A problem shared… In a sanity saving new column, GP and mother-of-four Clare Bailey gives her indispensible advice…
- One woman asks how to juggle her job with also homeschooling her children
- She explains she was overwhelmed and gasping for air after it became too much
- Clare explains how she probably had a panic attack and gives her some advice
Q: After last year’s lockdown my husband and I agreed I should go part-time in my job as an administrator as it was impossible for us both to hold down full-time jobs and homeschool our children, aged seven, nine and 12. But I am feeling even more overwhelmed this time and worry about the future.
There is no quiet place to retreat to as my husband works in our bedroom. Yesterday I had to lock myself in the bathroom when my head started to spin and I began gasping for air. I don’t know what’s happening to me.
In a sanity saving new column, GP and mother-of-four Clare Bailey (pictured) gives her indispensible advice…
A: I’m sorry things are so difficult for you. The restrictions of Covid-19, and the juggling of children, homeschooling and work is likely to have an impact on your stress levels.
It sounds like you had a panic attack — experiencing overwhelming anxiety, hyperventilating, unable to catch your breath with your heart pounding. It can occur almost out of the blue, but it’s not dangerous and usually settles after five to 30 minutes.
My husband Michael Mosley had a panic attack while we were in strict quarantine in Australia. He has mild claustrophobia and being shut in a hotel room without being able to open the window or door felt overwhelming.
Anxiety can temporarily shut down your ability to think clearly. Lockdown has cruelly removed your support systems and heightened the stresses of family life; trying to keep everyone safe, happy, occupied, fed, watered, exercised and educated, while also keeping up with work commitments, can feel almost impossible. Here are the strategies I recommend.
One woman asks how to juggle her job with also homeschooling her children (stock image)
1. Try distracting yourself: count backwards, look out of the window or do the 4-2-4 breathing exercise. Breathe in through your nose for the count of 4, hold for 2, breathe out gently through your mouth to 4. Repeat to slow your heart rate.
2. Build a structure to the day as it will reduce decision-making and potential arguments. Have meals at set times and agree screen times. Schedule occasional treats like a takeaway, board game or family film.
3. Plan something to enjoy and even if you don’t feel like it at first, just do it! A socially-distanced walk with a friend in daylight, a long bath, or relaxing with a glossy magazine.
4. Exercise can boost mood and reduce anxiety. Try online pilates, strength training, yoga — whatever you enjoy.
5. Eat well: Unprocessed ‘Mediterranean-style’ foods rich in veg, fruit, nuts, fish, olive oil, seeds, and some meat and dairy, along with reducing sweet and highly processed foods, can improve mood.
6. Your children will be stressed, too. Try spending ten minutes a day with each, engaged in an activity where they are in charge and you are an appreciative audience. It builds relationships and helps unravel stress.
7. Cut yourself some slack; it’s fine to drop standards. I’ve abandoned the ironing!
8. Mindfulness can reduce anxiety: try oxfordmindfulness.org for free sessions.
Finally, don’t ruminate about things you can’t change. If you lose the plot, apologise and ask for help, you are only human. It helps to talk to a friend, family or a professional.
Or go to anxietyuk.org.uk. And remember: this won’t last for ever.
With much of the NHS overwhelmed by Covid, nearly 1 in 3 women have missed their cervical smear, for fear of catching it.
It’s really important to have this potentially life-saving test, as it picks up the very early signs of cell abnormalities that could lead to cancer, at a stage where it can be easily prevented or treated.
Most women eligible for a smear test are 25 to 64, so are not in the Covid groups most at risk, and should rest reassured that appropriate protection measures will be taken. The NHS is still open for you.
DON’T TV SLUMP LIKE MICHAEL!
Eye specialists report that constant goggling at screens can cause dry, sore eyes, or excessive watering, not to mention headaches if you’re slumped on the sofa with a bent neck.
I should remind my husband Michael, left, of this — by the end of a couple of episodes of Bridgerton, he had slid right down with his bottom almost touching the floor.
Sitting for a prolonged period is bad for your heart, and don’t get me going on what we eat while we watch. Try to look away from your TV or computer screen for 20 seconds, every 20 minutes and don’t forget to frequently blink fully.
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