The start of the school year is a stressful time under normal circumstances, but this year with the pandemic and a virtual start to classes for most children, parents are facing new obstacles to keep their kids healthy and safe. We all need to take some extra precautions for our mental and physical health this school year in order to stay on track. Not to mention cold and flu season is around the corner, which may bring even more uncertainty and stress into many lives. Getting ahead of any mental and physical health issues is especially critical with children, and luckily the strategies that help avert stress and anxiety are known to have added immune system benefits. It’s a win-win situation.
Here are my 4 must-know tips for managing stress for all ages:
- Routine & Sleep: According to the Sleep Foundation, school-aged children need between 9 and 11 hours of sleep; for teenagers, 8 to 10 hours was considered appropriate. Even though school may be virtual, a simple routine and consistent bedtime can go a long way to keeping everyone feeling their best. Just because we’re stuck at home each day doesn’t mean our regular school routine should be thrown out the window. Maintain a regular bedtime for the entire family, and be sure to take time to wind down beforehand with no electronic devices to encourage more peaceful sleep.
- Nutrition: 70% of our immune system is in the gut! Eating the rainbow – colorful food like vegetables, low-glycemic fruits, nuts & seems inures our nutrient intake and help keep illness at bay. Plus, adding this fuel to your body keeps you feeling mentally better and equipped to take on a full day of work or school. The better you eat, the more your body will thank you by providing extra energy and positivity.
- Exercise & Vitamin D: Getting outside and moving our bodies is one of the most impactful ways to reduce stress and boost immunity. When the school day is over, send those kids outside to play, and join in with them! There are plenty of family games that don’t involve much planning, like four square, hop scotch, or throwing the ball around. Spending time with your family de-stressing is a great way to keep your mind clear of anxiety and stress.
- Meditation & mindfulness are proven to help us manage our stress in the stressful times we live in. A simple deep breathing exercise at bedtime is a great start. There are also many free smartphone apps that can help guide you through meditation, or teach you tips for how to deal with stressful scenarios. Start small, then build up to a more extensive nighttime routine that allows you to take time to meditate.
Whether your stress comes from school, work, or other sources, it is important to manage at all ages. Finding the right routine that works for you is critical in maintaining your mental health during the pandemic. Start encouraging this behavior in your children, and set the example for them by taking time to take care of yourself. Taking a family walk after work, eating a well-balanced meal together, or taking time to meditate together can greatly improve your family’s overall wellbeing. If your stress becomes unmanageable or leads to physical health issues, seek treatment.