With so much to worry about amid the COVID-19 pandemic, we took to social media to find out what questions you needed answered.
Life has changed a lot in the last 6 months. The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced new stressors that impact our mental health in ways many of us never saw coming.
For new and expecting parents, these added stressors are especially hard to carry.
Parenthood comes with a laundry list of new concerns, and worrying about how an ongoing pandemic will affect your little one, your wallet, your physical health, and even your sex life, can feel totally overwhelming.
That’s why we took to social media to ask you what your top mental health concerns are right now. We received some amazing and relatable questions and got in touch with five of our experts to help address them:
- Jennifer Litner, sexologist and founder of Embrace Sexual Wellness
- Jake Tipane, certified personal trainer specializing in fertility, prenatal, pregnancy, and postpartum fitness
- Narcisa Jovic, birth doula, childbirth educator, and co-founder of NYC Birth Village
- Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate
- Joseph A. Jackson, MD, pediatrician at Duke Children’s Hospital & Health Center
Read on to see what our followers wanted to know and how our experts were able to help.
You can find the videos from our experts on our Instagram highlights here.
My anxiety is getting in the way of being intimate. What can I do?
Don’t panic. We know that mood and anxiety can greatly impact sexual desire and that’s totally normal. So just know that right now if you’re not feeling as sexual, that’s okay. That might change in time, so be patient with yourself.
I feel so distracted in the bedroom by all that’s going on. Any advice?
If you find yourself feeling distracted during sex, know that you’re not alone.
One thing that may be helpful is focusing on sensation and the way your partner feels against your skin when you’re touching one another. You might also focus on how it feels to kiss one another with your lips pressed against each other.
These are ways to be mindful and put yourself in the moment.
Our relationship is being tested because of the pandemic — especially our sex life. What can I do to help?
One thing to think about is how to prioritize pleasure together that doesn’t involve sex.
Maybe this is taking a shower or bath together, a massage, or having what I call a bed date. (Try reading a book or watching a documentary together in bed.)
What are some go-to management practices to calm down?
One thing I find really helpful to manage anxiety is doing what I call paced breathing. I raise my hand up when I’m inhaling and push it down when I’m exhaling to count the pace in between. This helps slow my breath and makes sure I’m exhaling appropriately.
Another thing you can do when you’re feeling anxious is to bring your attention to the current moment through sensory input around you. Maybe you have a pillow that you can touch or a blanket nearby. I also might try this with putting an ice cube in your hand and noticing what it feels like to blow on it or squeeze it.
I get so anxious at night (thanks COVID) — any stretches or tips for calming down before bed?
Oftentimes our anxiety peaks at night after an entire day of building stress, so there are two exercises I like to do before going to bed:
- Find a wall where you have plenty of space so you can slide your hips up against the wall.
- Lie on your back, put your legs straight up against the wall, and relax.
- Hold for 5–10 minutes.
- Position a bolster, pillow, or blanket between your knees and then lie down in your regular child’s pose with your head resting on your bolster, pillow, or blanket.
- Take some nice long deep breaths, close your eyes, and relax.
Workout from home tips? With kids, it’s hard to find time!
I know it can be hard to workout from home — especially with kids — so here are a couple of nice little movements that you can do with your kids that will include them in the workout:
- Get on all fours, pop your knees up, and take little steps forward and backward. (Kids will love this. Tell them we’re acting like the dog.)
- Grab your kids, treat them like the weight, and start squatting.
- Make sure to load them up front safely (similar to a front squat) and squat up and down until you can’t handle them yelling in your face anymore.
Postpartum depression (PPD) has taken away any motivation to work out. Tips for getting started?
My number one recommendation if you’re experiencing a lack of motivation when it comes to working out is to take a walk. You’ll get the benefits of more rigorous exercise and it’s as easy as just lacing up your shoes and walking outside.
I think it’s hard for everyone to stay motivated to exercise right now, but it can be particularly challenging if you’re experiencing postpartum depression.
Just keep in mind that any bit of exercise can help break you out of a funk. Go for a walk, do 10 squats, hold a plank for a minute — it all counts.
I’m so worried about not having my doula with me for my birth — any advice?
In this difficult time, many doulas have to provide their services virtually. But they should still be able to coach through contractions, provide reassurance and guidance on comfort measures, be a calming presence, as well as a soundboard for you as you make your decisions through your labor.
[I’m a] new mom and I feel completely empty and drained at the end of the day. Is that normal?
As a new mom, you’re recovering from pregnancy and birth while learning to care for your baby, so it’s very normal to feel drained.
Prioritize your basic needs — especially the need for food and sleep — so you can preserve your energy and recover quickly. In time, you should be able to function better and feel more restored.
Thinking about labor gives me really scary thoughts. Is that normal?
Labor is one of the most intense physical, mental, and emotional times in a person’s life, so it’s completely normal to have a healthy dose of fear about it.
At the same time, take comfort in knowing that this is a natural process and your team will be there to ensure your and your baby’s safety.
What are some budgeting tips when in a pandemic?
- Create a spending plan. Make a list of all your normal expenses and check account statements to see what you’ve spent in previous months. Being accurate and not lowballing your estimate is very important.
- Calibrate your spending plan with your income. If you’re among the 30 percent of Americans that have seen your income decline during the pandemic, identify the costs that you can cut back on or eliminate now, as well as those you could in the event of a job loss.
- Take advantage of assistance. If you suffered an income reduction, reach out to your mortgage lender, your car loan, or your credit card issuer and seek payment relief. There are a variety of options available but only if you reach out and ask for it.
How do I control stress-related retail therapy?
With stay-at-home orders being lifted, it can be tempting to go blow off some steam by going shopping. But if you don’t have a plan, you’ll overspend and cause even more stress when the bills come in.
Make a list of just what you need — not what you want — and stick to it.
If you have room in your budget for some shopping, immediately cut that number in half. Transfer half into your savings or retirement account and spend the other half guilt-free.
Medical bills are keeping me up at night. How can I start paying them off when money is tight?
Contact your medical provider, explain your current situation, and work out a payment plan so they don’t turn it over to a collection agency. They may accept the lump sum as paid in full even if it’s less than the amount owed.
Even if the amount is turned over to a collection agency, don’t worry — you still have time.
Collection agencies can’t report medical debts to the credit bureaus for 6 months, so work faithfully to get it paid off during that time.
How open should I be with my children and my mental health struggles?
It can be very useful to open up to your children about your mental health struggles.
You may begin by trying to identify your greatest struggle and look for age-appropriate words to use as you talk with your children about these struggles.
Could my clinical depression be affecting my children?
Clinical depression affects every aspect of our lives and that includes the lives of our children. Children are always watching and observing, so it can be useful to take time to talk with your children about the struggles that you may be experiencing.
Here are a few tips for talking about depression with your kids:
- Make the convo age appropriate with examples they understand. Try: “Do you know how you got really sad when your friend didn’t invite you to her party? Well, sometimes mommy feels sad like that, and the feeling lasts a few days.”
- Know your audience. You know better than anyone how your child absorbs information. If they’re more visual, try to draw out how you feel. If they’re easily distracted, maybe try having a straightforward conversation snuggled on the couch.
- Calm their fears. When kids are confronted with illness, it’s normal for them to be frightened. If they ask, “Will you get better?” or “Are you going to die?” reassure them that depression isn’t fatal and with the right treatment, you should start to feel better.
I’m so worried about all of this extra screen time. Is it ruining my toddler?
There are so many things in life to make us feel guilty about our parenting — and screen time shouldn’t be one of them.
The general recommendation is for 2 hours or less of screen time a day, but instead focus on quality over quantity.
Looking for tips to reduce your child’s screen time? Try these:
- Cook something together! Instead of keeping them busy while you get lunch ready, let them help you wash veggies or stir ingredients.
- Break out the bubbles. If you don’t have any bubbles on hand, make your own with these common household ingredients (tip: stir the corn syrup into the water first, then gently mix in dish soap):
- 1/2 cup corn syrup
- 3 cups water
- 1 cup dish soap
- Get creative with chores. If you want to boost productivity and lessen screen time, enlist them in chore help. Kids can be secret laundry champs. Keep them engaged by asking for help sorting by color or category. They can also help pair socks and fold towels.
The pandemic has made everyday life a lot harder to navigate, but do your best to put your mental health first as you tackle each obstacle.
Our all-encompassing resource list for pandemic-specific mental health problems is a great place to get started.
Keep an eye out for signs that you or a loved one might need a little extra help right now. Don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional if you’re feeling too overwhelmed.