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  • Carolyn Mehlomakulu

Resources and Tips for Managing During the Coronavirus Outbreak

The current pandemic and resulting changes have left many of us struggling as we try to manage heightened anxiety, social distancing, the stress and boredom of being at home, and all the future unknown. I wanted to share some thoughts and resources to help with getting through this time and hope that you will find something helpful here.

This post will be constantly evolving over the next few weeks as I am able to gather more resources, so please check back. If you have a tip or resource that has helped you, please drop it in the comments or send me an email to add it to the post.

Here are some general tips for managing your own mental health and supporting your children. Scroll down to the bottom for links to various resources.

- Set limits on how much news and social media you are consuming. It is important to stay informed of the situation, but spending too much time on news and social media can increase your anxiety. Find other things to read, listen, and watch that are unrelated to the current crisis so that you can give your mind a break. (Parents - Be cautious about what your kids may overhear from news and radio.)

- Be proactive in your self-care and coping. Make a list of positive activities that help you cope with stress, anxiety, or depression (or re-visit a list we made in therapy together), then make a plan to do them. Exercise, sleep, journaling, mindfulness or meditation, making art, and time in nature are all very helpful things that you can do on a daily basis.

- Stay connected with others. Reach out to friends and family through the phone and online. Join a virtual neighborhood group through NextDoor or Facebook so you can participate in creative ways that neighbors are staying connected and helping each other. In addition to a regular neighborhood group, look into the Buy Nothing Project; it's a great way to help neighbors or reach out if you need something. (Parents - Help your kids have video calls with family or friends that they cannot currently visit. Consider relaxing some of your time limits around phone/screen time if children or teens are using their devices to maintain social connection.)

- Ask for help and reach out to your therapist. It's normal to be struggling with your mental health right now, so you might want to get some extra help. Telehealth sessions might take some getting used to, but can still be effective and helpful.

For parents:

- Talk to your child about the situation in an age appropriate way. Give them clear information about what to do to stay healthy and why protective measures like social distancing are important, but do not excessively alarm them. Ask your child if they have questions and be willing to answer. Be sure to check in frequently about how they are feeling and any new questions that have come up. Ask them about what they are hearing about the coronavirus from friends or on social media so that you can clear up any misinformation.

- While children are home from school - Create a daily schedule together and try to maintain some normal routines. Find a balance between schoolwork and time for fun. Although academics are important, it may be more helpful for your child if you focus on activities that help them to stay relaxed and have fun. Plan special activities that you can do together and that help fight boredom. Asking your child to make a list of things they want to do can help them be involved (e.g., baking, art time, fort building, family game tournament, etc.)

- Remember that children regulate their emotions through you. The more that you can be a calm, safe presence for your child, the better they will feel. A child's anxiety might be heightened right now, so they will need extra nurturing, hugs, and reassurance. Anxiety and boredom at home might lead to extra irritability or acting out from your child. Try to respond with compassion, addressing the underlying need and emotion.

Online resources:

For mindfulness, meditation, and relaxation there are a lot of great apps. Look into - Headspace, Calm, 10% Happier, and Stop, Think, Breathe

Try online yoga. One of my favorites on YouTube is Brett Larkin.

For kids yoga, try - Cosmic Kids

Play games online with friends through Skill Games Board or Uno Freak

Check out the virtual services available from your library. In our area, Austin Public Library has many ways that you can get e-books and audiobooks.

Use podcasts and audiobooks to keep kids entertained without always being on games or videos. This list has some great podcast suggestions - A Big List of Podcasts for Little Kids

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