Who would have ever guessed that words like coronavirus, COVID-19 or pandemic would become part of our daily vocabulary? When stressful times occur, like now, it’s just as important to make sure we are feeling good emotionally as it is physically, because your mental health is your first line of defense to staying healthy. One scientifically proven way to boost the immune function is by thinking and acting optimistically. In other words, dreaming and setting life goals can be good for your health!

Dr. Sara E. Williams, one of the authors of Magination Press book, Dream It! A Playbook to Spark Your Awesomeness, provides a Mental Health Checkup & Toolkit to help your family learn an optimistic mental health strategy that will not only teach them how to manage their stress and stay physically healthy but also get them excited about the future. 

Before learning about the toolkit, here’s some important information about the stress response.

How fear and stress cause illness

When the mind and body are in a state of fear and stress, our autonomic nervous system (the body’s “engine”) revs up and hits the gas pedal, giving us lots of extra energy to protect ourselves. This is also known as the fight or flight response. Then, when the danger has passed, our body slows down and hits the brakes, which allows us to recover and restore. This is known as the rest and digest response. This balance of “on” and “off’ works great until we hit a period of chronic stress, in which case our body stays in the fight or flight response for longer than usual. This becomes a drain on the body’s resources and doesn’t give us enough time in the rest and digest cycle to restore and rebuild. Instead of stress wearing us down, managing stress can help us be strong and healthy.

Here’s the Good News!

You can learn how to turn off the fight or flight response and put your body in the rest and digest cycle. You do this by changing your thoughts and actions in optimistic ways. These stressful times provide the perfect opportunity for your family  to learn a few strategies to not only survive, but thrive in the face of stress. As a parent, you are your children’s most important role model. Showing them how you handle stress will go a long way to help them manage their own stress. 

Overall, the goal is to acknowledge that stress is part of life—stress can be big, small, and every size in between. The most powerful thing we can do is teach children how to handle stress in a healthy way both physically and emotionally. This lets them make a positive, intentional change in their lives. Learning skills like self-awareness and self-management can help your child learn to effectively identify and manage stress. Learning and practicing these skills leads children to develop physical and emotional resilience, and acceptance that even when challenges occur in life, they have the ability to confront and manage those challenges. 

Get a Checkup!

Now that you know a little about how stress works, let’s do a mental health checkup! A mental health checkup lets you see how stressed you may be feeling, The toolkit helps you learn social-emotional skills to “hit the brakes” to help turn off the stress response and boost immune system function. It will not only help you feel better but also help make a plan for the future. Below, you can do the checkup here, online, or you can get your free, downloadable version of the Mental Health Checkup & Toolkit by click here! The printable PDF is great for the young family, as opposed to more screen time. 

Taking care of your mental health is just as important as taking care of your physical health. The exercises in the mental health checkup can help you recognize and cope with emotions like worry, stress, or feeling upset. They can also help with situations that you feel you can’t do much about. Give these exercises a try — they might help you feel better!

Here’s a link to download a copy of the Mental Health Checkup & Toolkit: Mental-Health-Checkup-and-Toolkit-06


  1. Pause and take a moment to check up on yourself. Try taking a deep breath. How do you feel? Can you identify a problem? Until we know what is bothering us, it’s hard to know how to manage it.  
  2. Consider the four tools below, starting with the Distraction Tool. Take some time to learn how each one works.
  3. Which tool do you think will help you feel better right now? (On a different day, it might be a different tool.)
  4. Now, pick one and give it a try! If it helps you, great! If you need more help, try changing categories or adding a category, such as listening to music while taking a walk.

To download a PDF version of the Mental Health Checkup & Toolkit, click here.

Click here to download Chapter 4: Fill Your Bucket from Dream It!

by Sara E. Williams, PhD

This Article's Author

Sara E. Williams, PhD, is a licensed clinical child psychologist who specializes in the assessment and treatment of children and adolescents with chronic health conditions. Dr. Williams has co-authored multiple research studies, chapters, and a book on the cognitive-behavioral treatment of chronic pain syndromes. She is inspired every day by the hope and optimism displayed by the children she works with and sees the power of dreaming in providing children with the motivation to overcome the biggest obstacles. Her childhood dream to become a children’s author was realized with the publication of this book!

Related Books from Magination Press

  • Dream It! A Playbook to Spark Your Awesomeness

    Sara E. Williams, PhD and Scott Stoll

    Do you want to live the biggest, brightest, best life possible? Do you want to create things never seen before? Do you want to do things never done before? Do you want your life to mean something and make a difference? In other words, do you want to feel and be awesome? If so, this book is for you!

    Dream It! is chock full of activities, games, and brainstorming questions to help you discover your passions, identify your strengths and values, create brand-new, unique-to-you dreams…and ultimately open the door to a life full of possibilities! So get ready — with this playbook as your guide, not even the sky’s the limit.