Ways moms can manage stress during pandemic, winter months

The coronavirus crisis has made 2020 one of the hardest years for parents, and in many households, women are taking on the brunt of the load.

A United Nations study recently showed women worldwide are doing more unpaid labor, spending 31 hours per week caring for children compared to men, spending 24 hours per week since the start of the pandemic.

"What I've seen is that moms are physically and emotionally exhausted. They're putting a lot of pressure on themselves, to keep everyone stable and happy," says Dr. Claire Nicogossian

Psychologist, mother, and author of "Mama You're Enough", Dr. Nicogossian says moms are already being pulled in many different directions and that their stress level could heighten during the darker, colder winter months.

In a normal year, seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, affects nearly 10 million Americans and is four times more common in women than in men.

"This is the time where seasonal affective disorder really, tends to take a spike in terms of symptoms. So the symptoms to look for are changes in your mood, disruptions in your sleep, needing to sleep more needing to sleep less, changes in your appetite, weight loss, weight gain, a sense of loss of motivation, as well as not wanting to do activities that you once enjoyed."

RELATED: Experts say now is the right time to talk to your children about mental health

Dr. Nicogossian says the winter blues could also trigger a variety of shadow emotions.

"Shadow emotions are the emotions that are challenging in motherhood are challenging in life, fear, anxiety, sadness, disgust, anger, embarrassment, shame. These are emotions that a lot of mothers are experiencing, but we're not talking about."

She says the first step is to normalize it because many moms feel guilt for feeling this way.

 "You can have the emotions, you can have these reactions, the shadow emotions. And you can still be an amazing mother and love your children and feel grateful for them."

RELATED: Mental health hotline ready to help with stress related to holidays, pandemic

Dr. Nicogossian says it's all about managing your emotions by taking care of your physical and mental health.

 "Sleep is the great foundation for your mental health and your overall wellbeing. So as much as you can get sleep, stay hydrated, drink of water throughout the day, eat nourishing meals, get up and move your body."

Also, stay connected with family and friends to reduce isolation, but still make time for yourself and do things that bring you joy.

 "We're finding that people who engage in activities where they lose track of time, where they have a sense of purpose, but they have a sense of meaning, they end up feeling better during this pandemic."

If you need more help or advice contact your health provider or call the City of Houston's mental health helpline at 713-999-9442. It's open 7 days a week from 1 p.m. - 11 p.m. until Christmas.