Being a parent is never easy. At times, the responsibility burdening our shoulders can make us feel like Atlas... after being struck by his personal kryptonite (the dude who carried the world on his shoulders - see pic below). I don't need to elaborate on the fate of the world in this analogy..You get the point 😉.
No doubt you are familiar with that feeling, it's called anxiety. One of the derivatives of anxiety is lack-of-action. There are many reasons for this, but for the purpose of this post, we're gonna keep it simple. During this Corona-Crisis, you need to be able to function, if not for your sake, then for your kids. Well, then again, its actually for your sake because once your kids are good and happy - you are going to be good and happy - so its kind of a win-win.
Nobody asked for this stressful time and its helpful to remember that these feelings of anxiety will pass. Even when you are feeling super stressed, don't try to push the feeling away. Take a moment, pay attention to that feeling and let it fly by, rest assured it will.
The End is Near
The COVID-19 or CoronaVirus pandemic has brought with it a lot of uncertainty - this in turn can evoke some serious anxiety. "Will I get sick with Corona?", "If I get sick, will I survive?", "What if my kids or my parents get sick?", or even just wondering how long the 'lockdown' will last, these are just a few examples of questions that can cause a general sense of unease. (And, yes its time to admit that the Simpson's have predicted this situation too, well... sort of!)
With all the quintillions of terabytes of Corona Virus information - some being false or inaccurate - flying around and reaching our phones 24/7, it is not surprising that we feel insecure and anxious.
How can one expect to parent properly in such a situation? It is virtually impossible. Especially given the fact that many of us have instantly become teachers and our homes have turned into schools practically overnight! (See my blog post on how to manage that part).
Tip of the iceberg
Our mind is fantastic! Learning to control it will undoubtedly result in great benefits. But how can this be done and can any ordinary person do it? Thankfully, the answer is YES!
I'd like to share with you some extremely effective and powerful tools that will help you gain control of your mind and your anxiety. All these methods were developed or discovered through years of practice, exploration and research. What you'll be getting here is merely the tip of the iceberg, a watered-down summary. I strongly recommend you study these in depth, at your leisure (maybe when your kids finally get back to school, or perhaps even with your kids!).
(Monkey) Mind Control
Did you know that you can meditate? Yep, you read that right! All of us can! You have probably meditated hundreds or even thousands of times already, without even knowing. That's simply because we have a misconception of what meditation actually is. But instead of me trying to convince you, watch this Buddhist monk explain it better that I ever could:
And there you have it, tip #1, meditate by focusing on your breathing! Control your Monkey Mind!! And breathe!!
Try it, even now! How was it? Did you control your thoughts? See, anyone can do it!
DONE! You are awesome!
Now, I'm sure some of you super-meditators out there are gonna come at me and say this is not accurate. I'm not gonna argue, you may be right. Take it up with this monk. This is good enough for me and I'm sure it will be a good start for many others.
Pro tip: Allocate a time of day, perhaps 30 minutes to be anxious. This will put your mind at ease knowing that its anxiety time will be provided.
Be the Captain!
The second method is one of my favorites, simply because it is actually... well quite simple. There are times in our life when we are 'up' and there are times when we are 'down'. It is not uncommon for the wiring in our brains to keep reminding us of the 'down' times. Leaving aside for the moment why this happens, we have all experienced this, all too often.
This is in fact a trick that your mind is playing on you through which it gains control over you (maniacal laugh). But of course this mind we are speaking of is yours, it belongs to you. Essentially this means that you can control it! By simply realizing this fact and bringing it to your attention, you can make this a reality! Its sort of like we temporarily forget that we are the captains of our mind-ships, but once we remember and awaken, we can gain control and navigate it to our desire. (Just look up 'mindfulness' if you don't believe me - its very in vogue right now - trust me - you can find info on this literally everywhere!).
So the next time you feel like you are going to explode, just take a moment, collect yourself and remember that you are in charge of your thoughts, not the other way around!
Remember your security blanket?
You know how toddlers have those security blankets? Well, a similar technique can be applied for the times of extreme anxiety. Like those times when you are waiting for the Dr. to get back to you with some life altering results, during which time you can barely focus or think of anything else? And all you can concentrate on is that ever-growing pit in your nervous stomach.
For those times, you can find solace in using a simple object, like a pen and paper and jot down your thoughts at that moment. Now, if you are more of a doodler, like myself, you may prefer to Zentangle or doodle anything that calms you down. This can be extremely effective. Disctraction and creativity are extremely helpful during extreme anxiety.
Another Pro tip: It is very important to keep busy!
The Power of the Paradox
Often we don't even realize that we are anxious, this can cause us to snap when things build up! One more method to avoid this is by using the power of the paradox! This is effectively a super-power built in to our brains and is pretty neat.
For example, when I'm having trouble falling asleep and I'm literally tossing and turning - counting sheep - you get the picture - and I'm telling myself 'just fall asleep'! Then of course it becomes even harder to fall asleep. Instead of trying to fall asleep- what I needed to do is actually not try to fall asleep (or to try to not fall asleep). This would relieve the anticipatory anxiety which kept me awake in the first place, thus allowing me to fall asleep in an acceptable amount of time.
I hope you can apply this to your anxiety and you'll see the magic happen! When feeling anxious, simply tell yourself to be the most anxious, more anxious than you can ever imagine yourself being. You'll fail... at being anxious, but succeed in calming down!
How cool is that!
Take immediate action
One more tool at your disposal is to take immediate action and prepare in advance.
Since we cannot predict the future and there's no way to know what tomorrow will bring, it is best try and plan for the super-near future as best you can. I mean for the next few minutes or hours, no more! This will help ground you and focus on what is in your control. Procrastination is your nemesis!
For example, create a list of immediate tasks that need to get done. Remember to check them off as you complete them! And even if you didn't get to all of them today - that's OK! At least you got it out of your mind, it's not stuck there in your abstract thoughts, you made it concrete - you got it out of your head and on to your paper- NOW THAT'S something you can control 😉.
Be fully present
Grounding techniques come into play here. Be fully present and mindful - appreciate the minute to minute happy moments - not what's going to be in a week from now.Try to focus on the next 5 minutes, or the next hour, or on today.That's it!
If you need to order groceries for next week, of course you should do that- because, again procrastination will only help give your anxiety power. But your emotional mind and thoughts should just try to focus on the present time- instead of overwhelming you with what is going to be in the next few days or weeks.
LOVE this pic!
Move that body!
And finally, exercise!
This cannot be stressed enough, especially during these challenging times when most of us are not getting enough exercise.
Endorphins are only one of many neurotransmitters released when you exercise. Physical activity also stimulates the release of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. These brain chemicals play an important part in regulating your mood.
There are plenty of exercises you can do while stuck at home, even without owning any fancy equipment. You can find tons of ideas with a simple search of the interweb, or use an app like this one.
NOTE: There are plenty more techniques not listed here, trying to keep it short and sweet.
Also, these tips are NOT meant to replace real therapy for anyone who may need it!
Feel free to reach out to me if you are seeking professional help.
Many of us are struggling at the moment, and I hope you find these tips helpful.
Please like and share this article with your friends. Also, leave a comment so I can get some input from my dear readers, like you!
M.A. Art Therapy