Between Mar 29 - Apr 3, Statistic Canada (2020) conducted a survey and, not surprisingly, found many Canadians anxious about the current situation.
84% were anxious about the healthcare system,
54% were anxious about the health of family members,
36% were anxious about their own health, and
32% were anxious about family stress from confinement.
A study from the University of Manitoba (Roos, 2020) is currently exploring parenting during the pandemic. After week 1 of the study, they presented the preliminaries are reporting high rates of parental distress with 64.2% reporting symptoms of depression and 31.6% of reporting symptoms of anxiety. Balancing time between work and childcare has been challenging with:
40% of families having unmet childcare needs.
43% reported negative impacts on employment,
17% reported job loss.
This is a lot to manage and still meet the expectations of us at work, school, or with our families and friends. You’re trying to do it all. The reality is (and if you are anything like us) you may be feeling overly taxed, emotionally drained, and frankly overwhelmed. In this post, we will review how to set yourself and your kids up for success by starting with the basics - meeting basic needs.
Let’s start with the basics: the need to eat, play, and sleep. In fact, we actually require these needs to be met in some predictable and reliable way. Without these basic needs met, we are less likely able to have the capacity to cope with much else. In fact, not having these needs met can make us increasingly more anxious.
It is important to keep ourselves and our little ones fueled. This prepares us to handle the events of the day. I say handle because each day presents an emotional rollercoaster and if we are not fueled well, we may be setting ourselves or our children up for a major meltdown.
We also need hydration - water! A balanced intake of both food and water throughout the day helps to keep our bodies working optimally. Food also provides fuel for our immune system, essential vitamins like vitamins A, C, E, and D (Rodrigo Mora et al., 2010).
Movement: It may be obvious that your mental state can affect your movements. Like when you feel depressed you may notice yourself moving slower or more sluggish. This connection between our body and mind is a two-way street, meaning that how we move can also affect our mental states. Regular exercise can reduce our “flight or fight” response which translates into a decrease in feelings of anxiety (Pillay, 2016).
Stimulation: Our minds also need to be stimulated throughout the day. With our little ones, we also need to think about the balance between over-stimulation and under-stimulation. Both of which can lead to emotional volatility. Over-stimulation can be from trying to do too much at once. It can feel like listening to Spotify, watching a show, and having a conversation with someone at the same time. It can be completely overwhelming. Alternatively, under-stimulation or boredom often results when kids aren’t being challenged. The principle I like to stick with is everything in moderation. The type of stimulation and length of time for an activity will change as they move through developmental stages. Where a 3-month-old infant is completely enthralled with staring at their parents’ face for a good 10 minutes, a 2-year-old will likely need something in their hands that they can build, stack, and then likely knock over. There is no magic one size fits all recipe to manage this balance though. You know yourself and your kids best.
All of us will need to also consider the balance between stimulating time and rest time. Our brain processes a lot while being active, but it can also do a lot while resting and resting well.
Sleep is essential for human bodies. We rest our brains to help process information, we rest our bodies to restore our energy. Many of us aren’t as familiar with the way we can set our bodies up for a good night’s sleep. We call this sleep hygiene.
With little ones, sleep hygiene is up to us as the parent to set in place. Daytime naps for little ones (between 1-4 years) vary depending on developmental age but typically last from 45 minutes to 3 hours one to two times a day. Routines are again important here. Both nap time and bedtime should have a similar routine, but the length of time to get through the routine is shorter for naps. For example, the routine maybe bath time, jammies, brush teeth, 3 stories, lights out, 2 songs. This may take 45 minutes to get through at bedtime. Naptime might just be 3 stories, lights out and 2 songs 10 minutes.
Want to hear more? Sign up for the FREE webinar available through Moss Postpartum House.
Pillay, S. (2016, March). How simply moving benefits your mental health. Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/how-simply-moving-benefits-your-mental-health-201603289350
Rodrigo Mora, J., Makoto, I., & von Andrian, U.H. (2010). Vitamin effects on the immune system: vitamins A and D take centre stage. National Review of Immunology, 8(9), 685-698. doi: 10.1038/nri2378
Roos, L. (2020, April). Week 1 data report. https://twitter.com/_LaRoos/status/1252627484463394822/photo/1
Statistics Canada. (2020). How are Canadians coping with the COVID-19 situation? https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/11-627-m/11-627-m2020029-eng.htm