4 Stress Resets for Parents in COVID Stage 4
Our mental health is taking quite a battering at the moment. We really are experiencing the emotional equivalent to an ultra-marathon. It is hard to manage our worry and stress but we need to do this effectively or else it can impact on our ability to deal with all emotions. Once we know that we have effective coping strategies for ourselves then it gives us an increased sense of mastery. When you know you have the tools to cope with your worry and stress in a helpful way then it allows you to be hopeful that you can manage this stage.
Here are 4 evidenced based strategies that work.
1. Music to shift your mood:
This has actually been referred to as music medicine and the great thing is you don’t need a script and there are no side effects! Focus on relaxing or serene sounds. We know that music can improve our mood so ensure those songs have an uplifting element. Put together playlists that calm you and brings you joy. Dr Oliver Sacks writes in Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, “music can lift us out of depression or move us to tears — it is a remedy, a tonic, orange juice for the ear,”.
2. Reduce your temperature to get calm
How many times was our parent’s cure all for emotional distress, splash your face with cold water? Well it seems that like all good ‘wives tales’ there is some merit in this suggestion. Research has shown that lowering your body temperature by placing your face in cold water can activate a response that reduces your psychological and emotional intensity. So, try filling the sink with icy cold water, add a few ice blocks and hold your breath whilst dipping your face in the water. This may seem super weird, but it does reduce your heart rate and as such will allow the blood to flow more easily to your brain.
3. Breathing to get focused:
Just taking in deep breaths will not allow you to feel calm. What happens is you suck in too much oxygen and don’t breathe out the carbon dioxide…you will just end up feeling dizzy, nauseous and still.
There are heaps of breathing apps and recommendations out there but here is a simple one.
1. Take a long, slow breath in through your nose, first filling your lower lungs, then your upper lungs.
2. Hold your breath and then count to 3
3. Exhale slowly through pursed lips, while you relax the muscles in your face, jaw, shoulders, and stomach.
Or try this version
1. Ensure that you are sitting on a comfortable chair or laying on a bed.
2. Take a breath in for 4 seconds (through the nose if possible).
3. Hold the breath for 2 seconds
4. Release the breath taking 6 seconds (through the nose if possible), then pause slightly before breathing in again.
5. Practice, practice, practice!
Why does this work?
because when you’re worried or stressed your breathing pattern changes and the balance between oxygen and carbon dioxide is disrupted. We can take in more oxygen than the body needs – in other words we over breathe, or hyperventilate.
When this imbalance is detected, our body responds with a number of chemical changes that produce symptoms like these:
Increased heart rate
Numbness and tingling of extremities
Cold clammy hands
Then we start to worry we are having a heart attack …or Corona Virus. So get into calm breathing.
4. Be a "good news" junkie
We know that feeling as we anticipate the news brief, the numbers, the stats and the uncertain forecasts. I am not suggesting we can all put our head in the sand and ignore the realities, but you must give your brain a break from the negatives. Negative messages can send our stress response into a tailspin. The reverse is also true: We can induce good moods by downloading positive content to our brains.
So, seek out pleasant social interactions even if they are virtual, pay attention to your child's smiles, and make sure you show physical affection. Reflect on happy memories, read uplifting stories, share jokes, and pet the family dog.