Raise your hand if you’ve dipped into your emergency supply of Xanax this week. Just me?
This virus is stressful. I’m worried about sickness, running out of milk and all the unknown. Canceling everything on our calendar—from a spring break trip to my daughter’s 5th birthday party—hasn’t exactly improved my mood, either. And even though I know we’re all in this together, it doesn’t feel like it, because social distancing is keeping us so far apart.
What’s an anxious mama to do in the age of coronavirus? How do we keep our families calm and happy when everything has changed and we can barely leave the house?
“Do your best to take it one day at a time,” says Dr. Jennifer L. Montesi Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at UCLA. And try to embrace the positive. “This can be a strangely cool time to bond with your family, making the most of newfound free time.”
Here are 10 specific ways to reduce your family’s anxiety during this challenging event:
1. Create a routine
With schools closed and activities on hold, our days seem shapeless, but it’s important to create a new routine at home. “Structure is the antidote to anxiety,” says Dr. Montesi, who advocates maintaining a regular sleep schedule and normal meals. “Kids thrive on balance, structure, and limits, so don’t let them have 1,000 cookies just because you’re freaking out (unless that’s your normal..no judgment).” A stay-at-home schedule might include learning time, crafts, reading, snack, clean-up, outdoor play, screen time and whatever else makes sense for your family.
2. Make it fun
In our normal lives, we’re so over-scheduled that there’s often no time to let loose and goof around. I asked my kids to brainstorm fun activities we could do at home. First on their list was a spa day where we give each other mani/pedis, put cucumber slices on our eyes and take bubble baths. I’m embracing my ability to say “yes” to that and everything else on their list, from painting a mural and baking a sprinkle cake to finally reading the directions for that board game from last Christmas.
3. Get outside
Even if it’s only the backyard, getting fresh air can soothe our souls. Being outside improves mood, decreases anxiety and promotes a healthy sleep cycle. “A change of scenery can really work wonders when we’re all trapped indoors, giving perspective and a reset,” says Dr. Montesi. If you’re able to walk in the neighborhood while maintaining a safe social distance, there’s the added benefit of physical exercise, which also reduces stress.
4. Tidy up
If you’ve always wanted to Marie Kondo your home but never had the time before, this is your moment! Not only is decluttering productive, but it can also make us feel less anxious during Coronavirus. “The psychological benefits are about decreasing frustration–giving a sense of control and satisfaction in a situation where we have very little of either,” said Dr. Montesi. Extra bonus, you might uncover some long lost toys or craft supplies that will come in handy!
5. Turn off the news
Sure, we all need to stay informed, but not 24/7. “Find out what you need to know, and then set a limit for yourself,” says Dr. Montesi. Constantly checking “causes huge spikes in anxiety and fear” and no one needs that. Ideally, when you reach for your remote, find content that makes you smile, like comedies and musicals.
6. Find ways to connect
Just because we can’t gather doesn’t mean we can’t keep in touch. We’re lucky to live in the age of Facetime and Skype, but it’s also fun to go old school and drop some postcards in the mail. However you do it, make a point of reaching out to friends and family regularly. “Do your best to share how you’re feeling and bring caring to others,” says Dr. Montesi. And while it’s good to focus on the positive, you don’t have to pretend everything is fine. “It’s okay to be afraid of this situation. It’s a strange and pretty scary time! It’s normal to be worried.”
7. Hug it out
“Physical touch has been shown to release oxytocin, provide a sense of security, soothe distressing emotions, and reduce cardiovascular stress,” says Dr. Montesi. Certainly, I’ve noticed that since our quarantine began, my little ones are crawling onto my lap a lot more I’ve found that back scratchies, brushing hair, reading together and good old fashioned hugs can be very comforting in times of worry.
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Amy Wruble, 10 Ways to Reduce Your Family’s Anxiety During Coronavirus, Mommy Nearest, March 17, 2020, 12:08 PM ET, https://www.businessinsider.com/what-coronavirus-quarantine-was-like-mom-kids-taiwan-2020-2