7 Tips to reduce stress in your home

Adreeonah Mundy, Post-Adoption Case Manager

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“Do not remember the past events, pay no attention to things of old. Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:18–19

I know, this Scripture is widely used in the beginning of the year when new things are introduced. This is generally because our minds are prepared for the changes a new year ushers in. Additionally, our wills possess the power to at least attempt to adapt to new ideas, schedules, and ways of being.

But the unexpected changes we’ve all been forced to undergo seem intrusive—like an uninvited house guest who can’t take a hint that it’s time to go.

Change looks different for all of us. For instance, I’m writing this while sitting on my bedroom floor, and perhaps you’re reading it with four little ones running around and not a moment to spare for yourself. Change will provoke anxiety and stress if we aren’t mentally prepared. Our brains go into protective mode—fight, flight, or freeze—to guard against unknown and uncharted territory.

But God is doing a new thing, and we may have no choice but to embrace the change. Whatever this transition looks like for you and your family, I want to offer a few suggestions to reduce stress in your home.

1. Create a schedule

Sounds simple enough, right? By now you’ve probably begun adopting a routine, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Make a clear and concise schedule that spans the time you wake up to the time you go to bed. Invite older children to help create the schedule, and display it where everyone in the family can see it. As a therapist, I’ve seen families that lack structure and consistency struggle with chaos. Repetition, routines, and schedules help children by lowering their anxiety and giving them a sense of security.

2. Plan FUN breaks within the daily routine

Let’s face it. Schoolwork is important, and house chores must get completed. But you have to have some good ol’ fashion fun! Some examples include:

  • Hold a mini dance party
  • Stretch to “get the wiggles out”
  • Hold a staring contest
  • Play a game of Simon Says

3. Carve out family time

I know, the whole day at home feels like family time! Not exactly. Spend some time intentionally engaging with one another. Engage in a mental health check-in, asking each family member to share their “weather report” for the day—sunny, cloudy, stormy, etc. This tool allows for dialogue surrounding the emotions and thoughts that may be swirling around in everyone’s head during these tough times. Other examples for family time can include:

  • Games or arts and crafts activities
  • Movie night
  • Meal plan and cook together
  • Share your favorite songs and talk about why you like them
  • Make a bonfire and s’mores
  • Check out this website for dinnertime conversation starters

4. Get active and exercise together

If you’re still allowed to do so, take a walk in your neighborhood (following the rules of social distancing, of course). Allow your children to take turns being the gym instructor, leading the family in jumping jacks, running in place, high knees, sit-ups, you name it. Other examples include:

  • Practice deep breathing using the 4-7-8 method:
    • Inhale through your nose to a mental count of 4
    • Hold your breath for a count of 7
    • Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound, to a count of 8
  • Find Christian yoga videos online
  • Play hide and seek

5. Do family devotions and pray together

Spend time reading the Bible—perhaps stories and verses about fear and hope—and praying together as a family. Pray for the groups of people that have been impacted by COVID-19, including:

  • People infected with the virus
  • Healthcare workers and first responders
  • Families that have lost loved ones
  • The elderly who are at higher risk
  • People who are immunocompromised
  • Workers who have been laid off
  • Workers who have to work extra hours
  • Kids who are sad to miss school
  • Parents who are feeling stress at home
  • State, national, and world leaders who need guidance
  • Other countries that are fighting this disease
  • Scientists, researchers, and chemists trying to find a cure

6. Seek out random acts of kindness

Every day as a family you can engage in one random act of kindness. Studies have shown that altruism activates the pleasure pathways in the brain, so being kind to others will both boost your mood and focus your mind on others. Examples of these acts may include:

  • Baking cookies or cooking a dish for a neighbor
  • Making cards for people in nursing homes who can’t have visitors
  • Calling or FaceTiming a family friend

7. Ensure self-care for parents

Some of the families I work with scoff when I recommend self-care, saying, “When would I ever have the time for that?!” My rebuttal is simply, make time—before the children wake or after bedtime. Time alone is vital to your mental health during this season. If you’re married and both at home, talk with your spouse about carving out time during the day so each of you can take a break. If you’re a single parent, you may need to be a bit more creative, but it’s doable. I suggest:

  • Go for a walk
  • Plan a date night in (cook dinner or order take-out from your favorite restaurant)
  • Zoom/ Duo/ FaceTime/ House party (all apps) with friends to have “adult time”
  • Read a book
  • Journal your thoughts and feelings during this time
  • Have a Netflix party after the kids go to bed
  • Maintain your quiet time with God

I hope these friendly suggestions prove helpful for you and your family. As a former teacher once told me, whatever doesn’t apply, “let it fly.” I understand that change is coming at us at the speed of light; however, none of this is a surprise to God. He knows how to make a way in the wilderness and a river in the desert. We can trust Him to make a way and lean into the new thing He is doing.

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