Taking care of your family during tough times starts with one very important person: you!

Life is pretty stressful for most families right now. Kids are home from school, and a lot of parents are either home or are finding themselves suddenly juggling homeschooling with teleworking. Schedules and routines are jumbled, changes are coming nonstop, and there really isn’t an answer for when things will go back to normal. 

So what can you do to help your family? The answer is to make time every day to take care of yourself. Self-care often gets pushed to the back burner, but the truth is you can only provide support and stability for your family when you make your health and well-being a priority.

Here are 5 wonderful ways you can relieve stress and start taking care of yourself starting today.

1. When you’re feeling overwhelmed with household chores and other responsibilities, ask your family for help.

When you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed with things to do, one of the most powerful things you can do is simply ask for help. As a parent, it’s easy to want to shoulder all of the family and household responsibilities; however, with social distancing in effect and many families staying home more than ever, there’s simply a lot more to do.

Rather than trying to juggle everything yourself, ask your kids and spouse for help with dishes, laundry, and other household chores. Older kids may also be able to help their younger siblings with school work. Putting together a chore wheel can really help ease your tension when there’s a lot to do.

2. Follow a guided meditation in the morning before your day starts and at night before you go to bed.

A great way to bust stress is to become more mindful and present, and a great way of doing this is to meditate. Studies have shown that meditation greatly reduces stress, anxiety, distressing thoughts, and even pain.

Getting started with meditating can be tricky if you have no experience, so guided meditation makes for a great introduction. You can find guided meditation audio tracks and videos on YouTube, as well as on meditation apps on your phone. There are morning and bedtime guided meditations available, which can help you kick-start your day or shrug off any residual stress before bed.

3. Grab a journal and start writing when you feel stressed, worried, and even when you experience gratitude and happiness.

Expressive writing has a number of benefits, with stress and anxiety relief being right at the top of the list. Expressive writing is most effective when you write as freely as possible. When you feel a lot of emotion, simply grab your notebook and a pen, and let the ink fly. You’ll find that getting your emotions out on paper is very therapeutic and helps you understand how you’re feeling in a way you really can’t when you’re in your own head.

Write down your positive emotions as well. When you’re feeling happy, grateful, or simply peaceful, write down what’s going through your head. You just might find it useful to reflect on these notes later when you’re stressed.

4. Try breathing exercises when you feel stressed, especially when you’re having trouble relaxing during other self-care techniques.

You might not notice it, but when you’re feeling stressed, anxious, or worried, your breathing usually changes. This usually results in heightened, shallow breathing, which is why deep breathing is so powerful. Deep breathing exercises help you by slowing your heart rate and helping you feel less anxious physically and emotionally.

Deep breathing can feel unnatural at first, especially when you’re actively experiencing stress. A great way to help you through it is to find guided breathing exercises available for free on sites like YouTube. From there, you can successfully practice your own deep breathing technique when you’re feeling stressed and even when you’re practicing another self-care tactic, like journaling.

5. Laughing is the best medicine, especially when it comes to decompressing from a stressful day.

Have you ever found yourself in a tense moment, only for someone to start laughing and suddenly the tension seems to vanish? Laughter can truly be the best medicine, and this idea applies perfectly to self-care for stress relief.

Laughing has both short- and long-term benefits. A long, hearty laugh relieves stress, increases your oxygen intake, stimulates your body, and increases circulation. Laughing often can help with everything from boosting your immune system to easing a stubborn headache. Best of all, it can also help you connect with your family during a tough time. To sneak in more “laugh time,” watch funny movies, stream family-friendly stand-up comedies, or play fun games like Mad Libs and charades.

Self-care is many things, from bubble baths to meditation, but the important thing is to find what works for you.

If you haven’t been practicing much self-care lately, you might not have any idea of what to do to truly relax. The good news is this opens you up for experimenting to find what really soothes your soul.

Try out these tips and other tips recommended to you by friends or family. And if something doesn’t work, don’t feel discouraged! For some people, an hour-long bubble bath instantly melts away their worries, and for others, nothing is more effective than 30 minutes of intense exercise. The key is to play around with different ideas and see what clicks. 

Don’t forget about your family’s oral health routine.

Since most dental offices are temporarily closed, keeping your teeth and gums healthy is even more important than usual. You can also use this break as an opportunity to check in on your kids’ brushing habits and help younger kids turn brushing and flossing into a solid habit.

The Pediatric Dental Specialists team is on a short break from routine dental care appointments, but we are available for dental emergencies. If your child is experiencing a bad toothache, facial swelling, bleeding, or oral trauma, you can call your nearest Pediatric Dental Specialists office to schedule an urgent appointment.

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