As spring is in full swing, you might notice a few differences compared to last year. Yes, the flowers are in bloom, birds are nesting, and the weather is getting warmer. But as South Florida begins to slowly reopen its economy, many of its residents are uncertain of how to proceed with going back to their “normal” lives. While parks, gyms, restaurants and businesses are opening its doors to patrons with limited capacity they are still required to follow restrictions and guidelines, such as often sanitization and use of masks in public establishments. Although having the option of increased socialization is appealing to some, stress and anxiety are still running high.
We find ourselves navigating an ever changing terrain, and it appears that no one is immune to an increase of stress and anxiety that may bring. As guidelines change and more information is brought to the surface, regardless of the outcome, it is important to have a number of practices in your toolbox to help your family.
Now is a better time than ever to commit and form new, healthy habits. As you might already know, May is Mental Health Awareness Month. It is very fitting that Mental Health America’s theme for this year is Tools 2 Thrive. The goal for Mental Health America is to “provide practical tools that everyone can use to improve their mental health and increase resiliency regardless of the situation they are dealing with.” Source- May is mental health month 2020: Tools 2 Thrive. Mental Health American.
A great practice for regulating emotions at home is known as ‘be a thermostat, not a thermometer.’ The idea of this is to take a step back and take your own temperature and read it as a ‘thermostat’ instead of controlling the temperature of a room or situation as a ‘thermometer.’ We are naturally thermometers, and that sometimes leads us to make choices without consideration. The idea here is to find better or different ways to respond rather than to react and raise the ‘heat’ of the room. There is a great article by good therapy.org and I would like to briefly go over the 4 steps on how to be a thermostat.
- Know and accept your loved one with empathy to counter the negative effects of anxiety.
- Set reasonable expectations based on development, temperament, and level of stress in the household with anticipation and collaboration.
- Adopt a ‘being with’ attitude in moments of stress by having curiosity and withholding judgement.
- Re-align your priorities for your family during this crisis by identifying values and creating a positive atmosphere.
Having an open heart is very important now more than ever. You can take this time to tap into more self-care and prioritize your wellbeing in order to also be there for others. Take this time to exercise, and get creative with it! We might not be able to go to the gym but we can sure use the spaces we are permitted to use and get a nice sweat on, even if it’s in your living room. It is usual for us to be in a heightened state of dismay during a pandemic. This can lead to terrible exhaustion both emotionally and physically. As a result, it is extremely important for us to prioritize sleep and practice what is known as good sleep hygiene. It is okay to get more sleep than normal. The goal is to get quality restful sleep and can be achieved by exercising earlier in the day, avoiding late night eating and screen time and winding down after activities.
We would like to leave you with a few more tools to incorporate during this time of uncertainty that you can implement with your family. We are still capable of having sound structure throughout the day. Routines may have changed, it is important to acknowledge them, and adapt to new schedules. A good place to start may be in the kitchen! Cook at home and have the whole family get involved. Mealtime is a great way to spend quality time together and even assess the temperature. Reach out to others to help by staying positive and hopeful for the future. Lastly, limit media and overall screen-time. Technology can be an excellent tool for connection and learning, but violent media can further activate the stress response system. We should use this time to develop empathy, manage stress and connect emotionally.
Uncertainty is a shared human experience. With positive intentions and actions from the population at large, there is hope that we will weather this storm. First, one must identify their values to create a positive atmosphere at home so our families will come out of this with greater personal strength and resilience. With some tools in mind, go and create a lasting ripple effect, as if the rock hits the pond and vibrants the world.