Updated: Nov 4, 2020
Mental Health has never been more trendy. As we're all struggling with the vast scope of emotions that a pandemic during a volatile election year can cause, it's important to remember that we are not alone. As a result of COVID-19, 40% of individuals reported struggling with anxiety and depression in June 2020.
One study conducted by the CDC found that 30.9% of individuals reported struggling with anxiety or depression, while another 10.7% reported seriously considering suicide. Alcoholic beverage sales increased in March of 2020 by a rate of 55% when compared to the same month in 2019*. We're all just trying to find ways to cope. To find some hope to cling to in these most uncertain times.
With the pandemic in full swing, Spring Break 2020 turned into a long standing, seemingly endless nightmare for most moms. For the most part, my life remained unchanged. The demand for therapists had never been higher and the treatment center was in full swing. I continued going in for work as if everything was normal. My wife is the one who bore the brunt of the pandemic on our Homefront. A well crafted and masterfully planned household schedule devolved into staying at home trying to figure out how to take care of three children under the age of 5. Oh, and we lived with her parents at the time. To say this has been a trying time would be the understatement of the century. It has been traumatic and totally life altering. There is no down playing mental, physical and emotional toll this year has had on us.
Without any warning, my wife became the teacher, head chef, IT director, maid, entertainer, and disciplinarian while I was away. She had to find creative ways to keep our children active while also trying to retain her sanity. We know our story is definitely not unique based on conversations we have had with other parents. At the same time, I would like to offer some helpful tips and tricks we've implemented while coping with COVID.
1.) Take a Break – My wife and I quickly discovered that taking personal time was important. I would often call her on my way home from work to tell her that I was on full duty as soon as I walked through the door. She could even get in the car and leave without a word, if she wanted. Even to just drive around in blissful silence, go get a coffee, (Isn't it incredible that we've never gone without Starbucks during a global pandemic?) or to mask up and peruse Target at her leisure. I would handle dinner and bath. She would get a much-needed break from the psychological demands of our lovely children. The favor was also returned – if I needed some time to myself at the house, which I rarely got – she would load the kids up and head to the park so just I could have the time to decompress and re energize. The bottom line is we all need a break and partners need to help each other facilitate purposeful times of rest.
2.) Find Community – COVID-19 definitely but a damper on how often we could connect with our closest friends and family. I think this was one of the more sinister effects of the pandemic. Solitary confinement is the ultimate form of punishment for the inmates in our prisons. It is no wonder that this "Spring Break" turned quarantine, turned pandemic with no end in sight, has felt a bit like a prison sentence for most moms. It can still feel like there is no end in sight. It is important to prioritize connection. It can be online, via FaceTime, with local groups on Facebook, Instagram, or even at your local church. Set up zoom meetings or phone calls so you can hear/see the feedback of others. Go on walks in your neighborhood. If you live in an actual community – or neighborhood where everyone is staying pretty close to home – why not take the opportunity to pop up a chair in the driveway, holler at your neighbors, and make plans for an evening out on your street. This will help you feel more connected and understood during this time.
3.) Do Some Breathing Exercises – As a professional counselor, I have to keep my emotions in check. It is part of my job. When my anxiety spikes, or I have an anger reaction that is over the top, I often implement breathing exercises as a way to calm or reset my current mental state. This is a simple, yet effective, way that you can instantly reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety. The best part is that it doesn't cost any money and you don't need a prescription. You can follow these simple steps listed below.
Find a comfy spot. Lay down. If you cannot lay down – find a position that you can be still and safe.
Close your eyes with your face to the ceiling.
Inhale through your nose and exhale slowly through your mouth 10 times.
Try to increase the time it takes on each inhale and exhale as you go, so that the last ones take longer than the first.
Once you have completed this exercise, slowly open your eyes and return to sitting.
4.) Ask for Help – Pride can often keep men from asking others for help – we all know the age-old dilemma with stopping to ask for directions! The truth is, moms can struggle with this too. It may not feel like pride, but like weakness. When you feel like you've failed because you just can't do it all. You lost your temper and yelled at the kids. You fed them Cheerios for dinner with a side of fruit snacks. Netflix is their new parent. This shame and fear over failing to be the perfect mom can keep women from asking for help. The truth is, we all fall short and need a little extra help sometimes. We have to learn how to verbalize our needs in an effective and accurate way. We also have to resist the urge to deny help when we really need it. Help can come from a variety of people include: friends, family, co-workers, pastors, therapists, or even a stranger in a parking lot. Don't turn down help if it is being offered to you.
5.) Find a Good Therapist – I think everyone can benefit from a good therapist. You don't have to wait until your marriage is in shambles and your kids get kicked out of kindergarten for cussing at blocks before you call one. Therapy is not just for the crazy ones. Some seek therapy as an opportunity to speak to someone about their thoughts, choices, or future goals. A good therapist provides a safe, judgement-free zone where you can hear feedback on a number of topics.
So, before you jump on TikTok tonight to wind down (are we too old for that app?), dig into that tub of Ben & Jerry's, or re watch Tiger King for the third time – take a minute to acknowledge the trauma of this year. Extend yourself a true extra measure of grace and make a plan to figure out how to thrive in these times.
Satchel Stillwell, M.A., LPC-S & Founder / Lead Therapist, First Light Counseling Satchel has been counseling clients for over 7 years in both private practice and as the Clinical Director for an addiction recovery center in Azle, Texas. His passion is to see people become whole in their mind, body, soul, and spirit. His experience lends to his expertise serving children, teens, parents, and alcoholics through healing and recovery. Satchel is an approved supervisor through the Texas Behavioral Health Executive Council and leads a team of 7 therapists at First Light Counseling.
First Light Counseling has an amazing team of therapists that specialize in a wide-variety of issues including: anxiety, depression, addiction, infidelity, trauma, and ADHD. They want to see the community thrive in the midst of COVID-19 and offer in-person therapy or telemedicine via Zoom. Feel free to reach out via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 817-756-1440 to schedule an appointment.