Yale psychologists say everybody will feel anxious at moments during these uncertain times, but there are ways to manage. Dr. Eli Lebowitz directs the Anxiety and Mood Disorder program at Yale Child Study Center. He says while adults may feel stressed, children can experience anxiety, too. The good news is, the young – and not-as-young – can manage anxiety with many of the same tips.
- Just breathe – You can call it meditation, mindfulness, or a deep breath. In this interview, Lebowitz walks WSHU listeners through a simple breathing technique that parents can do easily with their kids. All it requires is that participants know how to count to five. We feel more relaxed already.
- Maintain a daily routine – Lebowitz recommends everybody stick to a schedule during times of uncertainty. Try to wake up at the same time every day, practice self care, get dressed, and make time for whatever normally fits into your routine. If that includes listening to WSHU on your morning commute, try streaming on your smartphone or smart speaker while you eat breakfast. Also, children may appreciate having a schedule posted on the refrigerator, so they know what activities they might be doing at each time of day. It counts even if the schedule says “free play” or just “lunchtime”. Or, your kids can start a podcast! Really!
- Take control of the little things – While you cannot control the public response to a health crisis, you can control much of what’s happening at home. Lebowtiz suggests listeners write out a to-do list each morning. Then, relish the feeling when you write a check mark next to each completed task.
- Keep moving – Exercise is a healthy stress-reliever and Lebowitz says you should try to fit it into your routine. Take a walk outside, but sure to keep a safe social distance of six feet from other people. Home workouts, like yoga, could be an option for those in apartments. There are also plenty of free workout videos online, including some classics that have become internet favorites (kids are fans, too).
- Monitor your news intake – If you find yourself watching, scrolling or turning the page without learning any new or useful information, take a break.
- Stay connected – Lebowitz says social distancing does not have to feel like social isolation. He recommends keeping regular phone dates with colleagues, friends and family, or try to video chat when possible, and teach your older relatives how to do so. For children, try scheduling a virtual playdate with classmates they may be missing from school. Adults have started everything from virtual happy hours, to digital concerts, and there is even an app that lets you watch Netflix with a group of friends all at the same time.
Stream the interview above for more tips on managing these (completely normal) feelings, including how to discuss coronavirus with your kids.