Modelling healthy ways to manage difficult situations and feelings is one of the most important gifts you can give your children
During and after a traumatic event you can get so busy so taking care of your children and loved ones, and of everything that needs to be done that it is easy to forget about taking care of yourself.
Self-care is not selfish. The calmer and more focused you are, the better you’ll be able to support your kids.
The more effectively you guide your kids through their worries and fears the fewer the long-term effects the trauma will have on them.
Self-care during stressful times
After the immediate situation has passed here are a few tips:
Eat regular meals (healthy if possible) when you can.
Exercise: Even if you are stuck in a small space or are traveling you can still do some exercise: walking, jumping jacks, yoga, even stretching are all forms of exercise and will help you relieve stress.
Get as much sleep as possible. Being overtired makes everything seem more difficult to deal with.
Get back to your normal routines ASAP
Use any of the following techniques to help you handle challenging emotions. You can teach them to your children so they can use them too.
Tense and release exercise
Let’s talk in more detail about these easy, quick, evidence-based stress relief methods:
Facing a situation that threatens your safety can cause strong negative feelings like fear and panic. These feelings can activate the fight or flight response causing your heart to pound, your palms to sweat, your breathing to get shallow, and your long-term thinking to get a little slower. An important part of self-care is to handle this stress response in a healthy way. Deep breathing is a quick, easy way to turn off your fight or flight response and to activate your rest and digest system.
Breathe in through your nose to a slow count of 4 then breathe out through your mouth to a slow count of 8. Do this at least three times.
Next, take a few moments to really notice how you feel.
If you feel calmer and more focused, great. If not, you may want to take a few more deep breaths or move on to a different technique such as the body scan.
The Body Scan
This technique works well when:
You notice you have a lot of tension in your body
You are not relaxing enough with deep breathing
You are having physical symptoms of stress like headaches or backaches.
Here is how to do a body scan
Close your eyes, take three deep breaths and become present.
Scan your body with your attention: Pay attention to each different area. Is your neck tight, are you clenching your teeth? Are your shoulders up around your ears? Is your stomach in a knot? Are your legs tight?
Once you have located the tense areas start deep breathing again. This time imagine sending your breath into and out of the tight areas allowing them to relax. When that happens, make sure to take a few moments to acknowledge yourself for a job well done!
If you are really tense, and the above technique has not gotten you where you want to be, please don’t waste any time judging yourself or feeling like you have The fact is, stress can be difficult to deal with. Either stay with the body scan a little longer, or move on to Progressive Muscle Relaxation
How to do the Progressive Muscle Relaxation technique
Lie down on the floor
Take three -5 deep breaths to become fully present
Scan your body quickly with your attention then move all your attention to your feet.
Start at your feet and really tense them up. Breath in deeply then tense your feet up and make them as hard and rigid as you can! Hold this tension for a count of 20, or better still, till you feel you can’t hold it anymore. Now release the tension as you release your breath. Notice how relaxed your feet feel.
Now move up to your calves and do the same thing. Slowly go up your body until you have done this with each area. Don’t forget your face and your scalp!
Remember your breathing as you do this exercise so you get the most benefit.
Once you’ve done this with every part of your body do a quick body scan again . Notice how soft and relaxed your muscles have become and acknowledge that you did it!
Practice positivity for good self-care
As humans, our nervous systems have been hard-wired to look for danger and for things that could hurt us. This tendency to find the negative can make some of us feel helpless, overwhelmed and less effective at making decisions during times of trauma and high stress.
Changing your mindset is an important aspect of self-care especially during times of stress. Practicing positivity on purpose is a scientifically proven way to activate the rest and digest part of your nervous system (the parasympathetic nervous system) which calms you and puts you in a much better place to make the important the decisions you may need to make during or after a traumatic event. It also puts you in a great place to effectively support your kids and to minimize the long-term impact the trauma will have on them. There are many ways to start a positivity practice. In this blog we will talk about one way which is keeping a gratitude journal.
How to Keep a gratitude journal
Buy yourself a pretty notebook you will enjoy writing (or drawing) in
Put this notebook with a good pen that works in the place you have chosen to do your gratitude practice (At least to start)
Take three deep breaths
Make a list of 3-5 things that you are grateful for every day
Allow yourself to feel the feelings of gratitude as you write these things down. Feel the feeling of gratitude wash over you like a soft blanket and encourage yourself to feel these feelings as long as you can.
Making a list of 3-5 things you are grateful for every day is an easy way to become more positive and less stressed. Doing this just before bed (and with your child) is a great way to end your day and to release stress. Soon, you’ll notice that you sleep better at night and you’ll wake up in a better good frame of mind.
If you want to go deeper into the gratitude practices, here is another one called the positivity practice
How to do the Positivity practice
Sit down in a quiet place and take three deep breaths. If you can’t find a quiet place or can’t sit down just do it wherever you are. With your eyes open or closed search for two or three things that are going right: On some days this may seem very difficult but you can do this. Just in case you need some help, maybe you can try one of these: You’re breathing, the sun came up today, there are many people in the world working to help make things better for you and your family ( even if the news NEVER reports about them!) , you have a roof over your head, etc…..
Just as in the gratitude journal practice, turn your full attention onto one of these things and really feel gratitude for it in your body and heart. Imagine the gratitude you feel is a bright white light gently spreading through your whole body from the bottom of your feet up to the crown of your head, send this light to each cell of your body. When the process works and you are really able to feel the gratitude, spend as much time as you can doing this. When you’re done, you can carry these good feelings into the rest of your day.
Practice this as many times a day as you want. Twice a day is a good place to start, once when you get up in the morning and again before you go to bed.
If you are having a particularly challenging day and can’t get in touch with any feelings of gratitude, be easy with yourself, don’t scold yourself that you are not good enough, just treat yourself like you would your best friend( forgiveness) and move on to a different practice like some exercise to help you feel better.
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