Erica Djossa, a mom and registered psychotherapist from Toronto, Canada, is discussing how she's been handling pandemic-related stress. After sharing a graphic that detailed what parents have on their plates titled, "The Invisible Load of Motherhood: COVID Edition," she broke down a few little ways we can take care of ourselves while trying to juggle 24/7 parenting, working, and virtual learning.
In an effort to implement a sense of normalcy for her family amid the chaos, Erica is urging families to create new traditions whenever possible. "I've been allowing myself to feel sad while also creating new meaning and traditions during this time," she told POPSUGAR. "This looked like setting up an entire ice cream sundae bar with all kinds of toppings and the kids we absolutely thrilled with being able to make the most extravagant sundaes."
For Canadian Thanksgiving — which takes place Oct. 12 — Erica made it a point to celebrate with her family from afar. "Many of my friends cooked meals and delivered them to friends and family members," she explained. "It is not the same as being gathered together, but it brightens others day and makes you feel good when you do kind acts for others."
According to Erica, it's normal to feel pangs of loss or guilt right now, and there's no reason to be shy about expressing those feelings. "We are all experiencing collective loss," she explained. "We are grieving the way things used to be and it is hard. It can bring intense feelings of sadness. It is OK to feel sad, to acknowledge our own disappointment with the way things are. While others may have it more difficult than your current situation, it doesn't mean that your feelings should be minimized or invalidated."
"When my boys climb into my lap, I use all of my five senses to sear that feeling into my mind."
Erica often encourages her clients to "name it to tame it," meaning that they should acknowledge their sadness, moments of hopelessness, and grief. "When you feel that way take care of yourself the way you would a good friend," she said. "You can be experiencing loss and still have moments of joy. You can feel sad and engage in self-care to bring moments of laughter or relief. Our emotions are in motion, they are not static. When the world is heavy and sad, that doesn't mean that every moment in our day is bad. We can embrace moments of joy and gratitude."
As a parent, Erica recommends taking time throughout the day to savor the things you're thankful for, no matter how small. "When my boys climb into my lap, I use all of my five senses to sear that feeling into my mind," she said. "How their snuggles feel, how they smell, how their little voices sound, and then another one joins, it turns into a wrestling match and the moment has ended. We can intentionally focus on and seek out the good in our lives, and that will help us to get through the hard and dark moments."
Additionally, Erica broke down two types of coping skills that parents should make an effort to integrate into their daily lives:
Social Coping Skills: "Anything we do for enjoyment and support that involve others, such as coffee dates, a phone call, texting a friend, mommy groups and so on," she explained. "These supports have been deprived during COVID and have gone virtual."
Solo Coping Skills: "These are activities that can be engaged in independently that help to restore your capacity," said Erica. "Play and creativity are very rejuvenating forms of solo coping, but this can also look like moving your body, getting out into nature, reading a book, taking a bath, doing a puzzle, learning a new skill, and so on. Creativity and play are my favourite solo coping skills as they involve activities we do just for the sake of doing them, out of pure enjoyment. This can look like writing, sketching, painting, music, photography, crafting, making, decorating, organising, building, or constructing."