8 calming techniques you and your kids can do together

Anxious about the news? Try these stress-reducing exercises you and the kids can do together.

strategies for reducing pandemic anxiety

If you're more anxious than ever, you're not alone. We're all coping with a lot right now—a surging global health crisis, an ongoing financial crisis and loads of uncertainty about everything from childcare to playdates. Makes sense that we're all keyed up.

Whether you have previous experience with anxiety (as many moms do) or this feeling is new to you (but a natural response to this stressful time), you may be wondering how you're supposed to manage your anxiety while keeping it together for your kids.

The good news is, if we choose, we can use this time to build our anxiety coping skills and come out more resilient than before.


What is anxiety? Why is it so intense right now? I feel like my body is working against me.

Anxiety is actually designed to help us. Our bodies have a complex alert system to sense potential threats in our environment; anxiety is this system's signal that tells our brain: "Change detected!" so we can activate our fight-or-flight response.

But here's the thing: Right now, there's no one to fight, and nowhere for flight. So, what does our anxiety do when it can't convert itself into the energy to attack or flee? It just cycles in our body. Over and over again.

And if we don't change our relationship with anxiety, it can continue to torment our thinking, convince us of our helplessness, and come out as frustration.

Can't I just ignore my anxiety? Won't it eventually go away?

Here's a rule about anxiety: The more you avoid anxiety or will it to go away, the worse it becomes.

And here's why: Our body interprets avoidance as confirmation of danger, so the more energy we use to push anxiety away, the more our alert system activates and the more powerfully our anxiety springs back up.

To manage through this time, we need to shift our relationship with anxiety. We need to say to ourselves, "Anxiety is not my enemy. My anxiety is allowed to be there. I can tolerate my discomfort."

But how can I live around my anxiety right now? I have too much to do!

All the coping skills and breathing techniques in the world are only effective if you first do the following:

Acknowledge anxiety. Name your anxiety and locate it in your body if you can. Something like, "I am feeling anxiety right now. My heart is racing, which is a sign of my anxiety."

Validate anxiety. Tell yourself a story of why your anxiety makes sense. Something like, "Our body interprets changes as threats… and wow, there have been so many changes! Makes sense that I'm feeling so anxious."

Give yourself permission to have anxiety. It's okay to have space for these feelings. Say to yourself, "I give myself full permission to be feeling anxious." Maybe add onto that, "Anxiety is not my enemy. It's my very loud friend."

I promise, these are not just touchy-feely steps. We cannot regulate a feeling until we first name it, make sense of it and allow it to be there. And here's a secret—these three steps actually become a large percentage of coping. They'll help manage your anxiety before you start using any of the coping skills listed below.

Acknowledge, validate, permit… then cope.

What are some coping skills for anxiety that I can use right now—even in the midst of all the chaos in my home?

I'm dividing coping strategies into two categories: managing and skill-building. Managing strategies help when you have an anxiety surge. But skill-building is really where it's at because these tactics reduce the likelihood of anxiety surges in the first place. And we'd all like to have fewer anxiety fires, rather than just improving our ability to put the fires out.

Strategies for managing anxiety

1. Self-talk
Greet your anxious feeling to neutralize its power. Try out, "I see you, worried feeling. We will get through this because I'll keep talking to you." If you can put a gentle hand on your chest at the same time, even better.

This is a great method to teach an anxious child as well. For example, you might say, "Do you know that there's a Worry Girl inside each of us? If we say hi to her, like, 'Oh, hi, Worry Girl, I see you!' then she kind of chills out a bit. Let's keep our eye out for her." Teach your children that trying to drown out or ignore Worry Girl will make her scream even louder.

2. Deep breaths
This is a great activity to do with your children if they're in the room. Announce, "I'm thinking about all the changes in our life. I'm going to take 5 deep breaths. Want to join me?" Put one hand on your belly and the other on your chest. Breathe in deeply to your diaphragm and then purse your lips like you're holding a straw and blow out very slowly. Long outbreaths activate our calming-down response.

3. Ground yourself in the moment
Anxiety involves worrying about the future. Coping involves returning to the current moment. Announce to your kids, "Let's all pause what we are doing. Let's name items in the room that we see right now. I'll start." Then name physical items around you (a table, a rug, a slice of apple) or even name something about your body's position like, "My feet are pressed into the ground."

4. Find something you can control
When anxiety surges, we need to remind ourselves of our agency in the moment. Talk to yourself about what you can do. For example, you can practice social distancing, wash your hands, and disinfect after going to the grocery store. Remind yourself of other factors in your control: You can make chicken or pasta for dinner or you can watch the news or a funny TV show.

Skill-building strategies for anxiety

1. List your triggers
Make a list of triggers that tend to bring on your panic feelings. This list might include reading the news, talking to a friend who's big on doomsday predictions, dealing with squabbling kids or thinking about your family finances. Having this list helps you recognize what sets off your anxiety, so that you can tell yourself, "Ah, yes. Makes sense that I am feeling anxious right now. I know this situation tends to bring on these uncomfortable feelings." Learning more about how our anxiety works gives us a sense of control.

2. Schedule in worry time
While our anxiety needs acknowledgement, it also needs restrictions so it doesn't permeate every aspect of our life.

Schedule in 5 minutes of Worry Time at the top of every hour or two, at which point, say to your anxiety (yes, really speak to it!), "Worries, you're getting my full attention right now." Tell your kids that you need a few minutes in the bathroom, grab a notebook and record your worried thoughts and feelings.

At the end of Worry Time, talk to your anxiety again: "Okay, worries, our time is up for now. I'm going back to my kids. Only 55 minutes until I give you my full attention again!" Take a few deep breaths. When your worries pop up again, remind them, kindly: "I hear you. I'll give you my full attention very soon." A compassionate attitude when talking to your anxiety is key in making Worry Time effective.

3. Record 5 "Manageable Moments" per day
A Manageable Moment might be as simple as, "While eating my cereal this morning, all felt okay," or "Got though bath time with my kids." Remind yourself that even in the midst of a crisis, there are moments when you feel capable. You might even predict that your future self will continue to find Manageable Moments as the weeks go on.

4. Anticipate + plan for "no end in sight" thoughts
Anxiety exists when uncertainty about the future is coupled with your underestimation of your ability to cope. Catch yourself worrying about coping in the future and gently come back to now.

Tell yourself, "Ah there you are, future worried thoughts. Normal for you to arise. But I'm coming back to right now." Then remind yourself, "All at once, I don't need to get through anything that has no end in sight. I need to get through this next minute. Hour. That's all. And I can do that. Because I'm so strong."

You can say a version of this aloud with your children around, too: "I am so proud of this family for coping so well with all of these changes. Audrey, you are so strong. Landon, you are so strong. And me? I am so strong, too!"

You've got this. Because you're so strong.

This post was originally published March 2020; it has been updated.

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    The HATCH Mama collection is everything your pregnant body needs right now

    Their oil is the only thing that stopped my belly from itching as it grew bigger.

    Conz Preti

    Let me start by saying I'm not a fan of moisturizing. I hate being wet and sticky and after applying product to my body, I have to stand around awkwardly until I'm fully air-dried—a practice that is not compatible with having three kids under the age of 3. However, as someone who has carried three children in her body, I also know how much your belly needs hydration as the baby grows.

    This was especially true with my second pregnancy. My belly popped way sooner (a thing that happens with subsequent pregnancies) and on top of that, I was carrying twins, which meant I became super pregnant super fast. My belly was itching constantly from the skin stretching (I checked with my doctor to make sure I didn't have Cholestasis) and there was no scratching in the world that could ease my discomfort. My doula recommended the HATCH Mama belly oil and changed my life. The oil is nourishing—but more important to me, quick-drying—so I could apply it all over my planet-sized twin belly and get dressed immediately after without having my clothes ruined nor stuck to my body. Because of how much I loved the oil, I tested other products, and let me tell you, they're all equally amazing.

    Curious about the HATCH Mama collection? All of their products are non-toxic and mama-safe, designed to help pregnant people overcome the challenges unique to pregnancy. As their website claims, "from stretch marks to thinning hair, to sleepless nights, we're helping you tackle every prenatal and postnatal beauty issue head-on so you can continue to feel like the best version of you." I'm here for all of this. For the entire Hatch Beauty collection click here.


    Here are my favorite products from HATCH Mama:


    Belly oil

    HATCH COLLECTION  Belly Oil

    Intensely hydrating + fantastic at reducing the appearance of stretch marks and scars, this will be your favorite through pregnancy + beyond.

    $58

    Belly mask

    HATCH COLLECTION  Belly Mask Set

    Not only does it help to minimize the appearance of stretch masks + scars during pregnancy + postpartum, but there is a little non-toxic wink (and that's to you, mama.)

    $42

    Nipple + lip ointment 

    HATCH COLLECTION  Nipple + Lip

    Calming + soothing, this magic sauce is lanolin-free & made of tropical butters and super fruits. I'm not lying when I say you will not want to stop using this, even way after birth.

    $28

    Belly tattoos

    HATCH COLLECTION  Belly Tattoos

    A very rock and roll way to honor your bump. And non-toxic + plant-based at that!

    $18

    This article was originally published in March 2021. It has been updated.

    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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    Motherly created the flexible online birth class moms need

    The Motherly Birth Class is completely online, which means you can take the class at your own pace.

    Taking a birth class is a pregnancy milestone. Whether you've been excited to take a birth class for a long time or have just recently decided that you wanted to take one, sitting down for that first lesson feels big—spoiler alert, this is really happening! But finding time for a birth class isn't as easy as it would seem.

    We know new parents are busy (hello, understatement of the year). Between diaper changes, pediatrician appointments, healing from birth and the general adjustment to #newparentlife, the days can fill up quickly. But a lot of people are caught off guard by how busy pregnancy can be, too! That first trimester is so often full of symptoms—like nausea and fatigue—that can make previously easy or simple tasks exhausting. The second trimester begins and (usually) we start to feel better. But then our days get filled with planning out baby registries and deciding on questions like, "Where will this tiny new human sleep?" And before you know it, it's the third trimester—and, well, then you're in the home stretch. Plus there are so many appointments!

    All this to say that we get how busy you are—and how hard that might make it to fit in a birth class.

    And that's why we created The Motherly Birth Class. The Motherly Birth Class is completely online, which means you can take the class at your own pace.


    Think you'll want to watch each lesson a few times over? Great!

    Due date's next week and you need the option to take a birth class very quickly? No problem!

    Like everything at Motherly, we designed this class with you in mind.

    Taught by Certified Nurse-Midwife Diana Spalding (who also wrote "The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama"), this class is broken into 12 lessons—and you get to control how and when you watch them. We'll teach you about what your (amazing) body is up to in labor, how to decide when it's time to head to the hospital or birth center (or when to call your home birth midwife), what your options are for coping with pain and so much more.

    When you sign up for The Motherly Birth Class, you'll get access to a downloadable workbook and meditations. Plus, you'll be invited to join our supportive private online community (where you can chat with the class instructor!)

    Oh, one more thing: Your insurance or flexible spending account might even able to able to cover the cost of this class.

    Pregnancy is wonderful—but it's a lot. You deserve a birth class that works for you and empowers you to have your best birth. Because vaginal or Cesarean, unmedicated or medication, birth is incredible. And you are the star of it all.

    You've got this.

    Sign up for The Motherly Birth Class today!

    The Motherly Birth Class

    pregnant-woman-looking-at-her-belly

    Take our completely digital birth class from the comfort of your living room. We'll help you have your best birth—because you deserve it.

    $79

    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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    BABYBJÖRN

    This post is sponsored by BABYBJÖRN. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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    14 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

    They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

    Keeping kids entertained is a battle for all seasons. When it's warm and sunny, the options seem endless. Get them outside and get them moving. When it's cold or rainy, it gets a little tricker.

    So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of the best toys for toddlers and kids that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, many are Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

    From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these indoor outdoor toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.


    Secret Agent play set

    Plan-Toys-Secret-agent-play-set

    This set has everything your little secret agent needs to solve whatever case they might encounter: an ID badge, finger scanner, walkie-talkie handset, L-shaped scale and coloring comic (a printable file is also available for online download) along with a handy belt to carry it all along. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

    $40

    Mini golf set

    Plan Toys mini golf set

    Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

    $40

    Stepping Stones

    Stepping-stones

    Kiddos can jump, stretch, climb and balance with these non-slip stepping stones. The 20-piece set can be arranged in countless configurations to create obstacle courses, games or whatever they can dream up.

    $99.99

    Wooden doll stroller

    Janod wooden doll stroller

    Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

    $120

    Sand play set

    Plan Toys sand set

    Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

    $30

    Sensory play set

    kidoozie-sand-and-splash-activity-table

    Filled with sand or water, this compact-sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

    $19.95

    Vintage scooter balance bike

    Janod retro scooter balance bike

    Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

    $121

    Foam pogo stick

    Flybar-my-first-foam-pogo-stick

    Designed for ages 3 and up, My First Flybar offers kiddos who are too young for a pogo stick a frustration-free way to get their jump on. The wide foam base and stretchy bungee cord "stick" is sturdy enough to withstand indoor and outdoor use and makes a super fun addition to driveway obstacle courses and backyard races. Full disclosure—it squeaks when they bounce, but don't let that be a deterrent. One clever reviewer noted that with a pair of needle-nose pliers, you can surgically remove that sucker without damaging the base.

    $16.99

    Dumptruck 

    green-toys-dump-truck

    Whether they're digging up sand in the backyard or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? It's made from recycled plastic milk cartons.

    $22

    Hopper ball

    Hopper ball

    Burn off all that extra energy hippity hopping across the lawn or the living room! This hopper ball is one of the top rated versions on Amazon as it's thicker and more durable than most. It also comes with a hand pump to make inflation quick and easy.

    $14.99

    Pull-along ducks

    janod-pull-along-wooden-ducks

    There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

    $16.99

    Rocking chair seesaw

    Slidewhizzer-rocking-chair-seesaw

    This built-to-last rocking seesaw is a fun way to get the wiggles out in the grass or in the playroom. The sturdy design can support up to 77 pounds, so even older kiddos can get in on the action.

    $79.99

    Baby forest fox ride-on

    janod toys baby fox ride on

    Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

    $79.99

    Meadow ring toss game

    Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

    Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

    $30

    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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    20 Halloween costume ideas for the whole family

    Because dressing up isn't just for kids!

    @one_fancy_cookie/Instagram

    Dressing up for Halloween isn't just for kids! There are so many creative ideas that are fun for everyone—the whole family can participate. If you're in the market for the best family Halloween costumes, you're in luck. Instagram is prime real estate when it comes to creative Halloween costume ideas for every member of your family (even the four-legged ones).

    Make trick-or-treating all the more fun with coordinated costumes for your entire fam! From of-the-moment pop culture references to tried-and-true classics, we've got you covered.

    Here are the top family Halloween costumes, according to Instagram:


    Under the Sea, Disney-style

    Cruella and her beloved Dalmatians 

    Zoinks! Jinkies! A family mystery adventure

    It's a Mario Party!

    Corpse bride, but make it cute

    A 'Yabba Dabba Do' Halloweek

    An easy-peasy Halloweenie (family PJs are the BEST)

    A Victorian vampire family is ALWAYS in style

    Old MacDonald had a farm, alright

    The cutest 'Nightmare Before Christmas' ever

    A 'Greased Lightening' gang!

    Family love, to infinity and beyond!

    An absolutely 'Pooh'-tiful Halloween idea!

    Because parents love 'Descendants' just as much as kids do

    The force will be with you always in these costumes!

    A 'derby'-lightful Halloween idea for your inner Horse Girl

    Super suits for the whole 'Incredible' family!

    Those baby sharks aren't as harmless as they look (this family NAILED it)

    Winner, winner, Princess Bride dinner (OMG those R.O.U.S. costumes)

    What can we say, except 'You're Welcome'

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