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7 Tips For Parents To Help Cope With Stress And Anxiety

“When I saw the coronavirus case numbers go up, the mental load for me as a mother had skyrocketed. I found myself wandering around the house in the middle of the night, restless and sleepless during the first few weeks as I was absorbing all the information from the 24/7 media coverage. I went to bed feeling overwhelmed and waking up unable to go back to sleep.

The worst fear was that I could be responsible for bringing in the virus to my precious family. I thought I’d woken up one night panicking because I hadn't wiped a grocery item, but that turned out to be a dream. Even in my sleep I couldn’t escape worrying about it! 
The day I was washing all the groceries on the front lawn with all my SunJellies baskets lined up, I officially declared myself corona looney. Despite this, I knew that without a doubt I wasn't going to stop.”
Stories like this are common among mothers and fathers recently. Parenting is extremely difficult at the best of times, yet we take it for granted when there’s no major crisis like the current pandemic.
If you’re one of the mothers or fathers out there who has become obsessed with social distancing, washing your hands and not touching your face to the point where you look like a crazy person then CONGRATULATIONS! You’re smart enough to realise this is a big deal and you’re doing the right thing by yourself, your family and the community.
At the same time, it’s important that we’re looking after our minds too. Psychotherapist Katie Hurley says that parental anxiety can have a circular effect. “Parents are stressed and it trickles down, kids experience stress and exhibit behavioural symptoms, and this triggers more parental stress.”
The good news is this also works in reverse. The better you get at coping mechanisms, the more likely it is your kids will mirror them and develop their own stress reduction techniques as a natural habit.
There’s heaps of relaxation strategies out there on the internet to help you. Everyone is unique and you might find that some strategies work better for you than others. Here are seven great tips to get you started.

1. Know the difference between stress and anxiety


Part of the skill in mindfulness is being aware of your feelings when they arise. Stress and anxiety are similar yet two different beasts. Stress is caused by things that are real. Anxiety occurs with things that are imagined. 

Being constantly bothered when you’re already trying to do a million things at once will make you feel stressed. Worrying that you’ll never be good enough as a parent is anxiety.
Next time you feel overwhelmed ask yourself: Is something causing me stress, or am I worrying about something out of my control? Then label your thoughts as either ‘stress’ or ‘anxiety’.
The reason this works is because as humans, we love to label things. Having a name for something gives us comfort and makes us feel safe knowing what it is. The more you’re able to realise you’re ‘stressed’ or ‘anxious’, the more your mind will be at peace with it.

2. Accept it and learn to laugh


Stress and anxiety aren’t pleasant, but they exist for good reason. They help us sense danger and how we respond to them. Telling yourself not to feel stressed is like trying to give up eating. You can’t stop something that’s natural and necessary for your body. When we try to block out these feelings, we end up becoming a ticking time-bomb and that doesn’t end well for anyone.
If you catch yourself feeling stressed, try to see the funny side of it. Studies show laughter activates and relieves your stress response, and while it’s easier said than done it’s a great skill for your kids to pick up on.

3. Meditate or try other relaxation strategies with your kids


Even if you’re not feeling stressed or anxious, any time is a great time to work on exercising mindfulness with meditation.
You might have little ones who are a bit restless and don’t like the idea of sitting still and doing nothing. That doesn’t mean you can’t get them to do other activities that use the same methods.
Blowing up balloons or blowing bubbles are a fun way to get your kids more focused on their breathing. Colouring in books and drawing pads are great for relaxation if they prefer to be more creative.

4. Stop Googling it


Anxiety is obsessed with Google and it’s not all bad. You might be worried about your clothes hanging on the line, so you use google to look up the weather.
But if one search leads to another search, to the point where you’ve been on the computer for hours trying to find an answer – that’s when anxiety has crossed the line into an unhealthy obsession with Google. We’re all guilty of this (although maybe not about the weather) and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.
Anxiety is always on the lookout for danger, so any hint of something bad coming up in the search results is going to make it want to know more. Remember, as great as the internet is it’s NOT the answer to everything.

5. Keep a journal


This is a great way to get things off your chest and encourage your kids to start writing more. If they’re too young to write, drawing works in the same way for them.
Get a pen and a notebook and start writing your thoughts and experiences. It doesn’t have to be every day, just whenever you have the time to spare and reflect on your stress or anxiety.
There might be days where you look back and feel embarrassed about something you wrote. This is totally normal, and your kids should know this.
A journal is a great habit for kids to pick up on to experiment with their writing. Many great writers were born because they just needed to release all their emotions on to paper.

6. Stay socially active


This is a tricky one under these new circumstances.
Being social is important for reducing stress and anxiety. Seeing a familiar face can help set our minds at ease. It’s great to have someone to talk to, and you never know how much they might appreciate your attention.
It’s not the same as going out to a café, but having regular Facetime or Skype meetups with your friends is helpful. It also sends a strong message to your kids about the importance of looking out for others.


7. Be kind to yourself


Psychologist Ellen Hendriksen, author of How to Be Yourself says ‘We are our own worst critic’. It’s good to question yourself, everyone needs a healthy dose of reality to be a great parent. If that little voice starts weighing you down, give yourself a pat on the back. Your fault is caring too much, and that’s a flaw every parent should be proud of!
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