Creating an Anxiety-Resilient Family

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By Sushi Frausto, M.A.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT #101031)

It’s no wonder many kids struggle with anxiety. We live in a fast-paced world with plenty of things to worry about during regular times, and the coronavirus crisis has intensified possible feelings of distress. Even as adults it can feel overwhelming.  When I work with families, I often help the entire family find ways to fit stress-reducing practices into their lives. 

The following suggestions have been shown to decrease stress symptoms, increase positive mood, facilitate rejuvenation, and grow feelings of resiliency for adults and kids alike!

Family Meals:

The ritual of sitting down for a family meal is one of the top protective factors for children and teens.  Studies show family meals lead to less stress, stronger family bonds, better grades, healthy food choices and so much more.  In can be difficult to have family meals every day.  Make a commitment to have at least two to three family meals a week.

Create Family Rituals:

Family rituals create a sense of security, connection, and joy, which deter stress and make us hardier when stress arises.  There are many quick rituals that can serve as stress busters throughout the week.  These might include a cup of tea or hot chocolate upon arriving home, a walk around the block on a certain day of the week, Friday night bubble baths, family game nights, family movie nights, planned snuggle time, prayer, or yoga.  Start adding rituals one at a time so you don’t feel overwhelmed.  If the idea of doing something daily or even weekly is daunting, try a monthly family activity.

Down Time:

We all need time to unwind, unplug, and decompress.  Use this time to read, play a game together, engage with your pet, do some art, build a fort, pick up a word puzzle, create something with Legos or do something active. Make it a family requirement. You will be teaching your child and yourself about the importance of self-care  Calm background music, such as Jazz or Classical, can help to set the mood.  

Downtime does not have to be long.  Turning off the phone and going for a 10-minute walk is enough to reset our mood. Even snuggling for just 30 seconds can change our hormones and improve how we feel.  Start small and gradually work more down time into your life. Maybe 20 minutes is good for weekdays but on the weekend, try an hour. Goals for downtime might include: no screens, no calls, no heavily structured activities, freedom of choice and doing activities that focus on enjoying the process not on a finished outcome.

Fun and Laughter:

Laughing is one of the healthiest things we can do, and it is a direct antidote to stress and anxiety.  We all know laughing puts us in a good mood, but we may not realize that laughing is very healthy and necessary for our bodies.  Laughing increases our oxygen levels, improves our immunity, and aids muscle relaxation. It also activates our calming mechanism, known as our parasympathetic nervous system.  

Laughter comes from many sources.  Comedies and entertainment get us laughing. Ridiculous games, stupid jokes, silly books, hilarious videos, or even reminiscing over funny moments can all help us let the giggles out.  And the more giggles we have, the less stress. 

If this article sounds daunting, start small.  Choose one thing and try it for a couple of weeks. Even making one small change can have huge effects on you and your family.  

Additional Resources:

If you want to learn more about some of the ideas presented in this article, click on the links below.