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Five Tips for Overcoming Stress and Sadness During Times of Crisis

March 30th, 2020     By Bridget Barnes

Crisis, Depression

​This blog initially appeared​ on on 3.26.2020

​​I have heard from numerous people, including parents, that they are experiencing more chronic sadness. Many of them have shared their own struggles regarding trying to look on the bright side of things — especially during this recent pandemic crisis.

I wondered to myself what kind of toll this chronic negativity takes on family relationships and on the mental well-being of families? Here are a few tips to start us on our own journey towards becoming a happier and mentally healthy role model.

1. Face difficulties while being mindful of the good stuff.

Most of us know that worrying never solves anything, but we worry anyway. In a research article called "How Happy Brains Respond to Negative Things," researchers questioned how happy people focus on events. Are they just oblivious people who don't face the real issues in their lives? They found quite the opposite. It turns out happy-brained people are aware of the impact of harsh conditions and do address negative issues head on. However, they can focus intently on happier events in their midst. We should consistently try and remind ourselves to look for and focus on the good around us — even when we face difficulty.

2. Relocate your attention.

Make a choice to relocate your attention and time to things that don’t pressure you but give you joy. You have the power to choose what you give your attention to. Many health practitioners agree that people who help other people when they are feeling down often feel better afterwards. It is especially important during times when there are major problems in your life that you relocate your attention to helping someone else. Something as simple as writing letters or making cards to send to shut-ins, sending a gift to children in hospitals, chocolates to troops overseas or raking the leaves for the widower down the street can lift your own spirits.

3. Exercise your stress-reliving skills.

How can the average person learn to be happier? Resiliency may be the answer. Resiliency is a skill set that can reduce toxic stress. In other words, you can learn to be more resilient but you will have to work at it if you tend to focus on the negative. This mental exercise can be a simple as breathing. Relearning how to take control of your breathing while refocusing your thoughts can help you grow a healthier amygdala (the emotional part of our brain).

4. Find solutions to problems in your life.

Instead of thinking about all the problems you are facing, look for as many solutions as you can find. Also remember there is strength in numbers, so use the resources around you — family, friends, co-workers, etc. — to your advantage. Also, don’t try to hide problems from your family. Children are not blind to their parents’ woes. In fact, when parents try to hide things from children, it often only makes kids feel more stressed out and worried, which can lead to health concerns. It is best to be honest with your family. Have consistent family meetings to share achievements, resources and problems you are facing. Let your children know you are attending to these difficult issues. Give them the opportunity to ask questions and offer help.​

5. Verbalize your feelings.

It's okay to share your feelings — good or bad. When you are stressed out, it's okay to say, “I am stressed out” or “I am unhappy.” Seeking help is the key to dealing with and verbalizing your feelings. Be sure to also use self-affirmation statements daily. Model to your children that having negative feelings is okay but it is how you handle these problems that matters.​

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