In the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, these are tough times for all of us. If your life feels like it’s been upended, you may be wondering how you can stay healthy and best take care of your family during this difficult time. We have some tips that we hope will keep you and your family as safe and healthy as possible.
We realize these suggestions might feel challenging right now, but we know these three things do a lot of heavy-lifting to keep you healthy. Do what you can, even as your normal routines have been altered in major ways.
Trying to be less stressed is a big ask for all of us these days, and it’s totally normal to feel very anxious right now. If you regularly see a therapist, you should reach out to see if they’re doing telehealth sessions so you can connect with them from home. This is also a good time to start to see an online therapist if you’re not currently seeing one and are feeling very stressed. Meditation and breathing exercises can help too, and many apps can help get you started, including Headspace (a number of free offerings), Ten Percent Happier (many free offerings), and the app Breathe2Relax (free and found in mobile stores). That being said, know it’s okay to be anxious, scared, or stressed, or experiencing any number of other feelings right and you should be honest about your feelings.
Right now, many Asians and Asian Americans are experiencing unfair and unfounded stigma, prejudice, and discrimination amidst the coronavirus outbreak. If you’re Asian or Asian American and feeling particularly stressed, sad, or angry — or any number of other feelings — know that your feelings are valid. Dealing with these challenges can impact your mental health in a number of tough ways, so make sure you do all that you can to manage your stress and anxiety in healthy ways and reach out for help when you need it. You don’t deserve any of this, you don’t need to go it alone, and you do deserve to get the help you need.
This means staying home as much as possible and limiting non-essential reasons for leaving your home — working from home if at all possible, not getting together with loved ones who live outside your home, and not going to public gatherings. This also includes limiting or canceling non-essential travel and canceling events. If you have to go out in public for absolutely essential reasons, you should take caution when you do. This means keeping your distance from people in public places — at least 6 feet away — and avoiding crowds. It also means limiting errands outside of your home — like to the grocery store or the pharmacy — to only those that are essential, going less frequently, and ideally at off-hours. And when you do go out, remember to wipe down shopping cart handles with sanitizer wipes, avoid high-touch areas like elevator buttons or railings, and wash or sanitize your hands afterward. You should also be washing your hands frequently even at home, and if hand washing isn’t possible, use hand sanitizer. And don’t touch your face, as that is how you could pick up the coronavirus.
Because you’ll be home for an extended amount of time during this period of social distancing and should be limiting essential trips out to the grocery store and pharmacy, do what you can to have enough of the basics that your family needs.
This means shelf-stable food (like canned and dried goods), fresh food (like vegetables, dairy, and meat), food that will make your time at home more pleasant (like coffee and chocolate), and hygienic care products (like soap, diapers, and menstrual care products). It’s recommended that you have enough of these items to last to last your family for two weeks if needed (like in the event that anyone in your home needs to isolate or quarantine themselves) or that you know how to have these items delivered to your home.
That being said, you should avoid the urge to hoard. If there is hand sanitizer or baby formula available for purchase and you need some, you should take just as much as you need, and leave the rest for other people who need those products too.
Depending on how old your little one is, they might not have much sense of what’s going on or they might be well aware that we’re living through a pandemic. Regardless of age, you should do all you can to remain calm and reassuring. Children pick up on our cues, hear the conversations we’re having with other adults, and can sense when we’re stressed. Try to remain calm so they can be calm. Be aware of what they might be hearing about the coronavirus from other family, friends, or media, and remain open and available to any questions they have. And explain to them what’s happening honestly, simply, and in a way that is age-appropriate that they can understand. If, say, your child knows the can’t go to preschool right now because their school is closed, you can tell them about how their school is closed and a lot of people are staying home right now to keep from getting sick and spreading germs because there are some icky germs going around. You can also remind all children about what they can do to help prevent the spread of germs, like washing their hands and covering their coughs or sneezes.
Depending on their age and if they’re old enough for school, their usual schedule may have been thrown out the window. It can certainly be helpful to stick to a regular schedule, but don’t feel the need to entirely reproduce what they normally do. Make some time for learning — whether with school materials, online learning, or educational activities at home — some time for the usual fun they would have at home, and some time for free play, all of which many older kids can do on their own with just a little guidance. And be sure to spend some focused, quality time together too. Read together as a family every day. Maybe play a game, play pretend, have a dance party, or watch a favorite movie, Connect throughout the day by having them help with meal prep and cleanup. More than anything, helping your little ones feel safe and secure at home, and oh so loved, is priority.
Many people who can work from home are doing so right now. For some people, this means business as usual, just at home and via a screen. For others, including parents who are working from home without childcare, it means suddenly juggling a lot of new responsibilities and added stress. If it’s possible for you to still work during your regular hours, maybe that’s best for you. If you need to split your work day into chunks and do some work after your kids are asleep, maybe that’s preferable. But don’t spread yourself too thin and let work creep into all hours of your day. You need to take care of yourself too, and get some downtime. This is a strange time and we’re all adjusting. It make take a while before you find what feels right. In the meantime and going forward, be honest with your employer about what your home situation is like for you right now and see how they can help you.
Everywhere you turn, there’s news about the coronavirus. And because the situation is changing so quickly and we’re learning new things everyday, it is important to stay informed. But it’s not good for you to absorb a steady stream of information all day, everyday. You should check in on the news only occasionally, and if you’re feeling particularly anxious about the situation, limit that to once a day for 10-15 minutes. Follow along with a reliable, primary, official source — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) website is recommended — and a local news source with information most relevant for your area. You can also ask a friend or family member to contact you if there is a major update or something of immediate importance that you should know about. But know that you shouldn’t check the news and social media all day long, as that can quickly feel overwhelming.
Again, we recommend the CDC and a trusted local news source for information you can trust. We don’t need to tell you that it’s plenty easy to find misinformation on the internet. In this challenging time, it’s more important that ever to avoid misinformation. Don’t fall for information that, say, tells you drinking a lot of water will keep the coronavirus at bay, or supplements will help boost your immunity enough that you won’t catch COVID-19. Sure, stay hydrated and take any supplements as advised by your healthcare provider, but understand that this coronavirus is spreading quickly because it’s brand new and no one is immune to it yet. You need to follow scientifically proven advice — like washing your hands, not touching your face, and engaging in social distancing — to try and avoid picking up and spreading the virus. And do your part to not spread misinformation either.
You may not be able to able to see friends and family who live outside of your home right now, but do what you can to stay connected to them. Thankfully, many smartphones and apps make video chatting easy, so be sure to check in regularly with loved ones and see them, at least virtually face-to-face. You can also use social media to send pictures or silly videos. Many video games or other online games have community play options that allow you to connect from afar. You may even want to send a card, note, or picture via snail mail, since the postal service is still hard at work. These sort of ways of connecting are important for you, and they’re just as important if you have kids. Encourage your kids to connect with family and their own friends in these same ways, and help them as needed. And if it’s safe to take a walk in your neighborhood, even as you’re practicing social distancing, wave to your neighbor from afar and ask how they’re doing. This sort of regular connection can bring joy, lift your spirits, and help you feel less alone.
Even while things are uncertain — and, indeed, because they are — it’s important to make time in your day for the things that make you happy. Maybe that’s watching a favorite film or checking out a new TV series, or playing a board game or working on a puzzle with a loved one, or dancing in your living room to a favorite album with your kiddos. Maybe that’s doing a craft that you haven't in a while, or coloring with your toddler, or playing video games with a friend online. Maybe that’s taking a hot bath in silence, or wearing a really beautiful outfit even if you’re just staying home, or taking turns doing at-home massage with your partner. Maybe it’s cooking a favorite dish, or watching the birds outside your window, or calling an old friend. It’s so important to prioritize anything joyful that will lift your spirits right now, no matter how small.
Remember that you don’t have to be perfect, you only have to do your best right now. And that “best” may change from day to day. Some days your kids will have a schedule and do awesome educational activities, and another day they may watch Frozen II all day long. You may be active and optimistic on one day, and another day find it hard to work because you’re so worried. Do your best. Be gentle and forgiving of yourself. We’re all trying to do the same. And don’t hesitate to ask for help when you need it.
This is a challenging time for all of us, and depending on your circumstances, you may be in need of emergency help and resources right now. If you need food, you can find your local food bank through Feeding America. And if you are pregnant or have a child under five, you may be eligible for WIC (the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children) through your state. You can also find additional emergency support at your local United Way. Aunt Bertha can help you find free or reduced cost services, and Need Help Paying Bills has a large index of assistance services. There are also numerous resources available to individuals in specific industries that have been hit hard by the outbreak, like resources for artists complied at Creative Capital and the Bartender Emergency Assistance Program available through the United Stated Bartenders’ Guild. You can seek out similar assistance programs available in your local community and through specific industry organizations.
It’s hard to know what the future holds, but we hope that you and your family are able to stay as safe, healthy, and happy as possible during this challenging time.
Updated March 20, 2020