I asked a good friend about ideas for this blog posting for the week and she provided with this topic, and it's something we ALL can relate to with our own challenges and our own ways of dealing in this new norm. Some of what works for me might not work for you and vice versa- this I hope is the beginning of a conversation on how we can support each other and how we want to see the world after this experience of Covid-19.
I was in lock down from March 16th to May 4th and I was unable to leave the house except for our backyard. I wasn't working that much, not like I am now, so I threw myself into the kids- doing preschool classes three times a week, coming up with arts and crafts, sensory tables, reading books and anything and everything to support my children during this time.
And I'm happy I did but as weeks passed and I was still inside I became unhappy, overloaded and overwhelmed and the joys of teaching preschool passed. Both myself and my son no longer looked forward to preschool. So I took a break from it. And I started to look at myself and what I needed because I no longer felt I was able to handle our situation.
I reached out for help and spoke to my counselor. I started reaching out to my parents more. I started to focus on three goals to accomplish each day and that's including one physical activity.
But it's now June 6th and though there are more options for me and for my children there is still anxiety, sadness, overwhelming feelings of what's going to happen with school next year, this summer, work, how to support my children's mental health along with my own! This made me think of grief.
Grief is the loss of someone or something where there's a significant loss of what is gone and an emptiness is felt. Most of the time grief is often thought of when a person or pet passes away but grief is so much more than that. Grief is a significant change and a change we are all feeling to one extent and one extreme to another. We are all grieving of a life that has changed and a fear of the present and the future. On top of that we are trying to be strong for our children and others. All of this affects our mental, emotional, and physical capacity as our bodies shift into a flight-fight or freeze mode, and no one experiences grief the same or trauma the same. It's with this that we need to listen to what our needs are and be open to changing and adapting to other possibilities.
I am a firm believer in that if I can't get myself together how can I be there for my children so I have had to adapt, change and search for other ways to keep myself going. For example the goals mentioned above were working and then I felt pressure of when I wasn't able to accomplish them, so I had to step back from my 3 goals but now what? What do I do? And to be honest I don't know.
But I do know that I found these posters on supporting a child's mental health as a way to support my own. I have made them big so they are easier to see. I will be posting them on my FACEBOOK page: Drop Off Shop Relax https://www.facebook.com/dropoffshoprelaxjessietucker/
Each poster again can be used for ourselves and our children as we maneuver our way through this moment.
I know for myself I try to exercise every day even if it's running on the spot, using soup cans for weights, yoga, walks and bike rides with children and dancing. I'm a huge fan of dancing.
I reach out to my family and friends. Yes I might just say a quick hello and what's up with you and yet that's been really helpful.
Other ideas are : Plan a wine or coffee date even if you are at home, use Zoom or Face time and talk with your loved ones. I know it's not the same but this is the time to use the technology we have to support ourselves and each other.
Journaling all the crazy thoughts and all the fears out is another tool I've used to manage my emotions and sometimes it's a AWWWWWWWWW or OMG!!!!!! but it gets it out and that's what I need to do and what I want to teach my children. All emotions are healthy- it's what we do with them that turns them into constructive or destructive.
For dysregulation, I turn off tvs and play or go outside or colour or take out a puzzle or knit or paint. Even the act of just driving around brings me back to where I need to be. I bring snacks, books and toys in the car for the kids and drive around to explore new neighbourhoods.
Body awareness has assisted me by focusing on my senses, and being aware of my environment. This might be lighting a scented candle, looking out the window, hugging my children or asking them for a hug, putting on music, or having a herbal tea. Whatever works on what keeps you present.
We can't change the situation or plan for a future we don't recognize but we can stay present by staying aware of our body and listening to what it needs (this is where I might have a bath with a glass of wine).
I want to return to grief at this time as there are stages of grief and they are never linear but random and you can feel more than one at a time as there is no right way to grieve. It's important to remember this is the time for compassion and patience for ourselves.
Stages of Grief:
I find it helpful to remember these stages because it allows me to focus on where I am at... right now it's acceptance- yesterday is was denial.
Or maybe you haven't had these stages yet or maybe you have felt acceptance or maybe you feel each stage every day and it's ok. There is no handbook on how to handle right now. There is no one way for us to handle right now. I wish I had more enlightenment to bestow upon you but I don't. I can share what works for me one day and the next day I might need something different. And that's ok.
The only thing I know for sure is I have had to teach myself compassion and patience and forgiveness for myself. I have had to reassess and become aware of my needs and express them in a way that is healthy and supportive for my children. They are watching me and seeing how I handle things. My son has had issues with anxiety and it breaks my heart but I have to show him how to handle anxiety by being honest with my own.
I put my children in a day home and I take time to myself and that helps me. I meet up with a friend and her children and it helps us all. I do what I feel comfortable with and what I know still keeps others safe.
I don't know what will come out of this and I don't know how to plan for summer or September and I've had to let go of my need to control and know and just be. It's a struggle I deal with every day and every day I try to find the good out of this experience and that's a struggle too. Or I try to see the experience as it is- an experience that doesn't require judgement or labeling but an opportunity to better myself, to support my children, to learn new things about my values, my priorities, my needs and how to balance being me and being a mom and a partner.
Everyone will have a different story and a different experience when life resumes again and it's this moment that will provide us, with what we have learned and what we want to see the world be. I think of this like a computer game and we hit pause and we have to decide to restart or reset or resume and that helps me.
I struggle every day thinking of not being good enough or not exercising enough or not doing what I should be doing with this free time, whether it's for myself or with my children, and I hold onto my choices. BECAUSE we still have choices... we choose on how to react, how to interact, how our day will be, and what to do. For example I told my partner that I needed to work as I have several projects that are due this week and I need time to work on them. He works during the week, and I am with the kids and my son is doing virtual Zoom sessions, and so during the week it's hard for me to find time to work, so today I chose me.
As a ways to end this post here are my tips and resources to support you during this time:
(Choose what resonates with you or choose something different)
Be compassionate with yourself
Be patient with yourself
Be a role model as you have children watching you. What do you want them to learn? Not just schoolwork but dealing with stress, anxiety, and emotions?
Hugs are excellent
Laughter is a necessity
Be outside as much as you can
Choose and remember you have choices (even if you think you don't- you do- ask for help if you feel you don't and stay safe)
Exercise- dancing, being a dinosaur or crawling - any movement is movement
Ask for help! Professional or friends- babysitting, counseling, wine and whine nights
Remember: You are doing a great job under these circumstances, there's no handbook and no right way - only healthy and safe ways.
Please reach out if you are struggling and if I can help you find any other resources that are not listed below I will: firstname.lastname@example.org
For questions about sexual abuse and sexual assault please call 403-237-5888 or 1-877-237-5888 (Toll Free in Alberta)
For questions about domestic and relationship abuse please call 403-234-7233(SAFE) or 1-866-606-7233 (Toll Free in Alberta)
Emergency Services Ambulance, Fire, and Police. 24 Hours Health Link Free nurse advice and general health information for Albertans. Health Link Website 24 Hours
Addiction Services Helpline Help for problems with gambling, alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. 1-866-332-2322 24 Hours
Child Abuse Hotline Call if you think a child is being abused or neglected by a parent or guardian. 1-800-387-5437 24 Hours
Dementia Advice Advice and support for people who have problems with thinking, reasoning, or remembering (e.g., dementia) or the people who care for them. 811 24 hours
Family Violence Info Line Call if you (or someone you know) are going through family violence or abuse if you have questions or want to find out about programs, resources, and services. 310-1818 24 Hours
Income Support Contact Centre Financial help for Albertans who don’t have resources to meet their basic needs (e.g., food, clothing, shelter). 1-866-644-5135 24 Hours
Medication & Herbal Preparation Advice Line Advice and information about medicines and herbal products from pharmacists and nurses.
Mental Health Helpline Offers help for mental health concerns for Albertans. 1-877-303-2642 24 Hours
Poison & Drug Information Service Confidential advice about poisons, chemicals, medicines, and herbal products. 1-800-332-1414 24 Hours
And if you can... find a couple of superheros to help you
Yes that's my daughter wearing her swimsuit over her clothes...