Like many, Heather Fritz, Community Outreach Specialist for MySpectrum is experiencing the new normal of virtual schooling. Here, she normalizes the feelings associated with virtual schooling and acknowledges the toll it can have on mental health.

Was I supposed to take a photo of that assignment and email it to his teacher?  Does my daughter have all of her dry erase markers?  Was that link supposed to be in Canvas, or was it emailed to us?  When is the Google meet with the principal to discuss returning to school…Wednesday or Thursday?  Do I have to attend both Google meets for both schools? I still need to figure out the differences between a simile and metaphor to help him study for his quiz Thursday…

……This is virtual elementary school for two children in 2020, and those are just a sampling of my thoughts before going to bed last night.

This year has been unexpected and startling in many ways, and virtual life is the new normal.  I understand the why. My husband’s aunt passed away over the summer from Coronavirus, and I know of at least a dozen families close to us that have experienced a death due to Covid-19.  I want our teachers and school personnel to be safe from the virus.  I also want my children and all of their friends to be safe and healthy.  I want to be safe and healthy.

But let’s be real, friends. This is HARD.  It’s hard on parents, students, teachers, AND school administrators.  I’m exhausted, taking two “lunches” from work daily so that my children don’t eat their lunch alone, and can’t keep all the emails from the schools or school systems straight.  My son (10yo) is bouncing around so much during virtual school that I’m considering replacing his seat with an exercise ball.  He’s an A/B student that has scored a 64 and 76 on his first two quizzes.  My daughter (7yo) looks bored most of the time when she’s staring at her screen and has been brought to tears at least twice a week because her assignments or links don’t load correctly.  She is becoming more technologically adept by the day but at what cost?  Teachers are working harder than ever only to be met with complaints and technological glitches that muddle their ability to educate.  School boards and school administrators are facing criticism from all sides and weighing the value of in-person learning against the value of complete safety.

Am I the only one who feels like there are no good options?  Like there is only MORE stress and uncertainty, no light at the end of this pandemic tunnel we are in?  I can’t emphasize enough the value of addressing your mental health during these times.  Take a walk, phone a friend, or increase your feel-good brain chemicals (dopamine) by exercising.  Use your insurance benefits or EAP benefits to seek out a therapist for you AND your children.  I’m admittedly very biased, but therapy can help unpack your stress suitcase.  You can talk through the problems and get guidance or feedback on different solutions.  Your children can play checkers while talking about how worried they are about returning to school.  Teens can talk openly about their anxiety, societal pressures they face, and have an adult walk them through ways to SOLVE, or at the very least manage, those stressors and pressures.  I started listening to books I wanted to read during the quarantine.  Why? Because a therapist suggested it to me after I complained about how much I enjoy reading but how little time I have for it while being a homeschool-parent-employee.  Now, with e-books, I can escape into a murder mystery or historical fiction while I go on my dopamine-inducing walks and runs.  It has been life changing, and it was a therapist that casually suggested I try it.

If you are looking for new ideas, new solutions, new ways to manage your stress or anxiety, or someone to help you prioritize your time and energy, find yourself a therapist! Therapy is designed to improve communication, coping skills, and help you find and develop your strengths while learning how to work through your weak points.  If your teen won’t talk to you, see if they’d be willing to speak to a therapist.  If your romantic relationship has taken a nose-dive due to too much time together and not enough space apart from each other, take your relationship to a therapist.  Let them walk you through your challenges and work through them together.  Take time for you, because you deserve it and your family needs you to be the best version of yourself right now, more than ever.  Call MySpectrum today: 804-924-2236.