By Parth Patel, Youth Mobile Crisis Coordinator
You’re at the start of another Spring Break! Your kids could be feeling a mixture of emotions right now from relief, to excitement, and maybe some boredom and worry. You, the parent, may be thinking “Break? What break…?” due to re-arranging schedules, pressure to entertain kids, worrying about older kids on trips, or planning a family trip that the children actually enjoy. This is truly a lot to manage!
Let me share some tools and techniques that will hopefully keep you from exploding or spiraling.
When you’re starting to notice initial signs of overwhelm, I invite you to pause and take a moment to be mindful. Mindfulness simply means bringing your awareness to the present moment by noticing your thoughts, body sensations, emotions, and breath. Here are a few grounding techniques that are my go-tos when I’m feeling stuck in my head.
Clenching fists and release
Bring awareness to your hands and focus all of your anger and uncomfortable feelings to palms and fingers. Clench your hands into fists as tightly as you can for a few seconds, and then release. You can do this as many times as you’d like, and after each round I want you to notice how it feels to let go of some tension in your body. Sometimes instead of only tightening up my fists, I’ll tense up multiple areas of my body at the same time like my feet, shoulders, and face (when no one is watching of course- haha!).
3-3-3-3 (Name Three Things)
Tune in to your senses of touch, sight, sound, and smell. Start by taking slow, mindful breaths that fill up your lungs. Continue taking these slow breaths while identifying three things you can see around you (for example: I currently see a half eaten donut, my phone, and a mug with green shamrocks on it). Next, continue with slow breathing while identifying three things you hear (example: I currently hear people talking, typing sounds, and my inhales). After this, notice three things that you physically feel (example: my shirt brushing against my stomach, feet pressing against the floor, my bottom on the chair). To end, notice three things you can smell (example: I currently smell my spicy cologne, coffee smell, and honestly I can’t smell anything else and that’s okay). I like to end this activity by observing the first three thoughts that pop into my head.
- Imagine yourself picking up all of your unhelpful thoughts and feelings and then placing these inside of a drawer or box. Give yourself permission to tend to these thoughts and feelings later, they are not serving you right now. You are mentally “filing” them away. How does this feel?
- Close your eyes and picture yourself in a beautiful, serene location like the mountains, beach, favorite park, or favorite room at home. What do you see and hear? What’s the temperature like? What changes are you noticing in your body as you explore this place? When your environment is chaotic, remember that you have the option to visually transport to anywhere in the world.
Remember that if these activities are not helpful for you, that’s okay! Give yourself credit for trying something new. I hope you can carve out some time for yourselves to recharge and restore this Spring Break.