How to Help Your Family Cope with COVID-19 Anxiety

“Working together with your family can be really helpful.”

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“We are in uncharted waters here with this pandemic,” says Susan Samuels, MD, psychiatrist at NewYork-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medicine. After all, you’ve probably never been under a stay-at-home order, or had to help your student complete their school year online, or been unable to visit your parents, nieces and nephews, and friends. 

You and your family members are likely spending a lot of time together now, so it’s beneficial to work together to cope with the stress of COVID-19. If each individual family member is less stressed, it will likely bring more peace and stability to the whole crew.

“These are just a few things that you can do to help you and your family navigate this difficult time,” says Dr. Samuels. 

1. Control news exposure

Let’s be honest: If you watch some of the 24-hour news programs, there’s very little information that’s actually “new” or “breaking.” Knowledge is empowering, but you can get all the info you need by just watching a short segment of the news at night—or simply by checking for updates on the websites for your local or state government, or for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

2. Nurture meaningful connections

“We don't have as much ability to see our extended family,” says Dr. Samuels. “Make sure that you maintain those contacts in a way that is helpful to you and comforting to you.”

Learn more about finding emotional connection while social distancing here

3. Stick to a routine

You may no longer have a morning commute, or have to rush home from work to attend your daughter’s softball games, but finding a new routine while social distancing can give you and your family a sense of stability. For example, you could commit to having breakfast together as a family each morning, or to going on a walk together after work.

4. Practice self-care

“You have to take care of yourself first before you're in a place to be able to really, truly be present for the rest of your family and help take care of them,” says Dr. Samuels. That means making sure you’re getting enough sleep, eating a well-balanced diet, staying active, relaxing, and limiting alcohol and other substances.

Activities to cope with anxiety as a family “help really hold us together during a time that can be very unpredictable, and working together with your family can be really helpful,” says Dr. Samuels.