Momdemic  Stress

Momdemic Stress

By Contributing Writer Darién Castillo

Worn out by endless Zoom calls, household chores that seem to double every week, the stress of juggling work and family tasks? Pandemic life has certainly taken its toll on almost everyone and seems to be hitting moms the hardest, especially those with younger children. The constant stress of managing multiple lives at once is contributing to a staggering 93% of mothers in the US saying they feel burned out, while 16% feel burned out all of the time (according to a recent survey by Motherly). It is also no surprise that 74% of moms say they feel mentally worse since the start of the pandemic, while 63% say they have been managing household responsibilities and chores mostly by themselves.

The constant multitasking and invisible labor involved in managing household and family life, also known as the mental load, typically falls on women’s shoulders and pandemic life has amplified it. Many mothers wonder how much more they can take. In serious cases, the stress of quarantine can manifest itself in the forms of depression, anxiety, and/or severe insomnia that contributes to feelings of mental and physical exhaustion.

So how to fight burnout? There are of course general strategies that you probably hear over and over such as spend time outdoors, find time to exercise, sign up for online yoga or meditation classes, read, and try to stay socially active. But what about those who find themselves managing work zooming, their young children’s zoom schooling, making grocery lists, throwing in a load of laundry and breakfast all before 9am? Finding even 10-15 minute ‘rest breaks’ throughout the day is a strategy recommended by psychological experts. Another is trying to limit the number of zoom work meetings and replacing some with phone meetings and email.  It can also be beneficial to stay away from social media or other news outlets during your downtime, as these will inevitably introduce more things to worry about when you should be unwinding. Similarly, you can completely cut yourself off from technology during the small breaks you find for yourself throughout the day. For more tips, visit the resources below:

UCI Health: Coping with Mommy Burnout

HBR: Combating Burnout as a Single Working Parent

Coping with Stress

Coping with Stress

By: Gabriel Vitug
High School Student & Guest Author

When we encounter a threatening situation, our bodies go into fight, flight or freeze mode. This reaction was extremely beneficial in pre-modern society. However, instead of being at risk of being eaten by a saber-toothed tiger, modern humans face stress in their jobs, relationships, or finances. Since stressors are all around us, some might find themselves in this hyper-alert mode constantly which can cause chronic tension. Some people may also be more prone to stress due to their genetics, upbringing, or environment.

The biology behind stress.

When we face a threat, the hypothalamus (a tiny region in your brain’s base) sets off an alarm that causes a domino effect. In response, adrenal glands located atop of the kidneys release adrenaline and cortisol into the body. Adrenaline increases your heart rate, causes a rise in blood pressure, and boosts energy supplies. Cortisol on the other hand suppresses bodily functions that would be non-essential in a fight or flight situation. Non-essential functions include the digestive system, reproductive system, and the growth process. This intricate alarm system also communicates with the brain’s regions that control mood, motivation, and fear.

The negative effects of chronic stress.

Chronic stress is the constant, prolonged exposure to stress. This can be very damaging to your health. According to the Mayo Clinic, the long term health problems include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Digestive problems
  • Headaches
  • Heart disease
  • Sleep problems
  • Weight gain
  • Memory and concentration impairment

What are the different ways to relieve stress?

Stress is a normal part of life and there’s no way around it. You may have no control over your situation. Still, there are plenty of ways to ease stress in a healthy way. The Mayo Clinic recommends the following stress management strategies:

  • Eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise and plenty of sleep
  • Practicing relaxation techniques such as trying yoga, practicing deep breathing, getting a massage or learning to meditate
  • Exercise, such as walking, strength training, or swimming
  • Taking time for hobbies, such as reading a book or listening to music
  • Fostering healthy friendships
  • Having a sense of humor
  • Volunteering in your community
  • Seeking professional counseling when needed

Practicing these stress management techniques works because they are able to keep you preoccupied. Personally, an effective stress reliever for me is connecting with friends. Meeting up with friends either physically or over the internet is a great way for me to de-stress and take my mind off things.

Being able to manage stress in a healthy way could offer you “peace of mind and perhaps a longer, healthier life.

Works Cited

Mayo Clinic. “Chronic stress puts your health at risk.” Mayo Clinic, 19 March 2019,
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20046037. Accessed 3 June 2021
Harvard Health. “Exercising to Relax.” Harvard Health Publishing, 7 July 2020,
https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/exercising-to-relax. Accessed 3 June 2021
Harvard Health. “5 of the best exercises you can ever do” Harvard Health Publishing, 7 July
2020, https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/5-of-the-best-exercises-you-can-ever-do. Accessed 4 June 2021

How to Recognize Our Emotions

How to Recognize Our Emotions

By: Gabriel Vitug
Guest Writer

When it comes to coping with anxiety, an effective first step is to recognize our emotions. However, identifying emotions and what causes them can be daunting at first. Below is a step by step guide that will help you through the process.

Step 1: Take your emotional temperature.

To take your emotional temperature, try to evaluate what you feel, mentally, emotionally, and physically whenever you experience anxiety or are overwhelmed by stress. Ask yourself, how do I feel? Whatever that may be, it is important to be specific. Try to avoid vague statements such as “fine” or “okay.” To help you identify and name different emotions, here’s a feelings wheel. Next, identify which emotions are the strongest and try to pinpoint when you started feeling this way. Take your time, the key is to be thorough.

Don’t forget to acknowledge the positive emotions. Identifying the feelings that enrich our lives is also very important. Documenting your responses can be beneficial to the process as well. This way, you can easily come back and pick up where you left off.

Step 2: Identify what causes your emotions.

Once you have taken your emotional temperature, identify what triggers certain emotions. Just like the previous step, being specific and thorough is crucial. To do this, think about a moment where you felt anxious. Try to pick apart that moment. Are you talking to someone new? Or are you overwhelmed by multiple looming deadlines at school or work? Also, try to consider emotional reactions to situations you have no control over such as world events or dreams.

Step 3: Self-compassion.

Feeling guilty for feeling anxious is a common mistake we make. Try being kinder to yourself; talk to yourself like you would a friend. Another mistake people make is ignoring their emotions. In an article for Psychology Today, Dr. Joan Cusack Handler says that “feelings function like a pressure cooker: Pressure increases without release. Then, once released, the intensity is reduced. The corollary is the fact that feelings that are denied or dismissed do NOT diminish in size or disappear, but are intensified.”

I can definitely attest to Dr. Handler’s previous statement. Before learning about coping strategies and anxiety in general, whenever I felt strong emotions, I’d always try to bottle them up and wait for them to go away. Spoiler alert: these emotions never went away. It wasn’t until I started being more proactive that I started to feel better. To learn some effective strategies, check out our article on coping with stress.

Unless our emotions are negatively impacting others around us, we should remind ourselves that what we feel is valid. But If dealing with emotions ever becomes too much to handle on your own, reach out to a mental health professional.

Works Cited

Turrell et al. The Mindfulness & Acceptance Workbook for Teen Anxiety. New Harbinger
Publications.
Handler, Joan Cusack. “Identifying Your Feelings.” Psychology Today, 19 January 2018,
https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/art-and-science/201801/identifying-your-feelings. Accessed 1 June 2021.

Coping with COVID-19 Stress

Coping with COVID-19 Stress

By Contributing Writer Darién Castillo

With more and more people getting vaccinated in the US, it appears like the end to the quarantine experience is just around the corner. Some dealt with the emotional toll of the pandemic by finding new creative outlets, such as baking bread, socially-distanced nature walks, picking up new hobbies, maybe even writing a book. But not all people experienced the pandemic in the same way. With a death toll of over 1 million worldwide, the Pandemic certainly inflicted much loss and grief onto communities. And, many who survived Covid continue to experience lingering health and mental health issues. Aside from the physical consequences inflicted directly by the virus, many have also been affected by fear of the virus itself or by extended periods of loneliness during quarantine isolation. Even as Covid restrictions appear to be coming to an end, the physical and psychological consequences persist.

If you or a loved one still suffer from psychological impacts caused by the pandemic, you are not alone. After more than a year of isolation depression, anxiety and social anxiety have been on the rise.  Symptoms may include mental or physical fatigue/exhaustion, lack of motivation, or anxiety about social interactions.

Fortunately, these symptoms are manageable and treatable. If you are anxious about socializing or interacting with large groups of people, start slow. Meet up with one or two people, then slowly expand your social circle to a point that feels comfortable. Follow pandemic safety protocols such as social distancing and wearing masks, and larger social interactions will inevitably begin to feel more natural. Small communal activities such as book/movie clubs or outdoor visits are a great way to reintegrate social interaction into one’s life.

For essential workers as well as those just returning to in-person work environments, it is important to take frequent breaks and get plenty of rest. Consistent sleep schedules can improve one’s mental health greatly as well.  Mental and physical wellness programs are a great tool to take advantage of, as some companies offer them to employees and their families. You may also want to seek professional help through therapy and teletherapy, a safe and convenient alternative to in-person counseling sessions. However you may be feeling now, it is important to remember that these symptoms do not last forever, and that however long it may take, life will eventually begin to feel normal again.

Visit these resources for coping strategies (updated):

Coping With Stress – CDC

Mental Health and COVID-19 Information and Resources

NIH Shareable Resources on Coping With COVID-19 Related Mental Health Issues

Resources for Employees and Workers: Pandemic Stress and Anxiety

For additional resources in San Diego County, call the Access and Crisis Line 24/7 at 1-888 724-7240. If you or a loved one is experiencing a mental health emergency, call 911 or visit the nearest Emergency Room (ER).