Being human is complex business. What I know so far, is that resiliency is built through adversity that is overcome. It’s like a muscle. This is why those countries, who already had experience dealing with SARS or MERS, are more resilient to COVID-19. And why families who already tried homeschooling once are more resilient to this stay-at-home situation.
When we raise our children, we calm and soothe them during distress, and they borrow our methods of coping and integrate them into their own lives.
We know they are useful when they calm, ground, reorient and broaden the outlook (or narrative) of the child in a stressful situation.
What follows are some methods to help you cope with stress. I love Rick Hanson’s ideas about pinning down our good moments because if we don’t, they slip off of us like Teflon, while our bad moments stick to us like Velcro.
1) Slow down, and then slow down some more. The pace of childhood is much slower than ours, and our own pace during stress needs slowing down.
2) Exhale. If you can do nothing else, exhale consciously and slowly. This will regulate your heart rate and slow your pace somewhat.
3) Nail down a moment of warmth by reflecting on it and then sharing it with someone. Choose a memory that is soothing.
4) When in lack, stop and give. When it feels there isn’t enough of something (time, energy, toilet paper), find a way to give. This includes giving yourself a break or some food or a shower. But it also can mean giving to others.
5) Rather than fight, flight or freeze – tend, mend and befriend. Move toward stressful situations or relationships (rather than away from) with goodwill, openness and friendliness.
6) Reach out for help. Children cry for help when distressed – adults need to do our version of that as well. Reaching out and receiving help builds resiliency because it builds trust in the world. Difficulty is meant to be shared, not carried alone. Don’t reach out to someone you can’t rely on – that will make coping harder. Find people who are truly available to you, and build a little network.
7) And last of all: “Do less. Observe more. Enjoy most!” (Attributed to Magda Gerber)