How to Support Women Struggling More with Mental Health, Work, and Child Care
by Shannon Thaxton, Account Executive
It is no surprise that people are having a hard time mentally during the quarantine requirements from Covid-19. However, there seems to be a much larger decline in how women are feeling over men. There are numerous reasons why women might be suffering more. Schools are/were closed, and women are taking on more of the childcare responsibilities, homeschooling, and domestic work. Even the women who also work outside of the home have taken on the extra burdens that come along with everyone being home more.
An article from late 2020 wrote that 9.8 million working mothers in the U.S. are suffering from burnout. From attempting to manage remote schooling to rearranging their workdays to fill child-care gaps, there is no question it is mothers who are, often, shouldering the increased responsibilities of caring for kids throughout the pandemic.
Burnout is a recognized condition. It can manifest into both emotional and physical symptoms. Most common symptoms are fatigue, cynicism, lack of motivation, headaches, chest tightness, stomachaches, nausea, hair loss and even increased crying. This pandemic has revealed that stress and mental health are closely tied and its alarmingly true for parents trying to balance work and family.
If you realize you may be suffering from burnout there are four small changes to your routine that may be helpful, according to Dr. Sheryl Ziegler, a psychologist and author and Mercedes Samudio, a licensed clinical social worker and parenting coach:
- Tap into your support system
One symptom of burnout is isolation, says Mercedes Samudio, a licensed clinical social worker and parenting coach with Maven. “When we’re out of energy, we retreat,” Samudio says. While retreating may help you recharge, talking to someone about how you’re feeling can help lessen the weight of emotions like guilt, fatigue and being overwhelmed because you don’t feel so alone.
It’s also worth asking for help, Ziegler says. That could mean asking your partner to be more active in splitting the household responsibilities or child care or talking to your colleagues or manager about what you need to be able to do your job more effectively. You could also try asking to move the time of a weekly meeting or shift your work hours slightly.
- Manage your expectations — and try to be realistic
“You cannot run on the same expectations you had of yourself and your family before the pandemic hit,” Samudio says.
When setting expectations, it’s important that you’re mindful of your energy level, prior commitments and emotional state, Samudio says. One way to put this into practice is to write down your goals and reassess them each week to see if they are working or if they need to be tweaked, she adds.
- Create new routines
Not only should you realistically evaluate your current condition, but also try to create new rituals in your life. Take time in the morning to actually eat or set a timer to stand and walk around after an hour or two, Samudio says.
It can also be helpful to schedule in some “quiet time” for yourself every day, Zeigler says. This is a time where you give your eyes a break from a screen and let yourself decompress. “It’s very important to schedule that in or it will not happen,” she says.
This is especially important because many people really aren’t moving right now, Zeigler says. Instead of heading into the office, those working from home may only take a few steps from their bed to their desk. “Be mindful to move your body, walk around, get outside with fresh air, some sunshine,” she says.
The new rituals you create should help you balance your day between to-do list items and actually caring for yourself, Samudio says.
- Quit trying to multitask all the time
“Many busy parents feel like multitasking is the only way to manage their busy schedules, but studies show that it’s a big contributor to burnout,” Samudio says.
When you’re with your kids, allow yourselves to be present with them instead of trying to respond to an email, she says. If you’re in a meeting, focus on the meeting.
“In this environment where we have so little separation between our work and our kids, monotasking is particularly challenging, but it pays off,” Samudio says.
Just remember, you are not alone in your feelings are there are resources out there to help. As a reminder, most employers offer EAP programs for their employees. These programs are a great first step to working on your mental wellness.
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