During these stressful times we might all be feeling scared, overwhelmed, distracted. These are very normal and natural feelings to have in response to these uncertain and quickly changing times.
Our anxieties and fears should be acknowledged and not ignored, rather they need to be understood and addressed. Even very young children are sensitive to change and they may find it difficult to understand all of the changes that have taken place. Children of all ages may be more demanding, irritable and may want to be closer to and make more demands on their parents and caregivers. This may increase the pressure the adults are already feeling.
Simple strategies we’ve mentioned before like establishing a routine and insisting on simple measures you can have control of, such as washing your hands well and often, will help children feel more secure and calm. Explaining in age appropriate language how the virus is spreading and the need to stay home and isolated to help ourselves and others stay well, will also help children feel more secure and calm.
In addition to these practices it can be very helpful to become more skillful at recognizing and understanding the emotions everyone in the household is having. During this time of rapidly evolving crisis, many of us are having ‘big emotions’. This is altogether natural. It might even be a good opportunity to become ‘detectives about feelings’…
Most of the upcoming posts on this website will address the skills, tools and practices for better understanding, navigating and using our feelings so that we all feel better, happier and closer to those we care about and who care for us.
Remember, your children are looking to you for reassurance. You will serve them well to be your most honest, calm and wise selves. Their wellbeing depends on your wellbeing, and the choices you make.
Getting to know your feelings – recognizing, naming, understanding and noticing patterns in feelings.
Take a moment, and notice how you feel. Impatient, sad,, scared, worried, grateful, surprised, irritated, confused? Try to name the feelings. It is not always easy to name feelings. We don’t really give much conscious thought to feelings, they are just there and we co-exist with them every day, every hour, every minute. But feelings determine much of what we do, how satisfied or dissatisfied we are in our lives. We can learn to pay attention to our feelings and better understand them, to navigate them and to even utilize them to make better decisions and improve our relationships.
Simply naming a feeling gives you a little pause in which you can decide how you want to respond to the feeling. It gives you a little space between you and the feeling and reminds you that you are not your feeling and in fact, feelings are temporary and change.
Feelings have causes. They do not come out of the blue. See if you can find out what causes what feelings. Continue doing things that cause cheerful, hopeful feelings. Going outside, helping someone else, remembering happy times, petting a pet, these things can help you feel hopeful and present.
Notice in your body if you can see where you feel the feeling. Maybe your ears get hot or your stomach has ‘butterflies’ or your throat feels tight or your heart is beating fast? These bodily sensations tell us something about our feelings.
Write down your feelings and note the time. Set a timer and write down your feelings two hours later. Feelings change. Most last only a very short time unless you continue activities or thoughts that feed the same feelings.
We also have multiple, sometimes contradictory feelings at the same time and in response to the same stimulus! You might feel excited, anxious, scared and curious, all at the same time, in anticipation of a phone call with someone you don’t know well.
Help your children notice and name their feelings, help them notice where in their bodies they feel the feelings, identify the causes of the feelings. Help them notice that feelings change over time.
Together you might also note that simply naming feelings gives a bit of relief from them. Often, there is a sense of calm when you find the right name for the feeling. Disappointment feels a bit different than frustration. Annoyed feels a bit different than irritated. They might be similar but one might have a bit more energy than the other.
There is no right and wrong with feelings. Feelings are just information.
Finally see if you can notice and list activities that create more hopeful, cheerful, happy feelings.
Tomorrow and in coming days we will continue to focus on emotion-related and social skills that will help families build positive emotional climates at home so that we can all weather these challenging days responsibly and with compassion and kindness.