I love it when someone trusts me enough to ask for what they want! My mind reading ain’t what it used to be…
Maybe it’s just me but when you were a kid, do you remember thinking that grown-ups knew how to handle everything? Little did I know that, as an adult, the list of the sources of my stress and conflict would not diminish but get much longer! When I’m feeling overwhelmed by whatever life is throwing at me, be it a cranky child, my own illness or grief, traffic, boredom, heat, cold, hunger, sleep deprivation or a terrifying combination of these, I can hear that child in me saying, “Quit your whining, put on your big girl panties and deal with it!” Funny, this really doesn’t help much because it smacks of judgement or being told what to do (something I typically rebel against). It does, however, get me to stop and consider measures I can take to find the energy/focus/resources/calm I need to “deal with it” when part of me just wants to indulge in whatever feeling is upon me. (I think resisting the indulgence might just be a pretty good definition of adulthood.)
When someone says coping skills what comes to mind? How does this sound:
Coping means to invest one’s own conscious effort, to solve personal and interpersonal problems, in order to try to master, minimize or tolerate stress and conflict. The psychological coping mechanisms are commonly termed coping strategies or coping skills. (Wikipedia definition)
I’m not sure I’ve gotten very far mastering stress and conflict but I’m always learning new ways of minimizing and tolerating it. Ironically, just the act of acknowledging my feelings is a great start toward managing them but when we live with other humans, especially traumatized kiddos, it sure becomes important to remain emotionally regulated if we expect those around us to learn to be regulated. If you have a new member of your household, it is really important to be honest with yourself about any strong emotions you have in response to their behavior or presence in your home. If something as small as their resistance to brushing their teeth sets off a power struggle, it’s time to reflect on your priorities for their healing.
Regulation is what it’s all about, huh? When we are in the throes of powerful emotions, it becomes next to impossible to think clearly and make good decisions until that emotion is under our conscious control. It’s like all our energy is spent maintaining the emotion. The worst news is that these emotional states are contagious! I suspect you’ve had experience trying to stay positive when a loved one comes home irritable. What are the familiar strategies you use when this happens?
Because of how our brains are designed, anything we do that happens to be rhythmic and repetitive hastens this return to regulation (items with * below). That’s why a short walk, 4 slow, deep breaths and making or listening to music always feature strongly on any list of coping strategies. This also requires that we re-think our definition of discipline. We have to give up the idea that we mustn’t reinforce negative behavior (reward the bad stuff). Our priority becomes regulation and if that happens to be fun, so be it. In fact, fun in the service of self-regulation is the icing on the cake!
In the spirit of this, I offer you a list of efforts you may find useful as you navigate the stresses of your life. I know I don’t use all of these personally; some are favorites, some I actively avoid and some I strive to use more often. I suspect you aren’t any different. Some are great the moment you need one and some are to appear on your schedule of self-care. I encourage you to expand your own pool of coping strategies by focusing on learning to use a new one each week. You might surprise yourself by how much more easily you are able to help the kids regulate, too (“Let’s take a short walk”).
Mindfulness to return to the present moment calmly, centered and grounded
- Breathe in through your mouth for 4 counts, hold 2 counts, breathe out through your mouth for 4 counts
- Think of your “happy place” (mine is the creek bank where I used to fish for crawdads)
- Hold a rock or precious object (possibly helpful when panic starts to set in)
- Read a joke, laugh with others
- Look at picture that soothes or energizes you
- Read an affirmative statement
- Listen to upbeat or soothing music
(doing these things side by side is even better)
- Bouncing a ball
- Walking for 2 minutes
- Jump Rope
- Fragrant lotion
- Textures to touch
- Hanging upside down
- Nature walk
- Count to 30
- Board Games
- Phone Call to friend, therapist, police non-emergency, 911 or hotline
- October 17th is full of surprises for kids and families! Check out the AZAFAP Event Calendar at https://azafap.gnosishosting.net/Events/Calendar
- Friday night Happy Hour continues (check your email for the link) and we have added a monthly training session to satisfy your licensure requirements, curiosity or life-long learning goals. Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org if interested in membership or either offering.
- Certificates of attendance are issued for the training hour (held at 9 pm on the last Tuesday of the month). October 27th will explore Executive Functioning. Watch your email for the registration opportunity.
- This shut down continues for those of us who understand what is at stake. Others seem to struggle to grasp that. Still others, like the teens in your home, have begun to climb the walls. You are in my thoughts. Reach out if you need an ear: email@example.com.
- I encourage you to check out what Dr. Bruce Perry has to offer. Find his thoughts at https://www.neurosequential.com/covid-19-resources.
Thanks for listening. Take care of yourself so you can take care of others.