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Times are hard. Parenting is hard. Pandemic parenting is even harder! We are facing obstacles we’d never thought we’d face. Working from home, loss of jobs, and loss of consistency in our options for childcare have left us reeling. Even if you had a stay-at-home parent in your house pre-pandemic, your world has been turned upside down just the same. You’re dealing with a loss of normalcy. After all, “stay-at-home” parenting doesn’t actually mean you stay in your home all the time. Your family’s favorite places to visit are now a “no go.” No parks. No zoo. No children’s museums. No play cafes. No grocery store trips. No nothing.

You are dealing with a huge shift in your normal routines. Your children have lost a sense of normalcy and are missing their routines too. Children thrive with routines and being able to know what comes next. This is a comfort we are not able to give them right now. None of us know with certainty what is next. We miss our routines. We miss our friends. We miss our normal.

Right now, we are all struggling to figure out what our new normal will look like, where we fit in this pandemic world.

So, what is the secret? How do we cope with stress and maintain peace of mind in the time of quarantine? How do we keep calm and not feel like we’re just flapping our arms in the pool trying to keep from drowning? Read on to find out!

Secrets to Coping with Stress in Quarantine – How to Keep Calm and Carry On  

1. Create a Loose Routine

Establishing a new routine is extremely important to maintaining good mental health and reducing stress during this difficult time. Like our children, routines help give us a sense of control. They help us know what’s coming next and help us to feel productive.

In the beginning of quarantine and the pandemic, after a couple weeks of thinking I could do this, I had some hard days where I just felt lost.

So, being me and the proactive over-planner that I am, I wrote down what my ideal day would look like – including exercise, art activities, and, well, EVERYTHING. Essentially, the schedule was way too packed and structured and didn’t work out long term.

BUT, what the schedule I created did do was get me out of the rut I was in and made me feel less frazzled. It was what I needed in that moment.

What our routine looks like now – Wake up, drink coffee, blog, kids wake up, read some books with the kids, take care of diapering, throw in a load of laundry as I make breakfast, make beds (my four-year-old has started to make her own bed!) and put on day clothes, go on a morning walk, activity, lunch, nap, activity, dinner, bedtime routine.

A loose routine gives you enough structure to feel normal, but enough flexibility to take in whatever the day throws at you. You know, like not sleeping at night because your toddler is cutting teeth or feeling anxious and depressed because, well after all, there is a pandemic going on and things are a bit touch and go. If you are following any news outlets or on social media, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with one little click.

Give yourself space for all the ups and downs. Create a loose schedule to help stay consistent during this stressful time. Don’t be upset if things don’t go strictly according to plan. Pandemic parenting is HARD. We need to have a little grace and a little flexibility right now.

2. Plan a couple activities but leave time for free play in your day.

Let your child do some of the work of entertaining themselves! Did you know that being able to choose an activity from several is a skill for your child to develop? When you incorporate free play into your schedule, you are building this skill!

You don’t HAVE to entertain your child ALL THE TIME, every single moment of every single day. (Maybe read that a second time.)

It’s ok for your child to feel bored. It is GOOD FOR THEM to learn to choose an activity by themselves. Let them know you need to work on dinner or lunch or whatever.

“I’m going to work on folding the laundry, so you can make your own choice about what to do right now!”

This will help you reduce your stress level during quarantine. Take the pressure off yourself to be your child’s entertainer 24/7. They will figure things out and if they need you, you aren’t far away.

Planning some activities to fill your time is still a must, just don’t go overboard and plan every single minute. If you’d like ideas on incorporating art into your home, this is a fantastic post to check out: 25 Art Activities to Inspire Your Child’s Creativity.

3. Make a Quarantine Bucket List

The Quarantine Bucket List has been my family’s saving grace. I am such a planner. Planning is a way for me to maintain my mental health. It is a strategy for managing anxiety and stress that gives me the feeling that I have a tiny bit of control over my life. It makes me feel like I will indeed get things done and accomplish my goals (eventually). Planning alleviates some of my worry.

Our Quarantine Bucket List allows me to feel productive and gives everyone in my family something to look forward to.

We’re on Quarantine Bucket List number five currently and my daughter is certain there will be a sixth edition. You can read “Secrets to Creating Your PERFECT Quarantine Bucket List” at this link or look for fun activities to add to your list HERE: The Ultimate Quarantine Bucket List.

I simply write a list of 20 – 30 activities and projects we’d like to accomplish on big brown craft paper using Sharpie markers. I post it on the wall where everyone can see it.

We put a heart next to each item on the list after we complete it. As the hearts stack up, I feel happy and accomplished, like we are still moving forward as a family. It makes me feel like our time at home in quarantine has been spent more in making memories than feeling stressed and uncertain.

Using the quarantine bucket list to focus our energies and set goals has helped ease some of my stress. This strategy allows you to make a plan without being too rigid or hard on yourself when you have a difficult day and life just doesn’t go as planned.

DEFINITELY a must have for me as a parent to feel focused and accomplished in quarantine!

4. Learn Something New – Learn a new skill, research a new interest, find a new hobby or discover a new you!

My family has tried dozens of new recipes since quarantine has become our new normal. We have always loved baking but my husband has recently discovered his love for bread making and he’s actually really good at it. Do you see that picture above? Yum!

We’ve done many new science experiments. We’ve tried new walking trails and new art projects. I’ve checked a few things off my bucket list like “Learn to make macaroons.”

Now is the time to do the things we never had time for, right? So, let’s get some things checked off our to do-list and set new goals! If not today, then when?

The difficult times in our lives are an opportunity for growth. The “something new” you learn about might just be YOU. Who are you? What brings you joy? What’s important to you? Now is the time to find out.

My daughter told our neighbor “We’re sort of an art, baking, book club.” She’s not wrong. We’ve spent way more time doing what we love since pandemic has hit: making art, baking and reading lots of books!

Find your something new to learn. Find out more about you and what makes your family unique! A journey of self-discovery is just the thing we need right now.

A challenge to conquer or something new to learn will help keep you moving forward in quarantine and avoid the depression that comes from feeling stuck!

5. Eat with Health in Mind

Soooo, I haven’t been the best at this one lately. Can you say “stress baking?”

This is a situation where you should “do as I say, not as I do.” I need to do a lot better at following my own advice where diet/nutrition is concerned. But eating well will DEFINITELY improve your mood and keep your hormones in balance so that you don’t feel so frazzled and anxious.

I do enjoy eating nutrient rich foods and can feel the difference in my body and mind when I’m eating well.

One of our family favorite meals (children included!) is salmon, roasted Brussel sprouts and rice pilaf. It’s nearly always on our meal plan and a meal that makes me feel good! A new meal we’ve added to the meal rotation, since the lockdowns have started, is spinach salad with grilled chicken and a side of Rosemary Focaccia (because we need some delicious bread as a side when we eat salad as a main course!)

I’ve never been on a diet. My goal is simply to eat more fruits and veggies, drink more water, and have variety in my diet. When I’m focused on eating well and seeking out more nutrient rich foods, I find I just fill up on more of the good stuff and don’t eat so much junk. It’s not fancy, but it works for me.

One thing is for certain though, I ALWAYS feel better when I eat well. So, take this one to heart. Eat with nutrition in mind and you’ll stay more balanced with less highs and lows in your mood while in quarantine!

6. Get Outside

Can I get an “Amen?!” Outside time is crucial in my home, not only for my children, but for me!

I crave outside time in the garden and in the sun. We all need fresh air and to not be confined to the same four walls. My children need time to run around and have a few less restrictions like “don’t climb on the bookshelf”.

The other day my daughter asked, “Mom, why can we do whatever we want outside?!” It’s not that my children can do whatever they want while outside, there are just far fewer restrictions to follow. They can play in the dirt and make a mess. They can climb trees. They can be as loud as they want without my ears feeling like they’ll explode.

Outside time is a more relaxed time for everyone and I cherish the time we spend outdoors. If you can, spend time outside, it will certainly improve your mood during quarantine.

***Side note: 98% of the time when we come in from being outside, the whole family requires a clothes change and often the children need baths. I wouldn’t have it any other way!***  

7. Exercise

Whatever works for you in terms of exercise, do that! If going on walks and having dance parties with your kids is what you can fit in in terms of exercise, do that! Your body will thank you. Your mood will be better.

My husband took up running, and he is really loving it and feeling like it helps him physically and mentally. Me? I hate running. If you see me running, please join me because there must be something very wrong. I’m probably being chased. I fit in the “dance party and walk” category. If that’s you, too, you do you! Not everyone is a runner and, personally, I’m fine with that. Embrace who you are!

If you don’t like the way you feel, however, try something new and go run! Or try yoga! I do like yoga.

8. Find Alone Time and/or Connect with a Friend Daily Using Technology

During quarantine, it seems people are either getting way too much alone time or no alone time whatsoever. There is no middle ground.

Families, especially those with small children, are spending ALL their time together. If you’re an introvert, like me, having no alone time can cause a big problem! You need time alone to decompress and recharge mentally.

At the same time, my extrovert father who lives with just my mom is going CRAZY not being able to see his people every day. I try to at the least Facetime him every morning to connect with him. We have also established a routine of weekly Zoom calls with my family to stay connected that way. I’ve sent snail mail out to several people as another way to stay connected.

Try to create meaningful connections and reach out to the people you care about in a safe, socially distanced way. Quarantine can be a time of building the relationships you care about but have been too busy to maintain.  

9. Look into buying a few new toys and boredom busters

To help ease the loss of all the cool experiences your family is missing out on at the parks, children’s museums, etc… look into bolstering your toy collection, children’s library and art supplies. I like to call these our “pandemic purchases”.

In addition to stocking up on food, we also bought a water table, a splash pad, tree blocks, a new convertible tricycle for my son, and a few new books to help entertain our children at home.

We’ve also spent time creating new toys for outside. My husband built an amazing planter for our children to explore gardening and digging in the dirt. He built a Pikler triangle and a balance beam, and a little block house set out of a two by four. So many projects that my children have loved!

Let’s be honest, entertainment is a MUST-HAVE to survive at home with kids during quarantine. If you’re looking to boost the entertainment in your home check out my post: Best Gifts for ANY Occasion! This post has fantastic ideas for toys that will help get you through these difficult days of social distancing.

10. Look forward to the future, enjoy the present, and give yourself a heaping ton of grace and compassion.

You’re rocking this whole pandemic thing. You’re giving it your best. It is just HARD. No decision is easy right now. Give yourself the same grace and understanding you strive to give your children. If you’re trying right now to not loose your mind and get yourself out of your rut, I give you an A. If you need to seek help from a professional, I encourage you to do so. It takes strength to seek the help you need. Good days and bad days happen. Bad days don’t make you a failure; they make you human.

You’ve got this. If you’re going a little crazy right now, I’m right there with you! I’m not perfect. I’m a human. I’m a mom that worries and has anxiety. I watch the news and feel like covering my eyes. I’m struggling alongside you as a mom of two trying to do what’s best for my family.

These secrets to staying home with kids in quarantine are strategies I’m currently using and have found to be really helpful. I don’t always get it right. But, I try to take every day as it comes and give myself grace to be human. As I write this, I remind myself to stay focused on living in the moment, soak in the giggles of my children and the small victories that happen throughout our days.

It’s not easy right now, but growing is never painless. Times are hard and we are growing. Try to help each other out on the hardest days and try out these secrets to coping with stress and staying home during quarantine with your kids. You won’t regret it!

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