Current events in the country and world are weighing on many of us right now. Families are likely feeling a lot of different emotions and balancing different demands while coping with change and uncertainty. When that load feels especially heavy, how can we best take care of ourselves? Here, we share a couple of approaches – some that may be helpful for everyone, and some geared especially toward caregivers.
Strategies for coping with stress:
• Meet your basic needs – When stress picks up, we can lose sight of the basics that set the stage for solid mental health. Do what you can to get enough sleep, eat as well as you can, get some physical activity, and get outside if you can do it safely. None of this has to be fancy – if it’s possible, take a short walk outside to get some air and change of scenery for a few minutes.
• Lower the bar – Caregivers work tirelessly for their children and the others who depend on them, often while balancing jobs, household tasks, and other challenges. Now is the time to prioritize and lower expectations for yourself – based on your values and priorities, figure out what tasks really have to be done and what tasks you can let go for now.
• Find a little enjoyment – If it’s at all possible, find just a few minutes to do something that feels good. That could be watching a silly video, sitting with a pet, reading, knitting or coloring – anything that gives you a short mental break.
• Stay in touch – Now is the time to hold onto your connections with other people – whether that’s family, friends, coworkers, spiritual communities, or others, keep in contact with the people in your life. As much as you might prefer to be together in person, be together through texting, phone calls, video chats, emails – whatever methods work for you.
Supports and tools for caregivers and families:
• Open Doors for Multicultural Families offers families culturally and linguistically-affirming support in areas such as advocacy, parenting, and education: https://www.multiculturalfamilies.org/
• The Arc of King County offers ongoing support through their Parent-to-Parent program, as well as COVID-related resources and frequent virtual conversation and support groups: www.arcofkingcounty.org
• Guidance on a range of topics and services related to COVID-19 from Informing Families: https://informingfamilies.org/covid-resources/
• Resources and materials to support children during COVID-19 from the UW Center for Child and Family Well-Being: Supporting well being during the COVID-19 crisis
• Parenting during the pandemic and “10 Tips for Managing Anxiety in Uncertainty” from the Mary A. Rackham Institute at the University of Michigan: https://mari.umich.edu/news/handling-anxiety-during-uncertainty
• “Realistic Ways for Parents to Manage Stress” from Seattle Children’s On the Pulse: Dont have an hour for yoga realistic ways for parents to manage stress
Support your mental health:
Finally, if you’re struggling with anxiety or depression and feel like coping strategies aren’t enough, call in some help. Even with social distancing in place, there are still ways to find mental health supports like therapy or medication. Often, your insurance is a good place to start. Call or look at their website to find out what therapy or counseling options you have – this blog post from our clinic has more detail about how to do that (The Autism Blog – Finding A Mental Health Therapist ). Many providers are offering help through telehealth (video or phone visits) that you can do from your home. If you have a job, some workplaces offer short-term counseling or emotional support resources (sometimes called “employee assistance programs”) that are often free and available by phone or video. Your primary care provider can also help you get connected with a counselor or therapist.
If things are really feeling heavy and you’re having thoughts about harming yourself or someone else, call a crisis line to get support right away – no insurance needed. Anywhere in the US, you can:
• Call 1-800-273-8255 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
• Call 866-833-6546 to reach Teen Link
• Visit https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
For local crisis lines within Washington, you can also call the number for your county: Washington Mental Health Crisis Lines