Ep. 6: Managing Family Stress and Anxiety with Dr. Stephanie Mihalas

Dec 1, 2020 | 0 comments

This pandemic has impacted us all in more ways than one. Our stress and anxiety levels are much different than they were at the start of the year and that means our children are feeling it, too. Is it normal for people to be feeling the way they do in the midst of a pandemic and when should people seek help?

I am so thrilled to have Dr. Stephanie Mihalas on today’s episode to discuss this very topic. Dr. Mihalas is a Licensed Psychologist and a Nationally Certified School Psychologist. She is Board Certified by the American Board of Professional Psychology, in the sub-specialty of School Psychology. She has a private practice in Los Angeles where she works on self-esteem, self-advocacy, and general well being and happiness in children and families.

Our conversation today is so meaningful and relevant to the challenges we are all facing. By listening, you’ll learn the difference between individual and collective grief, how to address grief associated with the pandemic, the difference between anxiety and trauma, and strategies for managing stress and anxiety.


Show Notes:

[2:28] – Dr. Wilson and Dr. Mihalas discuss the grief people are experiencing after losing our normal way of living.

[3:22] – We are in a state of individual grief and a state of collective grief. Our feelings of anxiety and grief are a completely normal response.

[4:23] – This grief and anxiety isn’t a clinical issue unless it gets to the point where you can’t function anymore. That would be when you need to reach out for support.

[5:27] – We may be fine and then we turn on our social media or the news and we are hit with information that can make our emotions fluctuate moment to moment.

[6:03] – Dr. Mihalas says the most important thing we need to do during this time is to acknowledge that our feelings of grief are normal and that we utilize our support systems.

[7:06] – Over 70% of parents are stating that they feel stress and anxiety in regards to distance learning. It is tough to parent when you are feeling this way.

[7:42] – This is the first time many parents are seeing their own children learn and when they see their inattentiveness or struggle, they wonder if there is a learning disability.

[8:52] – Parents are creating more stress for themselves and their child during distance learning. Stephanie’s recommendation is to take a step back and talk to your child about their learning and what support they feel they need from you.

[9:47] – Dr. Mihalas also says that parents need to make sure they have dedicated self-care time every single day to avoid burnout and to decompress.

[11:22] – As parents, we want to be there for our children but being physically present during remote learning may be causing stress and anxiety for them. Taking breaks and communication are both important.

[12:56] – There is debate right now about whether we are experiencing a traumatic event or not. Dr. Mihalas says that it depends on the makeup of the family.

[14:37] – Some people can also experience anxiety and a PTSD response to the challenges we are facing.

[15:31] – When there is uncertainty, it contributes to the feelings of anxiety.

[16:43] – The critical factor that compounds this situation is collective family anxiety. Parents want to reassure their children but they are anxious and scared themselves.

[18:40] – Stephanie discusses how children can experience a PTSD response during these times.

[19:19] – Dr. Mihalas is encouraging parents to be vigilant with monitoring their child’s mental health.

[21:21] – Anxiety, stress, and PTSD interfere with the learning process. When you seek help for mental health, you are also helping with learning.

[22:40] – Children may show their anxiety in different ways. Dr. Mihalas lists several examples of this and emphasizes the importance of taking note of issues that impede learning.

[24:08] – There has been focus and concern around learning losses, but Dr. Wilson points out that learning takes place in a social context and losing the opportunity to interact with their peers is something that some children are grieving.

[26:01] – Dr. Mihalas lists a lot of ways to think outside the box on how we can have connections with others. 

[27:31] – Dr. Wilson comments on how these creative ways to connect are also great activities for helping manage our own stress and anxiety.

[28:29] – Home used to be the place to connect and unwind, but now it is also used for school and work. Stephanie suggests having some symbolism to separate spaces or times to switch gears.


About Our Guest:

Dr. Stephanie Mihalas has a private practice in Los Angeles – The Center for Well Being – where she works on enhancing self-esteem, self-advocacy, and general well being and happiness in children and families. In her practice, she utilizes a number of techniques including CBT, play therapy, psychodynamic psychotherapy, art interventions, trauma-informed care, and mindfulness techniques.

Connect with Dr. Stephanie Mihalas:


Links and Resources: