Written by: Alison Haar, PsyD
While we all aim higher than this, it’s also more difficult than ever to just get by during COVID times. Completing tasks for ourselves and our children/family, while also managing work and other responsibilities, is about all the bandwidth we have available. And often that’s even overwhelming! The “survival techniques” below are aimed at helping you and your child(ren) manage the unprecedented stress we are uniquely experiencing. These are simple, tangible coping strategies that you can teach your child. All three strategies encourage your child to be presently focused which helps to break the “stress loop” they may be feeling.
This is one of the quickest and simplest forms of relaxation. The goal of deep breathing is to alleviate tension and help the body relax. Lie down on your back with a hand on your chest and the other on your belly. Start by taking in a slow, deep breath through your nose with the goal of filling your stomach with the air. It’s helpful to place a pillow, book, stuffed animal or another light object on the belly and watch it rise and fall. At the top of the in-breath, hold for a moment and then let out all of the air slowly through your mouth. Repeat this process at least 3 times. This activity can be made into a game of sorts, with the goal of trying to get the object on the belly to move up and down as much as possible!
Let’s make the most of what can be utilized anywhere, anyplace, anytime. A great example of this is using our different senses to “ground”ourselves. It is an easy, effective and immediate way to refocus awareness back into our bodies and the present. We will work our way down, counting from 5 to 1, while incorporating the sensory experiences we have immediate access to.
Here’s an example: Close your eyes. Start with a slow, deep breath.
Sight: Name 5 things you see (Ex: table, sun, dog, toes, floor)
Sound: Name 4 things you feel(Ex: my shoes, the chair I’m sitting in, my hands on the table, my stomach growling)
Touch: Name 3 things you hear (Ex: birds chirping, mom talking, car passing on the street)
Smell: Name 2 things you smell (dinner cooking, shampoo in my hair)
Taste: Name 1 thing you taste (leftover breakfast)
End with a slow, deep breath. NOTE: If you don’t have immediate access to one of these sensory experiences, just recall a favorite experience or whatever comes to mind.
We all currently have different comfort levels, and actual access, to being outside. As Spring turns to Summer, we can hopefully enjoy nature more. Engaging in nature might be merely looking out the window with your child and making it into a game: What do you see? Turn it into an impromptu game of “I spy with my little eye”: the sky, sun, clouds, birds, other animals, trees, other buildings or houses, people outside, pets, etc. This can also entail actually venturing outside and getting a “nature bath.” Ideally, going for a walk outside as often as possible and/or allowing children to blow off steam by playing outside or even standing outside in a patch of sun for a few moments can have a positive impact of your mood. The best way to encourage your child’s participation is for you to model the desired behavior. What’s more, is doing these stress-reducing activities together can help make these coping behaviors a healthy pattern for your whole family.
If your child is exhibiting worrisome behaviors, we can help. Learn more about our services for children and adolescents HERE.