It's 2021, it's the middle of winter, and the pandemic is still in full force. Yes, the vaccinations are slowly being distributed, but our lives and our sense of normalcy are still deeply impacted. We don't know when things will ever look like they used to. Perhaps they never quite will. And by now we've all read about and attempted to make the best of this new lifestyle; exercising, cooking, baking (so much baking!), reconnecting with old friends, new hobbies, more time with your children (with all those joys and challenges!), etc. But yet, here we still are, in the middle of winter, and things just feel hard. Because they are.
Yes, all those wonderful suggestions around exercising, eating well, getting enough sleep, etc., are definitely useful. So I won't add to those suggestions. But I do have a suggestion that often gets overlooked to help you and your children develop stronger mental and emotional resiliency: checking your self-talk and making adjustments.
What does this mean and what does this sound like? It means that most of us have an ongoing inner dialogue running through our heads as we experience life. We have commentary to ourselves (and often expressed verbally) about what we're experiencing and interpreting. When was the last time you checked or even observed your self-talk? I would also argue that most of us have a self-talk that is critical, negative, and defeating. So how do you develop a healthier self-talk?
Notice your self-talk without judgment.
Notice how you talk to yourself. How are you talking to yourself about the pandemic? Your anxieties and fears? Your positive experiences too?
Think about how you would like to be talking to yourself.
How would you like to be talking to yourself? What would it sound like? How does it feel to talk to yourself in a way that is less critical, less judgmental, less negative?
One of the wonderful benefits about practicing this new skill, is that it's a completely private experience. And you can do it anytime, and it costs you nothing! At first, it can sound and feel inauthentic and "cheesy", but I promise you, small changes in strengthening your mental health skills go a very long way.
I am not suggesting adopting self-talk that is unrealistic, inauthentic, polly-annaish, or anything that sounds like one of my favorite SNL sketches of all time. Instead, here are some examples of small phrases you can start with, that I use all the time, both with myself, and with my students:
"This is hard right now and I believe in my ability to get through this."
"I don't know what's going to happen next but I have the tools to solve whatever problems that may come my way."
"I can't control what other people say or do, but I can control what I say or do."
For children, beginning the conversation about their inner dialogue can help tremendously in strengthening their mental and emotional resiliency. Simple phrases for them can sound like:
"I believe in myself"
"I am brave"
"I am strong"
"I am kind to myself as I am kind to others"
"I like myself"
"I can do this!"
I strongly believe that the most important relationship you will ever have is the relationship with yourself. As much as we wish that someone or something outside of us can "save" us, it is really only ourselves who can do this.
I believe in you all!
For more reading: https://positivepsychology.