Updated: Jun 13
As a behavioural change specialist using NLP based tools, I help people change the responses, reactions and patterns of behaviour that have previously prevented them from having the life they deserve.
These blog's are NOT intended to offer scientific explanations or supporting evidence of the concepts outlined in this discussion. I rather aim to consolidate some useful perspectives and offer practical tips and tools to expand your thinking, find some useful strategies and enjoy the benefits that you discover in the process.
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Lock down has different implications on each of us but there is no denying that it impacts everyone’s world. Many parents are finding themselves stuck at home trying to work, home school and be parents at the same time, in the same space and with emotions frustrations and fears at an all-time high.
So here or some practical suggestions to help make the situation a little more manageable:
There are some facts that cannot be changed there are only certain things that you have direct control over at any moment. Pay attention when concerns come to mind, ask yourself:
1) IS ANY PART OF THIS SITUATION WITHIN YOUR CONTROL TO INFLUENCE CURRENTLY?
- If the answer is yes, add it to your list of things to do.
- If the answer is no and it is unimportant, let it go.
- If the answer is no and it is important, write it down to keep track of so that you remember to come back to it when you have the necessary information resources or options available to you.
2) WE ARE IN A GLOBAL CRISIS – YOU ARE NOT ALONE
Covid 19 has impacted the ENTIRE WORLD… Let that sink in.
There are people better off than you and there are people who are in far more critical positions than you are right now. We are resilient and we will figure it out. One step at a time.
3) STRESS IS REAL - APPRECIATE WHAT'S HAPPENING IN YOUR BRAIN
Stress is a term we're all familiar with and seldom pay attention to. When we are faced with situations that cause fear or stress for us, our bodies release cortisol and adrenaline into our system. This induces a fight, flight or freeze response. This may be great when we need to escape a threat in nature but not so great when we need to manage our emotions, think rationally and apply logic.
Cortisol in effect induces a fight, flight or freeze response which forces our limbic brain to shut down so that all our resources are focused and available to save our lives. In this process it compromises our ability to regulate emotion, apply logic or apply rational reasoning.
The third point to be aware of is that when our stress levels are higher than normal, our families are picking up on it and probably feeling some of that stress. Aside from their own stress, We have something called mirror neuron's that allow us to pick up on subtle cues and differences and understand what is going on for those around us even if it’s only on a subconscious level. You cannot hide your stress from your children even when you manage to “keep it together” in front of them.
4) OUR 5 CORE CONCERNS ARE CURRENTLY BEING VIOLATED
There are variations on the words used to discuss these core concerns but as this is not an academic article, I’ll keep it simple. In order to be happy as human being's we all need the following criteria to be met in our environment
- Autonomy / Authority / Control over our own environment
- Affiliation / Belonging
- Role / Purpose
- Status / Recognition / Acknowledgement
- Appreciation / To feel valued
In the current lock down situation many of us are feeling that the control we have over our environment has been compromised. (AUTONOMY).
Many of us are fearful of, or facing the possibility that we may no longer have jobs or a steady income. (AUTONOMY/ STATUS/ ROLE/ APPRECIATION/ AFFILIATION)
Many Kids feel unsure of what is going to happen. Will they finish their school year and progress to the next level? Will they see their friends, what is expected of them? etc. As we relate each person’s situation to the core concerns it is easy to recognise that everyone around us is having their own little identity, security and fear-based crisis.
Being aware of these core concerns allows us to start putting reactions and behaviour into perspective. We can then find ways to address them so that we can reduce the stress reaction and function from a more resourceful state.
SIDE NOTE: You may want to consider how these concerns play out in your ordinary work environment.
5) WE NEED EMPATHY
The current situation is not easy for anyone. Step back, acknowledge this and cut yourself and those around you some slack.This is not the time to be adding extra pressures to your world and inducing burnout. You need your energy! You are not perfect, and neither is anyone else. You will have up days and down days and depending on your stress level you will need recharging more frequently than usual.
6) KEEP PERSPECTIVE
It’s easy to get caught up in our immediate circumstances and waste energy dealing with what’s right in front of us but lose sight of what is really important.
At its simplest me we need a safe place to sleep, food, water, clothing and air. Yes I know that there is a lot more that matters but these are the basic requirements that we need to survive. Remind yourself that as long as you have these things life will go on.
Step back and consider what really matters the most to you? Those are the things that need your priority right now.
If your child is having a meltdown over their schoolwork and you decide to cut back on how much they are doing in the day, or you decide to throw it out for a day so that they can better manage their state, their world will continue to turn.
7) WORST-CASE SCENARIO
There are many situations that we will face coming out of this and it is useful to consider (for perspective sake - not to dwell on), the worst case scenario.
Can we live with it?
Have others been through it and survived before us?
Will our world continue to turn?
We might not like the worst-case scenario but in truth there is very little that we can’t survive.
Having established a more manageable perspective of the situation we are in. Here are some practical tips that can be helpful with stress management.
TIP 1: Reduce cortisol levels to reduce the impact of stress
As previously discussed, it is vital that we reduce the cortisol levels flowing through our system. This will allow us to have access to the part of our brain function that is able to apply logic, rational thinking and the ability to regulate our emotional state. Here are some practical tips that can be helpful with stress management. Try these suggestions:
Get enough sleep.
If you’re not sleeping well, you may choose to try the following:
Exercise before winding down your day
Have a hot bath with a large tablespoon of Epsom salts.
Switch off all screens including cell phones at least 1 hour before bed (preferably 2hrs).
Use candles or dim, warm light, lamps rather than bright light in the evenings
Slow down and relax before bed
Listen to soft instrumental music as you fall asleep – most phones have a sleep timer if you don’t want it to continue playing when you’re asleep (turn the screen upside down so that you’re not seeing the blue light from the screen.)
If your head is spinning with ideas or to do lists, keep a note pad next to your bed so that you can quickly write it down and let it go for the night.
Listen to guided mindful meditation
Pet and stroke your animals
Hug your loved ones for at least 20 seconds or more
Pray (As long as you pray to a benevolent God)
Walk outside, get some sun and breathe deeply (try breathing in for 3 seconds, hold the breath for 3 seconds and release for 3 seconds.)
TIP 2: Set realistic expectations and communicate them clearly
Overwhelming ourselves (or our children) with more than we can reasonably handle results in us becoming discouraged. We end up being very busy but achieving little.
Break things down into manageable chunk sizes. Prioritise and select just a few things that need to get done. (I like to keep a running to do list and then select the priority items that MUST be done along with some QUICK WIN items to help me feel like I’m making good progress.)
Help our children do the same, give them their schoolwork that they have to do in the day. Explain it to them and then help them break it down into appropriate manageable sections. Encourage breaks between each section. Depending on the child’s age, you can adjust appropriate time allocations. Older kids should be able to do this themselves.
Tip 3: Create a basic structure for the day and set boundaries
Set a basic structure to allocate time in the day, keep it simple and be flexible, as long as everything that needs to be done is getting done.
Aim to for our children to take ownership of as many of the decisions around how they are going to manage their day as possible. Encourage them to take ownership over planning their work and time for themselves. (Autonomy)
Communicate to our children when we will be available to them and when we will not.
Our kids need our reassurance, attention and guidance through this time so we need to plan time for them to have our attention. This is a win/win, it forces us to step away from our work and recharge too. It’s a good idea to make “their attention” time just after our “do not disturb” time so that they are rewarded with our full attention after respecting our time.
Make it fun, we might create a fun sign that reminds them when they come to disturb us that this is “do not disturb” time. As they approach we can hold it up and continue with our work. This teaches them about boundaries. (self-regulation)
Tip 4: Be flexible and pay attention to situational awareness
We need pay attention to what’s happening around us and for our children. If they’re not coping or are getting frustrated with the routine we can interrupt the routine, take them away from what they’re doing and engage them in another activity. Ideally involve them in a physically active activity if at all possible. Once they have relaxed and are better able to cope, we can gently bring them back into the routine.
Tip 5: Teach your children to regulate their emotional state
We’re aiming to show our children how to self-regulate.
Here are 3 EMERGENCY MELTDOWN, QUCIK FIX ideas for those moments where our children may be having seemingly irrational meltdowns.
1) Establish physical rapport
Get into rhythm with our child’s breathing, increasing our breathing to match theirs and once we’re in rhythm, slowly reducing the pace of our own breathing, will help lead our children to calm and slow down their breathing. We may need to return to their pace a few times and slowly reduce and control our breathing again before they follow.
Think of it as using our bodies to demonstrate to theirs, on an unconscious level, how to calm down.
Match the way they are moving, if they’re rocking, we can rock in rhythm with them and slowly reduce the rocking in our own bodies.
If they are young children we can put them on our lap and bounce in rhythm with their breathing then slowly reduce the rate that we bounce them.
2) Validate their feelings
It helps our children to regulate their own emotional state if they feel that they are being understood. (Please note we do not have to agree with or understand their reactions, behaviour or point of view, we just need them to feel understood and acknowledged.) Once they have calmed down and are in a better frame of mind, we can have a conversation. We can then help them understand why their behaviours might not have been acceptable and help them find alternate ways of dealing with whatever it was that triggered their meltdown.
We can validate our children by, repeating exactly what they have said, using their words.
“So my sweetheart, I hear you saying that……. Repeat their own words….. “
We can acknowledge that, “I if I was you faced with the situation I might also have responded in the same way”. This is not condoning any behaviour, it simply acknowledges and validated their experience as valid. When their experience has been validated as real, it makes it easier for them to shift to a different state of mind.
3) HUG - This is a WIN/WIN for us all
Not everyone is a "hugger" but hear me out! There are many reasons why it’s well worth giving our children, partners and loved ones a long warm hug.
Science has proven that hugging for at least 20 seconds (a pretty long hug) has the following benefits:
Helps us sleep better
Lowers blood pressure
Supports the immune system
Lowers our heart rate
Stimulates brain memory
Prompts positive emotion through the release of Oxytocin
Don’t take my word for it test it out. The result is well worth it.
I hope that these ideas have been useful and that they bring some relief to managing those meltdown moments.