As the pandemic continues, many of us are all starting to, if we already haven’t already, hit a wall. The chronic nature of the pandemic is causing an intensification of mental health symptoms in everyone, whether this means having symptoms for the first time or experiencing an exaggerated form of ongoing mental health struggles. In addition, many people are facing new challenges, experiencing higher stress levels, and undergoing changes in work life balance. Adopting a good self-care routine is more important than ever before. Including self-care exercises in daily life can help us be better parents, partners, coworkers, and can help decrease stress, anxiety and depression.
Children are also feeling the stress of changes due to the pandemic. Modeling self-care for your children can be very beneficial for them as well. Children are wonderful mimics and learn most from watching what we do. Seeing us take a minute to decompress will teach them that taking time for themselves is good, and even necessary. It is beneficial for everyone to take some time to focus inward, breathe, and do something that makes us feel calmer and positively affects our mental health.
Self-care may seem like one more thing that you don’t have time to add to your day but there are many self-care exercises that you can incorporate into the things you are already doing throughout your day and only take 2-5 minutes. For example, many people begin their day with a cup of coffee or tea. While this in and of itself might already be an example of self-care, try making it into a mindfulness activity by incorporating the five senses. Five senses exercises are mindful exercises which help us find calm and can help manage anxiety. Notice the color of your coffee as you add milk or your tea as it brews. Inhale the smell of your coffee. Feel the warmth in your hands as you hold your cup. Savor the first swallow and really be mindful of the taste.
As you go about your daily routine of work and family life, notice times when you are feeling distracted or having trouble focusing. When this arises, take a quick 5 minutes to stop what you are doing and try an abdominal breathing exercise to help you refocus. If you have more than 5 minutes, try doing a walking meditation.
In addition to modeling healthy self-care for your children, you can also directly include your children in these exercises. Incorporate simple self-care exercises into your children’s morning routine or bedtime routine. Breathing exercises or stretching can help calm bodies and minds. At dinner, ask them to name what they are noticing with their five senses while eating their food. Or try a five senses walk with your children. With older children or teens, you might encourage journaling. Here is a link to writing prompts to get them started. Journaling and writing can help us turn inward and allow us to express ourselves in a way we might otherwise not.
There are many simple exercises that we can incorporate into our daily routine that benefit our mental health. If you are interested in learning more techniques to try, check out our weekly Self Care Series which comes out each Wednesday. Many of these can be adapted to kids of all ages. We know this isn’t an easy time for anyone, we hope this helps find some balance. Take good care!