How Stress Affects the Body
Covid-19 Caring

Caring: Self-care and Caring for Loved Ones

During times of stress we are most concerned about our loved ones and how we are going to manage the stress and care for those we love. Caring for those we love during a time of being homebound and practicing physical distancing is not our usual way of life and it can be challenging to navigate how to care for loved ones in new ways.

Covid-19 Caring

Information and Communication

The COVID-19 pandemic has been very challenging and rapidly changing for all of us. Factual communication is important because people “fill in the blanks” when they do not have objective information which can cause more fear and stress. Having conversations with children and loved ones about the challenges of COVID-19 may be difficult to navigate because it is hard to know how and what to communicate. In times of stress we naturally go into fight, flight, or freeze mode. This natural response often means we tend to talk, think about and consume lots of information about the stressful situation but avoid talking or thinking about it. These coping responses make it more difficult to deal, emphasizing finding a balance in what we talk and think about and the amount of information we consume is very important during stress.

The following are some tips on communicating with your loved ones during this stressful time.

Make plans to stay in contact

Plan to have continued communication with loved ones using the phone, video calls, or other ways in order to decrease feelings of loneliness and worry about how they are.

Stay informed with factual information

Consult only reputable and valid sources of health information. A good option is the Centers for Disease Control.

Limit media exposure

Choose one to three trusted sources, limit the amount of time consuming COVID-19 news, and choose a specific time of day for media exposure (But not when you first wake up or right before going to sleep).

Be aware of who will share news

It is better that you communicate directly with your children and that they are not exposed more than needed to the news.

Create an environment of open communication

Ensure loved ones feel safe and comfortable in asking questions and expressing feelings and concerns. You can use fact sheets, stories, or comics to get the conversations started and create open communication.

Share only age appropriate information

Discuss COVID-19 and news updates with your loved ones. Often stories or simple handouts about stressful situations provide the language and pictures to help everyone understand. Find age appropriate guidance here.

Check-in frequently to address fears and misconceptions

Be prepared to repeat information and explanations several times. Clarify what is known and unknown to prevent spread of misinformation. Ensure your loved ones they will get appropriate medical care if they become ill. Listen actively and provide answers if you are able, or find the answers together. Learn more about active listening tips.

Be reassuring, but don’t make unrealistic promises

You can’t promise that there will be no cases of coronavirus in your state or community or family. Remind them that many people are working to help people who get sick.

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Covid-19 Caring

Activities and Connection

Being homebound can lead to frustration, boredom, feeling disconnected, inactivity, fatigue, loss of motivation, and loss of interest in things you used to enjoy.

The following list includes activities to help protect you and your family’s emotional health and maintain connection during this time.

  • Plan time to connect with friends and family by phone or video calls. Facilitating access to the internet and social media is important to maintain social networks and promote communication during this time of physical distancing.
  • Get engaged in fun and meaningful activities with your family. Find things to do without screen time. Find ideas from Simple Activities for Children and Adolescents, Indoor Activities for Energetic Kids or listen to one of these 25 best podcasts for kids.
  • Keep your body moving. Go for walks or bike rides in your neighborhood or park, individually or with your family, while maintaining appropriate distance from others. Also, consider streaming free fitness classes online.
  • Keep your mind active, creative, and calm. Read or listen to books. Libraries have digital books and audio books you can borrow, even though they are closed. Look on the library’s website to learn how to connect. Pull out the puzzles, scrapbooking, and coloring books. Engage in reflection and meditation through deep breathing exercises, muscle relaxation for adults, or muscle relaxation for kids.
Covid-19 Caring


Being homebound changes your daily routine for work and home-life, which can impact relationships and communication. You may find yourself more easily frustrated or getting into more arguments or conflicts with those around you, or even with your co-workers. Identifying the point of conflict and an appropriate way to communicate can help lead to a more peaceful resolution.

Conflict with loved ones
Common points of conflict with loved ones include:
  • Money
  • Relationships
  • Substance use
  • Studying and work
  • Not meeting emotional or physical needs
  • Thinking that others are not listening to me

Ways to work through conflict with loved ones include:
  • Identify what you need or want
  • Try and see it from their side before talking
  • Have a conversation about the conflict
  • Be honest
  • Consider alternatives
  • Use different resources to work through the conflict like the tools on Scottish Centre for Conflict Resolution
If conflict becomes violent

Some conflict during times of stress is understandable, however when conflict becomes more frequent and involves control, aggression, or violence, it is unhealthy or even abusive. Survivors of intimate partner violence are also at greater risk during this time of increased stress and being homebound. External factors that add stress and financial strain can negatively impact survivors and create circumstances where their safety is further compromised. Being homebound can be isolating and unfortunately can create situations where abusive individuals assert more power and control. It is important to remember you are not alone and help is available. Here are some resources for you to use if you or someone you know is in an unsafe situation.

  • Create a safety plan
    A safety plan is a personalized, practical plan that includes ways to remain safe while in a relationship, planning to leave, or after you leave. Seek safety planning assistance through the National Domestic Violence Hotline or you can utilize an interactive safety planning tool.
  • Reach out for help
    For any victims and survivors who need support, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224 for TTY
    If you’re unable to speak safely, you can go to or text LOVEIS to 22522.
Conflict with coworkers
Common reasons for conflict with coworkers when working remotely include:
  • Misperceptions and misunderstandings with the increased use of email and reduced in-person communication.
  • Difficulty navigating boundaries with work and home demands and not being available when needed for work.

Tips for managing conflict with coworkers when working remotely include:
  • Be meticulous about how and when you communicate.
  • Set clear expectations for yourself and your team.
  • Manage your emotions.

Learn more Ways to Manage Conflict When You Work Remotely from Fortune.

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Covid-19 Caring

Helping Kids and Families Cope

These are new and challenging times for everyone. It is important for you to remember that people deal with changes and stressful events in different ways. Keep familiar routines even though very little is routine anymore with COVID-19. This does not need to be a rigid rule, but for the most part:

  • Do breakfast and the morning routine as usual.
  • Post and review the day's schedule each day.
  • Schedule some work time in morning when fresh, then some exercise, regular meals, and some planned movie/screen and activity time. Be sure to schedule screen start and end times.
  • Keep usual bedtimes. Caregivers need the time for themselves at the end of the night and kids need their usual sleep.

Additional Resources

These resources will help you think about how an infectious disease outbreak might affect your family both physically and emotionally, and what you can do to help your family cope.

Video on Managing Coronavirus Anxiety: Tips and Strategies for Families
Click here for video

Covid-19 Caring

Self-care for the Caregiver

Have you ever flown in a plane and listened to the flight attendant tell you to put your own oxygen mask on before helping others? That advice applies to taking care of yourself during COVID-19 as well. Before you can take care of others that count on you, whether they are your children (young or old), your partner, or your own parents, you need to make sure you are taking care of yourself.

Self-Care for the Care Giver
  • If there are two caregivers in the household, check with each other on important appointments or events that each of you may have for the day. Balance time in the day with respect for both of you to get necessary work completed, self-care time for each caregiver, time to be alone, time to tend to loved ones and time together.
  • If you are a single caregiver, try to create time for yourself to be alone, call a friend, or do what you need to do to recharge. If your children are really young, seek assistance from friends or family that may be in your social distancing plan.
  • Create a space so your children or other loved ones know that you need a few minutes alone to unwind. Engage your child in movie or task that interests them for a short period of time to allow yourself some time alone for self-care.
  • Encourage your children and loved ones to assist in the chores of the household. If they do not know how to do them yet, now would be a great time to guide them. This will help decrease opportunities for boredom.
  • Learn more about self-care by reviewing the Caregiver self-care checklist or reading about Self-care during COVID-19.
Covid-19 Caring

Age Appropriate Information Sharing

It is important to discuss COVID-19 and news updates with your loved ones. Often stories or simple handouts about stressful situations provide the language and pictures to help everyone understand.

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Modules describing signs and symptoms of behavioral health conditions are not diagnostic. If you have questions or concerns about your mental well-being, contact My Sanford Nurse at 701.234.5000, 1.800.821.5167, or click here to find a Sanford Health care professional. If you are having thoughts of self-harm, call the suicide prevention LIFELINE anytime at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). If this is an emergency, please call 911.