7 Tips For Starting & Ending The Day Calmly When Everybody's In Quarantine
As if life with kids weren’t chaotic enough, the coronavirus has thrown a brand new curve ball into the lives of parents everywhere. Because if you thought that getting your kids to eat their breakfast, get dressed, brush their teeth, get their school gear together and get out the door was tough, that was before you tried homeschooling. So it’s not a shocker that most parents are totally stressed out. And that’s where a little mindfulness, including strategies for starting and ending the day calmly, can definitely help.
“More than ever, we really need to learn skills of mindfulness,” licensed psychologist Terra LaRock, Ph.D. tells Romper. “These are the internal tools that will get us through this time with our nerves intact.” No matter how organized you might be, the pressure of being both parent and professor with very little time to prepare for this situation is definitely anxiety-inducing. And as much as your kiddos might have complained about school, they’re probably missing their friends and the routine and structure of their schooldays (but maybe not the math too much). With everyone’s nerves a little bit frayed, you’ll need to create some calm for you and your family. These tips will help you to start and finish your days with your mind and heart clear and at peace.
1. Make It Positive
Although the idea of not having to go to school for weeks on end sounded pretty amazing initially, the novelty of it is probably starting to wear off right about now — for both you and your kids. But it shouldn’t be all doom and gloom, Dr. Georgia Witkin, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and head of patient services development at Progyny, tells Romper. “While we shouldn’t hide the realities from our children, we can change the conversation and make quarantine something positive for them,” she says. Let kids start the day by choosing their favorite breakfast or end the evening by picking their favorite bedtime story puts an sunny spin on the whole day. "Kids can then think back on this time as one rich with family memories instead of fear," says Dr. Witkin.
2. Maintain Your Routine
Kids (and let’s face it, a lot of adults) thrive on routine. That’s why having a structure to your mornings and evenings can help your child feel calmer and more mindful. “Having a routine will help release stress because your brain knows what’s happening next,” says Dr. Witkin. Try to be consistent with when you go to bed, wake up, and have your first and last meals. Schedule a workout to burn up the extra adrenaline or even stretch because it signals your body that you can afford to relax.
3. Hone In On Hobbies
There’s no time like the present to try picking up a new skill or hobby. “Use this uninterrupted time to pursue something you’ve been wanting to do,” says Dr. Witkin. “It can be learning a new language or playing a new instrument or diving into a new book series or TV show.” After waking up or before going to bed, take a moment to check in with yourself: What would you really like to do right now? What are some concrete steps you can take to make that happen? Being aligned with your true goals will give you a sense of peace all day.
4. Take A Walk
Sure, taking a crack-of-dawn and/or pre-bedtime walk around your neighborhood can help center and relax you. But when you’re already overwhelmed with all the other things you have to do, strapping on your kids’ shoes and strolling around the block just might be too much. “A mindful walk can be implemented into what you’re already doing,” says LaRock. “You can be mindful walking from unloading the dishwasher to doing the laundry.” LaRock created the Mindful Mamas app to help busy moms fit self-care into moments like these with features like mantras, breathing techniques, and 1-3 minute mindfulness exercises called "Mini Pauses." An exercise you can try right now, LaRock says, is to drop your shoulders and relax your jaw. “Bring attention to your feet, and notice the distribution of weight from your left and right feet. Then, tune into where the heel of your foot goes into the ground.” This exercise will center you and, according to LaRock, it’s a micro change that can truly make a difference.
5. Breathe Deeply
As adults, we tend to take shallow breaths. But you might not be soaking up as much relaxation as you could be. Make the first breaths after waking up and the last breaths before going to sleep count: Take a normal breath, and as you breathe out, blow out the air through your mouth and let your body relax. Drop your shoulders and let the air release with a big sigh.
And for a fun breathing relaxation exercise that kids will love, Carina Devi, a mindfulness teacher, advises little ones to do a Lion’s Breath. “Have your child take a normal breath in, and as they breathe out through their mouth, they can stick out their tongue and make a loud ‘ha’ sound,” says Devi. “They can even get on all fours and pretend to be a lion, which they love.”
6. Smell Some Scents
For some good old fashioned olfactory stress relaxation, you can always soak up some scents — literally. “Lavender is a go-to,” says LaRock. “You smell it and you can instantly be transported.” Other scents that can offer respite include rosemary,(“Diffuse it with lavender, and you’ll feel like your house is cleaner,” says LaRock), and frankincense, which has a woodsy scent that is also helpful in offering full nervous system relaxation, Healthline reported. Light some incense in the morning to start the day off on the right scent, and light some candles before bed for a soothing night's sleep.
7. Be Grateful
There’s no denying that life is super stressful right now. But as long as you focus on how hard it is, you’re going to rob yourself of the potential joys of this time. “There are going to be hard moments, but we also want to see this as a time of possibility,” says Devi. “That way, you can look at this time period and feel like you’ve played harder than you ever have, got closer to your partner, and took better care of yourself.” Before going to sleep, ask your kids (and yourself) to think of five good things that happened during the day. What we focus on becomes our reality.
Although there's not a lot that is under our control right now, starting (and ending) our day calmly and peacefully is. So as we go through this challenging time, try to remain grounded and focused on the positives, and this, too, shall pass.
If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all our Romper’s parents + coronavirus coverage here on this page, and Bustle’s constantly updated, general “what to know about coronavirus” here.
Dr. Georgia Witkin, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and head of patient services development at Progyny