Nearly everyone is experiencing a dramatic increase in his or her feelings of anxiety in recent months, and as the pandemic stretches on, so does the anxiety.
This is true for our children as well, particularly our children that have challenges in the area of sensory processing.
They may be feeling more anxiety as a result of the loss of social interaction, loss of daily structure, uncertainty about the coming school year or about getting sick.
Finding strategies to reduce this anxiety in both our children and ourselves is vital to our well-being.
Here are some strategies to help manage stress, anxiety and promote self-regulation.
1. Practice daily mindfulness.
Also known as meditation, this is a conscious awareness of our thoughts, feelings, body sensations, and environment. Tuning in for a few minutes to be present in the moment has been shown to reduce anxiety.
You can try this on your own or try a guided mindfulness. There are various apps such as Calm or Headspace and even some especially for kids such as Daniel Tiger’s Grriffic Feelings. Here are a couple of online sources:
Research shows that as little as 10 minutes outside in nature can improve mood and decrease anxiety. Even looking at pictures of nature has been shown to be beneficial.
Here are some easy ways to take advantage of nature:
- Take a walk.
- Go on a nature scavenger hunt with your kids.
- Get out into the backyard and swing or play catch.
- During these hot summer days, try some playtime in the sprinkler!
3. Make sure you and your children are getting enough sleep.
When we are tired, we have more difficulty with self-regulation and attention, which adds to individual stress levels.
Try setting a specific bedtime and creating a relaxing routine around that.
Turn off all devices at least 2 hours before bedtime as the blue light from screens can disrupt the sleep-wake cycle by blocking melatonin which is a sleep-inducing hormone produced by the brain.
Children with sensory regulation issues can have difficulty transitioning to sleep.
Try some deep pressure massage, a weighted blanket, or some rhythmic music such as Native American drumming.
Another helpful product, the Dreampad, has been shown to help people fall asleep and stay asleep, even kids with Autism.
The Safe and Sound Protocol is a 5-day auditory-based intervention that has been shown to reduce stress, decrease auditory sensitivity, decrease anxiety, and enhance other therapies.
For more information, call Jean at PossAbilities Children’s Therapy Group at 913-620-1007 or click here: https://integratedlistening.com/ssp-safe-sound-protocol/
Find joy in play. Laughter and play have also been shown to decrease depression and anxiety.
Here are some simple ways to use play as part of your everyday routine:
Make a castle out of cardboard boxes.
Squirt out a big pile of shaving cream on a plastic tablecloth and dig in.
Blow bubbles with this homemade bubble recipe: Gather a large container with a lid and slowly pour 1 cup dish soap (Dawn or Joy brands work best) into 6 cups distilled water (tap water will work but distilled is best). Stir slowly until the soap is mixed in. Mix gently so to not make foam or bubbles. Add ¼ cup of light corn syrup and stir slowly until thoroughly mixed. You can use a variety of objects for bubble wands such as cutting the bottom off a plastic bottle or cup and dipping it in the mixture. Wave the cup or blow through the bottle neck for instant bubbles. Pipe cleaners (or chenille stems) can be bent into any shape and dipped in the bubble solution. Or fashion one out of wire using needle-nosed pliers. Taking deep breaths and blowing slowly to make the bubbles is calming to the nervous system.
6. Remind yourself of the things you can control and those things that you cannot.
Typically, when we face potentially harmful situations or direct threats to our safety, the feeling of anxiety is expected and in fact, necessary for our survival.
We need to be ready to react with fight or flight.
Our bodies react with an increased heart rate, increased sensitivity to the environment, and a rush of adrenalin that triggers the fight or flight response enabling us to either confront the threat or flee to safety.
This was very necessary many generations ago as we needed to run from a wild animal or some other threat to our safety.
However, today’s worry and anxiety tend to stem more from things like work, money, family, or as has been the case for many recently, our health and wellness.
You can gain a sense of power by focusing on the things within your control such as social distancing, wearing a mask, and finding ways to meet our sensory and social needs from home.
At the same time, you can choose to let go of the things we cannot control, such as the actions of others.
7. If you or your child are experiencing significant anxiety, get help.
Occupational therapists can help your child manage anxiety levels. You can always find us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For additional resources, please contact your mental health provider or doctor, or https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline.
Many practitioners are providing services through telehealth, and many insurance companies are covering the services.
"Not everything that weighs you down is yours to carry.”