Coping With COVID: Exhausted Families
Right now, many of us are feeling mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted from the ongoing stress of living through a pandemic. Both kids and adults can experience exhaustion, where they may feel depleted, like they are running on empty, using up all their physical and emotional energy without a chance to recharge.
In this episode of the Washington State Department of Health’s Coping with COVID podcast series, Kira Mauseth, PhD and Doug Dicharry, MD talk about how exhaustion affects both children and adults, and strategies for families to cope as we make our way through the pandemic.
If you find yourself feeling exhausted, it’s not just you. Many people are feeling it after months of juggling health precautions, different routines, and new ways to work and parent. The brain eventually gets tired and overworked from long periods of stress, which makes it harder to pause and respond logically to things that set us off. People who are burned out might have a range of symptoms and notice changes in the way they feel, think, and act.
Right now, adults might be experiencing:
- Irritability or angry outbursts
- Lack of motivation
- Trouble concentrating or remembering things
- Suspiciousness or being hyper-alert
- Headaches or stomachaches
Common behaviors in children and teens include:
- Moodiness or irritability
- Trouble sleeping
- School performance below their potential
- Unexplained stomachaches or headaches
- Regression, or acting much younger than their age
These are all normal reactions to an abnormal situation, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. It’s important to understand these experiences so we can take steps to get through it.
Coping strategies for exhausted families
There are some things you can do to help you and your family cope. Don’t worry about trying to do them all at once. Start with one and gradually incorporate it into your life. Remember, different strategies work for different people, so do what works best for your family.
- Get some sleep. Both kids and adults need enough sleep each night to give tired brains a rest. Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day, and take naps during the day if you need to catch up.
- Create routines. Be adaptable to changes and find a new schedule that works for your family. Consider having kids complete a daily checklist, and reward them for keeping a routine.
- Spend time with children. Carve out some special time each day to connect. Try getting together as a family to read, draw, or play board games or charades.
- Communicate openly and honestly. Take the time to ask, listen, and respond to your kids’ concerns. Try to understand their feelings before you respond, and keep the door open so they can come to you when they’re ready.
- Have a sense of humor. You’ve maybe heard the saying “laughter is the best medicine,” and it’s true that laughter can decrease stress hormones in your body. Make it a point find ways to bring a few moments of humor into your day. Even teens will appreciate a light-hearted moment, although they might not show it.
- Encourage relationship building. Help kids stay in touch with friends and family. Set up some time to get together virtually with grandparents and other family members. Schedule virtual playdates for kids to see their friends, or encourage them to stay connected on social media.
Most importantly, be kind to yourself. Change isn’t always easy, but we are resilient. If you are feeling signs of burnout or compassion fatigue that make it hard to function in day-to-day life, then it may be time to get help. Finally, don’t give up on the process. You’ll find the things that work for you and your family as you try out different coping strategies.
Listen to the podcast, and check out other episodes in the series on SoundCloud.
Source: Washington State Department of Health | Coping with COVID: Exhausted families, https://medium.com/wadepthealth/coping-with-covid-exhausted-families-c8342777c608 | public domain. Retrieved April 20, 2021
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