• Behavior
  • Parenting
  • Safety

How to cool the tensions of cabin fever during a crisis

mother hugging child on bed, looking grateful

In this article, you’ll find answers to questions like:

1. How do I remain centered?
2. How do I aim for compassion, not perfection?
3. What are tips to stay positive?

Uncertain, the new normal, even unprecedented — these can become buzzwords while living through a lengthy crisis when our routines are disrupted.

So how can we soothe family tension and uplift our spirits while shut in together during a hurricane or quarantine for a pandemic?

Two local therapists offer their tips here on how to adjust and cope when everything turns upside down and  inward . . . sometimes for the long haul.


Humans thrive on predictability, so focus on what’s within your control, says Stephanie De La Cruz, clinical director for Center for Child Counseling in Palm Beach Gardens.

“How can we take advantage of what’s already in place to help us as caregivers?” she asks. “Establish routines and schedules. Model to your children how to be safe – simple practices, like how to wash their hands or clean surfaces.”

It’s helpful to create some predictability within your home when the outside world is especially unpredictable, she adds.

You suddenly may have to juggle work responsibilities, oversee academic lessons, manage the household and find time to support partners, family members and friends.

Parents should rely on their individual strengths to manage change, says Ali Cunningham Abbott, associate professor at Lynn University in Boca Raton.

“There are tried-and-true techniques that work for most people, but what works for me may not work for my neighbor,” she says. “Most people have faced hardships, and they should think about what helped them during that time.”


Although a multitude of planners and timelines may be available, regard them as guidelines, not rules. Classroom schedules may not work at home, so incorporate what works for your family, De La Cruz says.

Compassion, understanding and flexibility – not perfection – are the goals.

“Although we may not be able to master the math problems or the science questions, we can model how to handle stressful situations. Keep in mind that your children have suffered losses too – their friends, teachers, even some parts of the outside world are off-limits, so striving for perfection will only increase stress levels,” she says.

You’re human, so expect to make mistakes and feel frustrated. “It’s another opportunity to model constructive behavior,” she says. “What do I do to repair this? We do that by apologizing. It’s OK to say, ‘You know what? I made a mistake. I shouldn’t have raised my voice like that.’ ”


• If your social media feeds make you feel inadequate, then curate your online experience to be encouraging. Cunningham Abbott recommends following BeWellPBC on Facebook, for example, This local initiative aims to encourage better mental health for everyone in Palm Beach County. 

• Be intentional about your wellness, De La Cruz says. Need to get away? Plan a mini spa retreat in your shower with music and favorite soaps/scents.

• Develop a gratitude practice. In the morning, spend a few minutes acknowledging what you’re grateful for. Before bed, reflect on the day’s highlights. Perhaps list them in a journal to stay focused on positive thoughts.

• If you’re struggling, reach out to local telehealth resources or call 2-1-1, a local 24-hour helpline and referral service. “Some of these techniques are not going to matter if you’re really depressed or really anxious. If you need professional help, you can still get it,” Cunningham Abbott says.


• Stephanie De La Cruz, clinical director, Center for Child Counseling
• Ali Cunningham Abbott, associate professor of clinical mental health counseling, Lynn University



You May Also Like

    • Behavior
    • Health
    • Parenting

    Discover calming ways to help your family manage stress

    To help reduce tension, start by identifying triggers. If you're worried about your teen's behavior, tap here for local organizations that can help. …

    Read More
    • Health
    • Parenting

    New moms: Taking care of your baby starts with care for self

    We're not surprised if you're overwhelmed with feelings of joy — and terror. Taking care of a new baby brings on lots of worries, but that’s normal. So try to relax by learning abo …

    Read More

Related resources

    • Other

    211 Palm Beach Treasure Coast

    A helpline providing information, assessment, referral, telephone counseling, crisis intervention and suicide prevention, as well as online chats from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily

    2-1-1 Website
    • Behavior
    • Health
    • Parenting

    Center for Child Counseling

    Mental health services in Palm Beach Gardens for families, specializing in play therapy for children who've experienced trauma

    1-800-480-1899 Website
    • Behavior
    • Parenting

    Community Partners

    Positive Parenting Program, known as Triple P — free seminars and one-on-one guidance to help families improve their parent-child relationships

    561-841-3500 Website
    • Behavior
    • Health
    • Parenting

    Center for Family Services of Palm Beach County

    Counseling services and parenting classes

    561-616-1222 Website