CWRU social worker creates a deck of ‘Take a Break’ playing cards to reduce stress

CLEVELAND. It doesn’t take long to cope with everyday difficulties.

This is a message from Dr. Jennifer King, a case worker at Case Western Reserve University, shares a deck of cards she created at the start of the pandemic.

“The dose of activity needed to calm the stress response only lasts a few seconds or minutes,” King said.

Her “Take a Break” micro-practice cards include a brief stimulation that calms the body’s response to stress.

“These are exercises that can be done in three minutes or less. Patterned, repetitive, rhythmic actions and movements,” King said.

The idea was born out of how King and her family were reacting to all the changes brought about by COVID-19.

“I found myself applying a lot of what I knew about stress and trauma, about the brain and body, to how I coped and how I supported the people around me and coped,” King said.

These family strategies are now appearing in hands in Northeast Ohio.

“I wanted to create something affordable that could travel with you so that people can get that kind of support on the go and in different environments,” King said.

One of the cards depicts breathing with five fingers.

“It’s just breathing in and out and moving your fingers as you go,” King said. “He ticks all the boxes. It’s a pattern, it’s repetitive, it’s rhythmic.”

King’s seven-year-old son, Roscoe, said the calming practice is his favorite and it really calms him down.

“It’s just really nice to see your fingers moving up and down. It’s reassuring,” Roscoe King said.

A father of two, Steve Leitch, noticed a change in his daughters’ behavior after doing the heel and toe exercise.

His take on the role of a parent during the pandemic and the stress that comes with it is simple.

“The way we’re trying to think about it is like jazz and so we’re kind of like a jazz drum roll and they’re kind of riffing all over the place and we’re just trying to be a steady hum and not let them pull you into the craziness too much,” he said. Litch.

Flashcards are another tool in the toolbox that helps parents like Leitch keep their lives on track when the turmoil hits.

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