I am a mum of three young children. Like many people, I am very anxious about what is happening with the coronavirus. I do not know what to tell my children when they ask me about what is happening. I do not want to lie to them, however I also do not want to scare them in any way.
I do not wish to overreact, but I am feeling afraid.
You are not alone. The coronavirus pandemic that has gripped the world, not to mention our news outlets recently, has caused a great deal of uncertainty and distress. Whilst this is of course understandable, it is important to reflect upon how widespread anxiety within our communities can offset fear and panic in the best of us.
We have all heard the experiences of people across different countries witnessing panic buying in super markets. Far beyond the plight for toilet roll, there are also of course the deep seeded fears of self-isolation, financial jeopardy, our health and the health of our loved ones. Whilst some anxiety is normal in this situation and useful in order to create caution and care in response to such an overwhelming situation of doubt, overly anxious thinking and behaviours can quickly descend to panic and chaos.
Anxiety spreads like wildfire and each of us share in a responsibility to be mindful of our emotional response and how we are impacting the people around us. You therefore raise a very good question Renata, in asking about what you should tell your children. Your children will have lots of questions for you in the coming months. All you can do, is to guide your children as to how best to protect themselves and also help your children to avoid feelings of panic as best as possible by instilling a sense of calm when talking about the situation as it evolves and unravels.
This is a great opportunity to teach your children about caring for themselves as well as the importance of caring for the vulnerable people in the community. Keep it simple in the following ways:
· Do not catastrophise: Break down any catastrophic thoughts so that they become smaller considerations that are easier to manage and process. Remain informed as to the key safety precautions, but do ensure to rely upon credible sources for your information.
· Allow for open communication: Check in with your kids and indeed other loved ones to ensure that they are okay. Ensure that your children understand that they can talk openly and freely to you about their concerns.
· Quality time is important: Whilst it is important to remain updated, do ensure that you take essential time away from the news and from computer, TV or phone screens in order to spend quality time doing something fun. Connect with something other than this issue, be it a walk in nature, some exercise, watching a film, whatever avenue of escape will help you most.
· Prioritise Wellness: Initiate a self-care routine together as a family, which involves eating healthily and getting good amounts of sleep to keep your immune systems strong. Involving your kids in this will be a great way of further educating them about the practice of good health and encourage healthy habits for their futures.
When you find yourself feeling panicked or stressed, take charge of your response by adopting some breathing exercises, drinking lots of water to keep hydrated and being mindful of any negative thoughts. Writing your fears down in a journal is a great way to negate your anxious energy during this time.
Always remember that panic prevents our capacity to think or respond rationally or logically. When we feel panicked, our body experiences a physiological response that causes the release of adrenaline, cortisol and other additional hormones that promote a sense of danger. These hormones are the reason why our heart pounds, or why we may struggle to control our breathing. If you are experiencing anything of this nature, I encourage you to take a moment to breathe deeply and to ground yourself in order to conquer your thinking. The following exercise can prove incredibly helpful as a coping tool should you find yourself especially fearful or in a state of panic.
1. Close your eyes. Take a deep breath in and slowly breathe out. Repeat to ensure calm, soothing breaths. Try to still the thoughts racing in your mind.
2. In order to ground you in the present moment, open your eyes and quietly look around you. Focus on three things that you can see.
3. Now focus on three things that you can hear. Whatever the sounds, reflect on what they are and where they are coming from.
4. Move three parts of your body. Wiggle your toes, shake your arms or gently sway your head from side to side. Remember to keep breathing deeply and notice the physical sensations in your body.
5. If possible, take some time out to continue breathing deeply, aiming always for a sense of relaxation and peace. Sparing just five minutes for this technique can make all the difference to your day.
Do contact a medical professional for support should you experience recurring physical sensations of panic or indeed a panic attack at this time. If you find that you are struggling Renata, do not hesitate to seek therapeutic support. The therapy process will allow you to reflect upon your anxiety or panic in a space away from your children and allow you to explore methods of coping that are most suitable to your needs and experiencing.
Managing our anxiety and stress can be hugely challenging, especially in light of current events. Do not suffer alone. Talk to someone at times when your distress is high, be it a medical professional, a loved one or a friend.
Wishing you strength and good mental health Renata,
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