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Self-Regulation in a Time of Covid-19 — Do You Feel Like You Keep Changing Hats?

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Life has changed immeasurably in recent weeks. In addition to our over-scheduled lives as parents and employees, many of us now have added new roles such as teacher, cook, cleaner, personal organizer, assistant and CEO, all before 10 am. As we all hunker down to stop the spread of the Corona Virus, many of us are stretched thin and our self-regulation skills are challenged. With demands running high, it’s easy to hold ourselves to impossible standards. While adults are under pressure from bosses, the stock market, homeschooling and parenting, this stress is affecting our immune systems and making it harder to stay healthy.

As we juggle political, social, financial, parental and work demands, we must also be mindful of our contribution to our family’s wellness. Managing emotions can be difficult, but necessary, for all family members in order to work collaboratively while sheltering at home.

When we get flooded by emotion, stress or overwhelm, our brain’s primal defenses are triggered and we enter fight, flight or freeze mode. Historically, our cavemen ancestors feared a saber-toothed tiger was headed their way, but this morning your toddler opening your door, or the new virtual meetings added to your calendar set off this ancient alarm system.

Despite the fact that some parents are posting on Facebook videos of them home schooling with ease, don’t expect the same and don’t feel ashamed if it’s too much. The surest way to lose it and yell at your boss is to allow yourself no wiggle room.

Follow these 5 tips to prevent flooding so you don’t turn on those you love:

  1. Don’t hold yourself to impossible standards – Don’t buy into the glamorized, imaginary world of social media. The other parents are not teaching their children Russian while you wrestle with getting your kids off technology. Reach out to friends and family who can identify and commiserate with you. Helpful suggestions are what you need now.
  2. Exercise and practice self-care – Ten to fifteen minutes of quiet, mindful reflection will enable you to better calm yourself throughout the day. Exercise is great for relieving stress and helping you better cope with adversity.
  3. Check in with yourself and know when you are nearing fight, flight or freeze mode. Taking your own emotional temperature can prevent that melt down or snappy tone with a work colleague as your children hold a dance party in the background.
  4. Simplify - Wherever possible try to eliminate additional expectations that may require adding another project or another role to your daily life. Consider where you can ask for help or reach out to someone to help you simplify or rethink how you are doing things.
  5. Share with your children - Without making your children anxious it is ok to come together as a family in a collaborative way to express that you need their cooperation and partnership. Be sure to tell them what that help looks like in clear terms, “I would love to see you putting your laundry in the laundry room,” or “I need to have you chop the vegetables and turn on the oven at 5 pm so I can start dinner.”

    Now is an opportunity to teach kids life skills and help them understand the importance of being part of a family. Collaboration is the ultimate lesson and what better place to start than at home?

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