March 25, 2021
Superwoman has nothing on you. Even before the pandemic, you seemingly did it all. But then COVID-19 came along.
Suddenly, you may have felt trapped amid chaos and cramped spaces—while also being stripped of grandparents, teachers, family friends and other key players.
Someone had to keep it together. But at what cost?
Stress, anxiety and depression have gone off the charts among women, says Carmen Herrera, MD, a family medicine physician at Memorial Hermann Medical Group Southwest.
And it’s not just coping with COVID-19, she says. “There’s no separation between work and home. The burden is even heavier if you’re a single parent.”
Dr. Herrera shows how you can get relief from five challenges you may be facing during the pandemic:
Challenge One: Remote Teaching
Stressor: If you have children being taught online, you may be checking in yourself to ensure they’re paying attention to their classes and learning not just the basics but also complex concepts.
But the biggest lesson may be your own: learning how amazing your children’s instructors are.
Solution: Reach out to teachers by phone or online, Dr. Herrera says. “They’re eager to help and can give you advice on how to educate kids at home.”
If you have the space, you can create separate classrooms for each child. While little ones need to be watched all the time, older ones can focus on assignments from their teachers.
Whatever their age, you can quiz them after “school” on what they did and what they learned that day.
Challenge Two: Working from Home
Stressor: For many, working from home is your new norm—not only for you but also your partner. But it’s hard to focus with all the interruptions. Hearing “Moooom” used to reassure you that you were No. 1 in their world. Now it also means you’ve lost your train of thought or feel embarrassed while talking to colleagues and clients on the phone or via video.
Solution: Closets are the new corner offices, and noise-cancelling headphones are the next best thing to silence.
“Create a special space where you can concentrate, work and meditate, whether it’s a room or closet,” Dr. Herrera says. “Let family members know this is your time and space.”
Take a tip from your teens: Post a “keep out” sign when you’ve got important assignments or meetings.
If soothing music helps you focus while you work, play it. And prolong after-work showers to savor silence.
Maintaining a daily schedule also will help you feel in control. “Wake up and go to bed at the same time each day,” Dr. Herrera says.
Also reserve me-time to relax and exercise.
And at quitting time, stop reading or replying to work emails. As you may often tell your kids—especially these days—no means no.
Challenge Three: 24/7 Childcare
Stressor: Childcare help—grandparents, nannies and babysitters—are taking a hiatus from your home to protect their health and your family’s.
“A desire to keep people out of your home for fear of COVID-19 may put the burden of cleaning and childcare on you,” Dr. Herrera says.
Solution: Have a walk and talk with your partner about all the demands on your time, and brainstorm solutions. “Long walks can free the mind and hopefully bring you more together,” Dr. Herrera says.
And once you, your parents and others are fully vaccinated, they can babysit in your home again.
Challenge Four: Household Management
Stressor: Women often are the ones who keep the household organized. Add a tighter budget and closer quarters and marital conflict rises, Dr. Herrera says.
Solution: Enlist children to do chores. You can make it like a game by listing all activities that need to be done, then letting children sign up for them and rewarding them for a job well done. “Make incentives something they appreciate,” she says.
And if kids bicker, have them pick straws or do rock/paper/scissors to choose the order in which they bid on tasks.
Also make plans for family trips and romantic getaways. “This opens windows of hope for when things get back to normal,” Dr. Herrera says.
Challenge Five: You're the Protector
Stressor: You are the one who reassures your children that everything will be OK. But you may be anxious when you or they leave the house.
Solution: Resolve to relax, which may mean avoiding TV news and negative people on social media. Instead escape with a funny movie, thriller or your favorite TV show.
Also carve out me-time and insist it be heeded among your household. Call or text friends and relatives, sit on the porch or take a stroll with your bestie while masked and socially distant—or connected by phones.
Exercise releases feel-good endorphins, Dr. Herrera says. You can create a home gym for you and your family with resistance bands, dumbbells and cardio equipment. And consider signing up for Memorial Hermann’s free online exercise classes.
Also pay attention to your self-talk. If it’s too harsh to say to friends, it’s too harsh to say to yourself. Take a time-out from berating yourself for having gained a few pounds or feeling frustrated.
Instead, look for ways to restore your equilibrium.
That may mean dialing back comfort food and keeping your pantry and fridge well stocked with immunity- and energy-boosting veggies and fruit.
If late-night munchies are your dietary downfall, vow not to eat after a set hour.
Abstain from alcohol if you suspect you’ve got a drinking problem. If not, limit yourself to one glass of wine a day. And that’s not just any glass.
A serving is 5 ounces. Use a measuring cup to see how much or little that is, then pour the contents into your glass. “Drinking may make you feel good briefly, but if you go overboard,” she says, “You become less able to manage anxiety and depression and don’t sleep as well.”
When These Measures are Not Enough:
You may feel alone, but you aren’t. Alert your primary care physician if you’re struggling. “We’re here to counsel and comfort you,” say Dr. Herrera. “We can refer you to a therapist or put you on antidepressants—before your anxiety or depression gets out of control.”