Every one of us encounters stress and anxiety in our lifetime. It’s a normal part of life that can affect us in a variety of ways, caused by different situations. What causes stress for one individual may seem like a small matter to another.
In the past couple of years, many of us will have experienced stress and anxiety caused by trauma or crisis; perhaps a death in the family, the affects of multiple lockdowns and the Covid-19 pandemic, the lost of a job, or the atrocities of war. Though stress and anxiety can also come from seemingly small events like missing your bus, being stuck in heavy traffic, or a disagreement with a friend.
One of the most important steps in managing stress and anxiety is the process of recognising and accepting. Stress and anxiety that is not managed can develop into long-term or chronic stress which can lead to poor physical health, negative emotions, and depression.
Establishing what stress management tools work best you and your family can be a process in itself. While there is no perfect way to manage stress and anxiety, there are lots of ways to make positive steps with your family to come up with ideas and activities that work for you.
Our Therapist in Residence, Saskia Joss, shares with us her top tips for families with stress and anxiety.
Be The Judge
Set out arguments that uphold your anxiety and then set out arguments that tear it down. The more often you do this, the more likely you’ll be able to convince yourself there’s nothing to be nervous about.
Imagine you’ve been given all the money you could want, but only have 10 minutes to decide how to spend it. Use your logical brain to make a list of 10 things you’d buy. Using the brain for organisational tasks can help us calm down.
Find some friends or family members and crack open your board games or a deck of cards and calmly while away the hours. Playing games with rules helps us make GABA, a happy calming chemical in our brain which helps us feel relaxed and joyful even on the most stressful days.
Screen Time Blackout
Turn off your phone and tablet, throw your TV in a lake, and while you’re there, go for a walk outside. Stepping away from our technology devices and going outside into nature, as little as seeing six trees, switches our eyes and brain from work mode to a relaxed state. Being in nature calms the body and mind. Try to get outside for more than 30 minutes, three times a week, and see if it changes how you feel.
Sometimes it’s the little things that can break a cycle of negative thoughts or a run of bad moods. Make sure you are doing the little things like showering every day, getting dressed, eating good nutritious food, getting outside, exercising and getting at least 7 hours of sleep each night. You have to put the basics in place to get your brain and body to work at their optimal performance. A week of fulfilling basic self-care can boost your mood and help you learn better habits.
Imagine as you breathe that your breath is a colour, and as you breathe out you can draw a shape in front of you. Try making a square breath in four, hold for four, and then out for four. Now try a star; breathing in for eight, hold for four, and then out for eight. What other shapes can you make as you calm your body with your breathing?
Colour My Body With Feelings
As a way to reflect on how your body is processing your experiences, relax and close your eyes. Try to imagine what you have been feeling that day. Where in your body is the feeling? What colour would that feeling be? Each time you find where your emotions have landed (maybe a knot in your tummy, a pain in your back, or a sickly feeling in your chest) assign that feeling a colour. Now, take a deep breath in and as you breathe out, imagine that colour leaving your body and taking that feeling with it. Carry on until your stuck feelings have left your body and you feel calm.
Take off your shoes and feel your feet on the floor. Find a cold floor or get a trusted adult to put their feet on top of yours. Remember that you are safe and the feelings you have are not going to last forever or take over your body.
Do Something You Love
Ask a your grown up to schedule in time to do what you love. Maybe you like baking, playing, ice skating, reading a book, watching a film, or playing with a friend. Putting plans in our diary gives us something to look forward to and can make even the dullest of trickiest week more bearable.
Bonus Tip: Seek Professional Help
If you are feeling overwhelmed, or if you or another family member is struggling with their stress and anxiety, do seek professional assistance from an outside source such as your GP or local primary care provider. Mind and the Mental Health Foundation are great places to start, and provide families and young people with support.
If you found these tips helpful, feel free to share with your friends and other families. Don’t forget that Thinkably also provides a plethora of books and audiobooks to help open up important conversations with children. Our inspirational, fun and informative books enable grown ups talk with children about important issues and topics, helping children understand their world.
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