Is anyone else struggling with seeing “coronavirus” and “social distancing” everywhere you look? Yet, we keep seeking out information, memes, news articles, and webinars. In all my reposting of tips, articles and resources I was reminded of my nervous system and regulation. I am here to remind all of you of these things as well. You are a human and we all have nervous systems!
Your nervous system is what coordinates actions and the sensory information that is input by sending it to and from different parts of your body. The nervous system is meant to detect environmental changes that impact your body. Your nervous system is getting an onslaught of information, some of it is helpful, some of it is funny, some is scary but all of it, all together is overwhelming. How do you balance staying informed and not obsessing about every detail that is being distributed in the media?
Breathe… not the hokey “take a breath and calm down” shallow breath. Breath so deeply it feels like your belly button is touching your spine and exhale as if you are blowing out 30 birthday candles at once. Genuinely BREATHE. I am going to prompt you to do this throughout this blog and these are the breathes I want you to take. Here is a link to 13 breathing techniques if you need to pause and practice. Now, take another breath.
Your response to all of this is normal. As I said earlier, everyone has a nervous system. Everybody is having a response that is based on their perception of the threat they are facing. Your perception and risk level are different than your neighbor, your spouse, your child, your boss and all your perceptions are influencing your nervous system. These heightened levels of uncertainty lead to you losing your connection to yourself. You do not know what to focus on, what to orient yourself to. You do not know what you will encounter today when you check updates on the news or from work.
You are making hard decisions and seeking supplies in sold out stores. You are figuring out how to work from home while also trying to keep your kids entertained while you work, or just how to keep your kids entertained as they are now home for longer than expected. Listen to your gut. You are making the best decisions you can with the circumstances we have. There are several resources out there providing free access to their services, sites, and activity ideas.
Now, Let’s Regulate: We have lost our structure and sense of routine, so let’s work on getting it back!
Think about what happens when your kid has an increase in behavioral problems during school breaks that are just a day or two? Well, we currently have that times 10 right now. There have been a few schedules circulating on-line and it is a great template. It is not meant to be followed precisely, or to “parent-shame” you. It’s a helpful tool. I found a modifiable version here.
You need to modify your schedule to include regulation time. This should include a variety of activities, not only free play outside. We know movement is essential to our overall well-being. We are not yet restricted from going outside, so take a walk, go for a run—whatever is part of your normal routine. Just keep your distance from other walkers/hikers/etc.
What about those outside chores you never get around to or just sit outside on your porch, balcony, or yard? You can do yoga anywhere. Spotify playlists have been created so get moving, alone or with a partner or kids, to your favorite music! The point is to be moving.
Another idea is to utilize calming sensory input. Splash cold water on your face, gently and calmly. Weighted items are also great, but if you do not have access you can push on yourself gently and firmly. Push on your arms, your head, your legs. Apply pressure by pushing yourself into the wall or a chair.
I cannot fail to mention that you should eat well and get enough sleep. Use these tips to calm your nervous system before bed to ensure your sleep is not just X amount of hours but is quality rest.
Don’t forget to connect with others! We are currently in a wonderful time where technology connects us. While I strongly tout the value of in-person contact, when we cannot achieve this, use the wide variety of platforms to connect. Notice the only time I mentioned use of technology was to connect with others. We should still limit our times, and our kids’ time, on electronics, especially what we spend on media outlets.
You do not need to hide your vulnerability. Admit and share your worry. Take care of yourself. We know a regulated parent/partner helps a child/partner regulate.
If someone does come to you, here are some tips: do not try to make it better; be present, do not say it will all be okay, do not distract from it or avoid the feelings. Once you have your inner sense of safety you can support others in finding their own inner sense of safety.
Note I said you are helping them find their own sense of safety and not building a reliance on you to regulate them.
Do not forget to breathe. You can do this. We will come out of this time with new lessons, resources, and hopefully stronger nervous systems!