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The tool I use to help my child cope with stress

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Hi. Are you exhausted? This is a rhetorical question. Of course you are exhausted. Maybe it is physical exhaustion from working a twelve hour shift. Maybe it is a mental exhaustion from sitting by your child's side as they enter hour nine of virtual learning.

No matter the reason, or which type of exhaustion you are experiencing (both types, for a lot of people), basically everyone in my life is either on the precipice of becoming burned out or they have already crossed the dreaded finish line and have officially become burned out.

I am emotionally and physically burned out and have absolutely NO problem admitting it. I'm not saying I'm shouting it from the rooftops, but I've tried to make it my "brand", for lack of a better word, to be brutally honest about my mental health in hopes it will let people know they are not alone.

We all have coping mechanisms to help us through tough times. Some people run. Some people shop. Some people relax with a glass of wine. Everyone has different things they do to take the edge off of a bad day, week, month, or even year in the case of 2020. My coping mechanism is writing.

It is a well known fact that when my anxiety and depression flare up, I let it all out on the page. What many people do not know is that I struggle to vocalize my emotions. I could sit down and write hundreds of pages without blinking. If someone vocally asks me why I am upset, I stammer and say um repeatedly until finally giving up and throwing out a blanket "everything is fine. It's just one of those days."

At 33-years-old, if I struggle to explain why my anxiety is bad or what is wrong, I cannot imagine how difficult it must be for our children to be able to pinpoint the problem and explain it.

Enter The Struggle Bus.

The Struggle Bus has become the best tool in our arsenal as we navigate constant changes and uncertainties. I do not remember how it started or when. The only thing for sure is it works perfectly for our family.

The concept is simple. It is there for bad days; it is made up for the days where every single thing sets me off. Where I spend each second on the verge of tears and my patience is short. On days like that, I simply announce out loud, "Beep! Beep! Mommy is on the struggle bus!" It is my way of letting my 7-year-old know the day is overwhelming and to extend grace to me. It typically means we will be getting delivery for dinner and spend the afternoon snuggled up watching movies.

My son's school is currently only virtual learning. The day begins at 9 a.m. and ends around 3 p.m. They have several breaks throughout the day and his amazing teacher has fun activities for the students to jump around with in between lessons to help them get up and move around.

The other day was a nightmare of a day. Nothing was going right. Nothing. Breakfast burned. His computer had logged him out and would not let us back in on time for the day to start. We switched him to my computer, but it was a stressful morning.

During the morning lessons, he solved a few math problems wrong. He kept sighing and huffing while constantly rearranging his folders on the desk. He raised his hand to share something he was excited about, but was not called on.

His hour long lunch break finally hit. I made him his sandwich and he crossed his arms and complained it was NOT done the way he wanted it to be made. Everything I did was wrong in his eyes.

When I sat down to eat, he came over to me, swiped the air above my head, and said "Beep! Beep! I am captain of the struggle bus today." He does not know how to vocalize he is anxious yet because he does not realize what it really means. He does not realize that he is upset and lashing out at me.

Him taking the imaginary captain hat off my head to allow him to lead The Struggle Bus let me know he was having a really bad day. I said, "Beep! Beep! You are the driver, but you aren't alone. I'm sitting right here next to you."

Maybe it sounds silly. Or corny. Or cheesy. One thing I do know for certain is The Struggle Bus has become the best tool we have to make it through everything this wild year is throwing at us. It makes us stop and listen to each other. It makes us pitch in and help one another. It forces us to be conscious of what we say to each other when we are feeling especially down.

As we continue on our virtual learning adventure, I know there will be a lot of trips made on The Struggle Bus and I am okay with it. We are each other's co-pilot and I know that together we can get through anything.

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