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Feeling Stressed? Add Some PLAY

Updated: Sep 14, 2020

My husband and I have been home with our toddler for over a week due to self-isolation. Some days are easy and fun, a couple have been harder. The fun days are filled with love and joy - we laugh, we connect, we eat, we cuddle, and we play. The hard days have added stress and arguments. When my husband and I argue even the littlest bit, Sasha gets really agitated and clingy. It impacts her emotionally, but I noticed she gets over it quickly if we take the time to connect with her, to play with her, to giggle with her at everything and nothing.

I’ve been reading the book Playful Parenting*, which talks about how kids connect with us using play. They use play to do more than just connect - they use it to feel powerful, to increase their confidence, to feel competent, to learn, to try on different emotions, to process their own difficult emotions, and so much more. Play is their job, and they take it very seriously. Since I’m a couples counsellor, I’m constantly thinking about how to make marriage better. Could it be as simple as PLAY? 

I tried it out today. I laughed more at my husband’s jokes. I laughed more in general, actually. When I felt stressed or had those same old thoughts rolling around my head, I looked around the room and thought “What can I do to make this more fun?” The great thing about play is that it’s a quick and easy way to emotionally regulate. In relationships, with your partner or kids or extended family, you may find emotional regulation difficult. I know I do. It’s hard to stay calm in a tense situation, or when your mind is telling you those old stories about what this means and what that means. Play cuts through all that - it provides a much-needed distraction that interrupts the usual pattern of your brain releasing stress and your body responding to it and your mind making meaning of what your body is feeling. 

And an added bonus - you know how you often feel so much better after a good cry sesh? Well, laughter provides the same emotional and physical release as crying! So you don’t need to worry that you’re distracting yourself out of what your body actually needs. Laughter makes us feel amazing and reduces depression by releasing endorphins and serotonin in the brain. It also reduces our body’s stress response, and protects our heart muscles.** 

Of course, if you just want a good cuddle and a cry, that’s fine too! Do whatever you need to do to connect. The point is - connect. Connect in whatever way you can. If you do decide to play more to reduce stress and keep your house filled with love and warmth, I'd love to hear how it goes for you! You can submit a note on my website or DM/tag me on instagram @jenatharani. Forward this blog to a friend, or share it on social media. A little bit of play could do all of us some good. 

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