Last week we spoke a lot about helping and coaching our children as they bounce back into this post-pandemic life. This concept of bouncing back also applies to us as parents, and I believe it is essential to address it as more complicated than most of us anticipated. There was a level of “go-go-go” that we could perform at before Spring of 2020. We were used to a variety of stimuli, of going from one place to another. Our brains knew how to perform at this level, and while we felt burnt out, we could sustain the schedules and demands. We used vacation days and travel, went out to eat or to the movies, and enjoyed weekends with our children. We had normalcy that worked, most of the time, for us. Speaking generally, of course, because there was a mental health and stress level before the pandemic.
Change creates a cascade of stress in our human bodies because it feels different, and we don’t yet know how to manage that. We isolated during the lockdown; we feared the unknown of COVID-19 and soaked in time with our children, cooked, cried, and played games. It was a draining time for most and a vacation time for others. But, whatever it was for you, it changed the level of your normalcy and stimuli. You did not sit in traffic or commute, you had less back and forth with office noise, you had more time listening to your child, and your brain adapted.
For some of us, this unpredictability of lockdown and homeschooling, fear of quarantining, and lack of childcare pushed us to the brink. We stressed and anguished over being able to plan our lives. I believe at some point during the pandemic, most parents hit a wall.
But now we are back into a lot more of a normal flow than last year. However, many parents are still saying, “I am so exhausted,” “I feel depressed or unmotivated,” “I am just anxious, and I don’t know why.”
The short answer is because change is stressful. The last 18 months have filled us with unknowns and fears. We have worried for our children, loved ones, jobs, and homes. We have also thought of what the next phase will look like and we finally have time to look at what we lost. For everyone, the loss is different; for some, it might be weddings, moments in our children’s lives they won’t get back, and lives lost. Others might have faced jobs losses, had promotions potentially taken away, and co-workers let go or quit. But, mostly, when you talk to parents, it is the loss of 20 months of enjoying our children. This includes sports games, class parties, mothers day teas, classroom time and socialization, of academic and social growth. It is essential to allow yourself to grieve this if you are feeling sad. Your brain may be telling you it is in a stage of grief, and that is ok.
With grieving comes growth and progress. As I mentioned last week, our children can be coached to be resilient, as can we. It is essential to listen to what you need and make time for it. You can ask your child: do you miss socializing? Are you feeling bored at home? Do you need to adjust your self-care or routine? Do you feel the need to meditate and take time away from all the stress right now? It feels like too much?
Our brains and bodies are built to persevere. Still, it needs to be a slow build, and we need to nourish them with positive thoughts and healthy habits, with loved ones, and self-reassuring ideas. When you are balanced, your body will begin to produce healthy chemicals and rest some of the negative, stress-driven ones. So this summer, I wrote a blog on stress and how to reset.
I hope you are all staying strong, enjoying your kids, and mending yourselves.