A BLOG FOR PARENTS WHO WANT TO LEARN HOW TO NAVIGATE THE TEEN YEARS AND NOT JUST SURVIVE BUT THRIVE!
Right now it is becoming increasingly difficult to avoid the topic of conversation that is COVID-19. I am here not to add to this stress. I decided to make this extra blog post this week in order to provide you with ways to cope and manage any difficult feelings that might be coming up for you or your teens.
As I’ve mentioned in other blog posts, teens are definitely paying attention to you during moments of stress or crisis. They are paying extra attention to your nonverbal reactions and how you are coping with and managing your emotions. So in an effort to help them, and yourself of course, lets look at a few ways to keep calm and take care of yourself amid the COVID-19 stress.
First lets do a quick check-in. If you notice your stress and anxiety levels rising I would like you to ask yourself, “Is what I’m feeling genuinely my reaction, or is it that of those around me?” Noticing this allows you to create some mental distance and decide how to proceed next in a way that feels right to you.
Take a Deep Breathe
When our bodies believe there is a threat it activates our internal alarm system (sympathetic system), think fight or flight. This then causes our bodies and mind to react in a way that is primarily focused on self-preservation and isn’t the most rational way to think or behave. Deep breathing (as cheesy as it might sound to you) for even 2-4 seconds on the inhale and 4-6 seconds on the exhale activates our calming system (parasympathetic system). This helps us regain control and have a clearer mind. There are lots of videos and apps like Calm that guide you through the process too.
Observe, Name, Accept, CREATE
Taking a moment to observe your thoughts and feelings is the first crucial step towards getting a handle on them. Doing this has the potential to diminish their intensity, redirect them, and find healthier ways to cope and think moving forward. Taking it one step further and creating some art is a great way to process, express, and release thoughts and emotions about what is going on and your experiences.
What are the facts? And what can I control?
Finding reputable sources and facts can help you focus on something that is not based in emotion. This can help counter any cognitive distortions that might be coming up for you and keeping you in the negative loop. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other local health agencies are credible. Once you have the facts then you can move to thinking about what you have control over, like the choices you make to travel, attend large gatherings, wash your hands, or disinfect high traffic areas in your home or office. This also helps you know where to turn to in case of questions from your teen.
Limit media consumption.
You have ultimate control over your social media feed and what channels you put on your TV. If you notice you become more anxious, stressed and/or scared after being on social media or watching a news clip, then maybe reduce how often you turn to these. Staying informed is one thing, but constantly being bombarded with information is another.
Engage in Mindfulness activities.
Remember that mindfulness is all about focusing on the present and tapping into your 5 senses to do this. Engage in activities that require you to be in the moment instead of projecting yourself into the future and finding yourself worrying. Try making some art, listening to music, dancing, cooking a meal, taking a bubble bath, and lighting scented candles to name a few. One activity I recommend to my clients when feeling really stressed and needing some grounding it to try something I call 5,4,3,2,1. Name 5 things you can see in the room around you, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste. The order of these might change depending on where you are, for example if you are in the kitchen you might do 5 things you can taste instead.
Make a plan and discuss concerns.
One way that helps us manage our anxiety and stress about the unknown is to create a plan. Spend some time together as a family discussing what to do if you do find yourself being impacted. Things like contact information for doctors, local emergency lines, social support, etc. This not only helps you feel some control but also helps your teens feel included and like they have some control too. Be open and honest to addressing any questions your teen may have (this is where having good credible sources can be helpful), keep the answers simple, avoid telling them not to worry, and make sure the conversation isn’t before bedtime.
Everything shared here is meant for you to keep calm as the parent, but it is also meant to be shared with your teen too! Talking to your teen can help reduce stress and anxiety in the house and keep everyone a little calmer which means less tension and arguments at home.
For more on how to help your teen and any little ones you might also have at home, follow the links below:
How to Talk to Your Kids About Coronavirus
Helping Children and Teens Cope with Anxiety About COVID-19