This is tough stuff people. This is beyond anything we are used to…or even could have imagined. Kids in our space home from school. Partner in our space working from home. Loss of job or the possibility of job loss then financial stressors on top of that. And one of our best coping tools for stress is socializing and spending time with family and friends. But with the inability to go out & socialize we do not have our support system and stress levels increase. Then you add on the layers of stress from watching news reports on worldwide increasing death toll numbers and fear for your health & safety and those of your loved ones. THEN you add on the stress of increased conflict of co-parenting challenges and uncooperative exes. AND then your children’s fear or misbehaviour. It is so OVERWHELMING. Maybe we could handle one of these things at a time but all of it? And so quickly? It’s definitely testing us personally and in our familial and intimate relationships. Taking care of your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health is more important now than EVER before. But how do you control your own creeping panic?
There are four main areas you hold stress: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Knowing which one runs the strongest can help you manage it. Take stock of where you feel the stress the most.
- Do you have tight shoulders or stress headaches? You hold your stress in your body.
- Do you have a hard time sleeping because you can’t stop the spinning or have disorganized thoughts? Then you are overwhelmed mentally.
- Do you feel like crying or have angry outbursts?
- You are processing your stress emotionally. Do you question why our world is suffering and feel spiritually alone? You are holding stress in your spiritual being.
Tips for physical wellness
Exercise is critical. If you are also having problems sleeping or with eating comfort foods (yes, we do crave sweets and carbs when we are stressed) exercise will help! For me personally, I prefer expending the energy on physical movement rather than on less supportive behaviours (i.e. the mental spinning). Dance parties are AWESOME! You can even invite your friends to join you online! If you can combine your exercise with fresh air and sun? BINGO. Take the dog for a walk, or your kids (without leashes though, ok?!) Laughter is good for your heart- it’s a cardiovascular workout!
Tips for mental wellness
I’ve been doing lots of reading and research, this is how I take control of the unknown. I follow the common suggestion for taking control of my thoughts by shifting my perspective and my mindset. I can choose to focus on what I can’t do or what I can. I can focus on what I’ve lost or what I have. I intentionally choose positivity. What else? Sunshine, fresh air, gratitude, meditation, mindfulness and laughter. I have been getting into my car- cranking my favorite tunes from the 80’s and 90’s or listening to my Audible then after half an hour of driving I head right back home.
Tips for emotional wellness
Allow your feelings whether they are ‘positive’ or ‘negative’ (really, I don’t’ believe any feelings are negative- even anger) the space you need to sit with them. Acknowledge them. If you deny them, they will sneak up when you least expect them too. Post positive affirmations everywhere. Laugh, watch a funny family movie together. You can write each other positive notes (i.e. I’m so proud of you when…) or start a gratitude jar for your whole family to join. Tell jokes, even bad dad jokes.
Tips for spiritual wellness
Because we cannot attend church, see if there are online sermons or prayer groups. There have been many online group meditations as well. I am connected to my faith when I go outside and breathe in the sights and sounds on a nature walk or volunteer to bring a food hamper to those who cannot get them for themselves. For some, music moves their spirit. There are many celebrities throwing concerts from home. Check them out! And don’t forget to LAUGH.
What else can you do? I know that lots of you are wondering how to squeeze this in with everyone around. Get up earlier than your partner or kids if you can. I am waking up an hour earlier. Sure it’s nice to sleep in but I also revel in the time to myself. The kids are still sleeping and I let my husband- who is also working from home- sleep in. Or if you can, stay up a bit later while sending kids to bed a bit earlier. Or, stay a little bit longer in the washroom on occasion 😊
Just remember, self-care is intentional practice. You need to get ahead of your health. And thinking from grace and holding space for hope? Self-isolation won’t last forever.
Ali Wilks has a BA in Psychology and an MSc in Human Ecology specializing in Family Studies. She is also a certified stepfamily coach, the owner and founder of Step by Step Mom – a stepfamily/stepmom coaching business and Wellness Editor at Stepparent Magazine. Her other job is with Children’s Services, since 1998, in Edmonton, Alberta. She is currently a trainer on Edmonton’s Caregiver Training Unit teaching classes on building skills, providing advocacy and support for foster, kinship and adoptive parents. These classes include building the essential skills in raising nonbiological children from the foster care system who present with special needs. Ali is a stepmother of 3 adult children (with a couple of grandkids too) and the birth mother of 2 beautiful girls.