As I was getting ready for my day this morning, I heard the national news headlines of the day. COVID-19 vaccine approval, pandemic fatigue, election fraud...as I listened I began to notice my thoughts change, and with that, my breathing. And as I so often recommend to those I work with, I paused. I took a moment to notice what was happening in my body. I am tired friends, really, really tired. As we often do, I have spent a lot of time taking care of others. I thrive with the work I do, but as the months have passed I have noticed the issues we are facing today are taking a collective toll on our mental health. Yes...OUR...I include myself in that statement.
I absolutely love the holidays. Woven within the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, we celebrate my birthday as well as those of most of my family. My parents will also be celebrating 52 years of marriage during this time. We have much to celebrate and be thankful for. But this year feels much different and I often find myself fighting anxious and fearful thoughts. By the time you are reading this, we will have celebrated Thanksgiving and will be preparing for the Christmas season. While the holiday season brings much joy to my life, this is not the case for all. For many, the holiday season will be adding an additional layer of stress and concern this year. Despite the fears, the stress, and the overwhelming emotions it IS possible to find joy in difficult times.
1.Be Present: The secret to finding joy during moments of stress is taking one day at a time. Seek opportunities to pause throughout the day. Our minds and bodies are overwhelmed and we have to create moments of peace to give them a break. When you don’t think you have a minute, you need to take five. Pause and notice your feet. Being present requires us to get out of our heads and when we can ground ourselves in the present moment, we are much more likely to take deeper breaths. Doing so signals to your brain that all is well and your heart rate will automatically slow down. And then use your five senses to notice what is around you. Despite all that is happening right now, there is joy and beauty around us. Our friend Kathy Flaminio with 1000 Petals and Move Mindfully creates a beautiful, weekly mindfulness tip. You can join their email list to have it sent to your mailbox each Monday and it’s a wonderful way to start your week with a pause.
2. Seek joy in small things: As I was out running errands recently, I happened to notice a man dancing outside a business. He had his earbuds in, his arms up and his legs were moving! I found myself smiling even though it had already been a difficult morning. Later that same day, I noticed a mother and her toddler skipping down the sidewalk. While both were small snippets of time in my day, noticing them brought me so much joy. It requires presence to notice these things, but with intention, we will notice so much more, and in that, find more joy.
3. Monitor social media use: I was recently commenting to a friend, that the teens in my practice seem to be suffering the most right now and I believe their social media use is a large contributor. We are relying on social media to handle isolation and stress. I will often allow myself a quick break to mindlessly scroll through my news feed. I don’t know about you but my news feed is not filled with pictures of puppies and kittens right now. And a ‘quick break’ often leads to a rabbit hole that leaves me feeling worse than I did when I started. I took social media off my phone recently and it was a significant step for me. It requires intention to sit down at my laptop and open a social media platform. Often, that additional step gives me an opportunity to pause and really ask myself if that is the best use of my time. While it is important to use screens to stay in touch with friends and other social contacts, we need to monitor our use and that of our children. With the additional time required for remote learning, screen time needs to be readjusted and the rules changed. It needs to be structured and it needs to be organized and it begins with monitoring our own use.
4. Create safety and resilience: With the uncertainty of the next few months, our brains are likely in a greater state of fight or flight. And our children are experiencing the same. There are a lot of questions we can’t answer right now. Being honest with ourselves and our children within a context of safety and resilience can soothe our anxiety and in doing so, that of our children. Co-regulation is your greatest ally for your children during this time. Their brains need to be calm and they need to feel safe.
5. Accomplish small tasks: I love being able to cross a task off a to-do list but right now I am finding a lengthy list of tasks is very anxiety-provoking. While there is always much to do, we will never accomplish everything on our list. And requiring that of ourselves is more pressure than we need. Upon waking ask yourself, What would feel good today? or What could I accomplish that would help clear my mind? Do that one thing and anything else that HAS to be done that day and let the rest go. Use that extra time to connect with a friend or do something fun with your kiddo. The happy chemicals you will gain from that connection will be far more beneficial than crossing something off your list.
While this holiday season will be one to remember, it is possible to create meaningful moments for yourself and for your family and in doing so, find joy. As always remember, you are enough and you are not alone and we are here to help you navigate this difficult time. To set up a parent coaching consultation, you can visit us online here.
Wishing you happiness and peace this holiday season.
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