Guest Opinion: This is stressful!

Published 8:11 am Monday, April 6, 2020

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By Olivia Patchel

So . . . How are you doing? I bet everyone is asking you that right now. I get asked several times a day and I say things like, “this is crazy, but we will get through it.” In my head, I am thinking, “We are not doing fine at all” . . . “This is not okay.” But like everyone else, I am staying home for those who might not fare so well if they were to be infected with COVID-19. Then I remind myself I am going crazy for the greater good!

I had a thought almost two weeks into this self-imposed stay at home, “Why am I going crazy?” What makes this so stressful for me? Our response to the situation has been so quick I have had no time to process what has happened to my very ordinary life. While in the shower, where all great ideas begin, I finally determined what is causing my stress levels to be so high. I feel paralyzed by the number of decisions I have to make on the daily basis. I am suffering from decision fatigue.

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Follow me, if you will, through this idea. Do you decide when to get up, or is that based on when you need to be at work? Do you decide what to wear or if you should brush your teeth, or is that decision made for you by those you will see today? All these decisions are based on the fact that we know what we are going to be doing every day. And currently, no one has that kind of life. So do you care about brushing your teeth or getting dressed when you know you will just be commuting to the other side of the house for work?

I have an idea for us all. Let’s stop! Let’s take a moment to look at our current situation and find some things we can control and what our days look like now. I am a big proponent of a daily routine. Time management, self-help books and tons of articles on successful business sites all agree that making decisions about everything can wear out your brainpower. So until this point, I have lived my life by a routine; it may be flexible, but it is still a routine. I get up, workout, eat breakfast, wake up my son, make him breakfast, get ready, get him ready, drop him off at daycare, go to work. What I need – and maybe you do too without realizing it – is a routine for this new way of life. So how do we go about doing this?

First, I encourage you to meet with your new co-workers – your family. Then decide what needs to get done every day. You should probably brush your teeth, some work needs to happen and some school work, also three meals a day need to be prepared and eaten. These are simple things you know have to happen, so schedule them.

Second, allot an amount of time each task should typically take. An hour for each meal to be prepared and eaten is reasonable, a few hours in the morning of school work, and regular work, and then maybe you and your other adult co-worker split the afternoon up. Can you take turns playing or doing crafts while the other works – or my preference – hide in the closet and eat the last of the ice cream!?

Third, schedule in some time for yourself. Typically you go to work, your partner leaves, your kids leave, you are not all together, all the time. You need a little time to yourself to relax, journal, workout, meditate or just stare into space doing nothing. I wager this is the most critical time of your day. So keep this sacred. In this time, when we are all together, separately, be alone.

Fourth, schedule some time for each other, too. We have been unwillingly given this incredible gift to spend time with the people we love the most. If you are like me recently, I have decided I never really liked these people. And I wonder, “why do they live with me anyway?” However, now is a time when we could reframe our mindset and look on the bright side moving forward. If not for the health and safety of our families, for ourselves. In this time, there is no need to drive ourselves or our kids to the brink of madness. So each day, schedule your family time. For instance, we have dinner and then we go for a walk or play a board game. You can even make a list of things you want to do together, then, so you do not have to think about it, randomly pick from the list each day.

Once you have scheduled all these things, then you can fit other stuff around that, or not. Some things will get done and some things just won’t right now. Does it matter? I think what we all need right now is some space to make mistakes, reflect and adjust. I know this seems silly, maybe even unachievable for your family. I challenge you and your family to reflect on how things are going in your household so far. I know I have not had time to reflect on the situation because things are changing daily and everything is moving so fast. In this time when you are trying to keep you and your family safe as well as sane and find a small piece of normalcy in all the chaos.

Also, don’t forget to schedule in time to watch “Live from Currituck Extension” on YouTube! Each day we go live with educational information on a variety of topics. Subscribe to our YouTube channel @currituckces and ring the bell to get notifications when we go live. Like our videos and let us know what kind of content you would like to see! For more information on stress management and developing a routine, email

Olivia Patchel is Area Agent, Family and Consumer Sciences with the NC Cooperative Extension, Currituck County Center.