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10 Tips for Parents to Manage Anxiety during Covid-19

It’s no surprise that anxiety is at an all-time high right now and, quite frankly, none of us are all that immune to the contagion of its spread.

From small anxieties like having the toilet paper run out to big anxieties about our health and the health of our loved ones, it’s a challenging time for all of us. Many of the teenagers and young adults that are in treatment, already have a heightened level of anxiety and hypervigilant reactions to that anxiety. So learning how to manage our own anxiety becomes even more important so we don’t intensify the worries of our loved ones.

Of course, this does not mean putting our heads in the sand or minimizing the global situation when talking to our kids. They’re much smarter than that, anyway. Our own skills in managing our anxiety can be a helpful way to reassure our kids that, yes, times are troubling, but we are resilient and can navigate our stressors in a healthy way.

Because of the current circumstances, Solutions Parenting Support has been participating in a COVID task force created for the development of the best mental health treatments during extreme uncertainty.

Professionals from all across our industry have come together in a four-week series called, “Partnering for Excellence: Navigating the New Normal” to share the small steps that we can each take in order to maintain balance during this time of fluctuation.

We are grateful to be able to share the insights and tools presented by Mary Jo DeGrandi, Chris Perkins, Rob Gent, Becky Grappo at a recent online conference for the taskforce.

Here are the top 10 tools for managing your anxiety while parenting through COVID-19

  1. Use an anxiety app
    The Unwinding Anxiety app is a recommended tool for understanding and managing your anxiety on a daily basis. In 10 minutes a day, you can learn how to break the cycle of worry and panic and have evidence-based tools for better managing anxiety. Calm app is also recommended.
  2. Don’t let the news sneeze on you
    As Rob Gent says, “the news can sneeze on you at any time.”. Though a face mask won’t keep you from catching the spread of daily panic from the news, being more intentional with how you stay informed can protect you. Waking up and immediately saturating your brain with the news is not recommended. Waiting until later in the day and confining news consumption to one period of time during the day can be helpful in keeping your own anxiety in check.
  3. Five Finger Breathing
    Five finger breathing: this easy breathing technique helps you slow down and get regulated when your anxiety has started to take your rational brain offline. You do this by touching your thumb to your index finger, then inhale while your thumb rubs down your finger, exhale while your thumb moves back up. Do the same with each finger. By adding this kinesthetic piece to your breathing, you increase your mindfulness and somatic sensation, engage your parasympathetic nervous system and reduce your anxiety.
  4. Make sure there is a charismatic adult in everyone’s life
    This comes from the work of psychologist, Dr. Robert Brooks, who studied the effects of trauma on kids. In determining how some kids come out of war-torn childhood trauma more resilient while others do not fare as well, Dr. Brooks found that role of the charismatic adult is imperative in creating a more resilient child. This adult doesn’t need to be perfect, but he or she does need to be healthy, stable, encouraging and engaged with the child. Our kids aren’t the only ones who need a charismatic “adult” in their life. You need one, as well. Whether it’s your therapist, your parent coach, your spouse or your best friend, be sure to get in quality time with the charismatic adult in your life.
  5. Comfort and console before encouraging
    When our own stress and anxiety is running high, we might be in a rush to get someone else in our family to feel better, right away, so that we don’t have to feel bad. But before you help your loved ones with their anxiety, sit with them in the struggle for a few minutes. Validate the other person’s emotions before attempting to “fix” them. Slow down and listen, then, after acknowledging what they’ve expressed, you can consider offering (but not forcing) a different point of view.
  6. Use gratitude-forgiveness-humor
    Gratitude, forgiveness and humor are all antidotes to anxiety. Create an intentional practice of all three. Ask yourself, what am I grateful for? Where can I be flexible and forgiving of myself and others? And what are the things that I can laugh at right now? Any of these practices will reduce cortisol and increase connection with our loved ones.
  7. Find flexibility
    Ask where you can find more mental flexibility with situations you are facing while staying anchored to your morals and values. E.g. if you’re a family who believes in limited screentime, can you flex a little bit so that your teen can socialize with their friends, more often? This doesn’t mean that you need to scrap all of your screen-time values and let them stay on every night until 2 am, but it does mean considering where you can be more flexible in your current screen stance.
  8. Find a purpose for your suffering
    This comes from Victor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning, along with grief expert, David Kessler’s, 6th stage of grief. Yes, there’s quite a bit of loss we are all experiencing right now, how can you find some meaning in the struggle? How do you want to show up for your family or your community?
  9. Get into the flow state
    Find a project to get into that can help you feel productive, be a healthy distraction and get you into the flow state...reorganize a closet, garden, go through and clean up the billions of photos you have digitally saved, sew masks for healthcare workers. Not only does this help lower your anxiety, by keeping you present, it keeps you from hovering over your loved ones in a panicked state. Anxiety is primarily a fear about the future, so a creative project that puts you into the present (i.e. the flow state) helps relieve you of your anxiety and worry
  10. Stay in connection
    Make a virtual coffee date with your friends. Check-in with your neighbors. Stay virtually connected with friends and family. Double down on your outreach and communication with people you care about. Tend and befriend is also a stress response and a much healthier choice than fight or flight in the case of anxiety about COVID-19.

While the conference, in its entirety, was more geared towards clinical professionals, two of the speakers gave plenty of tips that also apply to parents. If you’d like to watch them, we’ve included the presentations here:

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Solutions Parenting Support, LLC is a nationally recognized parent support and transition program assisting parents and families with straightforward and compassionate skills based support prior to, during and after wilderness therapy and/or residential treatment. Solutions is a dynamic team of parent coaches who have had extensive careers as therapists in wilderness therapy or residential treatment before turning their talents towards coaching parents around the globe. The team is family system focused and are licensed professional therapists and/or social workers each with 15-30 years of experience working in wilderness therapy programs, varying levels of residential treatment programming, and transitional support.

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