One minute you might be trying to be a professional team member in a video meeting with colleagues discussing work-related matters; the next you are a stressed mum trying to get your crying baby to feed. For dads and non-birth parents, you might feel conflicted by trying to meet a deadline when you know your partner needs support with getting a baby to sleep or to help older kids with their school work.
This sense of competing priorities can lead to a sense of worry, failure or guilt about not getting enough done in any area of your life. Pressure can come from your own high expectations of how productive you should be, from an employer or colleagues, or from other people. And it can build up, contributing to stress, worry, frustration and low moods.
You can help manage some of these difficult emotions by practicing self-care. Here are some suggestions from PANDA’s community:
- Try to carve some time out each day for yourself, even in short stints – taking a walk, doing some deep breathing or meditation, getting your hands dirty in the garden, listening to music or watching some comedy!
- Be realistic about how much you can do – it’s good to have professional goals to keep you motivated but try not to take on too much, or expect too much too quickly.
- Try to be aware of your emotions and be ready to label them. Anxiety, frustration or anger (with yourself or others around you), stress, grief and loss are all normal at this time, especially if you’re exhausted, and if you can recognise what you’re feeling you can more effectively deal with it, or reach out for help if you need to.
- Recognise that this situation is unusual and unpredictable and will evolve over time, and try not to plan too far ahead. Take it an hour, a day, a week, a month at a time.
- Try to focus only on what you can control, and forgive yourself if you don’t achieve a particular goal.
- Give yourself permission to make your family a priority – set your employer/other colleagues up to expect that you will be looking to achieve a work/life balance under these unusual conditions and taking time when necessary to look after your young ones (see below for more details about how to manage the expectations of your employer).
- Eat as well as possible without being afraid to keep things simple when you need to.
- Exercise if you can, or at least try to move around a little. If you can’t get outside, maybe try an exercise app.
- Try to set up routines both for yourself and the rest of the household, and don’t be afraid to adapt these as circumstances change.
- Stay connected to family and friends if you can, but try not to add constant phone and video calls out of work hours to the list of things ‘you have to do’.
- Try to be patient and understanding with others in your household, whether children or other adults. If you can take a deep breath or a period of time before responding to issues, you can bring a calmer perspective to things.
- Recognise that this difficult period will end.
It can also be a good idea to avoid too much media coverage (including social media) of the coronavirus pandemic, and if you need to know what’s going on, use credible and trustworthy sources of information.