Managing your stress, expectations while social distancing at home

Managing your stress, expectations while social distancing at home

PITTSBURGH — In times like these, community is what truly matters. We’ve seen countless stories of people across our area stepping up to help their neighbors.

However, we also need to help ourselves and manage our stress.

There’s a lot to be stressed about: not working, working from home, spouses, kids, homework, pets and worrying if a family member or friend will get sick.

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Jack Cahalane, PhD, MPH, MSW, Senior Director at UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital, said it’s important to set realistic expectations.

“To expect that your family is in the same place when you’re confined, it's realistic that you may have more conflict. People may bump into each other - both physically and psychologically,” he said.

UPMC experts said it’s important to know everyone is going through this and there are ways to help you manage.

“It can be helpful to at least start with normalizing and accepting the fact that with COVID-19 comes with uncertainty and rather than focusing on things that are outside our control or things that we don’t have definitive answers to, it’s really key to turn our attentions and focus to things that are within our control,” said Dr. Jennifer Beckjord, Senior Director of Clinical Services at UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital.

Those things include practicing good hygiene and social distancing, but also know that in smaller spaces there will be conflict.

“To accept that that’s going to happen, and you can work thru that,” said Cahalane. “That’s a process you can work thru. In fact, by talking about some of these things, might give families and opportunity to actually improve some of the relationships by focusing and talking about them when they might not normally do that. One of the ways families can do that is by having family meetings.”

When you need that space away from your family to work or just to breathe, one solution can be to make up different zones within your home.

“Ideally, it would be good to set up a separate workspace, so whether that’s a separate room or a sectioned off area,” Beckjord said. “Set up your work needs, like your laptop, your computer, your phone, etc., in a place that has adequate lighting, minimal distractions. You want to do the same for your children for their schoolwork as well.”

Beckjord suggests setting aside specific times for work and family then sharing that schedule with everyone in the household.

You can find the latest information on UPMC’s response to COVID-19 at