The reopening or relaxation of restrictions on commercial and social interaction has begun. However, by no means are “things going back to normal”.
There are still limitations on the number of people that are allowed to congregate in various public spaces, there are still physical distancing guidelines, and the directive “no mask, no service”. The wearing of face masks when going out in public, the frequent washing of hands, and remembering to avoid touching your face, is being strongly advised by those in authority.
Is this then the crafting of the “new normal” or the “not-normal”?
However we may wish to view these practices, the fact remains that this is all very different from how we’ve been accustomed to going about our daily activities. So we all need to be making a very conscious effort to ensure that we are following these protective guidelines.
And as in all other areas of life, parents and caregivers have the responsibility to lead by example, to demonstrate to our children safe practices.
What can be seen as one of the significant benefits of these pandemic practices is that we have all been made to be so much more mindful of our behaviours and actions. We have been forced to slow down, to be present in the moment, in order to be aware of protecting others and ourselves.
We have also been forced to think about our priorities and focus on our basic needs versus many wants.
By extending this ability to be mindful to other areas of our daily lives we can improve our mental health in many ways.
This can help to reduce our anxiety levels, help us to feel more balanced, more calm, more purposeful, and help us to be more appreciative or grateful. Whatever our situation may be, and there are many who are experiencing significant hardships at this time, as long as we have life and breath, there is always something to be grateful for.
Expressing gratitude and practicing mindfulness can help us to focus on what is important and what we can do in the here and now to nurture ourselves and our families and to build a healthy and positive future.
"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more,"
To learn more about Mindfulness Meditation training go to selfcarepsychotherapy.com
Within the next two weeks, the majority of people who are employed outside the home and who are not able to work from home, will be required to return to work, while children are still out of school. This poses a challenge for many, and especially for single parents. Some may find themselves scrambling to locate childcare services, whether that be relatives, friends, babysitters or home daycare.
This readjustment, just as we were becoming accustomed to quarantine-styled living, may be unsettling and will likely provoke renewed anxiety in both parents and children alike. Though businesses, services and activities are opening up and some people returning to work, the fact remains that the threat of the Covid-19 virus which catapulted us all into this pandemic state remains ever present. Some may find that going out and trying to function “as normal” while being aware that the threat still exists to be quite nerve-wracking.
Living with uncertainty is the lesson we are all involved in trying to learn at present. And, as I have heard it said, the only certain thing about life is uncertainty, (along with death and taxes). In order to manage this uncertainty it is really important to take the time to be more mindful, to tune in to the tensions in your body and the emotions in your mind.
Allow yourself to acknowledge them, sit with them, feel them and breathe into them. Express what you are feeling vocally or in writing. This can mitigate the feelings of overwhelm and calm down the body’s stress response. Acceptance of uncertainty will allow us the mental space to focus on the here and now. Reaching out to others and offering emotional and/or practical support, engaging with friends, and indulging in creative and fun activities can also help to manage uncertainty. (You can refer to the Reminder Tips for Parents in previous blog).
Self-care and self-nurturing are vitally important at this time, making sure that we’re sleeping well, eating well and staying hydrated. Drinking water is known to be essential to our emotional and mental health as well as our physical health.
This, what seems like an extended vacation time, is the ideal time for all children everywhere to let their creative juices flow! Even as they attempt to keep up with some level of formal academic work, there is less time assigned to this at present and more time is being spent on finding different, creative, practical and more innovative ways to both learn and play.
Here are some suggestions to add to your growing toolbox/playbox:
As the uncertainty shifts beneath our feet and plans for reopening are being laid out, parents need to find ways to stay grounded and maintain stability for their children. Planning ahead and remembering to look after yourself are key to effective coping.
MAKE SELF-CARE A PRIORITY :
To end with a quote:
"The present moment is the only moment available to us, and it is the door to all moments".
Thich Nhat Hanh
Anxiety in and of itself is not bad or dangerous. It is in fact a very natural part of the human experience. Anxiety helps to motivate and energize us to complete many important tasks such as studying for and writing exams, preparing for presentations, organizing events, executing household chores and providing care for those around us. When anxiety increases it can feel uncomfortable, and when it becomes extreme it can feel debilitating. When anxiety seriously affects someone’s ability to function in their everyday lives it is usually recommended that they seek professional help to learn how to manage their symptoms.
The below steps are some practical approaches that can be helpful to parents and care givers when dealing with pandemic-related anxiety:
“We’re all in this together” is the phrase being flashed at us via all types of media in an attempt to create a sense of connection, belonging, and meaning in a world that seems to be screeching to a halt with closed borders and physical distancing being the order of the day. Self-isolation, stay-at-home, lock-down, social distancing, have now become everyday terms being used to describe our present state of existence. Making rapid progression in a matter of weeks, this previously unknown and not well understood virus named Covid19 has overtaken the globe and is, as it were, holding us all to ransom.
So yes, we are all in this together, this collective trauma, characterized by “lack of predictability, immobility, loss of connection, loss of sense of time and sequence, numbing out and spacing out, and loss of safety” (Bessel van der Kolk, M.D.). Yet we are all experiencing this world crisis differently. Some may be feeling anxious and fearful, some may be feeling calm and controlled, and some may be feeling numb and helpless.
Whatever the state we may find ourselves in on any given day, we need to remember that what we are feeling is a normal reaction to an abnormal situation.
When the thoughts pop into your head: “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I pull it together? Why am I not functioning as I normally do?”, the answer is: “Because you are a human being, a vulnerable human being, with strengths and weaknesses, thoughts and emotions, just like every other human being.” We are all in this together, whether we are sitting alone, or isolating with family, whether we are worried about running out of food and money, or have a well-stocked pantry. There seems to be a psychological thread that is running through every single person on the earth at present that is holding us all together, mobilizing us to fight this invader and to survive its destruction. There also seems to be an emotional bond stretched across the world that is gently supporting and lifting those who are intensely focused on and stressed by dealing with the logistics of managing this pandemic.
Now more than ever, the old adage “one day at a time”, and sometimes breaking it down to “one hour at a time”, seems to be the way to move forward. The uncertainty which we are all facing can bring with it a sense of paralysis which we need to actively work to overcome. This heightened level of anxiety, sometimes bordering on panic and paranoia, can be effectively managed by following simple guidelines and implementing self-regulating techniques.
For parents, caregivers and other adults that may be having difficulty managing anxiety, here is a format that may be helpful:
Though it feels like we’ve been thrown headlong into a world of digital communication, engaging in way more online interactions than our previous normal, it is important to pay attention in this new normal to the amount and quality of screen time our children are allowed to use in any given day.
Watching television shows and movies, whether for school-related or entertainment purposes, should be determined and agreed upon by both adults and children, so that there is a time to turn on and a time to turn off.
Due to the fact that video chatting is now the new normal for social interaction, this amount of screen time needs to be taken into account as well. Any screen time should be purposeful and meaningful, not random and passive.
Many of the media gurus have stated that this challenging pandemic reality warrants flexibility with screen time for children, but that does not mean that there should be no control.
As many parents have been instructed to work-at-home, and children instructed to stay-at-home and therefore play-at-home, many households have been forced to find work and play stations, often in very limited space. Parents have had to scramble to find a corner of the house (if they didn’t already have a dedicated office space) where they could set up to carry out their work-related duties.
Yes, it has been several weeks now that schools have been closed. Parents, grandparents, and caregivers may well be at the stage of feeling like climbing the walls or pulling their hair out, while many children are in fact climbing the walls and pulling hair out, their own and that of their siblings.
Advice from a myriad of sources across the globe suggests that having a structure for each day, a timetable, a schedule, will help to keep us all sane, focused and feeling productive. As much as I agree that setting out a structure for each day can help immensely with having a sense of purpose, a sense of security and safety in this suddenly very uncertain and unsafe world, I also want to suggest that focusing too much on a rigid structure or schedule can exacerbate stress and increase tension and anxiety in the home.