Jamie Frederick, LCPC
For many families, the COVID19 Pandemic has taken anxiety and stress levels to a new high. In addition, many of our go-to outlets for healthfully managing our stress are no longer available due to shelter-in-place restrictions. Homes have become our places for work, play, and school with little to no time to prepare for these changes. The good news is, there are simple things that both children and adults can do to help navigate these tough times. The five tips below can be implemented immediately and consistently across all members of the family to help offer a sense of calm in the chaos.
- Focus on what you can control. When our minds wander to all the challenges facing us, it’s easy to become overwhelmed, lose hope, and feel helpless. By focusing on what you can control, you regain your power and peace of mind. For example, you can’t control how others choose to respond to the crisis but you can control steps you and your family can take to keep yourselves healthy.
- Begin or continue to practice yoga, meditation, relaxation techniques, and gratitude. These practices are healthy and lower our stress, anxiety, and depression during times of normalcy. During difficult times, these practices become even more essential to our well being. If you don’t know where to start, YouTube has numerous yoga and relaxation videos for all ages and levels. There are many easy to use phone apps, many of which have a free version, available to teach basic meditation and relaxation techniques that all ages can do and benefit from. Finally, while it is appropriate to feel some added stress, anxiety, and fear when facing uncertainty, writing down or verbally expressing what simple things we are grateful for can help balance our emotions and focus our energy on what is important. You don’t have to wait for Thanksgiving to start a new family tradition around gratitude. Start today and see the benefits it can bring!
- Take things one day at a time. There is so much uncertainty right now; don’t add fuel to the anxiety fire by worrying about what will change tomorrow or next week. Focus on what you’d like to or need to accomplish today. Do the same for children. Also, remember to give everyone a fresh start each day, including yourself. It’s understandable to have bad days, irritability, and increased arguments with family members during this time. Each new day is an opportunity to make the most of your situation and a chance for both children and adults to find joy, be kind, and make better choices.
- Rely on your strengths. Look at what has worked in the past and apply it to this situation. What are ways that you and your family have successfully managed stress or anxiety in the past? Physical activity? Art? Talking with friends or extended family? Seeing a therapist? Implement what you know works. For example, maybe you can’t go to the gym to work out your frustrations and socialize/vent to friends, but you can do physical activity at home and use technology to stay connected. Your child can’t attend an art class, but now is a great time to use up supplies around the house and be creative. If seeing a therapist has been helpful for you or your family in the past to help process and cope with stressful situations, consider therapy again. Many counseling services offer teletherapy for all ages from the comfort and safety of your home, including STEPS for Kids.
- Plan for structure and allow for flexibility. Most of us do our best when we have some kind of structure to follow, whether that’s our working hours, school hours, exercise time, family time, meal times, cleaning schedule, etc. it gives us a sense of consistency and a framework from which to build the rest of our day on. It can be helpful for all family members to have a general schedule and a daily to-do list. This provides a sense of normalcy and consistency, as well as a sense of accomplishment and control, in a chaotic time. However, keep in mind, these are unprecedented times we are living in. If your child was to complete school work in the morning and clean his room in the afternoon but wakes up eager to tackle his room. it may be wise to let him feel a bit more in control and enjoy a sense of empowerment by changing today’s schedule. If a child is having a hard day emotionally (or, if you are!), maybe a quiet day of snuggles, art, movies, and lots of reassurance is a healthier use of time.
Whatever you do to relieve stress and anxiety, remember that you are not alone. Even though we are facing challenging times that keep us physically apart, we can be there for each other by using technology to connect and engage with others. If you are in crisis, help is available. If you would like to know more about mental health services provided through STEPS for Kids, please contact us today.
This information provided by STEPS for Kids counselor, Jamie Frederick, LCPC. Jamie has over 9 years of experience as a counselor working with children from pre-school through high-school ages. She is passionate about supporting all children through a family-centered approach that focuses on the strengths of both the child and family while working on skill development vital for the child’s success. Jamie can help with adjustment issues, behavioral concerns, anxiety, emotional-regulation difficulty, social skills, and more. She is certified in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and trained in play based therapy. She is available to support children, teens and adults with a variety of conditions and concerns through individual, group, and family based treatment approaches. Her services are available via teletherapy remote treatment sessions during the COVID19 Shelter-In-Place order.