We are all experiencing added stress and anxiety to some degree, which can have devastating effects on our health both long term and short. A healthy mind and body are key to a strong immune system. Coping through COVID is a marathon not a sprint and families need to focus on the physical, mental and emotional health of their children, as well as themselves. Unfortunately, this pandemic will be our norm for the foreseeable future. The warmer months may be easier, but the winter months will likely bring its own set of challenges. The good news is, there are many practices and techniques to help families stay well, together.
Get Active • Get those endorphins pumping to combat stress, calm your mind and build your immunity. Activity levels are at an all time low and many studies report exercise as the biggest tool to enhance our mental and physical wellness. There are many ways family members can exercise while remaining physically distanced. Some may be able to join certain sports, swim lessons, a gym, or online fitness classes that are safe and follow COVID protocols. If this is not an option, get active outside or at home. As a family, make it a priority to do at least one activity a week like hiking, visiting a pool or snowshoeing.
Prioritize Self Care • We know it’s a buzz word right now, but it’s for a reason! Everyone is carrying a larger than normal stress load right now. Whether you love bubble baths, yoga, running or reality tv, make it a priority to do what you need to nourish your self and boost your mental outlook. Many believe self care is a key determinant to good parenting and role modelling this for children is especially beneficial.
Practice Mindfulness • A calm home is especially important right now when family members are exposed to increasing amounts of negativity and uncertainty outside and in the media. Fitting in mindful practises can help reduce anxiety and stress while building resilience. Incorporate breathing practices into the day as a family and for yourself. There are many great guided meditations for kids available online. Start off with a short meditation and work towards longer ones. This will help family members manage their feelings and keep grounded. Youth and young adult mindfulness programs are available at the Y at no cost.
Get Outside • Nature therapy helps improve mental health and wellbeing and we are lucky to live in an area with endless outdoor opportunities. Plan a nature scavenger hunt, try geocaching, take on an outside project together or have family members rotate in picking your next outdoor adventure. Getting a daily dose of vitamin D via sunshine is hugely beneficial for our immune system.
Nourish Relationships • Make time to connect with those who support you emotionally and talk about how you are feeling and check in with them. Send a hug in the mail, find a pen pal and get out to connect with others safely. The YMCA’s family play time program is a safe way for families with young children to connect with others and engage in educational play together.
Practice Gratitude • Daily gratitude leads to increased overall happiness and reduced stress. At dinner time go around the table and have everyone list three things they are grateful for. It could be as simple as pizza for lunch or beautiful sunny skies. There are no limits to what you can be grateful for and even very young children will enjoy this activity. You can also express gratitude by sending thank you cards or gifts to a kind neighbour, helpful organization, or hero to further propagate kindness inside and outside of the home.
Limit Negative Screen Time • Let’s make one thing clear, children are getting more screen time now than ever. It’s time to stop apologizing for this and let that guilt go! As parents, we all do our best to limit screen time as recommended, but it isn’t always possible. However, a good practice is to limit negative screen time that causes bad behaviour or emotions. Social media is often a guilty culprit. Do a social media cleanup so you only see posts that lift you up. Set time limits on platforms and take breaks from reading or watching news stories about COVID if they are causing anxiety. Family movies are different. We recommend pairing these with popcorn and a living room fort.
Go Easy on Yourself • At the same time, don’t punish yourself for letting children watch more screen time than normal. Let some things slip and forgive yourself. Don’t set yourself up for failure with unreasonable expectations. Remember, we are all doing our best in this current climate. It’s expected and normal to struggle and have bad days. Forgive yourself, focus on moving forward on the good days and nourish yourself on the bad days.
And if you need a little extra support, the YMCA of Okanagan can help – offering a variety of supports including health, fitness and aquatics services, child and youth programs, child care, employment programs, mindfulness services and more. Learn more at ymcaokanagan.ca.
The YMCA of Okanagan was established 40 years ago as a cause-driven charity dedicated to building a healthier local community. The Y provides a wide range of programs and services with a focus on health, inclusiveness and accessibility, serving people of all ages and abilities. The YMCA is in the business of prevention, while promoting healthy lifestyles, nurturing young minds and strengthening our community. Visit ymcaokanagan.ca to learn more.