How to manage anxiety as a family
So you’re stuck at home. With the kids. The whole family. Yup. No office to go to, no school, no social engagements to keep you entertained... How is your household dealing with this lockdown: Everyone hiding behind devices? Children swinging from ceiling fans as parents pull their hair out? Or has it gone strangely silent with everyone retreating to separate corners of the house?
Whether your family unit is made up of strong, silent stock or of the overly demonstrative variety, the emotional and mental challenges posed by coronavirus – and spending so much time cooped up together – are bound to cause some form of anxiety or stress.
With so much uncertainty in the outside world, Clinical Psychologist Cass Dunn has strategies your family can put in place to manage stress levels and deal with anxiety inside the home.
1. As a family, agree to put limits around time spent on social media or watching the news. What we let into our awareness can impact our mood – parents need to help kids understand this so we can regain control by limiting the amount of bad news that the family is consuming. Also, limit how much you talk about the crisis – while it’s important to be truthful with children if it’s the only topic of conversation kids will receive a message that it’s big, scary and unending.
2. Regular exercise isn’t just good for grown-ups – keep everyone moving with some form of exercise every day, like going out for a walk or bike ride in the fresh air. In most places, going outside once a day for exercise as a family unit within a reasonable distance of your home is permitted, but be sure to follow local social distancing guidelines.
3. Meditation is something everyone can do individually or parents can do with kids to counter stress and find some calm amid the chaos. Centr is helping on this front by delivering a new series of meditations and sleep visualizations for kids, narrated by Chris Hemsworth and Taika Waititi. Take some time to sit or lie down (especially at bedtime) and listen together.
4. As a family unit, allow regular opportunities for everyone to share how they’re feeling or anything they’re worried about. Don’t dismiss kids’ concerns, but reassure them that they’re safe and you can all work together to look after each other.
5. Learn to recognize warning signs of stress and anxiety – in your kids, your partner and yourself. For one person, it could be not sleeping well, while for someone else it might be getting cranky or sad, hitting the junk food hard, or spending too much time in front of the TV. We should all get to know ourselves and our family’s signs of stress so we can act quickly and support each other better.
6. Don’t be too rigid about plans, schedules, and structures. Having a routine is good, but while we’re all still learning how to navigate this strange new way of life, trying too hard to control things will only cause angst and upset. We can’t expect work, school, housework or anything, really, to carry on like it always has right now, so a little flexibility and a more relaxed attitude will go a long way to maintaining everyone’s sanity.
If you think someone in your family may need more support getting through this, reach out to a medical professional – many medical and psychology appointments can be conducted over the phone or on a video call during this time. You can find contact details for local support services below.
USA: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on 1-800-273-8255
Australia: Lifeline on 13 11 14
UK: Hopeline on 0800 068 4141
Other: Contact your country's crisis support hotline.
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