The internet is full of memes about gaining weight during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s no surprise: Being stuck at home without normal activities and constant access to food can easily lead to overeating. On top of boredom and proximity to food, the worries and stress that accompany a global pandemic can easily lead to emotional eating.
In fact, there is an entire body of evidence on how our emotions influence our eating behaviors. Researchers have learned that emotional eating is more complex than they once believed, and depends on a wide range of variables that can be difficult to measure.
One of the most important things researchers have learned is that emotional eating is complicated. An early systematic review established that each individual’s specific emotions and food choices are important elements in understanding emotional eating, and that secrecy surrounding eating is also a factor.
The review found evidence that emotional eating is tied to obesity. Specifically, when obese study participants experienced negative emotions, such as anger, loneliness, boredom, and depression, they ate more than normal-weight individuals and reported that the eating reduced the underlying experience of those feelings. Now researchers believe this may be a learned behavior, according to a more recent review, published last year in Current Directions in Psychological Science. This review found that people may learn to associate eating with specific emotions and social situations.
Another recent review, published in 2017, underscores the complexities in studying emotional eating. The authors found that positive emotions and social situations are also associated with eating. (Think about celebrating an accomplishment with a dinner out or a special dessert.)
They also found that a broad range of negative emotions – stress, depression and sadness, shame and aggression, and anger – were associated with emotional eating and specifically binge eating. Additionally, they found that these negative emotions were more likely to lead to unhealthy food choices. This type of emotional eating over time is what eventually leads to sustained weight gain.
This all makes the COVID-19 pandemic seem like a perfect storm for emotional eating. But while that may be true, research shows there are steps you can take to avoid emotional and binge eating, especially when experiencing negative emotions.
In a recent study from the Netherlands, researchers measured whether elements of meditation could lead to less emotional or binge eating. They found that a specific component of meditation – acting with awareness – leads to less emotional eating. This means paying closer attention to your emotional state and making conscious food choices when you experience a negative emotion. A 2014 systematic review supported the study’s conclusions: Focusing on mindfulness is an effective way to prevent emotional eating.
Finally, a review article published in 2017 evaluated treatments and interventions that target emotional eating. It found that specific types of therapy – including Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) – show promise for helping people to stop or avoid emotional eating. The review found a lack of research comparing these types of therapy, and found that more research would help determine which types of therapy were best for specific situations.
The take-home message: Yes, emotional eating is a real phenomenon that is especially prevalent when you feel stressed, depressed, or bored. But there are steps you can take to avoid it: Pay attention to your feelings; when you feel upset, consciously make healthy food choices; and, as always, if you think you are experiencing a more serious problem, contact a care provider for additional support.
Domestic Violence When You Can't Leave HomeTips for navigating intimate partner violence during COVID-19.
From Psychology Today
By Dr. Tammy Schultz and Dr. Adam Dell
As COVID-19 continues to spread across the globe, the concept of social distancing has rapidly become a common practice for massive numbers of individuals.
However, home is not a safe place for everyone. Numerous studies have revealed that there is a relationship between natural disasters and increased rates of intimate partner violence (IPV) (Chew & Ramdas, 2005; Gearhart et al., 2018; Parkinson & Zara, 2013).
IPV is defined as “behaviour by an intimate partner or ex-partner that causes physical, sexual or psychological harm, including physical aggression, sexual coercion, psychological abuse and controlling behaviours” (World Health Organization, 2017). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that approximately one in four women and one in ten men have experienced IPV by an intimate partner during their lifetime.
For some, the workplace environment was previously an opportunity for respite from controlling partners. However, the call for all individuals to engage in social distancing and the transition to working at home or unemployment have meant elevated medical concerns, 24/7 proximity, diminished community support, heightened levels of distress, and an increased vulnerability to IPV. Moreover, social distancing can be used by partners as a coercive controlling technique to impede opportunities for support and safety.
Individuals who are vulnerable to IPV are often overlooked when it comes to safety planning and coping with natural disasters and infectious disease pandemic, like COVID-19. Thus, here are some considerations:
Tips for Survivors of IPV
From Psychology Today
By William Hwang Psy.D.
Like many other people, you might have suddenly found yourself with infinitely more time on your hands since the COVID-19 pandemic began.1 Numerous factors may be providing you with more time: You may have been unexpectedly laid off and now spend the 8 to 12 hours a day you would have kept yourself distracted now thinking about your professional loss. Or maybe you have a job you can, fortunately, do from home.
In any case, perhaps it has been more time than you know what to do with. And boy, is it boring. After all, sitting and doing nothing is painfully boring. In fact, so painful that people can and will administer electric shocks to themselves rather than sit alone in a room for 6 to 15 minutes just thinking quietly.
Thankfully, there are endless YouTube videos, Instagram posts, video games, Netflix TV shows, Netflix movies, Netflix documentaries... and blog posts to fill your days in order to kill time and keep yourself busy. However, perhaps therein lies the problem in the way we structure our language around time. Why would we ever want to kill time? Or stay busy just for the sake of staying busy?
There are several reasons why we do this, not just during COVID-19, but in any "free" time.
1. Avoidance. We "kill time" while waiting at the DMV, waiting for our flight to board, or waiting for any scheduled event to happen. During unoccupied time, our attention tends to wander toward sensations of discomfort that we label as boredom, impatience, loneliness, anxiety, depression, you name it. If we would rather not experience these feelings, it makes logical sense that we would want to kill time.
2. A culture of productivity. And then there is "staying busy." The concept of staying busy takes many shapes and forms, but it generally implies any behavior primarily serving the function of avoiding the discomfort of not doing anything. There is discomfort that arises in the feelings of guilt and unease that show up when we are not actively doing something. Our thoughts tell us we are lazy, unproductive, and worthless in a way that reflects our societal pressure to be squeeze productivity out of every waking second.
This is naturally very stressful, so we scroll through Instagram to take our mind off of these negative thoughts. This goes well until we see a post of someone who has created a DIY rock garden out of recyclable materials, leading us to feel even more lazy, unproductive, and worthless for still being in our pajamas at 2 p.m. So we scroll through another post, and another one to avoid feeling bad about ourselves while seeing more and more posts that make use feel bad about ourselves.
3. Too many choices. We are bombarded with so many choices for how we can spend our time that we often default to doing what we have tended to do in the past out of habit or doing nothing at all. This phenomenon is called choice paralysis, demonstrated most famously in a study in which researchers found that customers in a store were 10 times less likely to buy jam when they saw 24 choices of jam than when they saw only 6 choices.
This dovetails with Barry Schwartz's idea of people falling into two categories: satisficers and maximizers.3 When making decisions, satisficers tend to settle on choices that are good enough while maximizers push themselves to make the best choice. Studies have shown that though maximizers may have better outcomes, they are actually less happy with them. These same principles affect us in the drawn-out time of COVID-19 when the process of even picking which movie to watch can be a source of distress.
The question is, is all of this busyness getting us anywhere? After COVID-19 recedes, will we be satisfied with the choices we made for how we spent our time? We are working against a natural tendency to avoid feelings like guilt and anxiety, which bring us discomfort, a culture that stresses being productive, and a deluge of choices that make it hard to know the best way to spend your time.
Here are three cognitive strategies you can use to spend your time more wisely during (and after) quarantine:
1. Treat time like money.
With this new abundance of time, we don't have a good sense of how valuable it is. Imagine you have $10,000 in your bank account right now. How concerned are you about spending $100 on a purchase? Now imagine you have $100 in your bank account. How concerned are you about spending $100 now? You are much more likely to blow money when you suddenly find yourself with a lot (like on payday) than when you are pinching pennies at the end of the month. This is the way time tends to work as well. The more time we think we have, the more we take it for granted, and the easier it gets to accidentally waste it.
To avoid this pitfall, budget your time by writing down a schedule and giving yourself artificial deadlines. This will help you create a sense of scarcity, which will help you be more mindful of how you use your time. Just schedule one day at a time if you need to and see how much time you can save by working with 24 hours in your bank account rather than 10,000.
2. Change your relationship with time.
Instead of thinking of time like something that you kill when you have too much of it, treat time like your own commodity that you want to protect. Continuing with the metaphor of time as money, imagine that other people, screens, and substances are like advertisements telling us how we should spend our time. These things tell us it is a great use of our time to spend it and they do it in a very subconscious, convincing nature. We might be lulled into spending our time or money on something we did not really want to. Be mindful.
Also, practice gratitude for the time you have. This goes along with the idea of treating our time like it is a scarce resource, just like money. Do a thought exercise and imagine you have a year left to live. Imagine you had two weeks left to live. How would you spend your time? Here's another one: Imagine that in old age you are looking back on your memories of COVID-19. How do you want to reflect on this time and how you spent it? What is the story you want to tell that will reflect the type of person you want to be remembered as?
Your answers to these questions can help change your relationship to time in a way that allows you to prioritize and budget time in a more meaningful, intentional way. Every moment can be an opportunity to be grateful. See this TED Talk by monk David Steindl-Rast for more on that perspective.
3. Practice Saying "Good Enough."
It is easy to get caught up in procrastination and perfectionism during COVID-19. We may not be aware of how our actions might be driven by choice paralysis and a maximizer mindset in which we feel like we either have to do something perfectly or we don't do it at all. Perfectionism and procrastination are really two sides of the same coin. Practice being a satisficer. Practice telling yourself that this choice is good enough. Imagine that spending too much time trying to make a choice is the same as spending too much money on buying a product. Ask yourself what you really want to have spent your time on when you look back on it all. Practice looking at yourself and saying "good enough."
Staying busy can be an effective way to keep the monster of "I"m not good enough" at bay for a short period of time, but this monster tends to come back out when we can't keep ourselves busy, like right before we try to fall asleep. Instead of running from the monster, slow down, stop, turn around, and face the monster to say, "Hello there. I'm good enough. And I'm not going to be spending any more of my time on this discussion."
COVID-19: Coping in Isolation with an Eating DisorderFrom Psychology Today
By Jake Linardon Ph.D.
Containment efforts for the COVID-19 pandemic, including social distancing policies and “stay-at-home” orders, have the potential to greatly affect those with—or at risk of—an eating disorder.
The disruption of face-to-face treatment delivery services that comes as a result of COVID-19 will exacerbate the already alarming figure that fewer than 25 percent of people with an eating disorder receive care. Further, the pandemic will likely worsen the mental health of people with an eating disorder, adding further urgency to ensure that appropriate care is received during this time.
If you’re struggling with an eating disorder, then the ability to access accurate tips on how to cope during this pandemic is crucial.
Why Eating Disorders May Worsen As someone specializing in the treatment of eating disorders, I want to provide some simple and effective self-help strategies to help you through this time. But, first, I want to outline the reasons why eating disorders may worsen during this pandemic.
1. Eating Away Stress
Most of us are currently experiencing more stress than usual. Whether it’s listening to the daily news reports of new infections or frantically trying to your homeschool your children, we’re all facing the pressure. Stress can increase eating disorder behaviors due to biological and psychological factors.
Biologically, stress contributes to increased secretion of the hormone cortisol, and elevated levels of cortisol are linked to an increased appetite and craving for sugary, salty, and fatty foods. This elevated cortisol secretion is, at times, enough to cause bouts of binge eating.
Psychologically, stress isn’t pleasant to experience, and many of us end up turning to food for comfort or as a way to escape this unpleasantness. Though some stress-induced eating may be helpful, the problem arises when people who gorge on comfort foods end up feeling worse than they did to begin with.
2. The Fight to Afford Food
For many, COVID-19 is just as much an economic crisis as it is a health crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic may worsen eating disorder behaviors due to increased economic strain and resulting food insecurity, which refers to limited access to food due to economic hardship.
Evidence shows that, even after statistically controlling for demographic differences, people who reported low food security are more likely to have an eating disorder than people who don’t report low food security. There are a couple of explanations for this.
First, people who lack adequate resources to regularly purchase enough food to meet their nutritional needs undergo periods of food restriction. Such periods of food restriction may increase the risk of binge eating via food cravings or the biological effects of starvation. Second, those whose families suffer from a limited food supply may experience a sense of shame about their appetite, feel guilty for taking food from their family, and consequently restrict their eating.
3. Social Isolation Equals More Social Media
Social media usage will have increased as a result of this pandemic. On top of stress-induced eating and food insecurity, greater social media usage creates the perfect storm for eating disorders, as the amount of time spent on social media sites is linearly associated with eating disorder severity.
Why does social media increase eating disorder risk?
First, images on social media play a role in how one seeks validation, often finding our worth by the number of “likes” we receive. When the desired number of “likes” isn’t received, there’s an impaired sense of self-worth that is often directed towards physical appearance. Second, the assumption floating around social media is that if you want to be accepted, then you ought to look a certain way. Women should look thin; men should look muscular. People with eating disorders naturally “buy into” this belief, leaving them feeling ashamed with their body when they realize they don’t meet these unrealistic expectations.
Tips for Dealing with COVID-19
These five simple, yet effective self-strategies can protect you during this time.
1. Maintain Consistency in Your Eating
Establishing a pattern of consistent eating throughout this pandemic is the most important thing you could be doing to address or prevent the onset of eating disorder behaviors.
What I mean by “consistent eating” is eating at least three meals and at least three snacks each day, ensuring that you leave no more than four hours between each eating episode. No skipping meals, no intermittent fasting, and no restricting after dinner.
The reason for eating regularly is to prevent the onset of extreme hunger as well as feelings of physiological and psychological deprivation. And if we’re feeling satiated throughout the day, then we are much less likely to turn to comfort foods when we’re feeling overwhelmed with stress or ashamed with our body.
To execute this, you need to come up with a schedule—a schedule that provides guidance on what times you’re going to eat your planned meals and snacks. Create this schedule and stick it on your fridge so that you know exactly what times to prepare and eat your meals and snacks.
2. Stay Present and Focused
article continues after advertisementEmerging evidence shows that practicing mindfulness can reduce eating disorder behaviors.
Mindfulness is a way of paying attention that is taught through the practice of meditation or body scans, in which people learn to regulate their attention by focusing nonjudgmentally on stimuli such as thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations.
During mindfulness, we learn to observe these stimuli without evaluating their truth or importance, and without trying to escape, avoid, or change them. And because mindfulness is thought to result in increased self-awareness and an enhanced ability to respond appropriately to negative situations, these exercises are optimally suited to stop any emotional-induced eating disorder behaviors.
So, whenever you experience a sudden shift in mood, an overwhelming sense of stress, or shame about your body, opt for some mindfulness practice—it will bring forth clarity, acceptance, and minimize the likelihood of you acting impulsively on these experiences.
3. Take Up a New Hobby
Now is the perfect time to take up that hobby you’ve always wanted to. Whether it’s learning an instrument, perfecting your cooking skills, or researching your family history, immersing yourself in a new hobby is an excellent strategy for improving your mental wellbeing and eating behaviors.
The reason why taking up a new hobby is so important is because it takes away most of the factors that trigger eating disorder behaviors. More specifically, a new hobby relaxes you, gives you purpose, builds your self-esteem, and ultimately reduces the importance you place on eating, shape, and weight. Therefore, whenever we encounter an adverse situation, encounter, or event, instead of resorting to food or eating as your coping mechanism, you’ll quickly learn to fall back on your hobby to help you through the difficult experience.
4. Modify Your Social Media Usage
I’m not going to tell you to never go on social media. In times like these, social media is excellent for helping us stay connected to friends, family, and work colleagues. However, we do know that social media usage is associated with an increase in eating disorder symptoms.
There are a couple of easy modifications you can make to your social media usage to help through this time:
5. Limit Excessive Alcohol Consumption
Alcohol and eating disorders don’t mix well. There’s good quality evidence to suggest that excess alcohol consumption increases the risk of eating disorder behaviors. The reason for this is twofold. First, alcohol is a direct cause of anxiety, stress, and depression among some people. We’ve already learned that eating disorder behaviors can worsen when these emotions are experienced. Second, alcohol impairs our judgment and inhibits our ability to carefully consider the consequences of our actions. Therefore, when under the influence, you’ll find it extremely difficult to resist the urge to binge on your favorite foods.
So, it’s a good idea to limit your consumption of alcohol—particularly during periods of social distancing—if you’re struggling with an eating disorder.
If you're finding it difficult to control your eating, these 5 proven steps to stop binge eating from my website may help you to get into a better space.
5 Strategies for Managing Uncertainty During COVID-19 We're all unsure what comes next. Here are some ways to approach the unknown.
From Psychology Today
By Austin Perlmutter M.D.
In the space of just a few months, the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) altered the global landscape. Billions of people are confined to their homes. As the infection flouts state and national borders, the world is unified in battle against an unseen but deadly foe.
The direct consequences of the virus grow by the day. These are measured in infections and later by deaths. At the moment, our best solution is some combination of flattening the curve, herd immunity, and scientific innovation. But while it’s likely that millions will suffer from the virus itself, billions are currently dealing with its indirect costs. One of the most significant of these is the collective strain on our mental health.
A March 2020 survey revealed that 36% of American adults are already experiencing a serious impact on their mental health due to the virus. When 1,210 Chinese respondents were polled on their mental health in early 2020, over half reported the psychological impact of COVID-19 as moderate-to-severe. Given the degree to which lives have been changed to date, it’s likely we’ll experience psychological aftershocks of COVID-19 for decades to come.
When addressing this problem, we must acknowledge that as a planet, we are anxious, overwhelmed and scared. And each of these descriptors relates to a fundamental challenge of the moment: we are painfully uncertain about what comes next.
Uncertainty isn’t always problematic. It’s part of what motivates people to play the lottery, watch a sports game or yell at someone when they give away a movie ending. But when we can’t handle uncertainty, the possibility of negative outcomes looms large in our mind. This intolerance of ambiguity is linked to higher levels of anxiety and depressive symptoms.
If uncertainty makes us uncomfortable and even damages our mental health, what should we do at a time when the future seems especially fuzzy? There are a few ways to approach this puzzle. We can reframe uncertainty, accept it, change the way we experience it or move our focus elsewhere.
Reframing (also known as cognitive reframing) is a psychological tool that helps us to see our problems from another angle. It can get us to stop perceiving the world, the future, and ourselves in an unnecessarily negative light. As it relates to the moment, we could perseverate on bad things that could happen to us or our loved ones. But if we reframe, we could instead see this period of uncertainty as an opportunity to connect with those we care about and as a powerful reminder that we’re all in it together.
We can also lean into not knowing. Mindful acceptance is the idea of paying attention to the present moment—even if it’s unpleasant—without judging or reacting to the situation. Studies have shown that using mindfulness and acceptance strategies can help with depression, anxiety, loneliness and may even lower the expression of pro-inflammatory genes.
article continues after advertisementIn a 2019 trial, a group of participants was given brief instruction on how to accept unpleasant events. They were then shown photos of negative images and told to either react as usual or to accept the negativity. When the volunteers applied acceptance strategies while viewing the photographs, they reported significantly less negative feelings. Applying this to COVID-19, it means that while we continue to participate in the global fight against the virus, we might pause before allowing our mind to become weighed down by all the things we cannot change.
Each of us experiences uncertainty in a different way. It’s not just facts; it’s how we interpret the data that determines our mental health. To this end, we know that we can change our brains so they are better able to manage stress and anxiety. In the last several years, research in a variety of fields has revealed strategies that can help us with this goal.
Exercise, for example, has long been seen as therapy for the mind. Both aerobic and anaerobic exercise programs decrease symptoms of anxiety. But it’s also been connected to changes in brain function. A 2019 study showed that 12 minutes of running were sufficient to alter connectivity patterns in the amygdala, a part of the brain implicated in anxiety.
Nature exposure is associated with general health benefits, better mental health, and alterations in brain function. One study found people who walked through a natural environment for 90 minutes had decreased activity in a part of the brain linked to mental illness compared to those walking in an urban area.
article continues after advertisementSleep is related to a variety of health outcomes. More recently, sleep issues have been tied to poor mental health, with sleep loss connected to depressed mood, anxiety, and distress. Researchers believe sleep helps reset our brain’s circuits overnight, allowing us to approach the next day with less emotional reactivity.
Finally, meditation appears to decrease multiple markers of stress, including cortisol and blood pressure. It’s also been associated with improvements in anxiety. Studies have consistently shown that these meditative practices are linked to structural changes in the brain.
While it’s helpful to consider methods of reframing, accepting, or recalibrating your response to uncertainty, it’s sometimes necessary to engage in quick refocus. To this end, you can switch your attention from the daunting lack of clarity in long-term planning to predictable, short-term outcomes. Instead of worrying about the fate of the stock market, plan and execute a quick exercise circuit. In place of fretting over potential travel restrictions next month, strategize a movie night with the family or schedule a phone call with a friend. This is all about small, guaranteed victories. When these are added up, they can offset the larger uncertainty.
At this moment, many things are outside our control. Typical routines, interactions, and financial stabilities have become distorted or even dissolved. Our health and the well-being of the people we care about can seem tenuous. Mental wellness is battered when uncertainty shakes our psychological foundations.
article continues after advertisementHere, then, is a time to look deeply at our internal philosophy and drill down to the bedrock. Regardless of the changes happening around us, we retain the ability to choose how we respond. In this trying time, we benefit from the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “life is what you make it.”
Yes, we are unsure, scared, and anxious. At the moment, there aren’t many easy answers to the virus or to its expanding ripple effects on mental health. But we should remember that despite this, there are a number of tools we can use to support psychological health, and benefiting from this information is as simple as finding even one strategy that works for you.
7+7 Strategies for Working from Home During COVID-19 How to successfully juggle work and kids without dropping any balls.
7+7 Strategies for Working from Home During COVID-19How to successfully juggle work and kids without dropping any balls.Posted
Source: Andrey Popov/ShutterstockSo, you find yourself suddenly having to work from home. Schools and daycares are closed. You not only have to continue being productive at work but also take care of and educate your children at the same time. COVID-19—thanks! What do you do?
Working from home has some advantages—no need to commute, having access to your own kitchen, being able to dress comfortably, and having more flexibility in your schedule. However, a sudden transition from the office to home may be challenging, especially if you also have children.
In this post, I offer some practical suggestions for navigating this transition from the perspective of work, family, and your wellbeing.
WorkThe following are some tips on being efficient and productive while working from home.
1. Structure and boundaries: In compiling this list of suggestions, I checked in with Heather Hall, an entrepreneur in residence at JumpStart. Hall, who has worked from home for many years and taught others how to do it, says that the most important aspects of the transition to working from home are structure and boundaries. This is necessary to “help you focus on the day, and be able to step away at the end of the day.”
3. Ask for help: In a typical workplace setting, when you are stuck on something, you can always check in with your coworkers to brainstorm about a solution. Working from home may create the feeling of having to solve every problem on your own. This increases the feelings of isolation and decreases efficiency. Use video or chat to ask your teammates for help when you need it. The ability to ask for help is crucial for your mental health as well as for your ability to do your job.
article continues after advertisement4. Flexibility: Take advantage of the flexibility that working from home offers—throw in a load of laundry in between meetings, or take a break to play with the kids as a reward for them letting you work uninterrupted (more on this later), or just take a mental health break.
5. Staying focused: Even in normal times it's not easy to stay focused on work for long periods of time. During the time of COVID-19, it is even more tempting to keep looking online or listening to the radio for the latest developments. Unfortunately, this is likely to reduce your productivity and increase anxiety. In order to stay informed without getting stuck, schedule a 15-minute news check for yourself twice a day—once in the morning and once in the evening. If you find yourself feeling anxious or distracted by searching out information about the virus, see my previous blog post on dealing with the anxiety of uncertainty.
6. Take breaks: Be sure to schedule those mental health breaks—time for lunch, and shorter 10- to 15-minute breaks throughout the day to take a walk, meditate, breathe, or just move your muscles. Muscle immobility is one of the most common reasons for muscle aches we so frequently experience while working at the computer. These are even more likely to happen if you are working at a make-shift space that lacks an ergonomic setup.
There are two kinds of movement breaks that will help: small movement and large movement. Small movement breaks do not require you to move away from your desk—just drop your hands from your keyboard to your lap, and move your upper body (roll your shoulders, gently roll your neck, twist at the waist to the right and left, stretch). Do this every 15 to 30 minutes. Large movement breaks require you to stand up and walk away from your desk. You might go for a brief walk, check-in with the kids, or do some full body stretches. Take large movement breaks every 1.5 to 2 hours. This will keep your muscles feeling better and provide you with a bit more energy and ability to focus.
7. Wind down: Once your workday is over, give yourself permission to step away and actually be done. Take stock of what went well throughout the day and what you might want to do differently tomorrow. Spend time with your family, and have time to wind down and get some sleep.
Family/kidsKids being out of school is one of the biggest challenges of working from home, especially if both parents have to work or if you are a single parent. The following are some suggestions for how to balance taking care of the kids while being able to focus on your own work.
article continues after advertisement1. Structure and boundaries: Kids benefit from structure and boundaries in the same way as adults do. If your kids are older, sit down with them to set up a daily schedule. The schedule could include some school-related or other educational activities, reading, time outside, playtime, lunch/snack times, and times to check in with you. Be sure to leave time for a break after each educational activity.
2. Offer choices: For younger kids, Heather Hall of Jumpstart suggests setting out snacks and giving them a choice of three activities (more options than that is likely to be overwhelming), such as building with Legos, watching a show, coloring, or having quiet time in their room. If they are able to spend the predetermined amount of time involved in the activity, offer a reward, such as playing a game together during your work break.
3. Ask for help: If your oldest child can help supervise the younger one(s), discuss with them how this might work and offer a reward, such as one-on-one time with you, being able to choose a movie to watch, or extra time playing a video game.
4. Social interaction: If grandparents or other relatives have a more flexible schedule, ask them to video chat with the kids during the day—reading, or telling stories, solving logical puzzles together, or just chatting. It’s a double benefit—the grandparents, who may be socially isolated otherwise, get to spend time with their grandkids and the kids are entertained. Virtual playdates with friends could work in a similar way.
article continues after advertisement5. Communicate: If both parents are working from home, discuss an arrangement where the two of you switch off between working and spending time with the kids. A morning Standup that Heather Hall suggests for your work team would also be a good idea for your family—spend 15 minutes each night or each morning going over the plan for the (next) day.
6. Accept and manage interruptions: Having a plan will help reduce chaos but will not eliminate interruptions. Kids are kids, after all. You have some options for managing the interruptions:
Tear-off tab sheet with questions
Source: Heather Hall, used with permission
article continues after advertisementAmy Husted, CMO of Wana family network and co-founder of an app called Komae, had instances just like these in mind. Komae, a babysitting coop app, is designed to connect families looking for occasional babysitting swaps. Pre COVID-19, these swaps were intended to give parents time for date nights and other self-care. The goal is different right now—they are working on helping people find necessary childcare while maintaining social distancing. Husted says: “We are encouraging people to maintain social distance, and figure out a way to swap care safely, perhaps buddying up with just one family to limit exposure … For healthcare workers, buddying up with someone who also works in healthcare, perhaps with a shift opposite to yours, to limit exposu
By Jill Leibowitz, Psy.D.
There’s a lot we don’t know about the novel coronavirus and how this pandemic will play out over time. This uncertainty creates anxiety and depression for many of us. My play therapy with children, as well as observations within my own family, informs me that our children feel it, too. But there are things we can start doing today that will help our children—and us—feel better. One of those things is to practice gratitude, or thankfulness.
Gratitude helps us cope in times of crisisGratitude, which we feel when we count our blessings and pay attention to what we have—versus what we don’t have—is linked to many positive benefits, including:
It’s still important to acknowledge negative feelings I’m not suggesting that we deny our children’s fear, loss, anger or trauma. It’s crucial for children to express their negative emotions.
In fact, children often can’t let go of negative feelings until they’ve been acknowledged by and processed with another. But once validated, it’s important to help children shift their focus to other more pleasurable experiences and memories.
Being grateful takes effortPracticing gratitude can take some work, especially at times when we are overloaded with stress in times of crisis. But even when we don’t exactly feel grateful, we can still think about what we have and be grateful for it.
One way to do this is to take time at least once a week to focus our attention on some of the good things we feel grateful for. These can range from big things, such as being healthy, to smaller, more momentary experiences, such as the cool fort the family built in the living room, a Zoom reunion, or a walk outside. The benefits of gratitude can take a few weeks to develop, but once established, they have lasting effects on the brain and on mental health overall.
Building grateful habitsHere are some simple activities we can do with our children to cultivate gratitude.
The “Good Things” JarSeveral years ago, on New Year’s Day, our family made a “Good Things” Jar. Throughout the year we would write on small pieces of paper the good things we experienced, and placed them in the jar. Each subsequent New Year’s Day, we would empty the jar and read through all of the good things we recorded throughout the year—many of which had been forgotten.
Our “Good Things” Jar helped us remember our gratitude. These positive recollections lessened the negative impact of negative memories and helped build our emotional resilience—something we are sincerely grateful for as we head into an uncertain future.
I write articles based on my experience as a therapist or a training or conference attendee. Many of these articles are written by others who are experts in their field and I share their information as resources for others.