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It seems like all I have been able to think about is this upcoming school year. I’m sure I’m not alone with millions of parents contemplating their children’s futures as we speak.
It’s an exciting chapter, since my 5-year old will be attending kindergarten. He’s been going to a great daycare for years, so we aren’t unfamiliar with his being away from home, but our current climate makes the idea of elementary school so surreal. Both kids have been home from daycare since mid-March along. We’ve been navigating learning, finding time for fun activities between work and home obligations while trying our best and failing many days to limit screen time.
Then once we finally decided what school the kid would go to and got accepted, the purgatory of finding out the learning format was too much. All the schools seems to be doing things a little different, the choices are so varied, in- person, hybrid, virtual, and homeschool. When I got word it was virtual only, I was so happy I didn’t have a choice because none of the options are awesome and it was one less thing to keep me up at night.
So, now my son will be involved in a virtual educational program. I will have to ensure assignments are done and uploaded, that virtual sessions are attended, that he still gets outside and doesn’t spend too much time on screens post-school. Ughh, I’m tired already! To those parents who have already done this last year, or have kids in multiple grades, I have been hearing the experiences weren’t the best. So, I am prepared to stay positive and do my best, because in the grand scheme of things, what else can we do? I have decided to Elsa it – I have let go the things I cannot control.
Look – 50% of days I feel like a failure, I miss something, perhaps a work deadline, perhaps the baby’s schedule is all off, or my meetings run long and I miss a much needed fun activity with the kids to reduce the screen-time. Some days there isn’t much left in the tank to cook, or hang out with my hubby or to call my girlfriends who I miss so much! And I take it personal, I say all the awful things one should never say to oneself, because sheesh, words and thoughts hurt! But then there are those days I am well-rested, I have gotten a workout in, I spend an extra minute slow dancing with my hubby, and I get the belly laughs from the kiddos.
Those days remind me that we don’t have to have it all figured out. That all we have is this moment – this moment to be better, to live from a place of love and be kind to ourselves and those around us.
I use the acronym STOP (Slow down, Think, Observe the Present moment) to remind me to take a minute when I am feeling overwhelmed or stressed out. When you stop and make that observation, it helps you gain perspective.
Many of us live in our minds, our thoughts take over and begin to spiral. I call this tornado self-talk. It’s easy to confuse thoughts for feelings, if we blame someone else, it’s likely a thought. Your feelings are your experience, you control them and have power to change them. You may be thinking your partner is ignoring you, but the feeling is hurt, or anger. Using I statements to discuss your feelings may help you separate out the thought from the feeling. For example, I feel angry and hurt when you don’t greet me in the morning when you get up.
I have attached a link below to a website with a feeling wheel. It is a wonderful list of uncomfortable and comfortable general emotions. You can start from the outside and work your way in to hone in on the specific general emotion. For example, maybe your boss said something in a meeting that left you feeling inadequate, the primary emotion would be embarrassed. How could you discuss the situation with your boss to prevent that type of situation in the future?
Since we don’t necessarily stop to observe and acknowledge what is going on in our bodies, how our body is feeling, or where are we experiencing tension. Use this STOP moment to feel your feelings. Is there heaviness in your heart? You may be feeling sad. Tension or discomfort in your stomach? You may be anxious. Tight neck, high blood pressure? You may be angry.
You can engage in self-reflection and ask the important questions to move forward:
- What is bothering me?
- What am I feeling in my body vs. what am I thinking in my mind?
- (use emotion words – angry, hurt, sad, frustrated, powerless, scared; not thoughts – I feel judged, betrayed, taken for granted)
- What about this specific situation is unmanageable?
- How do I get through this moment?
- What actions are helping or harming me?
- What do I need do to make positive progress?
We all have challenging aspects of our lives, especially now. Take a moment, breathe, reflect and figure out what will bring positive, happy feelings to this time. If the kids watching one more episode gives you time to get in a workout or take a shower, let those feelings of screen-time guilt go and take care of you so you can be ready to work and teach tomorrow. Stay safe and be well.
Please share your stories, we learn to understand ourselves better when we can share our experiences.
Bodily maps of emotions by Lauri Nummenmaaa,b,c,1, Enrico Glereana, Riitta Harib,1, and Jari K. Hietanend
Emotion and Feeling Wheel from davidhodder.com
I Was a Screen–Time Expert. Then the Coronavirus Happened. by Anya Kamenetz
6 Tips for Managing your Emotions By Connected Marriage August 16, 2018