- Pamela Newman, LCSW-C
Happy Pandem-a-versary everyone! It’s been almost a year since we have been quarantined in Maryland
and this has certainly been the most challenging year of most of our lives. It’s important to pause and
congratulate ourselves for making it through this year. Although there is no clear end in sight, hopefully
things will be back to more of a sense of normalcy soon.
As we move into March, I am reminded of my college days. I attended a Big-10 school and March
Madness was a huge part of my college experience. I loved the energy of basketball games, the school
spirit and the fun of it all. March Madness meant excitement and bonding with peers.
When I worked at a High School for several years, March Madness had a completely different meaning. I began to recognize how difficult this part of the year can be for most students. This time of year, we saw the most behavior issues and kids were showing that they were struggling. Even students who hadn’t had any issues in the past were entrenched in drama with other students. Keep in mind, in a typical school year, there are no real Holidays after President’s Day until Spring Break (aside from the possible snow day). It’s still cold outside with no breaks in sight, so everyone started to get a bit stir crazy.
In 2020, March Madness had yet another meaning. People fighting over toilet paper, cleaning supplies, masks and hand sanitizer. It’s hard to believe that was a year ago now. Most of us did not predict that we would still be locked down at this point. But, here we are, March Madness of 2021.
With this in mind, it’s especially important for us to check in with ourselves and gauge how we are
managing everything. Parents, you might notice your kids getting especially antsy or irritable. Many of
us are feeling signs of burn out such as feeling depleted, cynical, having changes in sleep patterns,
difficulty concentrating or general malaise. Teens, you might realize that your parents have a shorter
fuse than normal.
Remember, this has been a year full of chronic stress and trauma. We are all feeling drained and just
“over it.” With this in mind, here is another list of tips that you may have read elsewhere, but it’s a good
reminder. If this list sounds familiar, challenge yourself to actually try some of the things on this list. Ask
yourself, what is keeping me from implementing these tools?
1) Go easy on yourself. This can be a maddening part of the year in normal circumstances.
Recognize when you are being hard on yourself or getting frustrated for making mistakes or
having difficulty focusing. When our brains are under chronic stress, they do not function as
effectively. A lot of us are running on autopilot right now. Try to catch any negative self-talk or
criticism when it’s happening. What this looks like: Become aware and curious of your internal
monologue. Tell yourself, “this is just a thought” and then ask yourself, “what would I tell a
friend in this circumstance?”
2) Take a break. We can’t pour from an empty cup and we can’t run on an empty engine. We need
to be doing things to replenish ourselves and try to reenergize ourselves. What this looks like:
step away from the screen, make a cup of tea, plan time with your partner or a family game
night, take a bath, work on a hobby, bake something. Plan time that is for you to rejuvenate.
3) Get outside. Most of us have been staring at the same four walls for what seems like an
eternity. What this looks like: Bundle up and try to go for a short walk. Sit in the sunshine. If you
can’t get outside, try and do some physical activity inside. Even 10 minutes is better than
4) Practice gratitude. It can be really difficult to do at this time, but it’s especially important. What
this looks like: Notice one thing each day you are thankful for. Try an app that has reminders to
practice gratitude daily. With your family, go around the dinner table and have everyone say
something they are grateful for daily.
5) Reach out to others. When we are feeling low or overwhelmed, it’s easy to isolate and avoid
others because we don’t want them to know that we are struggling or we don’t want to put that
pressure on them. Resist the urge to binge another show and pick up the phone to call
someone. What this looks like: Consider one person you keep thinking about; don’t hesitate –
send them a text while it’s on your mind and schedule a time to talk. Plan a zoom game night or
a fun activity.
Yes, this list may seem the same as ones you’ve seen in countless other articles, but there is a reason
why experts encourage these things. I encourage you to attempt at least one item on the list every day
and see if you notice some of the madness fade away. Stay strong. You’ve got this!