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When It's Too Much

I hate today. It’s been one stupid thing after another and I am done. I don’t want to do anything. This new world is insane and I’m tired of feeling like I’m trying and failing to meet some ridiculously high expectations.

I would like to be really mad at someone about these impossible assumptions, but honestly, I’m not even sure whose expectations I’m trying to meet. (Although, I have a sneaking suspicion that they are probably my own.)

I can’t connect with all of my students everyday. Some I still haven’t managed to directly connect with at all and I don’t know how to properly support the ones I do see in cyberspace. How do I authentically advance them in their learning from a distance? (Working in a program that I have less than 2 weeks experience using.)

I feel like a glorified workbook.

Then there are my own kids who are home and learning. I feel like I should be able to really support them and challenge them and do all of the great, fun, creative things that we never used to have the time to do.

Except, I still don’t really have the time because I am spending my time trying (and mostly failing) to do my job well.

Of course, there’s also this blog where I would like to give some brilliant suggestions, insights or advice that will help you support and connect with your own children during this crisis.

But, if I feel like I’m drowning, am I really in a position to throw anyone a lifesaver?

Oh right, have I mentioned that I don’t sleep?

All of this to say, that I am in a terrible mindframe and so I am bathing in the irony that this week I am going to write about ways to help children cope with anxiety. (Or really, anyone.)

I am going to write about this because I promised my oldest son that I would. He’s asked me to use this as my blog topic for the last couple weeks, reminding me that he’s not the only kid who’s out there and who’s anxious.

I pointed out to him that this isn’t necessarily my area of expertise, but he pointed out to me that even if it only helps one other kid then that should be enough.

Coronavirus has changed a lot in everyone’s life and as a whole Riley has done really well with staying his happy, bright, optimistic self during the days. The nights are a little different. When Riley settles down to go to sleep, his mind tends to start to rev up.

He worries about all the people who are going to die. He worries about people who are sick and alone. He worries about the people in his life who are over 65 and at a greater risk (and largely far away). In short, he worries about the same thing most of us are also fearing; the unknown.

When Riley gets anxious he has a hard time breathing. His anxiety sits heavily in his chest constricting the air from making its usual trip in and out.

This is the visualization I do nightly with Riley. Occasionally we have to do it twice, but most of the time this is enough to transition him from anxious to sleepy.

We start with picturing the anxiety. For Riley it almost always looks the same, it’s usually a black, metallic, spiky ball centered in his chest.

I talk to him about how he doesn’t need that tension in his body and so we’re going to move it down all the way to his toes and then move it out. I talk to him about how this tension isn’t a bad, terrible thing, it’s part of the love and empathy that he has for other people. But, he doesn’t need to carry it like a mace in his chest. He can hold on to the love and let go of the tension.

With the outbreath, we move the ball from his chest to his stomach. We make the ball magnetic at this point and use it to pull down any other bits of tension or worry that might still be floating around in his head, neck, shoulders, arms or stomach.

I reassure him repeatedly that he doesn’t need to hold on to this tension as we move the ball down to his thigh. I use my hand on his body to help him focus and move out the energy that is plaguing him.

We move that ball of tension to his calf, then his foot and finally it’s ready to leave him. I wait for him to be sure that every bit of it is gathered in that right foot, and then with another breath he shoots it out of his toes.

He sees that energy leaving his body and sailing out into the yard where it gets soaked up into the Earth. The Earth then sends him back the purified energy and he sees it as beautiful, safe, warm, white light that comes out of the Earth and makes its way back to him.

That white light travels up his left foot and travels up his body until he is filled and glowing from the inside. The white light brings safety, love, peace and restfulness.

This is not an original visualization and there are probably millions of different ones out there. This is just the one that works for us right now. The truth is that even doing this visualization with Riley (I have also used it for myself) helps me, because while I’m talking to him through the process, my mind can’t be anywhere else. The visualization gives us both a break from the noise of all the doubts, worries and fears in our minds.

It makes space to breathe.

There are as many ways to help with anxiety as there are people who feel anxious. Over the years some of the things I’ve used in my classroom are: watching sand run through an hourglass, using/listening to a singing bowl, using/listening to a rainstick, running hands through sand/buttons/paperclips, kneading playdough/plasticine/putty, wearing a weighted blanket/pillow/stuffie, scribbling on paper with crayons, doing a zentangle, breathing with a breathing ball/chime/singing bowl and of course a variety of visualizations.

With my own kids at home, I’ve also used head, back and hand massages, really tight hugs, helpful pressure points and long snuggles.

What am I trying to say? There is a lot of anxiety and stress around right now. People are socially deprived, economically unstable and being fed a steady diet of fear from social media. Take a minute (or ten) and acknowledge anxiety in yourself and in your children.

Acknowledging it is a good place to start. It’s hard to keep stuffing it down and eventually the stuff sack is overfilled and explodes in a terrible mess all over you and your loved ones.

After you’ve acknowledged some of the stress in your household, see if you can find a little way to help make it better.

Find out what gives you each a little more light, joy and space to breathe and then see if that can fit that somewhere into your routine. It can be as simple as wallowing in a funny memory together, reading each other stupid knock-knock jokes or putting karaoke on youtube and singing along together to your favourite (or least favourite) song.

Share your hopes, dreams and your feelings. We don’t have to be perfect or have all the answers. We just have to be there and open and trying. With time, this too shall pass.

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