De-stressing During a Pandemic: Tools for Parents and Other Adults

By Kathleen Ross, MHA, RN

Wellness Director

Methodist Health System

Is it even possible to ease stress, fear, and anxiety during this pandemic? I believe so. As a nurse, Registered Yoga Teacher, Mayo Certified Health Coach, and certified Mindfulness Trainer, I help people minimize stress and maximize wellness every day. And I know it can be done. It just takes a bit of focus and practice.

For example, let’s say that you’re a mom or dad, you can’t go to your workplace, and you have kids at home to keep entertained while you worry about other family members. Staying calm and collected will take some effort. But the payoff is worth it.

Are you stressed? Let’s take a look.

Everyone responds differently in stressful situations. According to the CDC, during an infectious disease outbreak, stress can manifest as changes in eating and sleeping patterns, worsening of chronic health problems, and fear or worry about the health of loved ones. This can be compounded for parents, who worry not only for their own health but also for the health of their children. When a parent cannot be in control, it can produce great anxiety. This is a normal response! It is okay. Every feeling is valid. 

Even so, how do you manage it? Actually, if you take the time for your own self-care, it will help you remain calm and reassuring, and that will provide a good model for your children. Here’s what I recommend:

Stop and notice your breath.

Each inhale, each exhale. Is it fast or slow? Is it tight in your chest? Is your heart rate up? Begin to deepen each breath in, and then release it as you breathe out. Inhale slowly, expand the lungs, exhale, and completely empty. After five to seven breaths like this, your heart rate and blood pressure will lower, and your body will start to relax.

Take frequent breaks.

Stop, even if it’s only for a few moments. Stepping outside for a breath of fresh air, having a cup of tea, or turning on relaxing music can be great ways to push the pause button. Scrolling through social media, however, does not count as a break! Resist the temptation.

Take a moment of gratitude. 

Think of three things that bring you joy. It can be a child, a pet, a person, or an event. Focus on every aspect of each joyful thing, and allow yourself to smile. Feel how your body responds.

Begin a mindfulness journal. 

Mindfulness is simply being aware in the present moment, without judgement. Write the times when you have feelings or emotions that start to spin out of your control. Write down your thoughts, your emotions, your physical sensations, and finally what you’re thinking and feeling as you write. Realize that there is no good or bad, right or wrong. You are the observer, not the judge. 

These exercises can create changes in your state of mind temporarily or even create more enduring changes. They can be done anytime and anywhere. The cost is free, and the time it takes to reset is minimal. And what about those kids? Turn these practices into fun activities to do with children. You could be sparking a lifetime of good habits.

© Methodist Health System