Author: Hanna Gilley

In recent weeks, we’ve all seen changes in our daily lives: our routines, our social connections, and our sense of safety and security. It can be easy—and normal—to find yourself dwelling on the negative.  However, having an appreciative and positive mindset during these trying times will be beneficial to your health and to the health of those around you.

Here are a few things to adopt to help shift your focus and attention and lift your spirits:

Have gratitude: We are all grateful for different things—more time with our children, partners and pets; no longer having a commute; cooking with a full pantry; a beautiful backyard to play in—whatever it may be, revel in your feelings of gratitude for it. Celebrate anything that makes you feel especially grateful and encourage your family to do the same.

Self-reflection: If a lot of feelings are coming up for you, don’t shy away from them. Let yourself feel and process these emotions. This is also a great time to remind yourself of all your accomplishments and dreams for the future. What do you truly need? What matters most to you?

New skills: When you learn something new, your brain forms new connections and strengthens neural pathways helping your cognitive function. Learning a new skill can also increase your self-confidence and sense of purpose in the world. 

Rediscover hobbies: Do you miss reading novels? Playing the guitar? Gardening? Now is the time to dive back into those activities that bring you joy. Encourage those in your household to do the same and appreciate the time you now have to revisit or try new things.

Self-expression: Humans are inherently creative beings. Take this extra time at home to express yourself in productive and creative ways. Write, paint, construct—express yourself and how you may be feeling right now. It’s healthy to process your emotions through creativity rather than bottling it all up.  

Get physical: Appreciate your body’s capability for movement! When you move your body, you allow yourself to be more present rather than “in your head.” Focusing on your physical and mental health also helps your immune system stay healthy.

Deep breathing: Going back to this technique will help calm your nervous system. Conscious breathing breaks throughout the day will help to regulate your emotions and allow for restful sleep.

It’s not selfish to feel grateful, appreciative or open to finding joy right now. Keep doing those things that ground you and make you happy. Remember, you are not alone. We are all going through this situation together.

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This article originally appeared in Macaroni Kid on March 26th, 2020 by Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS; Health Affiliates Maine

This is indeed a really strange time—not going to work, having the kids and even (for some) a spouse at home. How unexpected. This is not something any of us had planned on. For some, this is a great adventure in family time. For others, it may feel like a really overwhelmingly big challenge. The threat of illness and possible financial problems can keep us stressed. You are not alone in that.

In whatever frame of mind you are experiencing this time of being sheltered, remember that you are not alone. Parents all over the country and the world are adapting to this temporary hiccup in our lives. It is a little like the ice storm years ago that cut power for weeks. We were all experiencing the same thing and life was disrupted.

We will get through this with our own stories to tell and one day this will be a memory. In the meantime, one of the best ways we can cope is by practicing self-care. 

What is self-care? Basically, it means taking time to care for our own needs. The result of doing this is that we will have more energy for the tough jobs, like parenting. It is taking care of ourselves that gives us energy. Think of what happens when your vehicle runs out of gas. It stops; nothing works. When we humans run out of energy, we stop too. It causes us to feel moody, sad, anger easily; we may fill with anxiety. Sometimes when we do not take care of ourselves, something else stops us, like an illness, depression, and other things that sap our strength. Caring for ourselves, especially during stressful and uncertain times like this is not just a good thing, it is essential!

Here are some ideas for quality self-care. This is not just the “get a cup of tea” variety (which can be very nice), but things which may give you lasting fuel for your tank.

Remind yourself that what you are doing is important. Families isolating to protect themselves and the greater community is really important. We are in this together. Everyone is doing a little extra to keep everyone safe.  

Find people with whom you stay in contact. Share ideas for kids’ play or meal planning with a friend who is also home with kids. Check on neighbors, parents, and singles you may know. Think of it this way: reach out to one that feeds you, one that needs you, and one that makes you laugh. These brief contacts can restore your energy and spirit.

Put those kids on a schedule. Organize their day for them (this is really for you). Divide their time so they are not just on electronics (too much is not good for kids) or not driving you crazy with wrestling, fighting or bickering. Help each of your children to identify what they would like to do in each area. 

Here are some possible divisions of time:

  • Help with making and cleaning up meals and doing chores
  • School studies time or completing worksheets
  • Outside time (daily!) for the kids to burn off energy
  • Dancing or high energy playtime
  • Quiet time (puzzles, reading, napping)
  • TV/game/video time

Set boundaries on these activities and take charge.

Limit news consumption. Too much reading, watching and listening to the news can contribute to anxiety. The news cycle repeats throughout the day, so you will always get the latest when you tune in. Always remember to get your news from reliable media sources, and when possible from different viewpoints.

Practice gratitude. At the end or the beginning of each day, take stock on those things for which you are grateful. Think about each child, each supportive person in your life, and moments big and small that made life better. Look for and acknowledge those places in your life where you are truly rich. 

Lastly, remember you are not alone. We will all get through this challenge “at a distance” but together. Spring always comes, let’s be grateful for that.


Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS is a professional counselor and the Outpatient Therapy Director at Health Affiliates Maine, a mental health and substance abuse treatment agency serving adults, adolescents, children and families. For more information or if you or someone you know needs help, call us at 877-888-4304 or visit our website and click on “Referrals.”

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Now, more than ever, it’s important to be aware of your mental health. Rather than letting anxiety, stress or negativity overwhelm you, it’s best to stay present and minimize stress as much as possible.

There are many techniques that may help you process and reduce stress. While not every suggestion will work for every person, adopt what works best for you into your daily wellness routine.

Stress-reducing techniques:

  • Exercise: Physical activity can boost your immune system, help you feel good about yourself, increase your energy levels, alleviate stress, and help with sleep. There are numerous home workouts available online to try for free!
  • Meditate: Find some time every day to do even a few minutes of meditation. It helps calm the brain and make you feel more grounded and present.
  • Be informed: Uncertainty or misinformation can increase worry and cause panic. You can stay informed through official, fact-checked channels such as the CDC website or the World Health Organization’s website.
  • Don’t obsess over the negative: Sometimes too much information can lead to overload or more stress. Try to limit exposure to media outlets and make sure your information sources are reliable. Avoid reading before bed—it can increase anxiety or stress.
  • Pay attention to positive news: Despite this difficult time, there is often positive information in the daily news, online, and in social media. Find hope in these stories and share them with those who may need a boost.
  • Think positively: Recall how you and your loved ones overcame past hardships. Remind yourself that things are temporary, and the current situation will pass. Consider the current time as an opportunity to show more care to yourself and your loved ones.
  • Share thoughts/feelings with others: Talking about your thoughts and feelings can help alleviate stress. Others might share similar feelings and can help you process your emotions.
  • Check in with loved ones: Loved ones are often concerned about us and may try to protect us by not being fully truthful. If you are worried about loved ones, reach out to them frequently and lend a listening ear.
  • Learn to say “no”: Although sharing information and feelings can be helpful, it is also important to say “no” when you are uncomfortable. Respectfully set boundaries and leave conversations in an appropriate way.
  • Engage with others (from a safe distance): There is still life outside of the current crisis. Join in a virtual dinner party, video chat with friends or family, listen to music, or start a new hobby.
  • Do some relaxation: Plan some relaxation techniques or activities that you enjoy into your daily schedule. Read a book, enjoy a warm bath, meditate—anything that calms you or brings you joy.
  • Get outside: Go outside for walks! Fresh air and sunshine are excellent for boosting your mood. Get outside as much as you can if you are in an area where you can practice safe social and physical distancing from others.
  • Let it out: Sometimes expressing your emotions can be helpful. Try journaling, keeping a voice diary, or letting yourself be upset for a while. It’s important not to bottle up your emotions.

Remember, it’s not selfish to take care of yourself, it’s crucial to your wellbeing. A strong body and mind will help you to navigate through uncertain times.

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