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Kat Keigher is an English teacher at Menlo-Atherton High School. She lives in the East Bay with her husband, two kids, her sister, and her sister’s two cats. She has an MA, Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction, and she’s currently working toward an MA, Ed. in Educational Technology. When she’s not teaching, she runs Big Noggin Baby, a small online business selling sewing patterns.
Managing Anxiety and Depression is Always a Challenge
If you’re like me, the COVID-19 global pandemic is challenging all of your best-laid mental health plans. As a teacher, I’m trying to keep in touch with my students, making sure they are doing their work online, and making sure I’m available when they need help. As a student, I need to keep up with my own online studies. As a parent, my husband and I are now splitting homeschooling and full-time childcare. As an introvert, I’m finding very little alone time in our crowded house. And as someone with anxiety and depression, self-care sometimes seems like a laughable pipe dream.
Now it’s even more challenging…
The first two weeks of the Bay Area’s shelter-in-place were a stark wake-up call for my own mental health needs. I was getting chest pains every night. I would have “busy brain” at four in the morning. I was snapping at my kids and husband for seemingly no reason. I needed to change something for all of our sakes.
Here’s what has helped me get back into a good place:
Have a Schedule
Block out time each day to tackle those tasks which cause you the most anxiety if left unchecked. For me, it’s work and school. To make sure it gets done, I set my alarm each morning and get dressed just like I’m going into the classroom. I grab my coffee and set up at my work station for some uninterrupted productivity.
Consider what is realistic and what is necessary. I don’t like working after dinner, so I don’t schedule it into my day. Know yourself and commit to it. Try to limit distractions during this time, and if you have a co-parent, be clear with them about what you need in order to be productive.
Communicate with your support system about where you are, emotionally. When my anxiety spikes, instead of trying to ignore it or pretend like I’m fine, I tell my husband how I’m feeling, even if I don’t know what might help. This has helped cut down on household tension because everyone has a better gauge of where others are at.
Be honest with your children too! If you’re having a rough time, do your best to explain it to them. My kids often know what I need, even if I don’t. Sometimes an unprompted hug is enough to bring me out of an anxiety spiral.
Take Care of Yourself
Do what makes you happy, and don’t do what aggravates your anxiety. Schedule time for a craft, reading, or Netflix binge. Avoid looking at the news, or ask your partner to handle that one household chore that you hate. If something must get done, make it “me” time with a podcast, audiobook, or your favorite new album.
Whatever usually helps will help now. Since we can’t see our therapists in person, ask about a video or phone appointment. Take a shower. Take your medication. Take a walk.
Remember, you can’t give what you don’t have. Whether it’s family, friends, job, or school, without the distraction of our day-to-day routine, it can seem like everyone need something from you. But if you don’t take care of yourself first, there is no way to be there for others. My mom used to say to me: “Control the controllables.” I repeat this to myself when I’m feeling overwhelmed. Take control of what you can, so you have more to give to those around you when they need it.
How are you managing anxiety and depression in this new now? Tag Kat on Instagram with your ideas at @katkeigher.