These are stressful times. They are full of feelings of loneliness and isolation, fears of going to the grocery store or just being around other people in general, uncertainties about what you should or shouldn't do, and frustration from not being able to make many plans for the future. I experience most of these feelings every day, and I know I'm not alone. However, I've found that knowing I'm not alone doesn't always make things easier. I do know that if I'm having a bad day, having a hard time dealing a stressful situation, or just not doing great in general, my mom is always a huge help. So, I went to my mom, and other moms in my life, to see what advice they had.
About the Mom Advice Series
Partners, best friends, siblings, and even pets, can be amazing sources of relief, advice, and can be so helpful, and I turn to them often in hard times. But, in my case, no one knows me better than my mom. She always knows the best and right thing to say to calm me down. I always find comfort in talking to her.
I have my mom, and then I have my "other moms." These are women who I grew up around and have always been a big part of my life. I still turn to them for advice and support. This blog entry is the first of, I hope, many in a series that I'll call "Mom Advice." I can't tell you how many times I've kicked myself for not writing their advice down. I'm hoping that through this series, I'll be able to preserve some of their priceless words, and be able to go back and reference them. I also hope that having it accessible through this platform can be helpful to others. Because, in my opinion, the more mom advice we have in our lives, the better.
Mom Advice for How to Deal with Stress Related to COVID-19
If one of your kids called you and said they were having a hard time dealing with stress related to COVID-19, what advice would you give?
Advice for people struggling with COVID-19-related stress:
Turn off the TV and computer. Put down your phone. Go outside, then walk, run, swim, bike or just sit outside for a while and try to find a bunny in the clouds. When you go back inside, think of 1-3 special people in your life and send each a “hi” text and/or an “I miss you,” maybe even a happy/funny memory. And then wrap your arms around yourself, really, and give yourself a hug!
I would suggest calling close friends to chat, as that always lifts me up! Try to limit news media consumption to designated times, and definitely not right before bed or first thing in the morning. Eat right and exercise regularly…if you feel your physical best it will help your mental well-being.
Take advantage of the time at home. If staying at home is something they feel they need to do then look to projects you’ve always wanted to do. Reorganize, really reorganize! Take charge of any finances that have interested you and needed research. Research your ancestry etc. Make a list – see what jumps out at you. And most importantly, get out of the house each day.
I would reassure them that everything will be okay, and to make sure they set aside some time every day for relaxing and doing things to take their mind off whatever is causing stress. For example, have a glass of wine and play a game, watch a funny movie, do a jigsaw puzzle or go for a walk in nature. There are so many things you can do to de-stress!
Advice for parents with kids struggling with COVID-19-related stress:
I would ask [my son] what is stressing him. I would try hard just LISTEN to his concerns. My son is turning 21. I have learned over the years to try not to offer advice too quickly. So, I would ask specific questions like: What’s stressing you out? Do you feel unsafe? Do you have the supplies you need to feel safer? Is the stress affecting your eating or sleeping? I would offer “How can I help you feel less stressed? / Is there anything you need from me?”
Before dispensing advice, I would ask what exactly they are having a hard time with…is it the isolation from family and friends, work environment, workout facility. Each scenario would create a different answer.
I think the first thing I would be sure of is—are they asking for advice or are they looking to just express their feelings and anxieties. Listening, especially when it comes to our children, can be very difficult because we automatically want to go into “how do I fix this and make everything better for my child mode”. I think most of the time, our children want us to listen and not jump in with advice. However, if there was a specific concern such-- as my friend is hooking up with someone on Tinder and I am afraid to be around them—what should I do? I would try to help them come to the safe and right conclusion (you should stay away from them for 14 days) however ultimately, if they are living on their own they will have to make their own decisions and as a parent, I just hope I provided enough support through their life that they make the right decision.
One of your kids is having a hard time being at home all of the time. They are feeling isolated, and are missing interacting with people. What would you say?
Suggestions for people struggling with feelings of loneliness during COVID-19:
Go for a bike ride or a socially distanced gathering outside – or other activities that can be socially distanced.
If you feel the need to see people ask them what they have been doing to keep themselves as far from the COVID virus as possible. If you feel comfortable with their response then have a visit, with masks and outside if possible. Social distance as well.
Video chat with friends or family.
Go out to the grocery store/Target/the like to pick up something that you need and ask the cashier “what’s your favorite candy bar or bag of chips” and buy it for the cashier. Costs you 1-2 bucks but you make their day and it really helps make yours.
Set up a place outside or figure out a park with picnic tables and plan an outside happy hour where you can social distance outside with 1 or 2 friends.
Play games with friends online/over zoom.
Take advantage of an outdoor brewery or eatery to meet up with friends while maintaining social distance.
Call friends often.
Advice for parents with kids struggling with feelings of loneliness during COVID-19:
This is such a difficult issue because as much as we try as parents to empathize with our children ultimately, we cannot completely understand their individual experience. I would try to encourage creative ways to connect virtually and finding ways to keep themselves busy that may fill this void. I think the best thing we can do in this situation is acknowledge how much this sucks and how hard it is for them. I try to purely focus on their pain and isolation and to not “one up them” by bringing my own feelings into their experience. For example, “I know you're lonely but I haven’t seen my friends in a month either.” This is not helpful and does not give them a sense that I am focusing on their feelings only.
Your kid and their partner/roommate are both working from home, and they are getting tired of being around each other 24/7. What would you suggest they do?
Have a conversation with one another. Discuss needs and wants. Maybe one person could go out for a drive while the other has some time alone at home. One person can be designated for running certain errands so as to allow more time apart.
Meet up with a friend without that partner/roommate and have a social distance walk, run or a meal or beer. And spend some time shopping and/or exercising each day without the other person.
Get squirt guns and have a squirt gun fight when you need one.
It’s SO important to have alone time. This is something I cherish and try to incorporate in my daily routine as much as possible. Prior to COVID-19, my husband traveled on business frequently. His time away from home felt like a vacation—I had time by myself to relax and do as I pleased. Now that his business travel has ground to a halt and he’s working from home, just going to the drug store or walking the dog by myself has become a much-needed respite. It’s important to keep in mind that all of us have to make do with short outings and limited time apart until things gradually return to “normal.” That may mean having some time apart even when at home—in separate spaces.
Everyone needs space, even people who love and adore each other! What exactly is the issue with the 24/7? Are they hovering over your shoulder? Or just in your space? I would make sure you have your own area to be on your own for a while. Reading a book, or having a phone call in private. And have that discussion with your partner, let them know you need some quiet time/breathing room. Again that is where the walk comes in…time alone with your own thoughts and not having to make unwanted conversation. Also do something that is just for you. Don’t feel that every motion in the house has to include your partner. You’re allowed to be selfish sometimes. No one should take it personally.
Allow yourself some time each day to do something on your own…go for a walk, have outside get togethers with a friend, etc.
This is a tough one because where do you go especially if you are in close quarters? I would suggest trying to carve out an area where you can both have some privacy—this could be a fun activity rearranging furniture and being creative. Ultimately there has to be a conversation about: I really like/love you but I need time alone, I’m going to go for a walk by myself, I’m going to need the bedroom (at a specific time) so I can have some alone time. Likely, the other person involved will welcome this discussion because chances are they are feeling this way too. Also, it is super important to carve out some time to continue pursuing the things you loved pre-COVID even if it is difficult with someone always around—(meditating, yoga, exercising, reading or just watching trashy tv) it is important to keep some normalcy in this not so normal world.
This is a stressful time in the world, so it's normal to be feeling some form of stress no matter what your situation looks like. It's also normal to feel both overwhelmed by being around others in your household 24/7 and lonely at the same time. Be sure to take care of yourself - listen to your needs and take the time to figure out what will best nourish you during this time. The main areas of advice that came up again and again were:
Limit screen time
Limit listening to/reading the news
Call your friends often
Spend time outside
Find ways to safely spend time with friends
Find ways to get some time to yourself
Be patient with yourself and others
Remind yourself that everything will be OK, and you are not alone
And I would suggest one more thing - take advantage of your mom or motherly figures in your life. They can be such amazing resources for advice, comfort, strength, and inspiration. I know that I wouldn't be where I am today without them.
The advice in this post was contributed by Sue Lyons, Janet Wirtz, Jeannine Reyelt, Beth Tank, and a few other amazing moms.