It doesn’t take much imagination these days to think about how stress feels. We can feel it in our bodies – in muscle tension and a faster heart rate. Sometimes, we can hear it in our voices, which might be louder and harsher. And we can see it in our responses to our children.
When we’re under stress, we feel a strong need for control. But almost everything is outside of our control during this COVID-19 pandemic. So, our frustration and need for control might become directed at our children, and it could lead to hitting, yelling and punishing. Those reactions won’t help us reach our long-term goals. They can damage our relationships, create fear in our children, and model hurtful behaviour.
One the most important things we can do is learn how to manage our own stress and frustration. This is called ‘self-regulation.’ It involves being aware of our stress and how it impacts our bodies, our thinking, and the emotions we’re feeling. Learning to self-regulate means learning ways to calm our mind and body before acting. Two of the best ways to self-regulate are deep breathing and movement.
There are many things we can do to self-regulate. They only take a few minutes, they don’t cost anything, and they don’t require space. If you practice them every day, they will start to become habits. You can help your children learn to do this too – this is called ‘co-regulation.’
It can be challenging to self-regulate when we’re frustrated or angry. So it helps to practice for a few minutes every day to build this habit. With practice, it gets easier to remember to take some deep breaths and/or move our bodies – even when we’re feeling stressed.
There are many ways to practice self-regulating. These activities only take a few minutes, they don’t cost anything, and they don’t require space. If you practice them every day, they will start to become habits.