Mental Health of Parents during COVID-19: How to Cope with Anxiety

The coronavirus disease or Covid-19 outbreak has profoundly changed everyone’s day-to-day life as we know it. Most schools and businesses went entirely online; airlines have stopped operating, many plans cancelled, and people became confined to their homes. Stay-at-home orders for many people meant a disrupted contact with their families, friends, and community. It is hard to believe that we have passed the half-year mark since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the earliest stages of the pandemic, most of us worried about daily living’s essential aspects such as the lockdown and restricted mobility or supply shortages in grocery stores. 
However, as time passed, coronavirus anxiety has evolved as a significant concern for many of us. People started worrying about getting sick, losing childcare, or going through financial hardship. These days, many individuals’ concerns can range from a fear of losing a job to dread of medical treatment and separation from their family, a fear of dying, and a horror of their family members dying. The combination of these worries and fears is challenging for many families worldwide. According to psychologists, the mental health crisis is to be the most significant second effect of COVID-19. (Prof Holmes, O’Connor, Perry, Tracey, Wessely, Arseneault, et al., 2020).
As expected, a rise in anxiety symptoms in crises, such as the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, is not surprising. Nevertheless, mental health experts are concerned that the prevalence of anxiety, depression, and people engaging in self-harming behaviours will significantly increase after the pandemic. For many, the worst thing about the COVID-19 pandemic is uncertainty. However, for parents, uncertainty is tangled with responsibility. They may be overwhelmed by the new “normal,” not knowing what to expect from life in the future. At the same time, they have to be supportive of their family. A combination of uncertainty and responsibility can profoundly fall out on people’s mental health, increasing the symptoms of anxiety, depression, mood disorders, and other psychological concerns. Also, the ongoing pandemic may aggravate any mental health issues that these parents may already experience. The frequency of daily negative moods among families increased significantly during the lockdown. According to a recent study, families that experienced hardships due to the coronavirus crisis (illness, death, childcare burdens, unemployment, income loss) show a decline in mental health in children’s and parents’ mental health (Gassman-Pines, Ananat, Fitz-Henley, 2020). 
During the lockdown, many individuals had to work from home, struggling to balance work and family life. The latest studies show that many families experienced job loss, financial struggles, mental illness, death, substance abuse, and domestic violence (Panchal, Kamal, Orgera, Cox, Garfield, Hamel, Muñana, Chidambaram. 2020). The ongoing stress provoked anxiety and diminished resilience in many parents. Also, the report by Human Rights Watch predicts that the COVID-19 crisis will have a devastating impact on a large number of children, leaving them orphaned and vulnerable to exploitation and abuse (HRW, 2020). All human beings thrive on connection and interaction with others. Social interactions, love, and intimacies are critical factors to our happiness and personal satisfaction. Lack of social interactions can lead to anxiety and depression and negatively impact an individual’s self-esteem. Both adults and children experience an enormous disruption in their lives during the pandemic. People cannot live their everyday lives and go to work or school, visit families, spend time with friends, and engage in other day-to-day activities outdoors without the fear of dying.
Although it is natural to feel anxious, stressed, and depressed in times of a crisis, too much worry and fear can destabilize healthy coping strategies, impair health, and damage life quality.  To manage stress and anxiety during these difficult times, make sure to set the personal boundaries and make self-care a priority (CDC, 2020). Many parents have been juggling their work, taking care of their children, and household chores in the past months. Although individuals may feel capable of managing different tasks, multitasking can take its toll on their psychological well-being, physical health, and relationships. Self-care is an essential factor in our overall well-being. During increasingly stressful times, quality sleep, a healthy diet, exercise, and relaxation should become a priority as these practices can protect individuals against anxiety symptoms and help promote feelings of happiness and well-being. Studies have also shown that well-rested individuals have a more robust immune system for defeating viruses (Sleep Foundation Company; A OneCare Media Company, 2020). 
Setting boundaries for children and establish routines and rules at home. Help kids understand that the parents need to do their job before playing with them or finishing homework. In turn, it is essential that parents also respect their children’s needs for time alone. Prioritize health and self-care and give one another strength to protect each other’s mental health and strengthen family relationships in crisis times.
  • Prof Holmes, E.A., Prof O’Connor, R.C., Prof Perry, V.H., Prof Tracey, I., Prof Wessely S., Prof Arseneault L., et al. (2020) Multidisciplinary research priorities for the COVID-19 pandemic: a call for action for mental health science. VOLUME 7, ISSUE 6, P547-560.
  • Gassman-Pines, A., Ananat, E.O., Fitz-Henley, J. (2020) COVID-19 and Parent-Child Psychological Well-being. 146 (4) e2020007294.
  • Panchal, N., Kamal, R., Orgera, K., Cox, C., Garfield, R., Hamel, L., Muñana, C., Chidambaram, P. (2020). The Implications of COVID-19 for Mental Health and Substance Use.
  • HRW. 2020. COVID-19’s Devastating Impact on Children; Governments Should Mitigate Harm, Protect Most Vulnerable.
  • Centers for Disease (CDC) Control and Prevention. 2020. Coping with Stress.
  • Sleep Foundation Company; A OneCare Media Company. 2020. How Sleep Affects Your Immunity.