Mar 25, 2020
Times are uncertain, everything we knew as normal has changed and we don’t know when things will get better. This is a very troubling time for us all, and children can suffer with a huge mix of emotions they’re too young to understand and process.
Help your child manage the 5 biggest emotions they’ll experience during the Coronavirus pandemic including…
Since the outbreak and lock down, it’s a very unsettling time for us all. Panic and anguish is everywhere. Behaviours and attitudes change, causing greater issues such as panic buying. And not far off describing it all as near apocalyptic!
Life has changed and will continue to be vastly different for the foreseeable future. It reminds me of a line in the song Star Trekkin’ by The Firm…
“It’s life, but not as we know it!”.
In times of challenge and global change, negative emotions increase and many young people (as well as adults) struggle to cope.
We are emotional beings, it’s natural and ok to feel emotions, we shouldn’t hide from them or pretend they don’t exist. But we must control them quickly to avoid more destructive attitude, behaviours and actions.
It’s not just the physical virus we’re fearful of, it’s become ‘the virus of the mind’! Our mind is a very powerful tool and at these times locks into survival mode. It imagines the worst and projects that into a false future, creating a distorted reality but feels very real.
I call it ‘Mind Tricks’. What you’re imagining is NOT reality. Your mind has been overtaken with distracting and devastating thoughts, lost in a fabricated future.
Fear is only a projection of thoughts, feelings and emotions in the future. To conquer fear, you must remain in the present and take immediate action.
ACTION: Repeat to yourself… “My Feet Are On The Ground” as many times as needed. This does 3 things 1) Stops your mind racing into that scary false future 2) Helps you feel more grounded in that moment 3) Reminds you to breathe deeper, take control and bring yourself into a calmer state.
2: WORRY / ANXIETY
Our lives have been turned upside down and inside out. Worry and deeper anxiety are created from uncertainty.
There’s still a lot of confusion about the virus and conflicting information about what we should and shouldn’t be doing, which is very unsettling. Lack of clarity, direction and information (or fake news), causes confusion and the rise in anxiety.
What we consume and absorb becomes our thoughts, actions, behaviours, beliefs and way of life. Whilst it’s important to keep up to date with information and safety guidance through a news source, you MUST limit it – don’t live with it (or on it if you access online).
Have the news on for pockets of time, and as soon as it loops and repeats what you’ve already seen/heard SWITCH IT OFF!
Find space and gaps doing something completely different to allow your mind to recover and emotions settle.
To help you understand this better, here’s a quick analogy using a musical theme. If I asked you what makes music, you’d likely say instruments, drums, voice for vocals, etc. Which are all true. Now try this…
Exactly, one long heard noise and nothing like the first.
What actually makes music is the gaps in between the notes to determine the melody, bass, tone, etc and the breaks in the words so we can understand them and sing along too!
Worry and anxiety often present themselves when our thoughts jam up and become that one long head noise we want to switch off or escape from.
ACTION: Recognise when your head is full and too many thoughts are one long head noise. Find that gap or space in between the thought, emotion or situation. Take a mental (or physical) step back from it, breathe deeply into the abdomen (belly) and then reassess with refreshed perspective.
This is a natural response to this type of unsettling situation. It is often related to a resistance to change. There’s deep disappointment about holidays being cancelled, family events and get togethers banned and we’re all being forced to adapt to a very unfamiliar lifestyle.
It’s easy to get reactive and frustrated. It’s ok to feel hurt at this time, but not to hurt others by explosive reactions such as behaviours, attitude, words and actions.
Emotional outbursts come from a collective build up. Whilst this is not an excuse to behave in any way we choose, it offers a credible explanation for us to have greater understanding and thus better control.
You are not your emotions. Separate the emotion from the person or situation. Typical reactive language and labelling uses “I am” or personal verbal attack descriptions, such as “I am angry” “They always, I hate them”, etc.
Responsive language relates more to the situation and how that has caused the upset or emotion. Typical phrases include “I feel angry because…” “He/she makes me feel upset when…”
ACTION: Change reactive language and communication to responsive, take out the personal element and focus on the emotion and associated situation or person. The anger will quickly dissipate to make room for calmer replies and quicker resolutions.
The rise in despair and angst are natural emotional reactions to the disruption around important times such as exams, School transitions and other big life events.
It’s easy to panic which allows the fear and anxiety to take over and thoughts project into the future. The mind tricks consume rational thinking and so the catastrophising begins. Suddenly your future is completely devastated and despair sets in.
Teenager’s despair is often around reaching the right grades based on mock exams or course work, will they be able to achieve the future they had planned, such as college, University or employment? Will they become the generation known as the ‘coronavirus year’ and have less job prospects because of this situation?
And for younger children their panic is associated with missing out on the last few months of primary School or competitions connected with sports or hobbies, or the level entry process (11+ exams), etc.
All this is future paced and if not managed immediately, will escalate out of control.
ACTION: Try this A, B, C of handling panic and despair…
- Awareness, Attention, Action: Become aware you’re having the thoughts or using over the top words to describe the situation or challenge. Get your own attention quickly and take positive action.
- Breathe, Breathe, Breathe: Practice 3 deep breaths… this helps to calm the body but also to slow down a racing and busy brain – you can think more clearly.
- Calm Thought Focus: Our mind can only focus on one thing at a time, if you focus on the problem, you’ll get stuck deeper into it. Go on a mental holiday for a few moments by choosing a calm thought to focus on (such as a colour, place, word or something you enjoy), focus on it until you feel calmer and more in control.
Change, uncertainty, worry and fear all create unease and insecurity.
We all feel it, it’s natural in a global crisis, no one on the planet is not feeling it right now. There’s a lot we can’t control or change, but there are still a few things we can, such as thoughts and behaviours.
In times like this it’s important to take charge of your thinking, mindset, attitudes and behaviours, and be steadfast in this daily (or hourly if needed in the beginning).
Focus on what you can do, where there’s routine and order the insecurity reduces, allow chaos and disorder to continue and so will the mental turbulence.
Create a new routine to bring in a level of order and security to things. Create a new purpose each day, even if it’s something mundane such as household chores, etc.
What ultimately makes a tree strong is not just its roots, branches or foliage, but the storms and weather it must endure.
ACTION: Become like the tree, steadfast yet resilient and flexible to adjust to each day as it comes. Adopt an adjustable attitude, deal with things and situations as they present themselves each day, relax and be kind to yourself, these are not normal times, so unlikely you’ll have a normal day.
SMILES & LAUGHTER
Many children have asked me if it’s still ok to smile, laugh and feel happy. They’ve described feeling guilty or disrespectful because so many people are suffering.
This is not their fault and they shouldn’t be carrying the burden of such overwhelm or responsibility.
It’s important to keep things as normal as possible and a good sense of humour. To help children manage any confusion and offer them context, we’re not laughing at the situation or people’s suffering. We’re finding ways to manage emotions and how we feel.
Keep the smiles and laughter going, it’s important as it lifts mood, creates togetherness (shared humour and happiness) and offers perspective over negative and destructive thinking. Ideas to bring back the smiles…
By Annette Du Bois
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