The current stressors in our world: COVID-19, social justice issues, fires destroying communities and the divisive political scene all contribute to higher levels of stress and anxiety. During the pandemic there has been an increase in deaths by suicide, domestic violence and abuse against children. The Washington Post reported that as early as April ER doctors were seeing an increase in severe child abuse cases. These are extreme times that call for everyone to work even harder on stress management.
Part of the increased level of stress is due to social distancing that is decreasing quality connection with others. The pandemic has removed the social community that supports and nurtures us. To get through this stress management and self-care strategies have to be practiced by everyone.
Here are a few ideas to help you and your family cope as we get through to the other side.
- Self-Care: Ask yourself, “What is it that soothes me?” For many people taking a hot bath, reading a good book, listening to music, yoga, meditation, or watching a fun movie on your favorite streaming channel can be just what you need to calm and soothe the stress. Think about what it is that makes you feel good as well as what it is you really need.
- Needs Assessment: What do you really need? The first answer might be “I need to get rid of the stress.” Yes, but what’s underneath that? What do you really need? Sometimes we need affirmation, validation of our feelings, a hug, a little bit of quiet down time, or maybe just to go to bed a little earlier. Sit with this question so that you can ask that your needs be met.
- Environment: Go outside for 20 minutes every day. Stretch and move your body between Zoom sessions – give yourself a quick break from sitting in front of the computer. By going outside, you can be enriched by the natural Vitamin D from the sun and it can elevate your mood. Take a few deep breaths and focus on something positive. If you are working from home, look around your workspace or office and make sure it is organized and comfortable – Have some special personal items near by to remind you of pleasant and happy memories. Be sure to keep your workspace clutter free – it helps you stay focused and feel on top of things.
- Expectations: Be clear with yourself about what you can and cannot do. If you are a parent with school aged children you are now having to be your child’s teacher as well as full time day care provider at the same time that you have obligations to get work done for your job. Have the kids help with keeping things organized and helping around the house in little ways. This is a great way to help them learn a positive sense of responsibility while being valued as a member of the family. You can make it playful by setting up little competitions, like setting a timer and seeing who can get the bed made first. This helps everyone feel like they are a part of the team and not alone with all that needs to be done.
- Be positive: It can be really challenging in times of high stress to find things to be positive or grateful about however focusing on the negativity only increases stress. Think of the small things that were successful that day, or how you felt when something worked the way you wanted it to. Have dinner together as a family and ask everyone to take a turn saying at least one thing that they feel good about. It can be simply that you are all together for dinner!
The current stressors are showing us how much we need to practice good self-care and stress management. If you find yourself unable to shift out of negativity or manage your stress sufficiently to find some relief remember that we are here to help. You are not alone.
Mary Ruth Cross, MFT, NCC, RPT-S
CEO/Owner Treehouse Family Counseling Services, PC