Professor Amanda Kirby, CEO of Do-IT Solutions., Campaigner for Neurodiversity, Medic, Knowledge Translator, researcher
This has been an extraordinary time for everyone. For parents with children of all ages it also means balancing children’s needs and their wellbeing alongside your own, especially as we move back into the workplace and return to schooling.
Juggling home working and trying to support children’s learning has meant there has been a fine line between coping and feeling overwhelmed.
When you don’t cope you can feel waves of anxiety when you are least expecting it.
Why do we become stressed?
This may be:
- Changes in your routine
- Lack of control over choices
- Fear about wellbeing of others
- Uncertainty about the future (and the present!)
Different events mean we have things in our life flowing into our metaphorical buckets (usually) at differing rates and these can be due to loss, change, illness or drips which are like every day events in our lives. We don’t usually have everything happening at once. This means we have time for the bucket to empty, giving us the space at the top which allows us to cope.
In times pre-Covid-19 we would have different ways of lowering the level in our buckets such as going out for a meal, meeting with friends, taking exercise, having a holiday.
During this time we have seen lots flow in all at once and far fewer ways of reducing the level in the bucket.
At the moment we have all of these things going on and it can take one drip for it all to overflow and we feel out of control.
"When you don’t cope you can feel waves of anxiety when you are least expecting it"
Overflow can present in different ways for each of us e.g.
- Physical – headaches, backaches, stomach aches, palpitations.
- Psychological – tremor, sleeplessness, difficulty thinking straight, worry, ruminating, eat more/less, withdrawal
By understanding what is flowing into our buckets and also those around us we can be kinder to ourselves and each other.
What helps if you are feeling stressed?
F = Focus on what’s in your control
- You can’t control everything, but you can control what is going on in your home.
A = Acknowledge your thoughts and feelings.
- Allow yourself to recognise when you feel anxious.
C = Come back into your body
- Stand up or press feet to the floor; or place your hands on a chair.
- Take some slow and deep breaths.
E = Engage in what you’re doing
- Be present. Look at what is in front of you such as your hands?
- Be king to yourself – take time out for yourself, even if it is a 5 minute walk, or a cup of tea!
- Be organised – decide what is a priority and focus on specific tasks rather than flitting from task to task and feeling you haven’t achieved anything properly.
- Have some structure – create beginnings and endings to the day.
- Find hobbies that allow you to be mindful (it doesn’t mean doing nothing but trying to create a flow state) e.g. meditation, playing an instrument, gardening, ironing, playing a computer game, jigsaw, playing a sport.
- Avoid talking about Covid19 and catastrophising as this can easily spiral your feelings out of control. Focus on what you can control. Avoid bad news before bed!
- Connect with family and friends
- Set time each day to do fun stuff together.
- Create regular times for exercise – it will help with sleep and mood too.
- Ensure sleep is regular without big swings at the weekend compared to the week. Try to get up at the same time each day. Darkened cool room is better to sleep in. If your mind is busy try listening to music, audiobook or putting a fan on.
About the author:
Professor Amanda Kirby (@PROFAMANDAKIRBY) has delivered services for more than 25 years for families with children with Dyslexia, Dyspraxia (DCD), ADHD, speech and language challenges and Autism. She has neurodiverse children and grandchildren.
She is the CEO of Do-IT Solutions. Do-IT Solutions have developed neurodiversity apps, e-learning training resources and software to provide practical support for children and adults. (Do-IT Personal Profilers)