Nfld. & Labrador

Coping with anxiety: As COVID-19 cases rise, challenges continue for parents, kids

Anxiety levels among residents of Newfoundland and Labrador are increasing in the wake of a recent spike of COVID-19 cases throughout the province.

'We've been through this before,' says psychologist

Kaley Hogan, owner of A Safe Space: Counselling and Empowerment in Paradise, says she is seeing an increase in anxiety both in patients and at home in her children. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

Anxiety levels among residents of Newfoundland and Labrador are increasing, again, in the wake of a recent spike of COVID-19 cases throughout the province.

Kaley Hogan has a master's degree in counselling psychology and owns A Safe Space: Counselling and Empowerment in Paradise. Hogan told CBC News she seeing increased demand, every day, through every demographic, at her practice.

But she's also experiencing it on the home front as a parent. 

With two kids — one four years old and the other 13 — Hogan said she is parenting at two different developmental levels, and knows the pandemic is changing her children forever. 

"It's just the unpredictability, where things that have been relatively normal and constant," Hogan said.

"That anxiety is creeping in more and more by events being cancelled, by things we have taken for granted."

Hogan said her daughter recently expressed she was "missing out" on a regular life, being stuck at her desk inside of her classroom from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. except on days when it's nice enough to take lunch or recess outside.

She added many things her daughter had been looking forward to this year have recently been cancelled, causing anxiety and mistrust, which could have an impact on her central nervous system in her formative years. 

"She's being told she has to stay in the classroom with the same 20 or 30 people every day. That can be really challenging, and I don't know what that feels like and I completely empathise [with] her," said Hogan.

"Another blow to her today was that her volleyball was cancelled after school.… Her practices now have been cancelled on Tuesday and Thursday for the foreseeable future, so you're taking away that from her, too."

Hannah Noble says parents in Deer Lake are concerned after a case of COVID-19 was reported in one of the town's schools on Monday. (Mike Moore/CBC)

On the west coast of the province, Hannah Noble has two kids who go to school in in Deer Lake — one site where a case of COVID-19 was reported in a student on Monday.

Noble said a lot of parents in the area are very concerned right now, not wanting to send their kids to a place where they could potentially be exposed to the virus. She said it was tough explaining to her kids, with a case so close to home, the process of getting tested for COVID-19 if they were to be exposed. 

"They were not happy about that," she said. "And we do know a couple of the kids who are in the same [affected] classroom. So they were quite concerned about those kids having to get tested, and if they were going to be sick or not." 

Tony Stack, the CEO of the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District, said Monday very few children in Deer Lake showed up for school.

"I would imagine it was apprehension within the community — understandably so — so the attendance rates were very low, less that 25 per cent," he said.

How to cope

Psychologist Dr. Janine Hubbard said fatigue is normal under extended stressful circumstances, noting the adrenal system can only handle so much before needing a break.

"That's kind of the stage we're at right now, which is why you're starting to see kind of exhaustion, you're starting to see tempers flaring, you're starting to see lack of patience and a lot of helplessness," Hubbard told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show

Psychologist Janine Hubbard says taking control of something is a good way to cope with anxiety. (Meghan McCabe/CBC)

Hubbard said it's time now to take a step back, reassess the focus on daily routines and take a better look at personal self-care and mental health as COVID-19 cases begin to ramp up throughout Newfoundland and Labrador and the holiday season approaches. 

"We've been through this before, we've got through the other end. We are the success story of the world for heaven's sake. So we know we've got a lot of positives," she said. 

"We know so much more about this virus than we did back in March or April. So our approach to things is looking very different. Yes, things are constantly changing in terms of information and messaging, but not as rapidly as they were back in the spring." 

Hubbard said one of the best ways to cope with anxiety is to take control of something.

"In this case it could be looking out [for] your neighbours. It could be, if you're in a position to, donate to a food bank," she said.

"There are so many simple things we can do, but they make us feel good, they help others in our community and they give us some sense of control amidst the swirl of helplessness."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from The St. John's Morning Show and Jeremy Eaton