Healthy Coping Strategies as We Return to School

I want to talk for a moment about the concept of change. Transition. Time. It happens to all of us. We age, kids grow up, people divorce, die, stop being friends. Change can be a lot. 

Since our children are going back to school, some for the first time since March 2020, we are in a time of great change. Today I spent the whole day, every minute, working on our family schedule and preparing for the impending change. It feels massive. Overwhelming.

What do we do when there are SO MANY changes that come at us at once. Most importantly, how do we cope? For me, I tend to go straight to anxiety. Anyone else out there? In the end, I start to fear the future, mourn the past, and sometimes dig my heels and resist. 

The funny thing is that even good change can be hard. Promotions, moves, kids going to college, people sharing their truths with us. Despite the fact that change can be good, it is still a change and it can be really hard to process. Accordingly, I did a little research and found some healthy coping strategies that we can use when we are faced with change. Try a few and let me know what you think.

Coping Strategies

  1. Consider the 5-4-3-2-1 Coping Technique for Anxiety. According to Sara Smith, BSW and the Behavioral Health Partners at the University of Rochester it goes something like this:
    1. 5: Acknowledge FIVE things you see around you. It could be a pen, a spot on the ceiling, anything in your surroundings.
    2. 4: Acknowledge FOUR things you can touch around you. It could be your hair, a pillow, or the ground under your feet. 
    3. 3: Acknowledge THREE things you hear. This could be any external sound. If you can hear your belly rumbling that counts! Focus on things you can hear outside of your body.
    4. 2: Acknowledge TWO things you can smell. Maybe you are in your office and smell pencil, or maybe you are in your bedroom and smell a pillow. If you need to take a brief walk to find a scent you could smell soap in your bathroom, or nature outside.
    5. 1: Acknowledge ONE thing you can taste. What does the inside of your mouth taste like—gum, coffee, or the sandwich from lunch?
  2. Try Hand on Heart Anxiety Reduction. To explore this grounding technique please visit Melissa Nunes-Harwitt, LMSW here. It is like giving yourself a hug. I highly recommend this technique.
  3. One of my very favorite resources is You can filter by age group: children, adolescent or adult. The site offers an extensive list of worksheets, therapy tools, interactive aids and more. 
  4. Talk it out. Sometimes just verbalizing your feelings can make you feel better. It helps your brain rationalize what is going on. Moreover, If you’re like me, writing it out can also be helpful. 
  5. Interestingly, in a parent group meeting today someone suggested holding a piece of ice or an ice pack. While I know this is a popular notion from TicTok and Dr. Oz, I haven’t found any scholarly articles on it’s effectiveness. Buy hey, if it works for you then go for it!!
  6. Finally, in my post Peaceful Drops of Rain, I discussed the prolonged effects of the slow, subtle drip of water. Stress and anxiety left unchecked can eventually etch a hole in a canyon. Be sure you are acknowledging your mental health to keep the river at bay.

Therefore, as we turn an eye towards real life, albeit, with Covid, let’s be sure to model healthy coping strategies for our kids. 

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