Whether you’re experiencing mental health problems or struggling to adjust to the new realities of working from home and distance learning, reach out to a therapist through WithTherapy.

We’ll connect you to a mental health professional you feel comfortable with, regardless of your personal preferences and requirements. One of the licensed therapists on the WithTherapy platform will help you learn to manage your mental health, adjust to the new normal, and healthy ways to cope with stress.

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