It's our third school year living with Covid. Setting boundaries and managing stress is vital.
I remember sitting down with a friend in April 2021 and talking about the start of the upcoming school year. Our projections for maskless school days and faster testing procedures were optimistic—in retrospect, unrealistically optimistic. The Delta variant surge has thrown parents for a complete loop, ensuring that both Covid cases and anxiety have stayed consistently high.
We've been through this before, but we're still not out of the woods. Working parents specifically are feeling new levels of stress and conflict due to school and work inconsistencies. Schools in many states are operating with utmost precaution and conservatism, which is good, but inevitably leads to multi-week class closures, strict sick policies and weekly testing regulations. Finding consistent childcare at this time is also incredibly challenging.
However, workplaces, generally speaking, are expecting employees back in-person with very little regard for these realities. For working parents especially, Delta brings new stressors on many levels.
Given that this is our third school year living with Covid, managing our personal anxiety is crucial. We continue to live our day to day on a very high level of alert, worried about the risks around every corner.
Many of us are understandably wondering, will Covid ever end? The worry can be hard to deal with. Aside from the obvious (but helpful) reminders to exercise, spend time in nature, meditate and get good sleep, here are some Covid-specific ways to manage your anxiety.
Know your deal-breakers
Given the new landscape we're navigating now, reconsidering your family's Covid strategy and deal-breakers as they relate to risks can be helpful.
Sit down with your partner and family to create parameters specific to your comfort levels given the recent case numbers and vaccination rates in your state or region.
Ask the following questions:
- What has changed for our family?
- In what situations will we use masks?
- Are there situations we don't feel comfortable exposing ourselves or our kids to at all?
- How often and in what situations do we want to commit to testing so that we feel there is some degree of predictability?
Calmly and rationally discussing your preferences with your partner or family can help everyone get on the same page. Having a strategy can also reduce your exposure to the very real phenomenon of decision fatigue.
Know your trusted resources and your triggers
If you are someone who frequently consumes social media or the news, you know that your worldview from day to day can feel completely susceptible to the latest headlines or social media posts.
Rather than consuming arbitrary and seemingly endless amounts of information about Covid, choose one to two sources that you feel provide sound data which don't feed or incentivize anxiety.
Refer to that data as often as you need to, but try to avoid reading Covid-related information during key hours, such as first thing in the morning or right before you go to sleep.
If you know someone who talks about Covid often and in a way that negatively impacts you, do your best to set boundaries around the conversation or reorient it so that you can protect your own positive energy.
In difficult moments where our safety is threatened, it makes biological sense that we might more heavily rely on social comparison for information. After all, that is one of the ways that humans continue to evolve.
That said, we're all doing the best we can with the information we have in front of us, and assuming we are all following CDC guidelines, it's good practice to reserve judgment about each other's level of comfort or discomfort.
Why? Judgment usually drains our own energy and disconnects us from each other.
If you find yourself thinking a lot about a Covid-related decision that someone else made, especially if it's one that has no major impact on you or your family, try to shift your thoughts away from that form of thinking, toward something that feels positive or productive.
One day at a time
With vaccine development underway for children under 12 and goals for increased access to antigen testing, the reality of living with Covid evolves every day.
But even with that progress, what experts know to be true is that Covid is not going away completely, and much like the flu, it will eventually become a relatively low-risk reality that we will have to learn how to live with.
Until then, we have to take things one day at a time in order for our internal emotional systems not to buckle in the face of these stressors. Maybe something was a dealbreaker a month ago, but new reassuring data suggests otherwise.
When we are willing to evolve, we help decrease the likelihood of anxiety becoming our permanent state versus an appropriate reaction to our situation.
Lastly, be patient and compassionate with yourself. These are challenging and overwhelming times to manage, but hopefully each phase that goes by will be a step toward our new, and much more joyful, reality.
Marcella Kelson, MSc, LMSW is a Maternal Wellness Expert with a background in mental health and developmental psychology. Marcella's mission is to provide authentic, tangible and empowering tools for millennial mothers- covering a range of topics such as identity loss, to career change, relationship & parent-child dynamics. Marcella provides coaching for mothers on individual, group and corporate levels.Learn More