Reintegration anxiety: tips to support emotional wellbeing to bust post-pandemic stress
- Mums Tips
- Fitness & Health
- Published on Monday, 24 May 2021 11:03
- Last Updated on 19 May 2021
- Monica Costa
- 0 Comments
I think I can speak for the majority of parents when I say that the pandemic has been stressful trying to manage online schooling, smart-working, while keeping a decent level of fitness and healthy habits to prevent depression. Lack of motivation has been a key thing too, linked to the lack of socialisation. We are social creatures and we need other people to function at our best. Yet now that lockdown is finally over, I feel a little reintegration anxiety.
In this blog I am sharing tips to bust post-pandemic stress, which is now linked to our release into the world after over a year spent in isolation. Despite our eagerness to see our friends and family, to party, to attend live gigs, I believe that the feeling of places being too ‘peopley’ can be overwhelming.
Speaking from personal experience, I feel that parents, in particular, are at risk of being burnt out. The combination of working from home, home schooling, the lack of external support and social contacts can lead to parental burnout and ultimately to a declining mental health.
Here are my work-in-progress tips to help myself out of post-pandemic stress:
Learn self compassion
During lockdown I have spent some time doing compassionate inquiry therapy to heal from issues linked to my childhood when I lost my mother at the age of 3. These sessions were based on building a ‘toolkit’ to learn self compassion, which is about letting go of perfectionism – you won’t get everything right and it’s important to accept this. We tend to be very compassionate with other people around us but when we make a mistake ourselves we judge this very harshly. In my case, I had to reconnect with my 4-5 year old self, the little girl inside me, who was screaming for compassion and love. In the process, I have written a few musical poems and songs to ensure I remind myself about self compassion every time I disconnect with it. Now every time I notice my inner critic getting louder, I pause for a moment, realise what I am feeling even simply physically and try comforting it with a “You are doing the best you can. You are only human. It’s okay. I am here for you”.
Train your emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence is the ability to perceive, understand and manage our own, as well as other people’s emotions. High emotional intelligence is correlated with being less likely to suffer from angst and stress as the awareness of emotions really helps adjust and turns our reactions into responses. Luckily, it’s something we can learn, train and improve. One of the easiest ways to start is by simply being more aware of our feelings, and setting some time apart to reflect. Journaling can be really helpful for this. I have written a blog about the benefits that journaling has had on myself personally.
Take care of your and your children’s mental health
Mental health has become a buzzword with a lot of stigma attached to it. But how can you best support yourself and your child in their mental wellbeing? Don’t underestimate the importance of mental health. One of the priceless sources to help with my research and to understand children’s mental health is the iSpace Toolkit.
This practical box including a book, a special pen and a poster can be used by the whole family to continue what your child is learning at school and bring it into the home. By creating a common language that all the family can use to talk about mental wellbeing, the iSpace Toolkit provides a go to guide, conversation map and handy card deck designed to make mental wellbeing part of the fabric of everyday life. The most effective approach is when what is learned at school crosses over to the home environment, when this happens the teacher, child and parent learn and grow together and knowledge and behaviour is embedded in their everyday life. This toolkit helps to continue the conversation at home, providing us parents with the language and know-how to turn these “difficult” conversations into a positive learning experience for the whole family. iSpace member schools have access to bespoke workshops for parents to enable them to build on what their child is learning in school at home. Our range of iSpace Wellbeing learning tools and books are also designed to help parents and children at home.
The iSpace Wellbeing and iWonder Curriculums offer an exciting whole school approach to mental health and wellbeing. Our curriculums provide an age appropriate framework including who and how to ask for help, and a common language, which encourage conversations about mental, emotional, social and physical health to become part of everyday school and home life.
The curriculums provide a proactive, progressive and preventative approach to mental health and wellbeing; supporting schools in achieving the Government’s new for 2020 Mental Health, Relationships and Sex Education requirements.
iSpace Wellbeing is a holistic approach to wellbeing education. It ensures mental, emotional, social and physical wellbeing are addressed in a curriculum schools can embrace with complete confidence as part of PSHE.
Improve sleep quality
I have to admit that I have become a bit of a sloth during the pandemic and it now takes me a lot longer to do simple tasks. My sleep has been disrupted a bit too because I tend to go to bed later at night. Sleep patterns have changed. So I have done some research on what to do when sleep is disrupted as well as tested new products to promote sleep. I’m sharing here simple hacks that work for me to have a good night sleep.
This second lockdown has been much harder than the first one. I have to admit that I have become a bit of a sloth during the pandemic and it now takes me a lot longer to do simple tasks. My sleep has been disrupted a bit too because I tend to go to bed later at night. Sleep patterns have changed.
Setting some time apart from yourself might seem impossible during hectic times but try to make it a priority to try something you enjoy. Even if you start small with just 30 minutes a day, every bit can help to prevent burnout.
Yoga is a great exercise to prevent burnout. With its focus on breathing and strengthening the mind-body connection Yoga is an excellent stress-reliever. Yoga being a highly reflective practice also helps with the above mentioned of self-compassion and high emotional intelligence. Yoga is open to all levels and is not about pushing yourself as hard as you can but about getting to know yourself and your body.
While it may not always be easy to set some time for yourself apart,to remain calm and reflect upon your own emotions it is better and easier to prevent burnout, rather than having to recover from it.
Often, especially as parents, we just keep on doing, doing, doing because we think the people around us need us to function 24/7. But the irony is, that by taking time out for yourself, it will not just benefit you but also your children and other people around you, as you will have more energy to remain calm and give situations the quality of attention they deserve.
I often use essential oils to create a calming environment in my house. Here are my suggestions:
#1. Angst busting:
Roman chamomile helps calm anxiety and shocks to the nervous system.
Tip: Blend 2 drops of Roman chamomile essential oil + 5 drops of sweet almond plant oil, gently massaging into the solar plexus. The solar plexus — also called the celiac plexus — is a complex system of radiating nerves and ganglia. It’s found in the pit of the stomach in front of the aorta. It’s part of the sympathetic nervous system.
#2. To calm feelings of anger:
Marjoram is the “zen queen”: it calms and rebalances the mind, and helps reduce mood disorders.
Tip: Massage 5 drops of marjoram essential oil + 15 drops of sweet almond plant into the solar plexus and plantar arch whenever you feel anger coming on, or twice a day (morning and midday) during periods of conflict.
The plantar arch is technically called a circulatory anastomosis. That’s the connection between two blood vessels, or between veins and between an artery and a vein and formed from:
The deep plantar artery – the dorsal artery of the foot and the lateral plantar artery
#3. Stress buster:
Petitgrain bigarade has a relaxing effect. It helps calm all nervous imbalances.
Tip: Three or four times per day, inhale a blend of 2 drops of petitgrain bigarade essential oil diluted in 2 drops of sweet almond plant oil placed on the inside of your wrists.
Or, try Puressentiel Stress Roll-on. The Puressentiel Stress Roll-on contains 12 essentials oils, including Lavender, Mint, Marjoram, Roman Camomile, Neroli, Orange, Petitgrain, West India Sandalwood, Clary Sage, Vetiver, Ylang Ylang to name but a few. Great for on the go, the Puressentiel Stress Roll-on can help relieve tension and calm feelings of anger, nervousness or low morale.
Directions: Apply to the skin: inside of wrists, temples and sides of the neck. Rub the wrists against one another, and breathe in deeply the scent of the essential oils whenever the feeling of stress arises.
Rely on your support network
Good co-parenting is crucial to prevent burnout, especially during this pandemic. If you are able to split the responsibility fairly. If you feel something needs to change here, try to have a calm conversation at a convenient time.
Single parents have an especially difficult task here, especially during the pandemic, but try as best as you can to accept and actively seek help from people around you.
Often women tend to take on more of the so-called “mental load”, meaning while their partner might help with tasks, the responsibility to remember and remind their partner of these tasks often falls back onto women. This is often underestimated, invisible work. There is a reason why project managers get paid a lot – remembering a million things is hard work and can drain you. So make sure not just to split tasks fairly but also the mental load associated with those tasks.
Another good way to train this is when someone is criticising you, try not to react but to understand their view point and then respond calmly – obviously this is easier said than done, but just taking one deep breath and thinking for a second can already make a difference.
Monica Costa founded London Mums in September 2006 after her son Diego’s birth together with a group of mothers who felt the need of meeting up regularly to share the challenges and joys of motherhood in metropolitan and multicultural London. London Mums is the FREE and independent peer support group for mums and mumpreneurs based in London https://londonmumsmagazine.com and you can connect on Twitter @londonmums