With the spread of COVID-19, most of our lives have been turned upside down. We’ve had to rearrange our schedules. Some of us have been laid off. Children are home from school with, in most cases, no assignments to complete. The fear of such a mysterious virus has been everywhere. We see it on social media, in supermarkets, and in the faces of our loved ones who are most vulnerable to the virus. It’s tough. With so much information (and misinformation) in the media, it is easy to find ourselves in sheer panic. This is normal. In times of crisis, our bodies use feelings of anxiety and fear to protect ourselves. Though our thoughts and actions may seem irrational, our internal system really believes that it is fighting for its survival. With such upheaval in our lives, it’s important to find ways to stay grounded. Grounding is a therapeutic technique that allows you to connect with your senses and the environment around you to find stability. It can be used to reduce symptoms of anxiety and allows you to find calm in the midst of chaos. We can all benefit from a little grounding at this time in our lives. I’m sure your family, whether they are talking about it or not, have also felt the residual effects of the pandemic. The good thing is we do not have to restore stability and a sense of safety on our own. Grounding techniques, though they can be done individually, can be done with our loved ones as well! Here are a few techniques you can practice with your family during this time of uncertainty.

Individual Grounding Techniques

1. Practice Deep Breathing

Spend a few moments at the beginning and end of your day with deep breathing. Sit or lay in a comfortable position. Breathe in for four long counts. Breathe out for six long counts. Continue this deep breathing for a few rounds. If you would like to take this exercise farther, you can close your eyes and visualize roots growing from the bottom of your feet or tailbone and going deep into the earth. If you struggle with quieting your mind during deep breathing, try adding a mantra to the practice like “I am safe. I am grounded. I am loved.” Otherwise, simply acknowledge the thoughts that come to mind and release them as you exhale. Breathing is really one of the best ways to slow our nervous system down. This technique will help you face the day with a clear mind and also help you fall asleep at night.

2. Place Your Hands Under Running Water

We’ve heard so much about the importance of hand washing over the last few days. Hand washing not only helps protect us in terms of hygiene. Take a moment while allowing the water to run over your hands before or after lathering with soap to acknowledge how the water feels on your skin. Is it warm or cold? Adjust the temperature of the water. Do your hands feel better under warm or cold water? Acknowledge what your hands look like under the water. Take a moment to really feel your palm touching the other (this is also a great technique to help children slow down and become mindful). Paying attention to our tactile sense is a great way to remain grounded.

Grounding Techniques for Couples

1. Describe Your Feelings About the Virus to Your Partner

What does your anxiety surrounding the COVID-19 virus feel like? Can you describe it? Having our social interactions and travel hindered can feel suffocating or even unfair. You may feel fearful about how the virus will affect your family physically and financially. Remember that social distancing does not mean isolation. Open communication is very important in times of crisis. Check in with your spouse or partner. Share your fears and frustrations. Let them know when you need alone time, especially if you are quarantined together. Knowing that we have support during this pandemic will make a world of difference and help us process this tough time. This may seem like simple advice, but it’s often the simple things that are abandoned when we are anxious and fearful. Asking “How are you holding up?” can go a long way.

2. Have A Plan for Talking About COVID-19 With Your Children

With Schools being closed, I’m sure your children have a lot of questions about COVID-19. Create a plan for how you are going to address the pandemic with your children. Make sure you and your spouse or partner are on the same page about the information you want to share. Not only will this allow you to be a united front for your family, it will allow your children to feel more grounded knowing that their parents are informed and taking the proper precautions to help the family stay safe. There are resources that can be found online to help explain the virus and the importance of social distancing to your children. The Center for Disease Control https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/talking-with-children.html and PBS https://www.pbs.org/parents/thrive/how-to-talk-to-your-kids-about-coronavirus are two great resources. Use them to your advantage to help you and your children feel safe during this time. to

Grounding Techniques for The Family

    1. Playing Games

You are going to spend a lot of time together over the next few weeks. Why not make it fun?! Pull out an old memory game or a puzzle.  Mentally stimulating games help your brain to calm and focus on completing the task as a group. For younger children, you can play “I Spy.” Expand the game each round to include “I Hear,” “I Smell,” “I Feel (using things you can touch).” This allows your children to practice grounding in a fun way by engaging all of their senses and their surroundings. Playing card games and board games are other great ways to help stay grounded while bringing the family together.

2. Exercise/Dance Together

Physical activity is a great way to beat the cabin fever blues while helping to stay grounded. Challenge each other to a push up or sit up contest. Have the family play musical chairs or freeze dance. If you have access to an older gaming system like Nintendo Wii or Xbox Kinect, play a fun sports or dance game that requires physical movement. If you are really adventurous, learn TikTok dances with your teens! It’s trendy and I’m sure your teens will enjoy laughing at you as you attempt to “hit the whoa.” If you or someone in your family has physical limitations, simply acknowledging each working muscle group through light movement or stretching is a great way to stay grounded. Find ways to be in the moment and to be present within your body at whatever level of ability possible.

Grounding focuses on being in the present moment. This is difficult when our minds are constantly wondering what will happen next and when this all will be over. Grounding gives us permission to slow down and reconnect to the here and now. Your best coping mechanisms can be found within yourself. Use your five senses to bring you back to a place of calm. Find things you enjoy visually, like a portrait of a sunset or family photos. Fill your house with calming scents that you enjoy (try lavender or vanilla). Take this time to make treats with your family. Find time to listen to your favorite music or calming nature sounds. Wear your most comfortable clothing and grab a pillow or blanket made from a fabric you love. If you need to be updated on the COVID-19 virus, make sure you are checking credible sources like Centers for Disease Control and Prevention www.cdc.gov or World Health Organization www.who.int. I know everything seems chaotic right now. Allow these few techniques to help provide calm in the midst of chaos.

If you need treatment for mental health, please contact Discovery Mood & Anxiety Programs.

April Cox is a Permanency Specialist II at Professional Family Care Services in Johnstown, PA. She is passionate about the mental health of individuals and families and prides her work on providing practical ways to promote mental health wellness. April has a BA in Sociology and has worked as a therapeutic staff support, family-based counselor, and drug and alcohol counselor before transitioning to child welfare, where she helps foster children and foster families process past traumas. April is passionate about the arts and spends her evenings teaching dance classes to all ages.