The main thing I believe you need to remember when supporting someone who is grieving is: Don’t try to take their pain away.
‘What?!’ you say, ‘why would I want my best friend/mum/lover/child to be in pain? Why would I want them suffering?’ It’s not about you wanting them to be in pain or suffering but that you aren’t able to take the pain away. And all the things we end up doing and saying to try to stop our loved one’s suffering, typically causes more pain.
For example typical things we say to grieving people:
- It will get better
- Every cloud has a silver lining
No matter what the presenting issues is, whether stress, anxiety, depression, relationship issues etc the first steps in improved psychological wellbeing are actually practical steps. Our mind and body aren’t two isolated parts of the machine, they work together and constantly influence each other. So the first step to improving any emotional or cognitive crisis is:
- Drink plenty of water (and preferably only water)
- Eat healthy regular meals (even if you have no appetite or are craving mass amounts of junk food)
- Exercise (this is most crucial to all mental health issues – burn up the stress hormones and release the feel-good chemicals. Plus energy creates energy! Yes you read right, the more you do the more energy you have to keep doing)
So today I want to talk a little about what happens when we are feeling stressed or anxious and what we can do about it. So when we are stressed and/or anxious our fight/flight response kicks in. Now most people have heard of this but might not know much about how it impacts our functioning. So what is it – its an evolutionary response to keep us alive, so if you imagine it’s the caveman days and up comes a sabre-toothed tiger, our brain recognises the threat and triggers a whole bunch of changes in the body, all designed to give us the strength and stamina to fight the threat or out run it (hence flight). Things that happen include:
Children need to play unsupervised. Children need to explore both their physical environment and their social world without the interference of parents constantly telling them what they should and shouldn’t be doing. How the other kids around them should be behaving (but clearly aren’t because they haven’t yet learnt societal norms and impulse control). I have long believed it is important for kids to sort out their own peer squabbles as much as possible without adult interference and recently I have had a number of experiences with my own daughter to re-enforce this to me. But before I share my personal experiences lets have a quick look at some of the benefits of unsupervised play:
“I’ll be happy when I win the lotto”
“I’ll be happy when I get a holiday”
“I’ll be happy when I leave this town”
The problem with the happy-when-trap is that we aren’t living now, we are just passively waiting for the future, wasting our life away while we wait. Plus, what normally happens with the happy-when-trap, is that when we finally get to that future time/place we simply start a new happy-when-story and thus never feel fully satisfied.
If you find yourself saying things will all be better when… then it is time for you to take action now!
While there is nothing wrong with long-term dreams and goals, it should not be at the expense of living the life you want in the present moment.
I regularly hear people complain about their children not listening to them. First of all lets clarify what this means, because it never actually means my children aren’t listening to me, it actually means my children aren’t doing what I tell them to do immediately after I tell them to do it. So now that’s clear lets looks at why this happens.
- You don’t listen to them
We are quick to notice it in our children but often blind to when we do it ourselves, often our kids have to ask for our attention a number of times before we actually give it to them – whether we are distracted by the tv/phone/ipad/computer, or whether we are just deep in thought, or busy doing chores. Our kids often feel we aren’t listening to them either. If we want our kids to behave respectfully then we need to model that behaviour back to them.
The ‘H’ word – managing my emotional buttons when it comes to Miss 3
So at the moment the ‘H’ word (hate) is almost as prominent in my daughter’s vocabulary as “mum”, “look”, and “why?”, and anyone who has a three year old would know that that must be close to 2,863 times per day (well it feels like that anyway). This word has this magical way of just not pushing my buttons, but smashing them!
Part of this is because my mum never let us use this word when we were kids (all our buttons have some programming that was done in childhood) but also because she says it about everything, even things she actually loves, even things that completely contradict each other:
Filling the love tank
We all have a love tank and its important to make sure those babies don’t go dry. When our love tank is running on empty we are much more sensitive to anything negative going on in our life.
When our love tank is empty we feel low and unmotivated, so pass our time with mindless screen time rather then getting those endorphins pumping through healthy habits and social connection.
When our love tank is empty and our partner comes home in a bad mood – we get irritated ourselves rather than being supportive of them.
When our love tank is empty and our kids have a meltdown we have an adult temper tantrum right back at them rather than validating their emotion and helping them problem solve.