A Panic Attack Can Mimic the Symptoms of COVID-19. Here’s What to Do About It.

It’s hard not to feel anxious during these stressful and trying times. I have been using meditation and breathing exercises to get me through the moments when reality hits hard. Here are some tips I found helpful to share. Sending love and light, Kirsten

Sweating, shortness of breath, a sense of impending doom: The symptoms of a panic attack are never particularly pleasant. But in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic they can be downright disconcerting—especially for people experiencing them for the first time. Here is what to do if you think you might be having a panic attack, and how to deal with your pandemic-related anxiety in general.

If you’re in need of immediate help, call 911 or one of the mental health hotlines listed here.

Shortness of breath is a symptom of both COVID-19 and anxiety. Here’s how to tell the difference.

A panic attack is when your fear or anxiety trigger sudden, physical symptoms with no obvious cause. The exact result can vary from person to person, but classic signs include some of the same symptoms folks have been told to look out for from COVID-19: chest pain, shortness of breath, and a feeling of feverishness or chills. If you’re having chest pain or serious trouble breathing for a sustained period, or when you already feel physically ill, you should absolutely call a doctor. But if you think your symptoms might be due to fear or anxiety, there are strategies you can use to breathe through it.

“The piece that gets people going in a classic panic attack is often that they feel as though they can’t breathe,” says Sheila Addison, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Oakland, California. This is usually because you’re taking very fast, shallow breaths, which minimizes your oxygen intake and causes your muscles to tense up.

Often, Addison explains, focusing on making your breathing more structured—lying down and counting through a pattern such as square breathing, where you count to four while inhaling, pause for a count of four, exhale on a count of four, and pause for another count of four before starting again—can help steady the body and get oxygen flowing normally again. Once you no longer feel starved for air, your body should stop tensing up. Your panic probably won’t disappear in an instant, but it will dissipate.

If you already know you have anxiety, don’t forget to keep doing what works

When it comes to people who have already been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder before, Addison says, the first line of defense is simple: Stick to your usual coping mechanisms.

“Sometimes when a stressor like this comes up and routines get disrupted, people inexplicably stop doing the things that work for them,” Addison says.

If you know exercise helps lower your anxiety, keep exercising—go for walks or runs outside as much as you’re able, or take up yoga at home. If you’re already prescribed medication, keep taking it (and be diligent about getting refills if at all possible). If journaling has been an important tool in managing your stress, don’t stop making your entries. This might sound like common sense, but if your anxiety has been spiking lately, stop and take inventory of your usual strategies and routines. Have some of them fallen by the wayside? There’s no shame in that—it’s a scary time, and doing your morning yoga might feel silly or self-indulgent—but it’s time to get back to your best habits. The CDC recommends eating well, getting plenty of sleep, and disengaging from the news occasionally to give your brain a break.

If you’re experiencing anxiety for the first time, here are things you can try at home

Meditation is a great thing to try if you need to destress, and there are apps to help you get into a meditation practice if you’re new to the idea. But Addison points out that it doesn’t work for everyone, and you shouldn’t feel bad if it doesn’t work for you.

“I don’t meditate,” she says. “I’ve found that trying to do it just stresses me out.”

Still, she says, the broader concept of mindfulness has been very helpful to her and her clients. She recommends reading the works of Pema Chödrön, an American Tibetan Buddhist nun, for help grappling with dark times.

“I’m not a Buddhist myself, but a lot of her work really resonates, especially now,” Addison says. “She talks a lot about how we like things to be certain, we like to have control, and we like to have choices.” When we’re in a situation with lots of rapidly-changing circumstances and looming unknowns, Addison says, our first instinct is to resist that reality as much as possible. In doing so, Chödrön argues, we only add to our own anguish.

“I may not be able to do much about the suffering of canceled plans or missing my family or worrying about someone I love,” Addison says, “but I can do something about the suffering caused by the stories I tell myself about the situation—worrying it will always be like this, or thinking about how unfair it is and how much I hate it.”

But how can we change those stories we tell ourselves? A lot of this comes down to internal dialogue; investigate the way you’re thinking about your current situation and ask yourself what parts of that you might be able to change. Addison thinks a recent resource published by Russ Harris, a psychotherapist and author of The Happiness Trap, is a good place to begin:

FACE COVID is a series of steps for dealing with fear and anxiety in the time of COVID-19. Start by focusing on what’s in your control. The economy, for example, is not in your control. But you can decide you’d like to write out a new budget that takes some of the uncontrollable financial pitfalls you’re worried about into account.

Acknowledge what you’re feeling: Very matter-of-factly recognizing that you’re experiencing anxiety or grief has the dual benefit of encouraging you to be kind to yourself and discouraging your mind from running away with those feelings. Grief is a valid feeling, but it doesn’t have to consume your whole day. Recognize that it’s there, but also that it isn’t you.

Come back into your body. Meditation might not be for you, but taking deep breaths and grounding yourself—or even using one of the breathing patterns mentioned earlier in this article—can help you regain a sense of control of yourself.

Engage in what you’re doing. Smith recommends thinking about three or four things you can see from your current position, or taking note of the smells and tastes you’re experiencing, as a way of refocusing before you move from thinking about your anxiety to honing in on whatever task you have at hand.

The COVID part of the acronym deals with moving forward from the moment of acute anxiety: Committed action is about picking things to do that align with your values and will make good use of your time. You might text a friend who you know is self-isolating, donate protective gear to a local hospital, deliver groceries for an immunocompromised neighbor, or commit to accomplishing some long-put-off task while you’re stuck at home.

Opening up is about continuing to engage with your own feelings, and being as compassionate and patient with yourself about them as you would be with a loved one who came to you for advice. “Values” is a reminder to think about what is important to you and what you would like to contribute to the world during this crisis—sharing kind words and offering emotional support to others. Identify resources by figuring out who you can and should reach out to when you’re in crisis and finding reliable sources of information to keep your anxiety in check. Finally, Smith throws in a “Disinfect and Distance” instruction to remind us all of why we’re cooped up at home alone: To protect ourselves and our communities.

Don’t forget that reaching out to friends and family is still quite possible, thanks to technology—and that some of them may be feeling just as anxious as you are. Sharing love and resources can help both of you feel more calm.

“We’re finding some fantastic ways of staying in touch thanks to technology,” Addison says. “It’s so cliche to blame tech for separating people, but I’m blown away by all the ways people are finding to connect.”

Written by Rachel Feltman for Popular Science and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

How to stop touching your face

Right before the COVID-19 shut downs started, my son and I went into Washington, DC on March 10th to speak to our congressional representatives about World Wildlife Fund and the importance of protecting nature. The coronavirus weighed heavily on my mind and I admit to being all over my son about touching his face. I spent the day constantly swatting his hand away from his face, and dousing his hands (and mine) with hand sanitizer. Here are some helpful tips for you and your family!

Public health officials consistently promote hand-washing as a way for people to protect themselves from the COVID-19 coronavirus.

However, this virus can live on metal and plastic for days, so simply adjusting your eyeglasses with unwashed hands may be enough to infect yourself. Thus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization have been telling people to stop touching their faces.

We are experts in psychological science and public health. Brian Labus is an expert in communicable diseases who knows what people should do to avoid becoming infected. Stephen Benning is a clinical psychologist who helps clients change their habits and manage stress in healthy ways. Kimberly Barchard is an expert in research methods who wanted to know what the research says about face-touching. Together, we used our clinical expertise and the research literature to identify the best practices to reduce face-touching and lower people’s chances of catching COVID-19.

People touch their faces frequently. They wipe their eyes, scratch their noses, bite their nails and twirl their mustaches. People touch their faces more when they are anxious, embarrassed, or stressed, but also when they aren’t feeling anything at all. It's been estimated that students, office workers, medical personnel, and people on trains touch their faces between nine and 23 times per hour, on average.

Why is it so hard to stop? Face-touching rewards us by relieving momentary discomforts like itches and muscle tension. These discomforts usually pass within a minute, but face-touching provides immediate relief that eventually makes it a habitual response that resists change.

Change habitual behaviors

Habit reversal training is a well-established behavior modification technique that helps people stop a variety of seemingly automatic behaviors, such as nervous tics, nail-biting, and stuttering. It trains people to notice the discomfort that prompts their habits, select another behavior to use until the discomfort passes, and change their surroundings to lessen their discomfort.

You may have already changed some of your other habits—for example, by coughing into your elbow instead of your hands, or greeting others with a bow or wave instead of a handshake. But unlike coughing and hand-shaking, people frequently touch their faces without being aware of doing so. The first step in reducing face-touching is becoming aware of it.

Each time you touch your face, notice how you touched your face, the urge or sensation that preceded it and the situation you were in—what you were doing, where you were physically or what you were feeling emotionally. If you usually don’t notice when you touch your face, you can ask someone else to point it out.

Self-monitoring is more effective when people create a physical record. You can create a log where you briefly describe each instance of face-touching. For example, log entries might say:

  • Scratched nose with finger, felt itch, while at my desk
  • Fiddled with eyeglasses, hands tingled, frustrated
  • Rested chin on palm, neck sore, while reading
  • Bit fingernail, nail caught on pants, watching TV

Self-monitoring is more effective if people share their outcomes publicly, so consider sharing your results with friends or post it on social media.

Create new responses

Now that you are aware of the behavior you want to change, you can replace it with a competing response that opposes the muscle movements needed to touch your face. When you feel the urge to touch your face, you can clench your fists, sit on your hands, press your palms onto the tops of your thighs, or stretch your arms straight down at your sides.

This competing response should be inconspicuous and use a position that can be held for at least a minute. Use the competing response for as long as the urge to touch your face persists.

Some sources recommend object manipulation, in which you occupy your hands with something else. You can rub your fingertips, fiddle with a pen or squeeze a stress ball. The activity shouldn’t involve touching any part of your head. For tough-to-break habits, object manipulation isn't as effective as competing responses, perhaps because people tend to play with objects when bored, but touch their faces and hair when anxious.

Manage your triggers

Changing your environment can reduce your urges to touch your face and your need to use alternative responses. Use your log to figure out what situations or emotions are associated with your face-touching. For example:

  • If your glasses keep slipping off your nose, you can use ear hooks or hair ties to prevent slippage.
  • If you bite your nails, you can use a file to keep your nails short, or wear gloves or fingertip bandages, so that nail-biting is impossible.
  • If allergies make your eyes or skin itch or make your nose run, you can limit your exposure to allergens or take antihistamines.
  • If you get food stuck between your teeth, you can brush your teeth after each meal.
  • If your hair gets in your eyes and mouth, you can use an elastic, scarf or hair product to keep it back.

Face it, you may not be able to stop

Most people cannot entirely eliminate unwanted habits, but they can reduce them and just reducing face-touching lessens the opportunities for viruses to enter your system.

Sometimes you need to touch your face: flossing your teeth, putting in contact lenses, wiping food off your lips, putting on makeup or shaving your jaw. Remember to wash your hands first. To adjust your glasses without first washing your hands, use a tissue and throw it out immediately after use. Avoid finger food and using unwashed hands to put food into your mouth. Wash your hands first, or use utensils or the wrapper to handle the food.

Other ways you can reduce the spread of infectious diseases include practicing social spacing, washing hands thoroughly with soap and water or hand santizer, and disinfecting high-touch surfaces regularly. When your hands touch contaminated surfaces, though, the suggestions above may help you avoid touching your face before you wash them again.

Written by Labus for Popular Science and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

A Guide to Safe Outdoor Activities During the Coronavirus Pandemic

With officials urging us to limit unnecessary travel, many of us might be starting to feel a bit stir crazy. Being outside and in nature is important for dealing with stress and anxiety—the exact emotions in overdrive right now. But is it possible to safely head outdoors without putting your and others’ health at risk?

The short answer is yes—we can technically walk, run, and bike alone or with our immediate household without violating social distancing rules. But there’s more to consider before opening the door.

Adhere to official guidelines

Before you lace up your shoes, check what local health officials are saying for your area. “It's really important that people understand the situation that they're in,” says Lisa Miller, epidemiologist at the Colorado School of Public Health. “Understand your own locality and the public health recommendations or public health orders that are in place and abide by those first and foremost.”

In some locations with more cases of the virus, access to beaches, parks, and trails is being restricted. Restrictions can be very localized—while the California Coronavirus Response website says that you can still hike and run outside, individual cities and counties in the state are closing outdoor areas that proved to be too crowded to maintain safe distances. Also, while national park fees have been waived, many are individually cutting back on camping and visitor services, or closing altogether.

For some activities, you may be able to find guidance from local sport-specific organizations. In Salt Lake City, for example, the local rock climbing association has told climbers to stay away from outdoor cliffs, as there are simply too many rock climbers in the area to maintain a safe distance.

If we’ve learned anything from this experience, it’s that the guidelines for best practices can change from day-to-day. So stay informed. “If that means you really need to stick to indoor exercise, then stick to indoor exercise,” adds Miller. “If it's still allowed to be outside and exercising, that's great, but really maintain that six-foot distance from people and don't engage in activities that are going to bring you into contact with other people.”

Safe activities: minimize contact, shared surfaces with others

In general, running, walking, and biking solo or with your immediate household can be done with minimal risk of catching or spreading the virus. But sports performed in groups and involving physical contact are a no-go. Miller says to remember that the virus can be spread by direct contact or by touching the same objects. When considering an activity, think about how close you’ll be to others and whether you’ll be touching the same things. The more often a ball or other piece of sports equipment is touched by someone other than yourself, the more risk you’re introducing for disease spread. If your go-to sport has too many uncertainties to make a clear call—say, not knowing if it will be possible to maintain distance at a particular trail or park—it’s better to be conservative and don’t go.

If you’ve satisfied all the above precautions and are ready to go, “wash your hands before you go out,” says Grace Roberts, a virologist at Queen’s University Belfast. “You don’t know if you’re infected.” Also, bring everything you need—water, snacks, etc.—so that you can minimize having to stop at any stores. Don’t use public restrooms or other shared facilities.

Then, when you’re out, avoid touching surfaces with your hands and keep your hands away from your face. For example, you might use your elbow to hit a crosswalk button. Roberts says that when she’s running, she reserves her left hand for hitting the crosswalk button or any other surfaces, while her right hand is used for adjusting her glasses, or handling water and snacks. Once you get home, immediately wash your hands.

Stay local and spread out

Those experiencing a layoff or the newly-found freedom of remote work may have misinterpreted what it means to self-quarantine. In recent weeks, officials in outdoor tourism hotspots have made calls for travellers to stay home. In a letter, hospital executives in the outdoors-centric Moab, Utah-area expressed concern over the impact of tourism: “As a 17-bed critical access hospital, we have no ICU and minimal capability to care for critical respiratory patients. Additionally, we are now concerned that tourism will drive the spread of SARS-CoV-2.”

Even the best-intentioned travellers will have to make stops for gas and groceries, introducing opportunities for the virus to jump to new locations. Stay close to home to prevent this. Miller says to think about all the steps involved in a particular activity—will you have to stop for food, equipment, or anything else? The more stops, the more you risk contracting and spreading the virus. “You can’t just think about the end goal,” says Miller. “You have to think about all of those other things.”

Even for local trips, plan routes carefully. Think about which locations tend to get crowded, and choose less-busy alternatives. As the nonprofit outdoor organization Leave No Trace puts it: “Absolutely avoid crowded parks, trails and beaches. Social distancing applies in the outdoors just as it does anywhere else.” And, the group adds, be prepared to pack out any trash, since many parks are only providing limited services right now.

Hospitals don’t need more patients—choose low-risk sports

With many areas concerned about hospital capacity, now is not the time to take any risks. Tommy Caldwell, a professional rock climber, told his Instagram followers last week that he wouldn’t be climbing outside during the health crisis: “Soon taking up space in a hospital bed will amount to a death sentence for someone else."

With ski resorts closed, the Colorado Sun reports that more Coloradans are taking to the backcountry to ski, facing increased risks. Especially if that new crowd includes skiers without essential gear and training, it could place an additional burden on emergency services and hospitals. And, of course, denser crowds means it’s harder to maintain six feet of space.

This advice even goes for city-bound activities, like road cycling. Roberts says that cyclists should think about which routes put them in close contact with motorists. If you’re planning bike rides, you may want to avoid routes where you have to share the roads with cars to reduce the odds of getting in an accident.

“You want to make sure that you are limiting risk and not getting injured because the last thing you want to do is end up in a health care system, especially for communities that may not have a lot of healthcare resources,” says Miller. “Most health care resources right now are really focused on making sure they preserve all the resources they possibly can for COVID-19.”

Written by Ula Chrobak for Popular Science and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Four Essentials You Can Donate to Help Healthcare Workers Fighting COVID-19

Being in social isolation gives us folks at home a lot of time to think—and maybe you’ve been racking your brain to figure out how to help the people fighting on the front lines of the pandemic we are all doing our best to slow down. And while donating cash to hospitals is fabulous, there’s much more you can do, and you might already have the things doctors and nurses need.

Here’s a quick list of useful items healthcare workers need to protect themselves and others from COVID-19:

Protective gear and medical supplies

Listen up, readers who work in other scientific fields, or even paint or work with wood: those protective masks, gloves, protective gowns, goggles, and face shields are crucial on the front lines of COVD-19 response. As we all know by now, COVID-19 is pretty darn contagious, and it spreads through bodily fluids like saliva, often traveling through the air after a sneeze or cough.. So, every time a doctor or nurse takes care of a patient, they risk catching the dangerous virus.

You can donate N95 respirators (which are particularly effective against viruses), surgical face masks, or even face coverings you can somewhat easily make at home. If you make some yourself, you’ll join the ranks of Prada and Kering, which have already pitched in to create masks at their clothing production facilities. JoAnn Fabrics is handing out free supplies if you have a moment or two to stitch a few up.

Medical TV shows like The Good Doctor and Grey’s Anatomy have stepped up, too, donating actual medical supplies and protective gear they keep on set to use as props and costumes.

So think about your hobbies and the gear you have in your closet—it could help someone protect themself from the virus.

If you have loads of bleach, antimicrobial wipes, hand sanitizer, and other disinfecting products, hospitals really need that stuff to protect workers and patients. If you work at an office or school, you might be able to find a shocking amount of unopened Lysol wipes. It’s worth a search if you’re healthy and already have some at home.

Also, if you panic-bought all the Purell in your neighborhood, now’s the perfect time to put those virus-killing chemicals to good use instead of hoarding it. We’re past the point of judgment now, so just do the right thing.

To find out where donations are needed most in your community and what exactly they need, you can search by state on Donate PPE’s website, or check out this Twitter thread to see which universities are asking for donations.

Blood

If you’re healthy, donating blood is something just about anybody can do. Right now, it’s more important than ever because folks aren’t leaving home and blood drives are being canceled. But if you qualify as a donor, you should definitely consider donating blood as a necessary reason to leave home. You can still minimize your contact with other people, too—just make an appointment and have the center call you when they are ready for you to come in.

Blood donations aren’t necessarily going to help patients in hospitals struggling with COVID-19-related illnesses. But hospitals still need that blood for patients who have been in car crashes, must have surgery, or are battling cancer. After all, crashes and other illnesses don’t just stop happening because a pandemic is dominating the headlines.

Contrary to many rumors, however, you won’t get tested for COVID-19 just by donating.

Check out these organizations if you’re interested in donating blood:

  • AABB
  • America’s Blood Centers
  • American Red Cross
  • Armed Services Blood Program
  • Blood Centers of America

Toys, games, and other fun stuff

Being stuck in the hospital sucks—but I can assure you that it sucks a whole lot worse when your community is on lockdown and it’s nearly impossible for friends and family to visit. You can donate toys and games to children’s hospitals pretty much any time, but now is as good a time as ever to think of those in need.

Children’s Hospital Colorado has a wish list of items, including arts and crafts supplies, headphones, playing cards, and essentials like underwear. But, all the toys need to be brand new and in their original packaging, which ensures no bacteria or viruses from the outside world can infect at-risk patients.

To look for children’s hospitals near you, use this tool from the Children’s Hospital Association.

Written by Sara Kiley Watson for Popular Science and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Why COVID-19 can’t beat a good hand-washing

Researchers are still working to understand how deadly COVID-19 is and how it spreads. But they know one thing for sure: Washing your hands is the key to minimizing the novel coronavirus’ powers of destruction.

Hand washing really, really works—and not just during outbreaks of new respiratory viruses. It also helps prevent the spread of a wide variety of disease-causing microbes, known as pathogens, from food-borne diseases like E.coli to flesh-eating bugs. And it works to contain the spread of illness whether you’re the one who is sick or you’re trying to avoid catching something in the first place. (It even works better than hand sanitizer, so lay off the Purell unless you’re on the go).

“Hand washing with soap for 20 seconds is one of the single most important practices to protect yourself, your family, and your community,” says Matthew Freeman, a professor of epidemiology and global health at Emory University.

On a purely physical level, hand washing works by actually removing the microbes from your hand thanks to some basic chemistry. Soap is what’s known as a surfactant, which means it breaks down the oils and dirt on your skin; water rinses the broken-down oils and dirt away, carrying microbes along for the ride. “By rubbing your hands together you create the friction to get the oils off,” Freeman says.

Washing your hands with just water can help a bit if the alternative is not washing your hands at all, but it’s way less effective than scrubbing with suds.

But why does this simple practice work so well to prevent the spread of contagious disease? After all, washing your hands regularly (and properly—see here for instructions) might seem like it’s just a first step. Everything around your hands is still covered in potentially pathogenic microbes.

Again, the answer is pretty basic: your hands touch the world, and they also touch you (and your face. Stop touching your face.) If you are sick, washing your hands regularly makes it less likely that you’ll spread pathogens from your hands to the things you touch, where they can be picked up by others. If you’re not sick, you can pick up microbes on your digits and carry them to your mucus membranes, like your eyes, nose, and mouth. (Stop. Touching. Your. Face.)

People have known about the effectiveness of hand washing for hundreds of years, says Freeman—even if they didn’t know why it worked. For instance, many of the world’s religions promote hand washing as a ritual practice. In the 19th century, as Western physicians stumbled toward an understanding of the germ theory of disease, hand washing slowly became an important thing to do in medical settings (though it was initially shockingly controversial). But it took much longer to get hand washing to the general public, says Freeman. It’s only in the last 40 years or so that public health authorities have started working hard to convince people to wash their hands after leaving the house, before eating, and even—eek—after using the bathroom.

Wash your hands, with soap, for about 20 seconds: it’s a simple recipe for good health.

But “possibly because it’s something that people know they should do, it’s very hard to get a sense of how many people actually do it,” he says. Research has shown that, globally, only around 19 percent of people wash their hands after using the bathroom. But there’s not a lot of data out there about how often people wash their hands at other times, and some studies indicate that even supposed-hand-washers don’t regularly subject themselves to the proper 20 to 30 seconds of sudsing.

Right now, you’re probably seeing a lot more hand washing (and a lot more thorough hand washing) than you’re used to. That’s because all of the messaging in the news and elsewhere about COVID-19 reminds people to wash their hands. But you should really be doing it all the time.

“Changing practices and habits are really hard,” Freeman says. Consider creating what Freeman calls a “cue to action” that encourages hand washing at key times, such as when you enter your house from the outside world. It could be as simple as placing a note where you hang up your keys. Freeman and his wife (who also studied hand washing practices) placed a sticker on the back of their first child’s highchair to remind them to wash her hands before they all sat down to dinner.

This outbreak is likely to change your hygiene habits for the better, and there’s no reason not to change them permanently. “Wash your hands like you’ve been chopping jalapeños and you need to change your contacts,” one Canadian health official said recently. Wash early, wash often, and wash well. And don’t touch your face. Seriously.

Written by Kat Eschner for Popular Science and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

11 Moms Who Have to Keep Working During the Coronavirus Outbreak on How Much Their Jobs Have Changed

From those in healthcare to the service industry, working moms share how they're coping.

The growing number of cases of the new coronavirus, coupled with school closures, have forced moms to adjust the way they work. Many are now doing their jobs remotely while watching their kids at home. But others are still required to go into their workplaces, risking exposure, and with the added task of arranging childcare. To get an idea of how they’re faring, we listened to moms across the country in different industries.

1. “As a working parent, I always needed a plan B for childcare in case a child is ill, but this has become a reality more than ever now.”

Nina Brodsky, M.D., F.C.C.M. is a pediatric critical care doctor from Connecticut. Like other hospitals, hers has been “preparing for a surge of patients, and employing several measures to try to mitigate the situation,” like restricting visitors and canceling large conferences. She told Working Mother that at her job, she’s most concerned about her medical staff colleagues “who will bear the brunt of this pandemic.”

At home, Dr. Brodsky is worried about finding alternative childcare. She’s scheduled to be on service in the hospital for the next week and a half.

Another source of stress is making sure her kids practice good hygiene. “Our kids are also listening to all the talk about COVID-19, so explaining the situation to them in a constructive and non-threatening manner may go a long way,” she said.

2. “I live and work in a county with no confirmed cases of coronavirus, but we get patients coming in who think they have it literally every day.”

Anne*, from Illinois, has one child and works as an emergency medical technician for a hospital in a rural area. She said the biggest effect of coronavirus on her job is the mass hysteria from patients. “Most of them have not left the country or even been around anyone who has, they’re just convinced that they’ve gotten [COVID-19] somehow. So we’ve had a huge influx of patients with flu-like symptoms that don’t really need to be utilizing the ER coming in and using time and resources that they don’t really need.”

That includes masks, which her hospital has had to remove from waiting rooms and desks. “People come in and grab them by the fistful, or actually grab entire boxes to take home. Now we’re having to dole them out to patients ourselves. All patients with respiratory symptoms get one, and we will also give them to anyone who asks, but we tell them that due to the shortage and our very real need to have them as healthcare workers, we can only give them one.”

She told us her day-to-day hasn’t changed much yet. She understands that she might be exposed, but that it’s “sort of what you sign yourself up for when you work in the ER.” She continued, “We often don’t know what we’ve been exposed to until after the fact, and this is no different.”

3. “I may carry a travel hand sanitizer around more for the moments when soap isn’t available, but I refuse to let it affect my life at this point. I can’t live in a bubble.”

A registered dental hygienist in Rhode Island, Kristin Macera said she is not afraid of catching the virus. She’s used to washing her hands multiple times an hour because that’s what she was trained to do, and she taught her kids to wash their hands frequently as well.

At her workplace, they can no longer order the same amount of supplies, but so far, they haven’t run out of masks. She does not know what will happen if they do. As for exposure to patients, she told us, “We have agreed as an office that if anyone shows signs of being remotely sick that we will send them home. For the most part if people are sick they do cancel their appointments anyway.”

4. “I make sure to remind families to CANCEL if a child or anyone in the home has a fever or persistent cough.”

Sarah Pampillonia, a mom of two from New Jersey, is a child development specialist. Her job requires her to go to homes or daycare. She told us she doesn’t have more concerns about doing visits due to coronavirus because she and her kids are not immunocompromised. “Maybe I’d feel differently if someone in my home was immunocompromised. I do have one immunocompromised child on my caseload, and always think about HER, and make sure if I don’t feel well, I cancel (but this is how I always conduct myself).”

The NJDOH is sending her job advisories. “We can no longer bring our own toys into homes. Usual precautions of washing hands and sanitizing before and after working with a child are being heavily promoted,” she said. Families are also canceling more frequently or freezing services altogether, though she notes hers haven’t.

5. “As a healthcare worker, it’s just another virus, but as a mom, I’m scared and concerned because I’m on the front lines.”

Michelle Largoza, R.N., has a 3-year-old son who is at daycare three days a week. Her work routine hasn’t changed. “We treat the coronavirus threat like any other airborne illness and use the same precautions. It’s not much different than having a patient with symptoms of tuberculosis, which has been around.”

The shortage of masks, however, have made it a bit more difficult. She said previously accessible N95 masks are now kept under lock and key.

She admits that when she sees the medical supply closet and sees the mask and sanitizers, she sometimes goes into survival mode. “I think, ‘should I take these home to protect my family?’ But then I tell myself, ‘OK, relax. That’s crazy, just go back to work.’”

These moms on social media are also giving us a glimpse of how their work has changed due to COVID-19.

6. “As an ICU nurse, I can confirm we often are short critical care beds for patients. This is the case without coronavirus adding to the needs. We are entirely unprepared as a country.”

According to her profile, the author of the post, @EileenFrn, is a mom too.

7. “I am thankful my job allows flexibility, but it’s still daunting!”

On LinkedIn, Elizabeth McFarlan Scott, a partner at Nua Group, in San Francisco, wrote that she recently had to figure out a setup if she had to work remotely with her kids at home. With her 9-year-old’s school closed, she and her husband have set the expectation that her older son will have to “work” in the office with them for part of the day. They also have a spreadsheet with daily coverage if both kids are out of school and she and her husband have to work from home. It details a plan for what the kids will do, such as chores, playdates in parks, iPad/Tv, and who will be the adult on duty. She also said she’s reached out to other moms to arrange “recess” meetups during the day.

8. “As a single mom not having a paycheck for 5 weeks straight… It’s scary as hell.”

According to her profile, Twitter user @calliieeeeeeee is a teacher aide at a school district that was just closed down for five weeks. Her tweet was in response to another user who asked people to leave their CashApp name if they needed $20 for groceries or to stock up on anything.

9. “As a teacher, I’m being expected to learn and deliver instruction to students along with my own kids who are in grades 6, 4 and 2.”

Sarah Myers, who runs the account @Soccer_3_Mom, is based in Wisconsin. Her tweet was a rely to user Peg Grafwallner, who said she cringes at school districts and some teachers who are creating schedules and plans for students. Peg wrote, “I understand many are trying to create a sense of the new normal. But, let’s just all take a breath and do the best we can in these first couple of days/weeks. The routine will come.”

10. “I work as a bartender waitress in Ohio and I’m not sure how I’ll make it through as a single mom of 3.”

@Jane_love22 responded to a Twitter user who posted an article about a customer leaving a $2,500 tip before a restaurant and bar in Ohio planned to close that evening.

11. “I’m a working mom with two boys. Their school just shut down for at least 2 weeks. I’m a waitress/cook/delivery person at a tiny family owned restaurant that was already not doing great before all this. Now it’s completely dead. I have to pay rent, car insurance and phone bill.”

Kala Sawyer, aka @glamlifejunkie, tweeted to Team PULTE, an account for philanthropist family, the Pultes. They asked people to comment on their thread if their job or kids’ schools have shut down because of the coronavirus, and they need assistance with groceries.

  • Name has been changed.

Written by Maricar Santos for Working Mother and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

10 Tips for Easy Meal Prep

When it comes to fear-inducing words, “meal prep” seems to rank right up there with “Heeere’s Johnny!” from The Shining. But is preparing meals in advance really so scary? Perhaps the terror arises as you picture your entire Sunday being ruined slaving away in the kitchen. Or maybe you’re afraid your meals will be tedious and bland if you have to eat from the same large batch of turkey chili all week. No? Well, could you simply have a fear of failure, knowing that planning ahead isn’t your strong suit?

The truth is, none of these concerns will come to fruition if you’re meal prepping properly. Of course, as the saying goes, failing to plan is planning to fail. If you are serious about losing weight, packing on muscle or simply adding more veggies to your life, then meal prep is the holy grail.

We've compiled the following tried-and-true tips and tricks to help set you up for success:

Start small.

Identify and tackle your weak spots first — the meals or snacks that need the most attention. For example, if you’re eating out every night, then start with dinner. If you can’t figure out how to fit in a proper breakfast after your fasted morning workout, start with your postworkout meal.

Keep it simple, stupid.

Variety is the spice of life, but build that in over time. Initially, it’s more important to keep meal prepmanageable so you’re more likely to stick with it. Pick just a few proteins, veggies and starches to cook. Go ahead and pack some items raw if you don’t want to cook everything. Buy pre-chopped veggies, bagged salads, and frozen and canned produce to minimize prep time. Take baby steps so you don’t feel overwhelmed. That being said, if you are a proficient cook, adding culinary flair to your meal prep will stave off potential boredom. In that case, don’t be afraid to add some more advanced recipes to your meal-prep rotation.

Make a list, check it twice.

The most surprising meal-prep help? It’s not a sous chef, it’s a grocery list! Write it down ahead of time, and remember to include items like spices, marinades and any prep tools you might need, like tinfoil or a big baking sheet. The initial trip may be a big investment, but once you’ve gotten into a routine, you’ll be able to beeline to the exact ingredients you need for your staple recipes. You may need to grab some fresh fruits and veggies midweek, but you’ll still save plenty of time by stocking up in advance.

Make cleanup a breeze.

Simplify the prep and cleanup processes with big freezer bags, tinfoil and cooking spray. You can toss ingredients in a bag with seasoning or marinade to quickly and evenly coat them. After roasting or baking, you can toss the tinfoil and your pan will immediately be ready for another round. Also, wash dishes as you go so you aren’t overwhelmed by a big pile in the sink.

Chopped fruits and vegetables

When prepping, chop ingredients in advance and in similarly sized pieces.

Practice those knife skills.

Chop ingredients in advance and in similarly sized pieces so they all cook evenly. Keep in mind that they may need to cook separately, though: Compared to sturdy veggies like broccoli, cauliflower and carrots, softer veggies like zucchini or yellow squash will cook much faster at the same temperature. If you put them all together on the same pan, you may end up with a mixture of burned and undercooked veggies.

Order matters.

Save even more time by multitasking. Start your baking or roasting first, then move to stove-top cooking and microwaving. You can roast your sturdy, starchy veggies while you saute some chicken breast. Potatoes bake quickly in the microwave, and you can find bags of steamable veggies at most grocers.

Frozen is fine.

Frozen fruits and vegetables are at least as nutritious as the fresh versions. Because they’re frozen immediately after being taken off the vine, they may have even better nutrient integrity than the fresh alternative, which have spent days or weeks in transit before arriving at the grocery store. Plus, they last a lot longer. Fruits and vegetables with a low water content freeze well, so you can always chop and create your own blends that are identical to the store brand. Simply toss a mixture of broccoli, cauliflower and carrots into a freezer bag, press all the air out and throw it in the freezer. You’re ready for the next meal prep!

Prevent waste.

If you are using a buffet-style meal prep, weigh your bulk items before and after cooking to determine your yield. You’ll then know exactly how much you need to buy on your next shopping trip. This prevents both food waste and an inconvenient midweek emergency shopping trip.

Freezing and reheating.

You can freeze and reheat meals that you’ve already cooked, and in most cases, this doesn’t affect the taste or texture. However, there are some exceptions: Fully cooked potatoes, zucchini and leafy greens do not rejuvenate after a freeze-thaw cycle. Experiment with just a small batch first if you want to test your recipe.

Food safety.

In general, cooked food is safe for three to four days in the fridge. If you won’t eat all of it within that time frame, you can freeze it for a couple of months. Use an erasable marker on your prepped containers and a permanent marker on anything that goes into the freezer in order to document the date it was prepared or frozen. Also, when you’re done prepping, food should be refrigerated within two hours of preparation but ideally immediately.

At the end of the day, the best way to meal prepis to find what works best for you and have fun as you try new methods and recipes.

Written by Jill Schildhouse for Oxygen Magazine and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

5 Realities of Being a Parennial (aka Millennial Parent)

We focus on experiences.

In 2017 Millennials (those born between 1981 and 1997) made up 90 percent of all new parents. That's largely because, in 2015, more than 1 million Millennial women gave birth for the first time, according to data from the National Center for Health Statistics. The total number of U.S. Millennial women who have become mothers has officially risen to more than 16 million, which means that they made up about eight in 10 U.S. births in 2015.

While it's true that these so-called "parennials" had waited longer to have kids, they still had made it a priority in their lives. In fact, more women are starting families compared to 10 years ago, but they're waiting longer to have babies, according to a new analysis of U.S. Census Data from the Pew Research Center and Healthline’s State of Fertility Report 2017, because of career security and financial reasons. But Millennial women have rated being a good parent as a top priority in a 2010 Pew Research Center survey. Some 52 percent said that it was actually one of the most important goals in their lives, surpassing having a successful marriage, and 60 percent said that being a parent is extremely important to their overall identity, according to a 2015 Pew Research Center survey.

The research also shows that they're confident in their abilities to care for children—even more so than previous generations—and they have more fun with it and find it more rewarding than older generations as well.

So what is it like to be a parennial? We asked a few.

1. Being a parennial means being a role model.

"For me, and I'm sure for others in my generation, we remember what childhood was like before the internet and before it was normal to have high-def video games vying for our attention," says 28-year-old Ben Woods, owner and founder of Weathered Coalition, a men's boutique in Austin, Texas. "I know what it was like to play outside every day and to watch the sunset and to feel that bittersweet feeling that playtime was over and I had to go inside. That's what I want to offer my son. So we're being very intentional about how much we use screens in our home, not because technology is evil, but because we want to set an example for him. We want him to see that we're not entertainment addicts, and he doesn't have to be either. And we take him outside every day."

2. Being a parennial means having to be more discerning.

"My kids are part of Generation Uber, and they expect that if we need something, we can just order it up!" says Erin Goodnow, co-founder and CEO of Going Ivy, a college admissions consulting group. "Believe me, that was invaluable when we were going through a box of diapers a week. Then my daughter asks for gloves last August because her friend has gloves, and I say maybe in a while, and she asks why I don't just 'text it to my phone.' So as a parent, there are benefits and drawbacks to the conveniences we Millennials couldn't live without.

"Parents of previous generations really couldn't fulfill every wish their children had, and maybe I could (if money grew on trees) because I have access to everything at my fingertips. But I choose not to fulfill every wish they have. It is a judgment call sometimes. They are learning the virtue of patience in a different way, and while they will also grow up with more conveniences available to them, it will be my job to teach them what is worth working harder for. As a Millennial parent, experiences are worth more to me, and I want to expose my children to those experiences that will bring their lives value.

"My daughter and I do 'mommy-daughter days,' and my favorite one was a stroll around the mall where we discovered a crêpe shop. We shared a strawberry crepe with whipped cream and powdered sugar on top and talked about the time Daddy and I went to Paris and how she might go someday, where she'd like to travel to, why she likes her friends, her favorite things about her school and more. I wouldn't give up quality time for more money, and I will use money—in this case something like $8—to buy more experiences like that."

3. Being a parennial means being self-aware.

"I don’t know anyone else’s reality, but I make an attempt to know mine—my parenting styles are primarily a synthesis of learning from my parents’ mistakes and welcoming some ancient/modern ideas and techniques put forth by Dr. Harvey Karp in his Happiest _____ on the Block books," says Caleb Backe, a health and wellness expert for Maple Holistics. "My wife and I knew we wanted to present our kids with as much freedom as possible, without being outright negligent or quasi-negligent. We knew we wanted to provide them with unstructured free play time, ideally outside, on a regular basis. We knew we wanted to pretend there was a tooth fairy, but not lie to them about things that matter. Parenting is a process of trial and error, and you learn things as you go along, regardless of how many books you’ve read, movies you’ve watched and advice you’ve gotten.

"For me, this means understanding, internalizing and constantly reminding myself that it is my kids’ job to push the very limits I try so hard to set, and to smash the rules I attempt to enforce. We both test and 'educate' one another all the time, but proper parenting helps it remain a test, a trial, a right step in the ongoing evolution—without it escalating into a battle. You’re both going to lose that confrontation.

"Happy parents to happy kids? Is such a thing possible? Yes, but the key is not to expect it all the time. It is not a goal, it is a perk. It is a means to an end, not an end unto itself. If happiness happens to land on your doorstep today, great! Embrace it, enjoy it, saturate yourself in it, lose yourself to its positivity and acknowledge its fleeting nature when it up and disappears. Self-aware parents, who understand they will make mistakes no matter what, are less prone to self-flagellation and also less prone to acting in a vengeful way towards their kids. Know your power, know your weapons and do what you can to keep them sheathed."

4. Being a parennial means having to ignore the tech on which so many Millennials rely.

"As the mother of a 2-year-old working full-time in digital marketing and PR, it's vital to make my career and parenthood work together—because both are 24/7," says Lisa Deliberato, 27. "Prioritizing quality time during the week with my daughter is key, so I try to keep my phone and laptop use to a minimum from the time I pick her up from daycare until she goes to bed. Finding an employer who is supportive of work-life balance is key.

"Having a kid has made us both more present. The glorious teeny-tiny baby phase is fleeting; first steps can be missed if you're checking your emails, and some of the things that come out of their mouths are comedic gold … So pay attention (and write it down!).

"When it comes to advice, it's tough not to get caught up in scary news stories, the latest nutrition trends or sucked into the feeds of enviable mommy bloggers, but we've learned (in our tiny two years as parents) that if you do what feels right for you and your child, things generally work out OK."

5. Being a parennial means having to take everything with a grain of salt.

"Raising children in this day and age is hard," says Britnie Sims, a contributing writer for Oklahoma City Moms Blog, which shared some of Sims' words from a recent post with us. "It seems like us 'old' Millennial moms just can't win. We're bombarded with conflicting information, and our parenting choices are scrutinized. One-second judgmental snapshots are posted about our lives everywhere, which makes raising children in this day and age a little murky and complicated. Raising babies and 'mom-ing' children with the world of information and opinions at our fingertips is risky business. Read through a baby book, chat with your girlfriends or scroll through a forum about any given topic, and you will end up more confused on the subject than when you started."

Written by Fairygodboss for Working Mother and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

4 Ways French Moms Have Hacked Parenting

For them, "no" is "no."

Different cultures have different parenting styles, but there's a good reason American moms have become obsessed with the European style of parenting—in many ways, it works.

American writer and journalist, Pamela Druckerman (who lives with her family in Paris), discovered this about French moms. In her book Bringing up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting, she wrote about an epiphany moment in a restaurant when she was wrestling her daughter to eat pasta and bread. When she looked around, however, none of the other parents seemed to be having the same feeding issues as she was. In fact, the French moms seemed to have mealtime well under control as their children behaved and ate the food placed in front of them.

What made the difference? She discovered that French parenting took on approaches that were different from the American way, making a significant impact on their kids’ behavior. Below are some of these differences:

1. What maman eats, bébé eats.

When we say "kid's meal," we refer to fast food, junk food, cereals and absolutely everything else that is colorful, fun to eat and often supremely high in sugar. And if kid food is “fun,” then adult food must be boring for kids. No wonder so many children have zero interest in eating fresh vegetables, lean meats and anything else considered healthy! Health equals serious. Serious equals boring.

But with French moms, a dichotomy does not exist; there is no deliberate line between “kid food” and “adult food.” What parents eat is also what the children eat. The result? French kids develop an appreciation (though in some instances, it might be tolerance rather than appreciation) for different types of food. They learn to eat vegetables at a young age without having their mothers cloak fresh produce in funny names or interesting shapes.

2. Take time before rushing to their crying babies.

French moms are also not quick to rush to their baby’s side when she starts to cry in the middle of the night. The customary practice among Americans moms, on the other hand, is to ensure their child feels safe and secure no matter what and no matter when. This is why most moms will say that sleep disruption is a common occurrence in the early months of parenting.

While ignoring the cries of your baby is difficult and makes you feel like the most horrible parent on the planet, it is important to keep in mind that sleep deprivation can be damaging to moms. Letting your baby cry on his or her own for a short while also trains the baby’s sleep patterns, benefitting the child in the long run. Research shows that if parents let their babies, who are at least 7 months old, cry on their own for a brief time before rushing to their side, babies can learn to soothe themselves. The notion of independence is ingrained very early on.

3. "Yes" to self-expression, but "no" to tantrums or compromises.

In connection to teaching kids about independence whilst still inside their crib, French moms also encourage kids to take part in adult conversations and express themselves. Children are encouraged to spend time cultivating their identity with other kids or by themselves. However, French moms are not afraid to discipline their child in public when he or she throws a tantrum. In contrast, many American parents are prepared to compromise with their kid to stop a tantrum and signal to the child that he or she is being heard. With French parenting, "no" is "no."

4. Don't obsess over the decision to work or stay at home.

A lot of moms in America struggle with the choice of being a career-oriented go-getter or a fully present stay-at-home mom. They try as much as they can to get the benefits of having a work-life balance, but leaving their babies at home can be heart-wrenching. The guilt of leaving one’s child affects the attention women have at work, which creates such a stressful situation. In French culture, the working mom is also the norm, so they feel much less guilt as they return to the workplace post-birth.

In an interview, Druckerman said, “The French view is really one of balance, I think … What French women would tell me over and over is, it's very important that no part of your life—not being a mom, not being a worker, not being a wife—overwhelms the other part."

While the French parenting style is being hailed as “superior” by some, what remains true is that parenting styles will always differ across the board. You do not need to actually pick a side (American or French?) and judge the other as the “wrong kind of parenting." Simply, more styles mean more options for parents, and a bigger opportunity to tailor your parenting based on your preference, personality and most importantly, your child’s needs.

Written by Fairygodboss for Working Mother and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

How to Keep Your Car Clean with Kids: A Simple Guide

It may seem like an impossible task to keep your car clean when you have kids. From spilled juice boxes to more crumbs than you can count, children have a way of making a mess out of any space. There are some tips and tricks you can follow, though, to minimize that mess. Here's how to keep your car clean with kids that will make every passenger (and you) a happy camper.

Clean up spills as soon as they happen When it comes to spills, it's less about if they'll happen and more a matter of when. While it can be a pain to clean them up after a long day, it's important to nip those messes in the bud. Clean them up as soon as you possibly can; that way, unsavory smells and stains won't stick around for the long haul. This can be hard with kids, as they're often ready to jump right out of the car and into the next fun activity, but make sure it's a priority.

Regular vacuuming is a must For any family on the go, you know eating and spending time in the car practically go hand in hand. Whether your little ones eat some French fries or have a full-out meal, a mess is likely to happen. Beyond crumbs just being an annoyance, they can even usher in some rather nasty critters. All those little bits of debris can quickly add up, so be sure to vacuum your car regularly before it becomes a full-blown problem.

Use a trash can With the amount of wrappers, food scraps, and garbage that accumulates in a car, it only makes sense to put a trash can in your vehicle. If you don't have one already, implement a trash can, garbage bag, or another kind of receptacle your kids can throw their trash in. It will help bring some order to your kid's car routine, and it will make clean up much easier. This way, you don't need to haul a garbage bag out to your car every week or two, and cleanup can happen easily every day.

Wipe down surfaces regularly An essential trick on how to keep your car clean with kids is to give any and all surfaces a regular wipe down. There's nothing more uncomfortable than sticky seats and smudgy windows, so give them a regular once over. Use wet cloths to clean and a  microfiber towel;to dry. It will make your driving experience much more pleasant.

Use car cleanup as a learning opportunity If you want your child to develop better cleaning habits, the car is a great place to start. Rather than letting the mess happen and just cleaning it up yourself, take the extra time to teach your kids about proper cleanup. They won't do it every time, but something as simple as reinforcing that they put trash in the bin will help teach them the importance of cleaning up after themselves. It's also important to establish good cleaning habits young; that way, it's much more likely to become a good habit they keep through adulthood.

Written by LouAnn Moss for The Healthy Moms Magazine and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.