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How to stay out of the Red zone
CHILDREN SYNCRONIZE TO OUR STRESS LEVEL, THAT'S WHY THE BEST THING A PARENT CAN DO IS TAKE GOOD CARE OF YOURSELF SO YOU CAN MEET THE NEEDS OF YOUR CHILDREN.
If you end up in a bad place, your kids will go there too. That is why it is so important to consciously create check-in points during the day when you ask yourself, “How am I feeling? What do I need to re-center myself?” In just a few seconds you can check, Are you in the green zone of calm energy? The “yellow zone,” still hanging in there, but getting close to losing it? Or, are you in the “red zone “of tense energy, with every internal system screaming, “bring it on I WANT to fight, flee or freeze!” The trouble with the red zone is that it feels lousy. No one wants to go there. The most effective way to stay out of the red zone is to catch yourself in the yellow zone and take immediate steps to bring yourself back to the green zone of calm energy while you still can. While we are human and accept our emotions – even the negative ones – we do not have to let them control us.
Each person has their own unique “yellow zone” cues, but in case you would like a few examples here are a few common ones:
You find yourself feeling:
- Annoyed by things that do not typically bother you.
- Like you want to pick a fight.
- Unable to focus
- As though sounds and sensations are amplified
- Like you want to shout!
Add your own:
When you recognize these cues, it is time to reach for your tool kit of soothing strategies. Have it in place so you can grab without having to think.
Soothing/Calming Tool Kit
Begin the day caring for you: Your initial thought reading this may be that since the coronavirus appeared you are never in the green zone of calm energy. That sense of calm, relaxed energy, and the accompanying ability to focus simply does not exist in your life anymore. A way to re-capture it is to awaken a few minutes before the children and do something that centers you. Lynn and I are fully aware you may think we are crazy. You are trying to grab every minute of sleep you can but think about it. If you begin the day immediately meeting the needs and demands of others it quickly pushes you toward the “red zone,” of tense energy. But what if instead, you take even 5 minutes to savor a cup of coffee, meditate, stretch, or even shower and dress by YOURSELF! Those few minutes centering you sets the tone for the rest of the morning.
Screen time: While Lynn and I typically recommend limited screen time, during this time it is a tool you’ll find yourself reaching for more frequently. That’s okay. Create a list with your children of quality programs so that when the “moment” arises, you’ll be ready to go to the “virtual safari, favorite artist, or any other program you’ve pre-selected together.
Work time: A huge stress right now is attempting to earn a living AND care for children. Set up office space not only for yourself, but for each child. Your toddler’s office may be in her “highchair.” Each “office” has supplies that fit your child’s age and interests, like paper, a stapler, pencils, markers, books, “telephone,” scissors, tape, books, Legos, items to sort or string, play dough, finger paints etc. Your toddler’s office may have one item at a time. Set a timer for 15 minutes. If that is too long begin with 5 minutes and gradually extend it as everyone goes to their “space” and does their “work.”
A good night’s sleep: You can’t “make” the baby sleep, but if his longest stretch of uninterrupted sleep is 7:00 PM to 1:00 PM, instead of staying up and being woken just as you’ve dropped into deep sleep, choose to go to bed at 8:00. By 1:00 you have already had 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep. That is not perfect, but it is better.
An uncluttered space: Let’s face it attempting to de-clutter may be nearly impossible, however, it is possible to clear one corner of a room, place a chair in that space facing the corner and just sit in it for few minutes staring at empty space. Add in ten deep breaths inhaling then exhaling slowly and blood pressure drops precipitously.
Alone time: Use that time while your children are enjoying screen time to put on a pair of sound protection headphones and do a few minutes of meditation. If the thought of one more video call makes you want to scream, give yourself permission to say, “no!”
Exercise: Think of what works best for you. Is it weights, a yoga video, finding an on-line class? How might you include the children? Perhaps a dance party for the entire family is just what you need. Any movement is better than nothing.
Shift in attention: If that musical instrument you played in sixth grade is still in the closet, now’s a great time to turn off the news and pull it out. Play a few chords, ask the children, “What do you hear?” They will surprise you with their “visions,” of dinosaurs stomping down the street, butterflies hovering, or children laughing.
Your children’s well-being and calm behavior begins with your well-being. Give yourself permission to put your emotional health at the top of your “To Do” list. Identify and take note of your “yellow zone” cues. The first time you hear your voice getting louder or feel impatient STOP. Reach for your soothing/calming tool kit. Stopping to stretch, walk away, call a friend, or take a twenty-minute power nap is NOT a waste of time. In the long run there are many details of this pandemic you thankfully will forget, but you will always remember how you felt. Be gentle with yourself. Taking care of you. Is taking care of your children. Give yourself permission. Dr. Mary and Lynn