Amanda Smyth, LCSW
It all happened quite quickly. Schools and businesses shut down, store shelves emptied. If we let it, the changes that we are being forced to live with can scare us to say the least. Let's talk 3 core ways to stay positive and handle stress in this ever daunting new normal.
1. Remove the Negatives - There is now only so much we can control, so start there. Consider that if there is something in the media you MUST know about, the news will get to you, make a conscious choice to limit your social media time and news exposure- especially around little ears and eyes. There is almost no positive news, not that it doesn't exist, it just is not reported on. We can't compete with the negative on news broadcasts and even social media. If you must check in on social media schedule times in the day to do this. Additionally be aware of the conversations you engage in, moods/emotions are contagious and it only takes 10 min from it to passed from one to another.
2. Body Awareness- bring awareness of your habits of trying to relieve stress. Often without thought our attempt to relieve stress comes in the form of "slinging" it. We sling it at people and things. What I mean by this is we become short tempered with our children, we pick fights with our spouses, and sling our discontent at them. It's actually an effort to try and relieve ourself of the uncomfortable feelings we are experiencing. To counter this it's the age old self care! We hear all the time how important it is, but this is when self care is truly paramount. Self care is NOT going to get a massage or eating a delicious treat, that's indulgence, and it's affect is short term. Self care is giving yourself space and time to feel what you are feeling, acknowledging it and moving through it. Self care is taking a deep breath and allowing yourself to sit down and drink a glass of water, taking time to engage in a conversation with a friend who is positive and uplifting. It's critical to schedule specific times in our day to make self care more likely to happen proactively so that we are not reactively trying to relieve stress. Be aware of your thinking, like "I want to sit down, but I can't there is so much to do" or "I want to work out, but I'm so tried". Replace this thinking with, "I am going to sit down even thought there is more to do" (hint: there is always more to do) or “I am going to work out even though I feel tired” and then GO and work out or sit down and relax. Tune in to your body. Try this; set a bell to go off every so often to relax your shoulders and breathe deeply. Try the Mindfulness Bell app, it can help you to be aware of the tension you are holding and what you are feeling through out the day. The brain loves deep breathes, it helps us to realign our thinking and calm our nervous system.
Here are a few ideas of what self care can look like, additional ideas are setting aside specific time to exercise, go for a walk, call a friend, relax with a novel... share your comments on what your self care looks like.
3. Make a Schedule- you've already heard it referenced a few times above. Schedule it... get family input, and create a concrete schedule. Then, maintain it! Structure and routine quells the nerves, we know what to expect, when things will be happening. Give yourself flexibility. A strategy is to print out a schedule and slide it into a clear folder or sheet protector. Use a dry erase marker to write in specific daily activities you have planned or allow switching around times if need be. This keeps the structure and routine, but allows for flexibility which will make it more likely to maintain a daily schedule. Two schedules, one for adults and one for the children, is also helpful to maintain. The schedules times should align, however the tasks may differ. See the example kid schedule below:
Change is not easy, not knowing what is to come or when something will end is anxiety provoking. Nothing lasts forever, take control over what you can. Exhale what you can not.
Telehealth sessions are available for those who need support. Reach out for help, that's self care, and you are worth it.