In recent weeks this has become more and more at the forefront of people’s minds. The isolation we all feel from the numerous lockdowns is having an effect. Probably far more so now (Jan 2021) when it is not so easy to enjoy the outdoors because of the cold and wet. The longer evenings only add to the feelings of isolation.
Anxiety and worry are now prominent feelings amongst many. These are natural feelings- it is part of our fight or flight system that has developed to help protect us from dangers. In prehistoric Britain that would have been animals such as tigers… and though we do not need to worry about a tiger creeping up behind us; anxiety is still a real emotion. The problem is that, though there is no longer a tiger our brains release the same chemicals.
Fun and creative ideas to help relieve anxiety/stress.
If you or your child are feeling anxious, try some of the following activities
- Home made stress toy- fill an old sock with something soft e.g shower sponge, foam packaging or scrunched up paper. Tie a knot in the top or use a hair bobble or elastic band to keep the contents in. Use as you would a stress ball.
- Try to connect with the natural world- watch the clouds from your window, watch a video, change your home screen on your computer to a picture of your favourite animal or imagine being somewhere peaceful outdoors.
- Make a ‘comfort box’- use a bag or box and place 3 or 4 items that bring you comfort- a blanket to wrap up in, a letter from someone important in your life, photo, your favourite scent or a cuddly toy etc
- Make a ‘worry box’ – write down whatever is worrying you, pop it in the box, and tell yourself not to worry about it now- it can stay in the box for now. You can think about it later.
- Start a journal- everyday write at least 3 things you are grateful for or write 3 kind words or messages to yourself.
- Imagine 3 months from now and draw or write what could look different- what challenges have you overcome? What changes have you made?
- Listen to music that helps to calm and relax you.
- Have a family yoga/meditation session- plenty of videos on youtube, try to make this a regular occurrence.
- Create new healthy family meals- try something you have not had before.
- Give each other a pamper session- face masks, bath salts, paint each others nails.
- Get active- go for a run, failing that put on some great music and get dancing!
What you can do to help your child if they are having an anxious moment
When your child is in the middle of a very anxious moment, they may feel frightened, agitated or worried about having a panic attack. The important thing to do in the moment is to help them calm down and feel safe.
These strategies can help:
- Breathe slowly and deeply together. You can count slowly to three as you breathe in, and then three as you breathe out. If it works for them, gradually encourage your child to breathe out for one or two counts longer than they breathe in, as this can help their body relax.
- Sit with them and offer calm physical reassurance. Knowing you are there to hold their hand or give them a cuddle can be soothing.
- Reassure them that the anxiety will pass and that they will be okay. It can be helpful to describe it as a wave that they can ride or surf until it peaks, breaks and gets smaller.
- Ask them to think of a safe and relaxing place or person in their mind. If you haven’t tried this before, agree with them when they’re feeling calm what this place or person is. Visualising this person or place can help to calm anxious feelings.
- Try using all five senses together. Encourage them to be in the moment- think together about five things they can see, four things they can touch, three things they can hear, two things they can smell and one thing they can taste. This step by step approach can help reduce the intensity of their anxiety.
- Encourage them to do an activity that makes them feel calmer and more relaxed. It could be running, walking, listening to music, painting, drawing or colouring-in, writing in a journal, watching a favourite film or reading a favourite book.
Remember that everyone is different, and that over time you and your child can work together to find the things that work best for them.