ROUTINES & STRESS

By Dr. Amy Shriver on Thursday, April 9, 2020


How routines can help your family cope during COVID-19

Dr. Amy Shriver, Blank Children's Hospital

Many families are facing additional stress due to the coronavirus pandemic, whether its due to social distancing, loss of a job, working from home or trying to home school their children.

In the midst of all of this sudden change, routines are crucial to helping your family cope, says Dr. Amy Shriver, pediatrician at Blank Children's Hospital. 

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"Routines can help us feel a little more in control when we’re in this scenario when there’s a lot that we can’t control," said Dr. Shriver. 

Routines provide structure, comfort and predictability, even moreso during these uncertain times. Positive routines – such as sleep, exercise and proper nutrition – can help our health while not having routines in place can have a negative effect. 

RESOURCES: 10 ways to keep kids moving | Healthy at-home lunch recipes 

Children especially thrive on routines, says Dr. Shriver: "It helps to know what's coming next and to have a sense of rhythm in your life. It helps children feel safe, secure, loved and cared for." 

There are benefits for adults, too. Routines help us optimize our day, prioritize self-care, reduce the load on our brain and ultimately helps us build the resilience necessary to manage adversity.

To battle stress and anxiety, specifically, Dr. Shriver recommends incorporating all of these into your daily routine:

  1. Good nutrition
  2. Exercise
  3. Sleep
  4. Relaxation time
  5. Checking in with your mental health
  6. Building relationships (with family or virtually with extended family/friends)

RESOURCE: Self-care habits for kids to help them cope

Here are some of Dr. Shriver's tips to create a new routine:

  • Know the goals behind the new routine.
    • Example: "We are going to start going on a walk every day to improve the health of our family."
  • Build on your family strengths.
    • Example: If you have one child who is more of a morning person, assign them to clear the dishes after breakfast. The other child can set the table for dinner.
  • Pair new routines with already existing routines.
    • Example: Pair bedtime with a book or shared reading with a parent.
  • Start with small, incremental changes.
    • Example: Start with flossing once a week and work up to daily.
  • Use visual or other reminders!
    • Examples: Post a new schedule or routine on the wall. Use an alarm.

What are some good routines to put in place during the coronavirus pandemic? Here are Dr. Shriver's suggestions: 

  • Journaling – Can be simple and just a few sentences each day. It helps process emotions.
  • Family walks – Combines fresh air + exercise + quality time with family.
  • Family meals – Share highlights and challenges from your day with family members.
  • Game night – A great screen-free way to spend quality time with family.
  • Shared reading – Can incorporate before bedtime or any time during the day.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Dr. Amy Shriver, MD, is a general pediatrician at Blank Children's Hospital in Des Moines. She is also the Medical Director for Reach Out and Read Iowa and an assistant professor at Des Moines University.

This blog post was adapted from a discussion filmed on Facebook Live on April 6, 2020, as part of a "Mental Health Monday" series presented by the Iowa Healthiest State Initiative, Make It OK and Please Pass the Love

Watch a full replay of Dr. Shriver's discussion at the top of this blog post.