By Jodie Martin
With any sudden change, it’s normal to experience stress and anxiety. During the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more important than ever to build resilience to guide us through. Since we are spending much more time at home with little to no personal time, activities that allow everyone in your home to reset and recharge as a family are crucial.
We’re sharing a few tips to bring mindfulness and resilience practices into your daily routine that encourage you and your family to feel more grounded and less anxious. Take a deep breath in, and a deep breath out. Ahh…
Here are five tips to build resilience and reduce stress for the whole family:
Diaphragmatic breathing (or “belly breathing”) is one breathing technique that is suitable for people of all ages. It balances the nervous system and promotes calm. To practice this, set a Time Timer for 5-10 minutes. Take deep, even breaths. Place one hand on your stomach and one hand on your chest. As you breathe in, feel the abdomen moving, expanding, and filling. As you breathe out, feel the abdomen relaxing. Breathing in, feel the abdomen and the ribs at the sides gently expanding. Breathing out, the ribs and abdomen soften. Continue with this breath for 5-10 minutes.
For younger kids, Sesame Street’s Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame app helps children aged 2-5 with transitions and builds skills for resilience with various activities, including “Breathe with the Monster” where kids can practice taking deep breaths to calm down.
Mindfulness is about focusing on the present, what’s happening right now. As the Greek philosopher Heraclitus aptly put it, “change is the only constant in life.” Mindfulness practices build resilience to stress or uncertainty.
One exercise that is helpful particularly in stressful situations, but also good practice in being present at any time is the 54321 grounding technique. It’s suitable for adults and children. Here’s what you do: look for five things you can see, four things you can touch or feel, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you taste.
Mindfulness practice can include meditation, of course, but you can also apply mindfulness to other daily activities, such as eating, doing the dishes, walking to the mailbox, cleaning up toys, and other regular tasks. Smiling Mind is a free app with daily meditation and mindfulness exercises suitable for the whole family.
Stay active together with yoga, dancing, and walking! You can find a resource sheet Time Timer created for a quick yoga practice for the whole family here. Or set a timer for 20 minutes, put on your favorite playlist to dance to, and get moving! Here are additional resources for online yoga, dance, and mindfulness videos:
Research studies have shown that gratitude practice increases mental strength and resilience. For yourself and older children, you may start a gratitude journal, where you can write each day about things you are grateful for. You can also make it a family affair, each sharing something you’re grateful for at mealtime, for example you could share something you’re looking forward to over breakfast, and share three things you’re grateful for at dinner! You can also arrange a writing activity with your kids, sending letters or drawings to loved ones letting them know how much you appreciate them.
If you have access to greenspace, enjoy it! Whether it’s in your backyard, on your street, or at a local park or nature reserve, get outside when you can. Spending time outside helps us to appreciate the beauty of nature, witness the natural cycle of change and the seasons, and remember we are part of something bigger than ourselves. On a family walk or spending time outdoors, encourage your kids to engage the five senses (see, hear, touch, smell, taste), for example by noticing what they can see growing around them, listening for the sound of birds, and touching tree bark and leaves.
We hope these activities encourage you to make time to slow down as a family and be present together. Be well!
Jodie Martin is a freelance writer specializing in health and wellbeing, lifestyle, and parenthood. She is also an E-RYT 500 Registered Yoga Teacher, Ayurveda Yoga Specialist, and Three Wisdom Traditions wellness coach. Jodie lives in Asheville, NC.