Maintaining your mental health daily can be difficult for some. Maintaining your mental health during a time of isolation and crisis is hard- its even harder when you are newly postpartum, already have children/ multiple kids, or other mental health concerns. Got all of the above? Whew chile, have a seat by me.
Or maybe not because, you know, social distancing.
Unless you have been living under a rock with my man Patrick Star, you're well aware of the COVID-19 (corona virus) pandemic (#theRona to some) that's swept through China and Italy, and now making its way across the US, India, and many other countries. Outside of maintaining proper remedial hygiene like hand washing and covering sneezes, the big call to arms was to practice "social distancing". What does that even mean?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes social distancing as "remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others when possible.
Um, well that's great and all unless you have kids. Kids don't give AF about social distance, regular personal boundaries, or hygiene most of the time. Toddlers will sneeze right in your eyeball, wipe their nose, and give you a hug. Some of us are trying to navigate this with newborns, with their dependent immunities relying on family not getting sick. Guess where my newborn, like many others like to live? Yup, you guessed it, on mommy. (Or daddy, auntie, Mimi, Papa or anyone warm and snuggly really.) Lets throw in you're touched out, stressed about work and finances, playing teacher, pumping/ nursing, teleworking or STILL ACTUALLY REPORTING IN, how do you cope? I find myself getting more and more snappy and short tempered with my toddler, who is just being a toddler. She doesn't know whats going on , nor does she care. If you have older children I'm sure they have varying levels of understanding, but it doesn't stop them from still being... kids. What they do know is their parents are upset, and that energy, whether we realize it or not does affect them. So what can we do to get space and recharge while being on top of each other at home and around nobody while out?
Limit your exposure. (To the news, not the germs, I mean kids. )
I work for a local health department, so I have rarely been watching the news. I get 1,500 emails a day about the 'Rona in Maryland. Anything in excess is bad, so if the news is stressing you out, turn it off. Log off CNN, Washington Post, NYT. Disable your push notifications. Set aside intentional times to check in- for example I only check my work email twice a day now, in the morning over my coffee, and around close of business. I'm not saying stick your head in the sand, but if its affecting you- leave it alone.
[try to] Establish personal boundaries.
This is a hard one, because again kids. And sometimes husband/wife/significant other/ life partner too. But its important, not only for you, but the others in your household too. Sticking to boundaries models to your children they don't have to be available for people they don't want to be around too. (And yes that includes us, if the situation warrants it). It opens the pathways to my next point which is...
Create some me- time.
Another hard one. I'm sure you're wondering why I'm telling you all these obvious but impossible things. Well, because they do matter. And in this time it may have to be surface level ish like running a bubble bath with that expensive rosewater bath oil you never use, or painting your nails because those things CAN be rejuvenating. Read that book you been meaning to finish (I'm talking to myself here), binge watch Love is Blind on Netflix (no, really, DO IT), do that passion project or chore you been putting off for months of years and really put your heart into it. And encourage your household to do the same- this is the time you can all take a break FROM EACH OTHER. Social distance in the house. I literally took a 2 mile walk with my husband this week and maintained about 4-6 ft distance and I felt SO much better when we got home. (Till my toddler started toddlering again, I'm a work in progress y'all.)
Be Alone Together.
Anyone else love Daley? No? Anyway- just because you can't see your besties in person doesn't mean you can't hang. Virtual happy hours, dance parties, girls/ guys night in have been popping up everywhere and honestly they're a lot of fun. I'm from the DMV and went to my first "go-go's" in gawd knows how many years over the weekend. And guess what- some of my real- life friends were "there" too. Google Meet/ Hangouts, Duo, FaceTime, Facebook Messenger as well as FB/IG livestreaming are poplar interfaces. Pour up some drinks and go for it.
Keep that standing therapy appointment (if possible).
Many therapists and healthcare professionals are moving to telehealth to help limit the spread of the 'Rona. If your provider offers virtual visits, and insurance covers it, PLEASE keep in contact with them. Being able to have open lines of communication, meaningful coping mechanisms, and someone to hold space for you can make a huge difference. This is also me, talking to myself. Nobody is sure how long this will last, and the effects will be felt long after. Get the help to deal if you need it.
Special Mention: Be mindful of what happens behind closed doors.
To be serious- there are folks who are going through serious turmoil right now. With peoples jobs, incomes, childcare, and everyday life being uncertain- there are definite at-risk groups to watch and hold space for. As a postpartum mom who has already battled postpartum anxiety (PPA), I do daily scans to make sure I'm okay- and try to be mindful when my husband thinks I'm not. New parents (because not everyone identifies as "mom" and cis-het fathers are not immune) are going to be at a much more increased risk for PMADs, short for perinatal mental health disorders. Check in with them, ask how the transition is going, and how can you help even in this time of uncertainty. Domestic/ intimate partner violence is another issue to be mindful of. And domestic abuse isn't just between adults- check on those babies who never seem to like to be home. Lastly check in on folks you know or suspect are dealing with addiction. As clinics and ER's move to COVID control, they may be losing access to critical help. I'll link a few resources in a separate post and on my Instagram as I come across them.
Y'all be safe and don't let the 'Rona get you!