Emotional Wellbeing: Parent’s Guide to Support During the Coronavirus Pandemic

We at Khulisa know that parents are working hard to support their families at the moment. They are facing huge challenges in how they live their lives due to the coronavirus. We have put together the following guides to support parents in managing their own wellbeing.

  1. Emotional Wellbeing Support – This guide
  2. Physical Wellbeing Support
  3. Financial Support

As a reminder, government assistance is available through the gov.uk/coronavirus website.

 

1. Emotional Wellbeing Support

During this crisis, many of us will experience emotions and challenges that we’ve not dealt with before and can be confusing, overwhelming or frightening. For some of us, this crisis will bring up memories of times when we felt these types of emotions and feelings and hoped never to have to feel them again.

Use this guide to help you to:

  1. Create a new routine to give you some structure – take  back some control
  2. Reach out for help and support in the community and online – so that you’re not doing this on your own
  3. Try breathing/movement exercises to help you stay calm and think clearly

If you’re feeling any of the following, this is normal – you’re not alone! 

  • Loneliness – in isolation or in a busy household (but still feeling alone with your thoughts)
  • Sadness, depression, feeling tearful 
  • Overwhelmed, overthinking
  • Anxious, shaky, panic attacks
  • Feeling unable to cope at home or with every day tasks, parenting, chores etc
  • Feeling out of control, scared, jumpy
  • Wanting to escape, feeling edgy, jittery
  • Over or under eating/drinking
  • Obsessing over social media, news, binge-watching
  • Incredibly tired, lifeless, unable to move, not motivated to get up or do anything
  • Grief and/or loss for loved ones or for ‘normal life’
  • Anger, frustration, rage, irritable with the family, the situation
  • Shock, numbness, feeling like you’re watching yourself in some surreal movie
  • Sense of disbelief, hard to make sense of it all
  • Missing family, missing friends, missing the routine of going to work, school etc 
  • Periods of feeling ok, then tipping into emotional turmoil

You might feel all or some of these at differing times of day or night and catch yourself worrying about the future or remembering things in the past. Again, this is normal. It’s our mind trying to make sense of the situation, even though it doesn’t have all the information it needs.

Taking Back Control (mentally and emotionally)

Whilst you can get professional support,  just making small changes and creating a daily routine can really help us to feel more in control day to day. Here are some ideas to help you take back control – small steps, one at a time. 

What helped you stay on track before CoVid19?

  • Routine?
  • Exercise?
  • Work?
  • Friends?
  • Family?
  • Something else?
Source: Charlie Mackesy

Make a note of the things that kept you on track as you went through your day. We can use this to create some structure for you now, so you feel more in control

We know that our mind works best when:

  1. We have a plan – a level of certainty. We feel more in control when we know what the next step is.  
  2. Your basic needs are met – things like air, water, food, shelter, sleep, warmth
  3. We have a sense of security/safety – a space of our own (even if it’s just a chair or a corner of the room where we can be at peace)
  4. Human connection – reaching out on the phone or WhatsApp to hear reassurance, kindness, humour, friendship 

If we have each of these in our plan or routine each day, our mind can start to settle, despite how different life feels. 

Making a Plan

Morning  Afternoon Evening
Breakfast Lunch Dinner
Exercise Walking Relaxing (tv, gaming etc)
Home schooling /reading Phone/WhatsApp 3 friends Virtual connection

If this feels too much, maybe create a list of things that you can tick off each day – in any order – and see what you can get done each day for a week. Give yourself a target of getting 3 things done week one, 4 week two, etc. You might have a list like this:

Get dressed every day Drink 1 litre water daily Cut down on news/social media
Eat healthily every day Sleep properly Try something new every day 
Exercise every day Virtual connection daily Start a gratitude journal

The table above contains most of the basic human needs, so if you can commit to these every week, your mind will start to feel more aligned and in control. Below are some tips on how to stay healthy, get exercise, sleep well, manage your anxiety and build a sense of gratitude for what you do have in your life.

Anxiety and Panic Attacks - 30 Second Reset

When you feel a sense of panic, breathlessness, heart-racing, overwhelm:

  1. Stop and acknowledge your feelings, emotions, body sensations
  2. Say them out loud  – be kind – remind yourself, it’s ok to feel this way
  3. Steady yourself – feet on the ground, a hand on the stomach, a hand on the heart
  4. Take a deep breath in – breathe into your stomach – feel it balloon out
  5. Breathe out fully – make your out breath  longer than your inbreath – feel your stomach draw in
  6. Repeat 3 times or until your heart beat slows down
  7. Now be aware of your surroundings  – what can you focus on that’s positive? Blue sky? Sun? A tree outside the window? A picture of a loved one? A happy memory? A nice picture? A piece of music? Whatever it is, focus on this now
  8. Know that in this present moment, at home, you are safe and you are calmer

It may help to keep a photo, picture, quote, meme  or other positive symbol close, so you can refocus whenever you need to.  Comfort and familiarity help to calm us…

Reduce social media time – have a social media/news ‘detox’. Unfollow, mute or delete posts/contacts that make you feel anxious or  ‘not good enough’.

More 30-60 second ways to manage our emotions (reducing anxiety, stress, worry, etc)

Breathing exercises

Box breathing:

Holding our breath increases our tolerance of distress in anxious situations. Simply, breathe in for 4 counts, hold your breath for 4, exhale for 4 and then hold your breath for 4 and repeat.

Elongated Exhale: If we exhale longer than we inhale, we reduce stress and this will decrease anxiety e.g. inhale for 4 counts, exhale for 8 (or similar).

Humming Bee Breath: It sounds crazy but it works! Put your hands over your ears, so you can hear/feel the noise in your mind & body, deep in-breath and hum like a bee as you breathe out. This is a great way to reset your mind and body. Focusing on the sound and where you feel it in your body enables your mind to reset.. Repeat 6-9 times ideally.

Want to be reminded to regulate your breathing and stay calm? 

Try the Mindbell app – It sets off a gong sound at intervals throughout the day which reminds me to pause what I’m doing and breathe. 

 

Shoulder mobility exercises

Helps to release tension. Sometimes,  high levels of stress and anxiety restrict our breathing. These exercises not only release tension but  help to loosen up your diaphragm to enable deep breathing  (examples here).

Balance exercises

Try balancing on one foot or place a tennis ball on a book, hold it with one hand and slowly move your body into different positions (rotating, moving up and down) while keeping the ball balanced on the book. This  gently releases tension in the body/diaphragm and also enables deep breathing, whilst calming the mind. 

Grounding and Mindful ‘5 Senses’ exercise

This is really useful for adults and young people who struggle to focus on non-tangible/ non sensory activities. 

Being present (as opposed to speculating about the future or attaching to the past) can be hard if we’re overthinking. A quick & easy way to get present and calm in the here and now is to focus on.

Bouncing a ball

Rhythmic, repetitive activities are good for reducing the fight/flight/freeze response in the body. Bouncing a ball, juggling, throwing/catching (safely within your own home) creates a rhythm which is good for steadying breath and heart rate.  Create a rhythm -play with options eg. catch with your left/right hand only, clap once before catching the ball, clap under a knee before you catch etc. Make it fun, keep the rhythm. 

Shaking and Wiggle exercise

Shaking is the natural way to release tension and return the body to its normal homeostasis (an internal stable state). Shaking is a primal impulse to a stressful situation. This website offers some good guidance and practical tips on ‘shaking the stress away’. 

Eye yoga

Involves focusing on objects  close at hand and far away. It also involves moving your eyes from the left, upward, to the right, and downward. These small, purposeful movements can help calm your body down. Find out more about eye yoga here. 

Tennis ball rolling

Sit/lie in a comfortable position.  Scan your body, with your eyes closed,  to identify areas that feel tight and ‘stuck’. Now, roll the tennis ball on that spot – eg. putting the tennis ball under your shoulder blade, laying on your back. Move around with the ball to find the point where the pressure is most intense. Breathe into the pressure,  relax into it, allowing the tennis ball to do the work of breaking up the tension. More info here.

Drumming

Well known to reduce anxiety and soothe the nervous system. We respond with our bodies and our limbic system to rhythms, so taking part in anything rhythmic or with a regular beat activates our parasympathetic nervous system. No drum to hand? Improvise! Pots, pans, wooden spoons, tapping your fingers to beat out a rhythm still works. Try this website for more information. 

Mindful BIF walking

BIF stands for Beautiful, Interesting and Funny. As we walk,  take time to be curious and pay attention – this helps us to be mindful of our surroundings.

Forgive yourself 

Be compassionate towards yourself and your process. Each day may bring different challenges and different opportunities.  Be kind to you.

Where to find more resources to help you

Apps: 

Mindbell App (Appstore, Google Play)

Gratitude journal (Appstore, Google Play)

Headspace

Calm  

Articles: 

Basic vocalising

Tennis ball rolling 

Drumming 

The benefits of eye yoga

Videos:

Shoulder exercises

Shaking and wiggle exercises

Tim Senesi Yoga

Nutritious movement

Fiit

Gymondo

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