We are all facing uncharted waters with the COVID-19 pandemic. Everyone’s anxiety is sky high with worrying about everything—from making sure we have enough food and supplies to how we will keep our children entertained for weeks on end as we engage in social distancing.
It’s never been more important to manage our stress and provide tools to help our children manage their stress as well.
One helpful technique in addressing stress and anxiety is distraction. If we can interrupt the ruminations and overwhelming fear, then our children can get back to a calmer, more balanced state of mind.
We can teach our kids how to do this by using mindfulness—techniques that allow you to be fully present in the moment. Mindfulness allows our children to better understand their mind-body connection, and to stop being so reactive to thoughts, emotions and physical sensations no matter what’s happening in their environment.
A commonly used mindfulness tactic is to have tools that trigger all of our five senses.
To make it easy for you to arm your kids with tools to calm down when they get panicky, consider putting together a Five Senses Stress Busting Kit based on these ideas:
Feeling different textures can be an effective distraction tool.
One trick is to have your child touch and feel one texture at a time. Have them tell themselves what it feels like.
This way their attention is entirely focused on what they are touching. It’s helpful to have several different types of textures to rotate through, such as smooth, rough, slimy, squishy, fuzzy, and hard items.
- Touch and feel books, such as Pat the Bunny
- Touch and feel cards
- Stress balls
- Buy a sensory toy kit or put together your own a bag of items with multiple textures like tissue, sandpaper, a cotton ball, a squishy ball, and a piece of felt.
The sense of sight offers many possibilities for relaxation.
Here are a few ideas for your stress busting kit that are easily accessible on the go:
- Mindful coloring books: Creative activities like coloring have been scientifically proven to reduce stress levels because we become so focused on what we are doing when we reach a state of “flow.” In other words, we forget what is going on around us. Your children can use any type of coloring book, but mandalas are very popular in the mindfulness world.
- Nature imagery: Amazingly, just looking at pictures of nature scenes can reduce stress because our parasympathetic nervous system (which helps us to calm down) is activated.
- Kaleidoscope: Looking at colorful, mesmerizing patterns can grab anyone’s attention for minutes on end, and is another way for children to get lost in the moment.
Mindful eating is another popular relaxation technique, so it’s a good idea to be prepared with a couple of items that your kids can use to focus on taste.
Teach them how to use mindful eating to direct their attention to the flavors in their mouth. Try an eating exercise such as Mindfulness and the Art of Chocolate Eating.
Here are a few good snacks to get your kids to try mindful eating:
- Trail mix: A must-have for your kit since it’s non-perishable and has multiple items to taste like granola, nuts, seeds, raisins, dried cranberries, yogurt drops and chocolate pieces.
- Sugar free chewing gum multi flavor pack: According to a 2008 study, chewing gum can actually relieve stress and anxiety.
- Flavored oral sensory chewy toys: These are great for children 6 months and up. Not only do these have flavors to focus on, but they also have multiple textures.
Music can help take our attention from fear to something pleasurable. It is a healthy distraction, allows us to be mindful, and forces our brain to shift our thinking process.
Consider putting together a special playlist for your kids to listen to when they are stressed.
Although slow, quiet classical music is known to have calming effects such as lowering pulse and heart rate, reducing blood pressure, and decreasing the levels of stress hormones in our body, it’s really a personal choice to discover which music you find most soothing.
Upbeat songs about happiness may work for some, while soothing nature sounds may work for others.
As the old adage “Stop and smell the roses,” reminds us, fragrances can help us relax and be in the moment.
To many, there is no scent more relaxing than lavender. The antioxidant components of lavender can lower the level of stress hormones in our body.
There are a number of methods to use lavender to soothe stress and anxiety. Here are a few that you can throw in your stress busting kit:
- Lavender spray
- Lavender lotion
- Aromatherapy diffuser bracelets and necklaces
Other soothing scents include ginger, jasmine, pine, rosemary, and citrus such as lemons, oranges and grapefruit.
What else would you put in your stress bursting kit? Tell us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image courtesy of iStock.