How self-quarantine impacts teens and adults' mental health differently

Has the stress of homeschooling your kids while juggling your job taken a toll on your peace of mind? Parents aren't the only ones feeling the pain of home quarantine: kids and teens are too.

Even though you and your kids' stresses may be for different reasons, the overwhelming feeling of worry and discomfort is universal. Family therapist Christy Burkett of Gaia Counseling said the best way to start de-stressing: live in the present and focus on making it through just one day at a time.

"People are going to be getting on each other's nerves," said Burkett, of the increased family time many are getting while at home.

Figuring out how to balance jobs, school and family time all from inside your four walls can be an instant source of stress.

"It's really important to set your intentions to do something different, so you don't get stuck thinking about things over and over, which can lead to more anxiety and stress," said Burkett.

The family therapist said for many of her teen clients, they've been frustrated to miss social milestones like prom, graduation and class trips.

Burkett said parents can help high schoolers through those feelings by encouraging them to learn a new skill, helping them come up with a long-term project to work on, along giving them plenty of virtual social time to fill the void of those missed experiences.

"Having hope and trust that maybe there will be something that could be done in the future and creating some other kinds of hopeful ideas like a summer prom or a virtual graduation," can be helpful ways to boost teens out of isolation depression.

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Burkett also said to help your teen connect with their friends via online games, shared movie watching, or other apps that allow people to safely interact.

For parents, she said some of the biggest frustrations come from trying to do multiple jobs all at once.

"Parents are dealing with a lot of comparing looking at the homeschooling and how others are doing it," said Burkett.

You can lessen that stress by being grateful for what you did accomplish, not looking back at the items still left on your to-do list. She said now is a perfect time to start a gratitude journal, or start and end each day by thinking of one thing that you are grateful for or one thing you accomplished.

She said self-compassion is the best thing to give yourself right now. "Really give yourself many hall passes right now," she said. "Let yourself give your kids a frozen pizza if you need a break, and take a break from social media that are creating that comparison in your brain," said Burkett. 

She urges parents and teens to pick one small thing to accomplish each day and re-frame this challenge as a new chance.

"Right now, we have the opportunity to slow down and be with the ones we love in special kinds of ways, even if it's online," said Burkett.

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She said one way to slow down your brain if you're having trouble de-stressing: try at least once a day to bring yourself into the present.

"Noticing all your senses in the moment can help you do that," said Burkett. "Allow yourself to listen to the birds."

As small as it may seem, Burkett said, just a few seconds taking slow deep breaths and reconnecting with your senses can bring a sense of power and peace.

"We're not going to get it perfect, and it's going to bring discomfort, and accepting that rather than fighting against it can ease some anxiety," she said.

Burkett said it's more important than ever to connect with people, and don't forget about those who don't have technology like FaceTime or Zoom. Even a quick phone call to an elderly relative can bring a lot of happiness to that person while they're alone.

The main thing to remember, Burkett said, is we are all experiencing something together, but everyone will react differently. She said taking a pause to understand how your family members are processing their emotions can help everyone function more peacefully at home.

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Best prevention measures:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least twenty seconds.
  • If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces


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