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Some Coping Mechanisms for These Stressful Times

by Tina Goldsmith 24/04/2020
stress head illustration

A lot of parents must be asking themselves, “If I am stressed as a parent, will it affect my child?” The answer probably depends on how stressed you are - and right now people are experiencing a huge amount of stress and anxiety - and how your stress manifests. Our own stress certainly can impact those around us, so it is a good thing to be more aware of what is causing it and develop some coping mechanisms

Stress can be a trigger for conditions like poor sleep, acne, irritability, reduced cognitive ability through to heart attacks, anxiety, depression and potentially suicide, so it is to be taken seriously. We thought it may be useful to list a few simple, proven, ways to reduce stress in our lives, become happier and enjoy being parents.

So, step one really ought to be taking your own personal decision to make a change in your own life. If you want a different result, it will require doing something different. Being in control of your own life may sound like such a simple thing, but so many of us are almost on autopilot existing on a busy treadmill we aren’t even thinking about what is making us unhappy. Forcing ourselves to step off that treadmill, take a break and look at our lives can be a really powerful first step. 

And there are actions you can take to help de-stress yourself, even in lockdown. Here are a few that we've found helpful:

Smiling

Even if you feel miserable, putting your face in the shape of a smile, or looking at images of smiling people can influence brain activity and lower levels of depression and anxiety. We’re not suggesting you walk about grinning like an idiot on your daily exercise, but genuinely smiling and making eye contact can have a double effect. It can make you feel better simply because you are smiling, plus you may feel better about yourself as you will notice others are smiling back at you. 

Helping Others

Giving people your time when you are feeling stressed can help both parties. And lockdown is presenting us with plenty of opportunities to help others. Over a million people signed up to be NHS volunteers during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Being Present

Nowadays there are a lot of books and buzzwords around mindfulness, but a lot of it boils down to re-focusing and being present in the moment. It may be as simple as being aware of the sun on your face, or the wind in your hair. If you are focusing on your shopping list, what your boss said to you last week, or that upcoming family Zoom chat, how are you going to notice what is going on around you? So, take time for yourself and experiment with being present. 

Meditation

This is a personal one as some people say they just can’t do it. Maybe try a free app like Insight Timer which has thousands of free meditations, music and talks and might help you with  emptying your mind before sleep, or motivating you when you don’t feel like getting out and about.

Exercise

Not for nothing has the government included daily exercise in the permitted reasons to leave your home during lockdown. Exercise is essential for physical and mental health. Depending on your age and fitness levels how much exercise you can participate in will vary. But getting out and about is an essential stress-busting technique. Maybe try a ‘mindful’ walk where you are silent for 15 minutes and simply notice everything around you. The colours, the smells, the scenery, the leaves and flowers, birds etc… It is amazing how much we ignore when our minds are stressed and full. 

Doing a mindful walk with your children can be a wonderfully engaging activity and something they will treasure as your mind will be focused on the same thing as theirs. After a short silent moment, you can then discuss everything you are seeing and hearing. The fresh air and exercise will help tire the children out, so a more relaxed family will hopefully have a better night’s sleep too.

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