Identifying Coping Mechanisms During the COVID-19 Outbreak

These are stressful days, there’s no doubt about that. We have literally no idea how long the quarantine will last, and what the effects will be on or lives – both short term and long term.

Over the last few days, I’ve been observing my own family’s coping mechanisms with the ongoing developments and it's interesting how different we all are, and how we are seemingly able to complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses…thus far…we are only a few days into ‘sheltering in place’ after all.

 The Governor of California, Gavin Newsom ordered that Friday, March 20, at 12.01 am, all Californians ‘shelter in place’. Essentially meaning that life as we knew it, ground to a halt.

We are a family of 6. Mom, dad, 3 girls and our beloved dog. Our extended family is in Europe – England, and Denmark. It’s just the ‘6’ of us here – no cousins, no aunties and uncles, and no grandparents this side of ‘the pond’. That has been, at times, hard for us as working parents and not just working parents, but small business owners. There has been no other set of hands to ‘lighten the load’. However, that has also made us very close. We enjoy each other’s company and seek each other out to spend time together. We really do enjoy each other’s company.

‘Sheltering in place’ brings out characteristics in our personalities, that might not have been obvious before.

Apparently, my own go-to stress coping mechanism is to clean and organize. I go into overdrive trying to take control of the situation by making action charts for our 8-year-old (in the hope that she will do something other than play on her iPad all day) and raking a winter’s worth of leaves on the hillside of our garden.

Our 8-year-old chats with her friends on facetime and schedules the next time they can talk. She is also taking advantage of her whole family being home by rotating through playdates with each family member – ping-pong with dad, walking the dog with her sisters and basketball with me. Play is where it’s at for her.

Our 16-year-old goes to her creative side. She brought out the watercolor paints and will happily sit for hours painting, or will braid hair until there’s no more hair left to braid. She’s also good for a mid-morning and/or a mid-afternoon nap.

Our 19-year-old likes schedule and order. She is currently enjoying Spring Break (I’m pretty sure it’s not how she expected it to be in her first year of college). She has created a schedule for herself that consists of taking the dog for a morning walk, working-out and then delivering Door Dash food for local restaurants – all while covered with a face-mask and sterile gloves. Today, we took time out of 'sheltering in place' to move both her and her roommate out of student housing, essentially ending her freshman year in March. She will not return now until the start of the next school year - shifting to online classes for the rest of the academic year.

My husband goes from person to person, spending a little time with each, making sure their spirits are up and they are being proactive about their physical and mental health. A little game here, a mental pep-talk there. 'The Coach' is his go-to coping mechanism.

The Dog is living his best life. He's never been happier. He sleeps in and doesn't get out of bed until the last 'man' does. He has his 5 favorite people at home and each of them is spending more time with him than usual - a little snuggle here, a back rub there. He and our 8-year-old are the only ones that hope quarantine is not quite over yet.

During this time, it’s probably healthiest to lean-into our positive, naturally occurring personality traits. What are yours? What are your family members?

Tune in next week to learn if we are still seeking out each other's company. ;) 

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