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Don't Overthink It Thursday


In these uncertain times, it’s easy to become anxious and feel overwhelmed. Stress is a normal part of our lives and is not always a bad thing. However, when there is too much stress, we can sometimes end up feeling sad or anxious, or get stomach aches, headaches, or even have trouble eating or sleeping. That is why it is important to learn healthy ways to cope with stress and calm our minds. Here are some tips and strategies for dealing with anxiety from Dr. Carly McMorris, a member of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute. Dr. McMorris works with children and families at the Owerko Centre and her research through the community funded Facing Your Fears program is changing lives.

Just breathe

Deep breathing can help calm our bodies and our minds. Try these different breathing exercises and see which one you like. Find a quiet, calm place at home, office or school, sit or lie down, and practice these techniques for two to three minutes a day. Parents and caregivers: Don’t forget to model deep breathing for your kids.

Figure 8 breathing: Use your finger to draw an imaginary figure 8 in the air. Trace your finger around, breathing in for one half until you reach the middle, then breathe out for the other half of the figure 8.

Lotus breathing: Imagine a flower that opens in the day and closes at night. Open your hand while breathing in, and close your hand while breathing out.

Square breathing: This is great for anxiety. Draw a square in the air with your finger, then breathe and hold with each side of the square. Deep breathe hold, exhale, hold, and repeat. Remember to relax your body, especially when breathing out.

Engage in relaxation—alone and as a family

Find time in your day—every day—to engage in self-care or a relaxing activity. Listen to music, go for a walk, read a book, play games as a family, cuddle pets, or take up a new hobby. As a family, make a list of all the relaxing activities you can engage in. And remember, prioritize this time. It’s sometimes helpful to block off time in your calendar, or set a reminder in your phone to ensure you find the time.

Be mindful of the moment

It is so easy to become overwhelmed and let our minds wander whether it be our to-do lists, planning for the next day, or thinking about world events. Being mindful means being present in the moment. Here are some strategies to help you stay grounded in the moment:

Meditate: Meditation helps with improving concentration and reducing stress. It's about becoming more aware of our thoughts and feelings and to learnt o observe them without judgment. Doing so takes practice, just like any other skill or sport. Use a meditation app like Headspace or Calm or try the “Five Things Game." Sit comfortably wherever you are and think of five things you can feel, hear, see, smell and taste.

Be grateful: Try gratitude meditation and practice being thankful. The more we practice being thankful, the more our brains want to be kind, which makes us healthier and happier. Some people keep a journal to write down things they are thankful or grateful for. As a family you can also come up with three things that you are grateful for over breakfast or dinner.

Think positive: When feeling overwhelmed, practice positive thinking (“I can do this,” “I am brave,” “I am safe,” “This feeling will pass shortly”). Parents and caregivers: help kids come up with specific thoughts and when they might use them.

Limit social media: It's important to stay informed but try limiting your time spent on social media to avoid becoming overwhelmed.

Relax those muscles

Practice progressive muscle relaxation: Tense up your face like you are eating a sour lemon, and then breathe in. Relax your muscles while you breathe out. Try this with your shoulders, too, and other muscles in your body.

Stay connected and ask for help

Remember to keep those lines of communication open with your friends and family. Maintain contact with your supports, even if it’s digital. Ask for help from family members or health care professionals (doctor, nurse, psychologist, social worker) if things become too overwhelming or interfere with daily functioning. You can also contact Access Mental Health or the Distress Centre

Thanks to community support for the Centre for Child & Adolescent Mental Health, Dr. McMorris is helping kids with autism work through their anxiety using a program called Facing Your Fears. You can read more about that here.


The Alberta Children's Hospital Foundation has partnered with RBC, Pembina and experts at the Alberta Children's Hospital Research Institute to bring awareness to the RBC Global Virtual Race for the Kids and our own mental health. These tips are part of an ongoing series we hope will get everyone thinking about self-care as we navigate uncertain times. And if you haven't already, there is still time to register for the RBC Global Virtual Race for the Kids October 17-18! Registration is free AND you can fundraise in support of the Alberta Children's Hospital Foundation for vital programs and research at the Centre for Child & Adolescent Mental Health – opening in late 2021.

    There are always GREAT events going on in support of the Alberta Children's Hospital!                                                  

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