Stress and tension are everywhere these days as we each are having to cope with how to live our lives during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is especially hard on families confined to limited space and varying ages.
Healthcare workers might be on the front lines in the hospitals and clinics, but parents are on the home front fighting a different kind of battle. In addition to taking care of their children’s basic everyday needs they are now responsible for protecting them from an invisible enemy that could invade their home from a multitude of unsuspecting carriers. And on top of that, if that isn’t enough, parents are now in charge of their children’s education. Something that the average mom/dad is not equipped or prepared to do.
No wonder family stress and tension are at an all time high. Emotions run amuck due to all the uncertainty and fear we’re being expected to process. Who can blame any of us for lashing out and saying and behaving in ways that are not indicative of who we are.
Here are 12 simple tips to help relieve the tension your family might be feeling. Each one is a way of diverting, stopping, minimizing or deflecting the momentum of negative energy between family members. Use those that are age appropriate and for the level of intensity you’re experiencing.
Separating the two (or more, as the case may be) parties and count to 10. The good old standby “go to your room” is sometimes all it takes. Or tell them to “take it outside.” Just being out in the open and not so claustrophobic can allow the excess energy to dissipate. Counting to 10 gives the brain time to process what it’s thinking and the body time to identify what it’s feeling. A little time and a change of scenery might be all it takes.
Put on calming, classical music, soothing sounds of nature such as babbling brooks with birds chirping, ocean waves crashing on the shore, or healing frequency sounds such as the 528Hz or 432Hz frequencies. Choose something relaxing to play low in the background of your home or better yet have them pick a sound or particular kind of music that resonates with them and have them listen to it on their personal earphones. When under stress our brain waves can get completely out of sync. Listening to nature, musical or vibrational frequencies and help balance and calm the brainwaves down and thus alter behavior.
Yes, just like an agitated dog needs a bone to chew on, some people need to put something in their mouth. They feel the stress and negative energy in their mouth and chewing on something can help relieve the tension. A few suggestions are of course gum (sugar free preferably), sunflower or pumpkin seeds, crushed ice chips, beef jerky, and my favorite comfort snack – popcorn made with coconut oil. Fats help calm the brain down so that’s why seeds and popcorn make a good snack.
Moving the body is a great way to relieve tension. Take the dog for a walk or if you don’t have a dog go for a walk anyway. If the weather isn’t cooperating, then find some exercise videos on the internet and follow along. If age and personality appropriate make a challenge out of exercising. See who can do the most jumping jacks, sit ups, or laps around the yard. Allow them to engage in a pillow or rolled-up sock fight. Dancing is another great way to move the body. Plus, it gets your auditory system involved as you listen to the music and the rhythm and beat of the song. Some might like doing yoga or some kind of martial art exercises. All of these you can find on Youtube. The important thing is to get them to move their bodies and send blood from the brain to their muscles. Tired bodies are less apt to have excess energy they need to release.
Acknowledge the kids (adults too) by giving them the space for expressing what they are feeling. People, no matter the age, when under stress can lash out and not really know what they are feeling. A lot of time it’s because they were never asked. Sit your family member down and give them paper and pencil/crayons and ask them to write down or draw what emotions they are feeling. Ask them where they feel it in their body. Do they know what caused them to feel this way? Was it something they heard or saw? Is the feeling about the past, present or future? Maybe all they need is to have a time and place to express what they are feeling. Provide them a constructive way of releasing their pent up negative energy and stop resisting their feelings. Tension comes from resistance. By giving them the space to feel and express whatever they are feeling, you reduce the resistance and thus reduce the tension.
This is age dependent, but often using a reward system of some kind can change behavior and focus. Reward the kids with their favorite takeout dinner, movie or activity. You could even offer to do one of their chores, if they refrain from fighting, as long as you don’t mind emptying the dishwasher or taking out the garbage. You don’t want to make this an ongoing agreement, but for short term results doing an extra chore or two is worth the peace and quiet. Many people are motivated to change their behavior by having a positive goal to aim at. Rewarding positive behavior is often more affective them punishing bad behavior.
Playing games is a great distraction and there are all kinds of games and activities that get them up and moving. Have a “game time” everyday and bring out the board games, cards, or sports equipment. Play charades or Pictionary. Play catch in the backyard. Play jacks on the kitchen floor. Hopscotch on the driveway or sidewalk. Put together a jigsaw puzzle. And last (but as you can see not on the top of my list) play video games.
When the tension gets really high sometimes our furry companions, both real and stuffed, can calm down the emotions. Have them pet and cuddle with the dog/cat or their favorite teddy bear or blanket. This is the time when our pets can be of great comfort to us. They have no idea what is going on in the world and they don’t care. All they want is for you to give them love, attention and food. In times of stress and uncertainty, they can really help us simplify our lives down to our basic needs and recognize that they are being met.
There is nothing more relaxing and soothing than warm water on the body. Running water literally washes negative energy off the body and the heat relaxes the muscles. Taking a shower or a bubble or Epsom salt bath is a great way to release tension and relax the body.
Grounding is a term that describes physically making contact with the earth. Yard work and gardening are great ways to ground yourself. Yardwork is a form of exercise but it’s purpose is not for the body but for an external result, which adds a whole other level of benefit. Just being outside in the fresh air, raking the lawn, pulling weeds, or turning over soil and experiencing on an energetic level the stability and nurturing nature of the earth is calming to our bodies. Here’s a great article about “grounding” and the scientific benefits behind it.
If you happen to live in a neighborhood with senior citizens or anyone who might be extra fearful of the virus because of their current health situation, have the kids offer to do things for them. You can go to the store and the kids can help deliver their packages to their front door. The kids could offer to do simple yard work or other chores. Give these neighbors a call to check in on them. When we focus on the needs of others we forget about our own pain and fears. Just taking the focus off ourselves can release stress.
This might seem a bit strange. It might work on some of your family members and not on others. But sometimes as soon as you get your phone out and start recording an angry, tension filled family member, their energy might shift. Maybe not at first. But when some people know their actions are being recorded there is something about not wanting to see themselves that gets people to calm down. Deep down they know they are behaving badly and don’t want to be confronted with how they really look. As an alternative, instead of filming, you could tell the misbehaving family member to go into the bathroom and release their tensions and anger in front of the mirror. This will get them to see how they appear to the rest of the family. Sometimes we don’t know how we’re coming across until we’re forced to see the ugly truth.
These 12 ideas are not necessarily the cure all for the unusually high stressed times we’re facing right now. Who could have ever imagined that we would be going through an experience such as this on such a massive scale? Maybe these tips can only provide you with a little relief. What’s important is that you try different strategies to find which ones work for your family.
In order to get through this period of isolation and uncertainty we have to be proactive and be as creative as we can and use whatever resources available. We all want to get back to some level of normalcy as soon as possible. We’re all going to have to exercise extra compassion and forgiveness during these unprecedented times. Until then we have to find ways of transferring the negative energy we are feeling into a positive experience.
Just know, we will get through this. We have the opportunity, if we choose, to use this time to do some personal and familial reflection. Our stress and tension triggers are indicative of our own hot spots and what and where we might need to work on.
Who we will be as individuals, as a family, as a nation and as a world when we get on the other side of this epic historic event is up to us. Let’s decide right here and now that we will be more loving, compassionate and serving to one another. This is a time to release the negative energy that is surfacing for all of us and heal and release the tension and conflict we feel personally and collectively.