5 Secrets About Covid Stress To Consider As Parents



Just like the virus can be passed from one body to another, so can your unprocessed emotions. It is not uncommon for children to carry the unprocessed emotions and anxiety of their parents. So, before you try to manage the anxiety of your children, it is utmost essential to take out some time to assess your own. Here are a few things that can be kept in mind as you get ready to come out of Covid-19's stress. 


1) Study yourself 


In the book, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, Shunryu Suzuki urges the readers to study themselves. Yet, he warns them that just by knowing the teachings alone, 'it is impossible to know what I myself am'. He goes on to say that the moment you meet your teacher, you should leave your teacher, and thereby not be attached to him so that you can become independent. 


Modern-day therapy works much in the same fashion. Therapists are trained to provide a safe and sound environment for you to be fully vulnerable and crack open first. It is not them who put the pieces of your brokenness together. But, it is ultimately you, the patient, or the 'client' who is given the strength to become an independent, whole. A key point to remember here is that true independence of the mind and soul happens through the path of vulnerability. Through the courage of allowing yourself to be vulnerable, you gain the courage of letting go. This is when you allow a trained individual to walk with you with the right toolbox to study your vulnerabilities. So, step one is to take the responsibility of studying yourself. You can consider going to coaches, counselling, therapy or other trusted avenues. In taking responsibility of examining yourself, you would take the first step towards freedom and independence. 




2) Avoid double duty 


If however, we fail to study ourselves and process our deep emotions, we may carry them for years, decades. Our dear ones sometimes become carriers of the pain we are unable to process. 


So, before you decide to calm the stress levels of your children, make sure you and your partner have worked through your emotions individually and as a team. Children may unconsciously pick up on unresolved issues, and fears that you may be harbouring inside your psyche. 


 In the book, 'Maybe you should talk to someone', the author, therapist, Lori Gottlieb, talks about a patient, John, who lost his 6-year-old baby boy in a car accident. For several years, John could not process his grief fully. He ended up becoming irritable, building a wall around him, not allowing any form of vulnerability to seep in. His loving wife, on the other hand, for years, did a 'double duty'; crying for her husband by shedding tears that John couldn't yet manifest himself. Eventually, the couple chose to go for therapy. And through talk therapy, they were able to work through their pain and finally move past the death of their beloved child.

 

Sometimes, the only way to work through the problem is to walk right into it and talk about it rather than denying its existence altogether. Denial is a kind of a defence mechanism that allows us to deny reality. In other words, if a situation is too difficult to handle, one may respond by denying that any problem exists. Mostly, when a challenging situation occurs, we go through 5 stages of grief. The first stage is denial. This is followed by anger, bargaining, depression, and finally, acceptance. These stages can be observed in cancer patients, after the death of a loved one or any other stressful situation that causes immense pressure on the mind of the individual.  


If we study ourselves, our vulnerabilities and problems areas, and decide to take the step to work through them, it is possible for us to avoid denying our vulnerabilities, subjecting our significant others to work double duty for us. 




3) Pause not respond 


It is often seen that children are easy targets for us to displace our emotions. Imagine a situation where you are stressed due to a difficult work situation. You may have been laid off from work due to COVID-19. Your child is playing nearby, and you immediately snap at your innocent child. This is a kind of a defence mechanism our psyche uses to make us feel less stressful and is referred to as displacement. 


It is human nature for us to use displacement and several other defence mechanisms to deal with daily anxiety. And, most likely when you are 'displacing', you are doing it unconsciously. In other words, you are not even aware that you are displacing your boss's anger on to your child or your spouse. One of the ways to manage anxiety is what many psychologists, including the great existentialist, Victor Frankl, refers to as extending the space between stimulus and response. In the time between a triggering event such as 'boss's shouting on you' and responding to it in the form of an angry email or snapping at a loved one, you have the option of pausing for a moment. And, in this pause, you can find the power to choose an appropriate response. 


When your child would observe this healthy method of dealing with troublesome times, they would be more likely to learn this healthy pattern of responding to stressful situations. You can even do role-plays with your child. In India, since we mostly focus on academic grades, it is a good idea to do a role-play with your child, which involves them getting a low grade. Ask them to think aloud the thoughts that occur as they read their D grade paper and help them choose a healthy 'response' to this situation. It may seem like a small, even meaningless activity to you today. But, years from now, your child may look back at the time you held their hand and helped them positively respond to a difficult situation. The emotional blueprint you provide your child with today would be saved as a beautiful, healthy memory. 




4) Lead by example 


How you react to change, as a parent will sow patterns of behaviours that your child can easily mimic, sometimes even decades later, if left unchecked. If due to the pandemic, you have some extra time on you, try to fill your days with more flow states. 


What are Flow States?


 During a flow state, you become completely engrossed in an activity of your liking, and you lose track of time.


 Ever heard of a runner's high?


 During a flow experience, your entire being gets involved in this activity. Some people get into a flow state by reading a nice book, others experience it while playing a musical instrument, by cooking, singing, writing etc. This concept has been majorly studied by Mihaly CsikszentmihalyiAnd, studies have shown, the more you engage in flow experiences, the more likely you are to increase your productivity and well-being. It is uncanny how flow experiences in the very essence define what, 'yoga', the true union of our individual consciousness with the universal consciousness, has been written by great Indian sages,like Lord Patanjali, centuries ago: "Yogas chitta vritti nirodha"


You can engage in some other activities to build a richer, healthier foundation towards the study of yourself: 



5) Activities that you can do as a family (individually) 


  •  Take some time to describe in a journal the most meaningful experiences you had during the lockdown. 
  •  Every night of the week, write down three things that went well in the day, and why they went well?
  •  Write a positive message to someone you value; you don’t necessarily have to send this message/email.


Ultimately, it is our true nature to study ourselves first, before we can pass any great learnings to a future generation. When your child sees the live example of 'learning' that her parent is engaging in, this would be the greatest gift. 

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  2. I must say very well explained . I love the content of your writing. The effect of parental anger can continue to effect the child in overall well-being. This will effect child health both physically and mentally . Firstly don't misbehave with your child due to work pressure n if it happens ,Always repair your relationship after conflict Firstly determine both you n your child is calm and then approach your child to talk and offers affection and love. Finally Apologize for your mistakes and demonstrate the behaviour you want your child to learn.

    Dr Neha jainer

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