“Living in lockdown” and “social distancing” are now two commonly heard buzzwords.
With schools and daycares closed and mom and dad working from home, that’s how many families find themselves in the age of COVID-19, commonly called coronavirus.
The goal is to reduce the spread of COVID-19, but the bottom line is how to not only survive the virus but survive each other and the anxiety we’re beginning to feel.
As our nerves start to unravel, Kimberly Boyd has good advice to share. She is a licensed professional counselor supervisor (LPCS) with 25 years of experience in the mental health field. In addition to her private practice, Boyd is clinical supervisor for FamilyTime Crisis and Counseling Center in Humble and Dayton.
“When we find ourselves together for extended periods of time, it’s important to take time for yourself,” Boyd told The Tribune. “Go outside for some fresh air. Walk around your neighborhood. Read something uplifting. Color, play games together, or put a puzzle together.”
Since we all seem to be tethered to our phones, Boyd suggests looking for one of the free apps available online, like “The Breathing App, Headspace: Meditation and Sleep, and Calm.”
“Headspace” is a free app that uses meditation and exercise to help train a person’s mind and body to handle stressful moments.
“For some of us, this time at home could be an excellent opportunity to clean out the closets, drawers and garage and, once COVID-19 is controlled, make a donation to your local nonprofit agencies,” Boyd said.
Most importantly, Boyd said, talk to one another.
“I encourage parents to talk with and listen to their children about their fears and concerns,” she suggested. “Schedule a family discussion each day and discuss the thoughts and feelings that arise. Children don’t have the vocabulary to describe how they feel, so it’s crucial for parents to practice patience.”
Boyd said parents should ask specific questions: “What are you feeling in your stomach,” or “What are you feeling in your chest,” or “What are you feeling in your hands and feet.”
Because they are in school every day, children are accustomed to routine, so Boyd encourages parents to develop a daily routine with their child’s input of what is important to them.
“And when negative emotional and behavioral situations arise, parents can demonstrate self-control and emotional regulation by taking three- to five-minute, cooling-off timeouts,” Boyd said. “This is a time to encourage everyone in the family to find sprinkles of joy in each day.”
Often, family members feel anxiety about what is going to happen. One of the quickest ways to change mood is to move the body, said Boyd. Squats, jumping jacks, stretching, even dancing are quick ways to increase the family’s mood and mindset.
“When you feel anxious, focus on the here and now,” she said. “Ask yourself, ‘What can I do to feel more relaxed and confident? What can I focus on to increase my joy? What immediate steps can I take to reduce anxious thoughts?’”
And for all of us who are focusing on taking care of others, Boyd says self-care is vital.
“On an airplane, the flight attendant tells us to put our oxygen mask on first so we’re better equipped to help others,” she reminds us. “Take 10 minutes mid-morning and 10 minutes mid-afternoon to breathe, reflect and set intentions for the next three hours.”
Other self-care strategies include drinking half your body weight in ounces of water, writing five things you are grateful for that occurred in the last 24 hours, lighting a candle, playing music, reading, journaling, listening to podcasts, “…maybe taking a bubble bath.”
“Remember, too, we sometimes can’t do it all ourselves. That’s where counseling professionals can help,” Boyd said. “We can identify anxious thoughts and feelings as well as unhealthy coping styles. And we can empower you to change your reaction patterns and develop healthier responses.”
Boyd’s clinicians serve individuals, families, couples and groups beginning at age 3 and up seven days a week by appointment. Due to COVID-19, the counseling center now includes telehealth counseling.
To reach one of the 29 licensed clinicians at Boyd Counseling Center’s Atascocita or Kingwood location, visit kimberlyboyd.net or call 832-233-3086.