A year ago, I wrote columns about rebounding from the pandemic and welcoming a new year of stress. This feels like Groundhog Day because it is another new year in which we are facing the same circumstances along with an additional coronavirus variant.

Friends have commented they couldn’t wait for last year to end because of the loss and grief they experienced in 2021. The new year doesn’t miraculously alter our hearts. We continue to grieve as the calendar turns to January, so a booster of some of the key points about resilience and handling stress from last year may serve us well in 2022.

Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle is a terrific book in which authors Emily and Amelia Nagoski make an important distinction between stress and stressors. You may be handling the stressor — by organizing your schedule, setting boundaries, saying “no” and being conscious of how you spend your time — but you may not be handling the stress.

When you get stuck in the stress response cycle, never reaching the end of the process, the stress remains in your body. It continues to impact you, affecting your health, your emotional well-being and how you respond to everyone, including your children. What these twin sisters advised to counteract chronic stress is completing the stress cycle.

The most effective way to complete the stress response cycle is through physical exercise. Put physical exercise at the top of your list for 2022. There is a bonus — when your children see you being physically active, they will most likely be active as well. That will assist them in releasing their stress.

There are six other ways to complete the stress response cycle. Affection, breathing deeply, laughter, positive social interaction, creative expression and a big ol’ cry all positively impact your nervous system, releasing stress.

Pet your dog; hug your spouse; practice yoga; tell some good jokes; hang out with people who inspire you; write, paint, draw, dance and allow yourself to feel your feelings — even the ones that may be uncomfortable. Embrace those spontaneous moments of joy and laughter that may show up even while you grieve.

The concept of “ordinary magic” — based on the work of Dr. Ann Masten, who studied the impact of long-term chronic stress on children — also can be incredibly helpful in handling stress. Masten found there were three things that served as buffers between children and the stressors, allowing children to rebound, to be resilient and to often thrive even under dire circumstances.

The first key is a highly connected relationship between parent and child. The love generated in this relationship acts as a “force field.” Children feel not only safe but also valued and inspired. One way to build that connection is by speaking your child’s love language — time, physical affection, words of affirmation, acts of service and gifts.

Discover the “force field” generated for you by loving friends and family, too.

The second key is doing something meaningful. The children who were resilient felt they had a purpose. Adults with purpose are more resilient, too. In this new year, explore new avenues of creativity, new ways to be of service and new things to learn. Tap into something larger than yourself and inspire your children to do the same.

The third key was a sense of predictability, reliability and control, especially when things outside of the home seem so out of control, such as in a continuing pandemic. Now is the perfect time to refocus on rituals and routines. Rituals — which involve eye contact, touch and a heart connection — create safety. Routines — around getting up in the morning, mealtime, study time, playtime and bedtime — provide structure. Together, rituals and routines provide comfort and security for both children and adults.

Yes, the “same old, same old” of the last two years is happening. Even so, we can make 2022 brighter, fresher and incredibly rewarding by completing the stress response cycle and practicing some “ordinary magic.”

Wishing you the best in 2022!

Maggie Macaulay is the owner of Whole Hearted Parenting, offering coaching, courses and workshops. Contact her at 954-483-8021 or Maggie@WholeHeartedParenting.com. Visit her website at WholeHeartedParenting.com.

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