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How to survive lockdown!

It looks like lockdown is set to continue for some time and it is likely that many families are going stir crazy already. So here are some tips for you, which I hope you might feel helpful.


1. Lockdown Survival Tips for Children & Teenagers

Here are a few tips to help you through the coming weeks and months, while you are in lockdown with your family.

1. If you feel anxious:

· Focus on what you can control and not on what you are unable to change.

· Focus on the facts and on the present rather than catastrophising about what might happen in the future.

· Listen to the news once or, at most, twice a day; but avoid both watching and reading too much about the virus on TV or on social media. If too much exposure to the news is overwhelming you, watching more will increase your anxiety.

· If you are anxious about catching the virus make sure that you are sensible. Wash your hands (not obsessively!), keep 2 meters away from other people and follow government guidelines, including about leaving the house. If you are worried about any of your family catching the virus, advise them to do likewise and, hopefully, you should all remain safe. If you keep to the guidelines, you are automatically minimising the risk to self and others.

Please note that it is important not to obsess but to aim for balance in safety behaviours.

· Work out the triggers for your anxiety and try to think of some solutions / distractions for each in advance.

· Learn where the anxiety / tension is held physically in your body (stomach, head, neck etc.) so that you can recognise it when it arises and before it has time to escalate.

Then practise relaxation techniques (Mindfulness, meditation, yoga etc.) and do relaxing activities e.g. play relaxing or meditation music, read, cook or bake, have a relaxing bath, watch a funny film, do a relaxing hobby (e.g. art, drawing, playing an instrument), clear your room, write a journal or blog, go for a walk or run, stroke your pet, do some gardening, learn a new skill etc.) The Internet also has plenty of activities to keep you occupied during this time.

· Compartmentalise any fears. Allow yourself to be anxious for limited periods only. The rest of the time focus on whatever task you are doing.

· Practise Mindfulness, meditation, yoga, breathing techniques and other relaxing and creative activities, which will calm you and allow you to live more fully in the present. (Use apps such as Calm, Headspace and You Tube to help you).

· For help with panic attacks read the slides on Firefly (go in to Resources – Wellbeing – Counselling) and panic attacks should be listed in that section

· Eat and sleep regularly as we use more energy when we are anxious.

· Exercise regularly

· Think of fun and creative activities you can do when you are on your own and feeling anxious. Make a list so that you can refer to it when you need to.

· Communicate with friends and family. If you communicate on social media, as always, limit your screen time; but especially if the communication is stressful. Be careful to confide in those who will support you.

· Speak to someone – parent, friends, teacher, school counsellor. You can also use Kooth, a confidential online platform, or you can –phone Childline or the Samaritans. Externalising your anxieties is much better than keeping them to yourself. Avoid locking yourself away or you will feel worse.

2. If you are anxious about someone else:

· Again voice your fears to someone

· Ask yourself if there is any evidence for your anxieties or whether they are irrational and may or may not happen in the future. E.g. if someone you know is very ill, there is reason to be worried. If you are worrying in case someone becomes ill and if there is no current evidence that they will, practise changing your negative thoughts and saving your energy for when you have a concrete reason to worry.

· Use Mindfulness, breathing techniques, exercise or other activities you have identified as enjoyable and relaxing, instead of worrying about a future that may never happen (see above for ideas).

3. Living with the family – survival tips.

· Make sure you have a plan for the day. Structure is important for us all. Staying in bed doing nothing may feel enjoyable in the short term but the novelty will soon wear off. The less we do the less we want to do and that is not good for our mental health. The school day will continue and will help you structure your day in term-time. In the holidays, however, by all means rest and recharge your batteries but make sure you get up at a reasonable time, get dressed and decide what you are going to do that day. There are plenty of things you can do, while you are cooped up, some of which are mentioned above. Make sure that you include some exercise in your routine as it can make you feel happier, can increase your energy levels and is generally good for your mental wellbeing. It an also promote better sleep.

· Take responsibility by helping your parent(s) doing chores around the house. Negotiate what you will be responsible for and make sure that you do it without being reminded. If you really hate housework, maybe you could make everyone tea, or make a cake, practise your cooking skills by making lunch, look after / walk / feed your pet(s) etc. It is also a good time to clean and tidy your room, to sort out your notes and get things in order to reduce anxiety in the future.

· Spend more time with your family. It is not healthy to be in your room all day and this is the perfect opportunity to strengthen the bonds with your parent(s) and siblings, if you have them by talking to them more, asking them questions about their lives, their interests, their concerns and what they enjoy, helping them, watching films, playing board games etc. with them and exercising with them. Try to get time with each parent individually if possible.

· Give each other space. Include some limited time alone in your schedule and negotiate with your parent(s) and any siblings that no one will intrude during that time. This is a time for honing your negotiation skills. All members of the family need space. A good balance between time alone and with the family is desirable.

· Avoid conflict as much as possible. Arguments are inevitable. They can release tension and can be productive if handled well. There is bound to be conflict at times and that’s ok.

Having an argument from time to time is normal. The key is not to shout and throw insults at the other person; but to remain as calm as possible, listen actively to the other person’s viewpoint before insisting on voicing your reply, learn to express what you want to say in an assertive but non aggressive way; and to own your own feelings.

A useful formula is:

‘When you said/did/…….., I felt / it upset me a lot’ etc.

If that doesn’t work and the argument gets heated, walk away from the argument and go to your room. Come out again and discuss the issue after everyone has calmed down.

· Communicate. Talk to family, as suggested, keep in contact with friends via social media (but limit the time you spend on screen time)

4. See this time of self-isolation as a gift.

How many times do we wish we had more time? If we see this enforced time as an opportunity to do all the things we say we would do if only we had the time, we would see this as a once in a lifetime opportunity rather than as a penance to be endured. It is about being productive in new and creative ways.

Learn to slow down!

We spend our lives rushing from one place to another, meeting important deadlines and generally leading stressful lives. Slowing our pace is a rare gift and an important, healthy skill to master for all, who lead such busy lives.

The Internet is our lifeline at a time like this. For those without technology, it is the phone. We can still meet our friends or reconnect with old ones on FaceTime, WhatsApp, on House Party, Instagram, Tik Tok, Facebook and on other social media sites. Always use these safely and wisely, of course!! Numerous interactive activities of all sorts have sprung up on the Internet and many are being publicised on TV, so search for these and take part.

There are lots of creative pursuits you can do at home (see above for ideas). Take advantage of this time, de-stress and enjoy it while you can!!!


2. Lockdown - Survival Tips for Parents/Adults

1. Create some structure to the day for yourself and for the family.

All of us, whatever our age, need structure to thrive. In these unusual times, when we have lost the structure to our day imposed from outside, creating our own schedule is important so that we maintain our motivation and sense of purpose. Any plan, which you create with your children, however, should not be too rigid.

Now is the perfect time to strengthen family bonds. It is also a good time to teach the skills of negotiation, particularly with your older children; and co-create rules and boundaries with them.

Younger children will normally need you to help structure their day, (although even they may have their own ideas of what they want to do). Older children and teens require more autonomy and choice, while maintaining necessary boundaries, of course.

2. Divide your time between work and play.

At first, your children may just want to stay in bed and have duvet days. It is fine to allow this to a limited extent. It is okay for your children to recharge their batteries; but there needs to be a balance between staying in bed and keeping active. After a time, not doing anything with our day leads to a lack of motivation to do anything productive and can, ultimately, lead to depression. An anxious child, in particular, needs some routine to give her a sense of control and of safety.

This being said, parents need to model a balance between work and play for their children. It can be tempting to lock yourself away because you need to work; but you need to avoid working too hard as an avoidance strategy, to the detriment of time with the family.

3. If you are working from home, timetable some time with your family; and, if possible, time for each child individually.

At the best of times, it is advisable to give time to your children and, wherever possible, make each child feel special by spending time with each individually. While you are all at home, it may be a little easier to allocate time for this. If there are two parents, each could alternate giving time to the children. For single parents, allocating time may be trickier; but it is still possible.

4. Co-create a list of activities which you can do as a family and which the children can do according to their age.

The list should include a mixture of work, creative activities, exercise and play. There are plenty of interactive activities for all ages, which have sprung up online, to keep us all connected, exercised and our minds active, including the teaching of new skills for those who need a challenge. A walk once a day outside is important to maintain good mental health also.

Children can be given responsibility by helping with looking after any pets, helping with the cooking, gardening and/or other chores, to help give them something helpful and productive to do with their time. Again, any chores need to be negotiated, so that your children are happy to do them.

It is worth being a little more flexible than usual with time spent on video gaming, watching TV and on social media; but within healthy limits of course and, preferably, in agreement with your children.

You can organise family film nights, play board games, play cards, do jigsaw puzzles and other puzzles, draw, paint, sing, dance, go for a walk or run, exercise – there are so many ideas to make your time as a family more fun!

5. Communicate effectively

As you will have already gathered, the secret of a conflict free life, while you are all cooped up in a confined space (and for a conflict free life in general), is effective communication. Talking with each other more, listening fully to your children (if you allocate individual time to each child, you can more easily understand their needs), being interested in their lives, what they do and what they think, trying to understand how they feel, asking children, who are sufficiently mature, for ideas of what to do, negotiating the boundaries with them, where possible; and explaining why you want them to do something, are all ways in which you can strengthen family bonds and maintain a happy household.

A word about conflict:

· There is bound to be conflict at times and that’s ok. Having an argument from time to time is normal. The key is not to shout and throw insults at the other person; but to remain as calm as possible, listen actively to the other person’s viewpoint before insisting on voicing your reply, learn to express what you want to say in an assertive but non aggressive way; and to own your own feelings.

A useful formula is:

‘When you said/did/…….., I felt / it upset me a lot’ etc.

· If that doesn’t work and the argument gets heated, walk away from the argument and go to your room. Come out again and discuss the issue after everyone has calmed down.

6. Give each other space

It is very important that you have time for yourself individually and have time with your partner without the children. It is equally important for your children to have time on their own to do what they want to do without parents intruding. If everyone feels that they have time built in to get away from each other without fear of being interrupted, it will help enormously. It will lessen any frustration any of you may have, parents can recharge your own batteries and can meditate, do some yoga, read, go on social media, watch TV or just chill for a time to get you in a calmer mood to join the family once again.

7. Look out for vulnerable and/or elderly neighbours.

Thinking about the needs of others is a good way to stop us feeling sorry for ourselves. Making sure that neighbours have sufficient supplies and someone to talk to – on the phone, or face to face at a 2m distance, is

8. See this time of self-isolation as a gift.

How many times do we wish we had more time? Time for ourselves, time for our family, time to learn new skills, time to sort paperwork, do the cleaning, time to exercise, time to cook, time to see our friends. If we see this enforced time as an opportunity to do all the things we say we would do if only we had the time, we would see this as a once in a lifetime opportunity rather than as a penance to be endured. It is about being productive in new and creative ways.

Learn to slow down!

We spend our lives rushing from one place to another, meeting important deadlines and generally leading stressful lives. Slowing our pace is a rare gift and an important, healthy skill to master for all, who lead such busy lives.

The Internet is our lifeline at a time like this. For those without technology, it is the phone. We can still meet our friends or reconnect with old ones on FaceTime, WhatsApp, on House Party, text message, email, Messenger and on other social media sites.

Reading for pleasure, playing music, writing a blog or journal, sorting our files and our house, exercising, cooking new recipes and gardening are all great ideas to pass the time while cooped up at home.

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Rayna Shock MA

Email: raynashock@understandingstrategies.com

info@understandingstrategies.com

Tel: 07961 343894

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