Parents Hitting A Wall During The Pandemic Is Totally Normal, Experts Say
Life right now is more than a bit off-kilter. Do you even know what day it is anymore? I sure don't most days. On whatever week it is of the current state of affairs, why does it feel like everyone is hitting a wall during the pandemic? From co-workers to children to friends, it seems like everyone is officially *done* with this quarantine business.
"Our brains are processing so much information behind the scenes, both logistically and emotionally. Our mental load during this pandemic is just heftier," Laura Jordan, a therapist specializing in maternal and reproductive mental health, tells Romper.
I'm pretty much done with all of this (*waves hands wildly*) at this point, and I am willing to bet that you can relate. Whether that means you've effectively cancelled distance learning for your kids or have resorted to only answering emails from your phone while huddled under a pile of blankets (you know, for safety) with the majority of your attention focused on Netflix, you're likely not alone. Experts say that what you're experiencing right now is actually called mental fatigue.
"Fear of the unknown, concerns about our personal, financial, and familial responsibilities, each of these factors, endured over a prolonged period of time, and coupled with so many uncertainties, tend to magnify negative feelings," Brook McKenzie, Director of Clinical Outreach at New Method Wellness Center tells Romper. "Our routines are disrupted, our stability is uprooted — all of the changes we have experienced can lead to a sense of mental fatigue."
During the course of your regular pre-pandemic day-to-day life, stress was likely something you dealt with, but the addition of multiple new stressors all at once is what experts say makes this situation feel particularly overwhelming.
"Given the choice, I'm sure most of us wouldn't have taken on so lifestyle changes at once, and with good reason. Taking on so many major changes at once is stressful and taxing," Jordan tells Romper. "Additionally, we have been in survival mode for a prolonged amount of time. The sheer amount of time that we've had to endure this heightened level of stress and anxiety has undoubtedly resulted in an excess of fatigue."
While most everyone experiences some level of mental fatigue throughout this crisis, parents will be hit especially hard, life coach and author Anita Kanti tells Romper.
"Parenting has taken to a new, unexpected shift, recruiting us into new side gigs: co-teacher, co-coach, chef, technology instructor, playmate, and well, the list keeps growing," Kanti says. "As joyous as it is to spend more time with our families, guilt rides if we hear those echoes and woes within ourselves, as mental performance hits its max, and we start smelling and tasting unintentional parental burnout."
So, how do we get past what feels like a point of no return? Can we just throw our hands up in defeat and call it a day? For parents especially, family therapist Belina Fruitman tells Romper that "the choice of 'being done' is not an option."
"Research demonstrates that those who persevere in a healthy way are resilient," Fruitman says. "To be resilient is to have the ability to bounce back from adversity or crisis. This is paramount if we want to role model how to overcome change and adversity to our kids. As parents try and see the world with fresh eyes, recognize the power you have to create a new schedule, a new routine, and demonstrate gratitude."
It may be easy to read Fruitman's words and feel like slogging through this messy time with renewed energy and vigor is simply unattainable, but experts say it is truly within our reach. First and foremost though, giving yourself a break is key.
"Expectations must be adjusted at this time," Jordan says. "This is not 'life as usual,' so the standards you once held for yourself and your family have to be re-evaluated and shifted."
Jordan recommends prioritizing your relationship with your children, learning to be OK leaving your house a bit messier, take a drive while blasting your favorite music, meditate, watch funny videos — whatever helps you feel better. "Make a list of soothing, self-care based activities that you know work well for you and start using it," she says.
Laura Jordan, M.A., LPC, LMFT, licensed professional counselor and marriage and family therapist at Jordan Therapy Services
Anita Kanti, author of Behaving Bravely: How to Mindshift Life’s Challenges and founder at Anita K Solutions