Coping with Stress

Diane McGregor, Kitchener ON

Now that we are a full two months into the upheaval created by the Covid-19 Pandemic, many of us are feeling the strain. One of our therapists at KW Counselling Services described it as “feeling frayed around the edges”.

That phrase really fits for me because I sure feel frayed around the edges. Another word for this is “stressed”. I am certainly feeling stressed right now! How about you? How about your kids? I am not sure any of us are exempt from feeling stressed right now.

Stress is not new to any of us. But let’s look at it in our current context. Stress is the natural reaction of our body to any demand for change. Yikes! We are all dealing with so much change right now. Stress can be a positive thing when it helps motivate us to action. It is when the demands of the task exceed our belief in our ability to cope that stress becomes negative.

Stress is a reaction to the situation, not the situation itself.

This means that while we cannot change the situation as it relates to the pandemic, we can do some things to help ourselves and help our kids.

Because, kids get stressed, too!

Here are some quick strategies that may help you, your children, and your teens who are coping with stress. At the end of this article, I also post some amazing community resources you can access for further support.

Connection, connection, connection.

It is our relationships and the connections we have with each other that are going to get us all through this. There is a wonderful neurobiological reaction in our bodies when we experience a moment of loving connection. We feel pleasure, we get a feeling of calm and we actually have a moment of feeling that things will be ok. Connection literally reduces stress! Connections happen in the tiniest of moments…

  • Snuggling, reading a book, watching a movie, going for a walk, baking together. Anything together. Even 10 minutes together can fuel us for hours!
  • Does you face light up when your child or teen comes into the room? A smile of delight that says, “I am so happy to see you” is the best “medicine” for a stressed out child.
  • Affection, hugs, a light nudge on the shoulder with a more reluctant teen.

The most wonderful thing about connection is that that delicious neurobiological reaction happens for both of you! So both of you get a moment of relief from the stress in that moment of connection.

Feeling heard and understood.

Stress brings big feelings for all of us. Out bursts, melt downs, temper tantrums. These are all normal reactions to our current situation. When we respond to a meltdown with understanding and support, it makes all the difference. I know this first hand because early on in the pandemic shuffle, I had a major meltdown with my colleagues. I am sure I shocked and upset them, but they responded to me with compassion and understanding…and messages of how valued I am to the team. This really made a difference for me and helped me cope with the stress I was experiencing.

Here are some ways to help someone feel heard and understood:

  • Validate feelings and empathize with how difficult the situation is
  • Take some time to listen to their concerns and try your very best not to jump in with problem solving. Just listen and let them know you are there for them.
  • With children and teens it is important to resist minimizing or discounting their feelings. Their feelings and distress are just as real as ours is.
  • With younger children (school aged or preschool), consider making a feelings vocabulary as a way to help communication feelings. You can download a copy of our Temperature Scale here, which is a great tool to help kids verbalize their feelings.

Here are some ways for you to be heard and understood:

  • Tell someone you trust about how you are feeling. We all need to talk.
  • If the person moves into problem solving mode, gently say “thanks for the ideas, but right now I just need you to listen.” Most people can respond to that.
  • Reach out to us at Parenting Now! We have a team of Experienced Parents who are really good at listening. You can email us by clicking on the button in the bottom right of this screen, and let us know if you would like to talk on the phone with one of our Experienced Parents.
  • Check out the many resources available in our community. There are people you can reach out to.

Be easy on yourself. Be easy on your children and teens.

None of us can be “super mom” or “super dad” or even “super kid” right now. We need to be kind to ourselves and to those around us. If routines are not what they were, dinners are not so great, homework is not being done…that’s all ok. I know I am just trying to get through the best that I can. Some days are way better than others. When I start criticizing myself because my house is a mess or because I have been eating poorly, I stop myself and give myself permission to be a mess. Let’s all just be easy on ourselves and our kids. We are doing the best we can. In my mind, that is pretty amazing!

There are many resources available in our community.

Here are three excellent local resources:

Family Compass is a website of the Children and Youth Planning Table. It has information about local resources as well as a tab to help you find specific help for your child. Go to https://www.familycompasswr.ca/en/index.aspx 

The Canadian Mental Health Association of Waterloo Wellington has an excellent website with many resources. Check out this link in particular. https://www.here4help.ca/

Carizon has launched a new website specifically to help people in our community cope with the demands of living through a pandemic. You can access this amazing new resource here: https://www.carizonforthecommunity.ca/

 

At Parenting Now, we are always here for the parents and caring adults of Waterloo Region. Email us. Explore our website. Leave comments on the articles. We love to hear from you!

We truly believe that we are stronger together.

 

 



Comments

3 Responses to “Coping with Stress”

  1. Nadia says:

    Great read! It is a reminder to respond and not to react when our children are feeling stressed.

  2. Victoria Lynn says:

    What a great article lots of concrete ideas

  3. Teresa Wikkerink says:

    Connections are so important especially when we feel so unconnected to our normal groups of friends and family during this time. Thanks for reminding us to reach out as we all need to feel heard and understood.

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