Category: Feel

Bouncing Back from Pandemic Meltdowns

Bouncing Back from Pandemic Meltdowns

We held an exciting Webinar  with Trova Health about managing our emotions as parents. 

If the last two years have taught us anything, it’s that the structure and stability in our daily lives can disappear at a moment’s notice. A difficult time for parents, adapting schedules and managing inevitable meltdowns as their child is sent home from day-care for the 4th week in a row. We all have a limit and grown-ups are certainly not exempt from tantrums at times like this. 

Luckily, Springtime, wherever you are, gives us an opportunity to start anew. As the flowers begin to bloom and we celebrate the Spring holidays, let’s think about where we are and how to hit the reset button.

What Causes Meltdowns?

Emotional “dysregulation” is quite common for kids, but we forget it happens with adults. We move into survival mode, counting down minutes until bedtime and think about solutions to chaos rather than finding moments of joy and peace. Meltdowns occur in all humans due to a dysregulation of the nervous system. If we are unaware of what is happening, we stay in paralysis or survival mode until we burn out, blow up or both! 

What Do Meltdowns Look Like?

During our webinar, we heard many great (sometimes funny) examples of pandemic meltdowns. It seems the pandemic was very successful in adding unpredictable layers of stress to existing chaos. Between family members testing positive for covid, to homeschooling, new jobs, remote working and the sheer uncertainty of the pandemic, it’s no wonder we cracked under the pressure. While dealing with some or maybe all the above, it’s common to find yourself raising your voice to your kids. A meltdown can look like shouting or arguing, but also bitterness, resentment and burnout are common traits.  Each parent is different. Identifying what you look like during a meltdown can be the first step to preventing them.

The Medicine

So how do we prevent meltdowns? The answer is simple: give yourself exactly what you are seeking. This is where we dive into what we really want…the deeper desire. If a parent says, “I want a break!” what does that break look like and what will it bring? Peace? Relief? Once we slow this down, what we see is that as parents, we don’t allow ourselves to feel what we want to feel until we have the THING (the goal, the “break.”) Ironically, as we slow down, tune into our own nervous system, feel what’s happening for us, we gift ourselves the exact thing we truly desire! We’ve given ourselves the break. 

For example: If you come home from a long day and see you kids sitting around in a messy room with no chores done, what do you do? Shout? The perfect meltdown. Play back this movie in slow motion and see how neutral this situation is. The kids are sitting on the couch. That’s it. You may experience other thoughts like: “My kids are lazy, and I do everything around here.” Notice how these thoughts make you feel: upset, disrespected, judgemental, etc and see where these thoughts and feelings lead to.

The Inner Work

Doing the “inner work” goes beyond self-care. It’s paying attention to yourself and honouring exactly what you desire and need. In the above scenario, the parent probably desires relaxation or connection. They’re probably hungry and thirsty too! So, let’s practise pressing pause, diving into the deeper desire and give ourselves what we need before reacting. What becomes empowering is noticing that peace and joy are no longer dependent on you finally getting that well deserved break. You don’t have to hold out all day to finally be rewarded. You can listen to the smaller signs and fulfil your needs as they arise, taking back your own power.

Hear Yourself Before Demanding to be Heard

Remember, you discover the desire by noticing your behaviour pattern. If you get upset and yell, your deeper desire is most likely to be heard. If your pattern is withdrawal, your deeper desire could be to ‘relax’ or ‘take a break’. When we honour our needs, the triggers are no longer present.

5 practical things you can do before, during and after a meltdown

Slow Down and Connect with Yourself

Slow down your internal world, paying attention to cues or markers that let you know you are outside of your window of tolerance. You might be too “high”- overwhelmed or too “low”- depleted/ burned out. For now, just focus on allowing and accepting the emotions. 

Honour the Need that Arises 

If you desire a break, take it. If you desire peace, feel it. If you desire joy, take a moment to dance in the kitchen or whatever brings you 30 seconds of joy.

Be OK with Taking a “time out” 

Practice a calming technique such as breathing or visualisation. This goes along with self-care and models for your children and spouse that you are tuned into your own needs and limits. You can call it a “break” or “taking 5” and use that time to sit outside or lay down in your room while kids entertain themselves.

Ask for Support 

This is tough to do if you’re living in a new place with less friends or family around. Some parents have found that asking for support via video calls can help. You can ask family or friends to help out with homework by jumping on a Zoom call. This can also work with reading bedtime stories or any other activities you can participate in remotely. If you’re really stuck for friends and family, check out the local community and see if you can build a support network through schools, kids groups or church. 

Connect with kids/ family

Schedule intentional time to do something novel. Our brains crave novelty and connection! Plan a scavenger hunt, play a new game, give your kids a phone and let them direct their own commercial or movie. You can try new food together or dress up in costumes and go to the park! Camping in the living room is always fun or even ask your kids or spouse to plan something they’d love to do…

Watch the Webinar

Emotional dysregulation is addressed with awareness and self-compassion. Slowing down and becoming present is key in these moments of distress. You can watch the webinar here 

What is one thing you can do in the next 24 hours to find your deeper desire?

About Peekabond

Anieke Lamers, our CEO created Peakabond at the onset of Covid-19. A mobile app to help global families connect with young children remotely. Inspiring families to create playful and engaging moments with young children.

Asynchronous video connection and inspirational science-based content suggestions. Allowing families and loved ones to share small moments and build memories together. Every play experience is designed with care and approved by child development experts. Always age appropriate. Always private and secure, never showing ads. Our intention is to build a movement that connects families across borders and over generations. To try storytelling activities at Peekabond go here. 

About Trova Health

Trova health is a digital health and wellness company created specifically for expats, providing mental health and remote care services worldwide. To find out more go here

Loneliness: How to Connect and Open Up as an Expat

If you know a little about Greek mythology, you probably have heard about the 10 years of Odysseus’ (or else, Ulysses’) adventures all around the Mediterranean Sea before he eventually reached home. 

Even though he didn’t “sign up for it”, he spent 10 years (plus 10 during the Trojan War) away from his home, and every single day of these years was a lonely journey, a resistance to resignation and despair, and a painful reminder that there is nowhere like home. 

Ithaca, Odysseus’s home place, is a symbol of the roots we all leave behind us when we start a new life at a different place.

Why expat life feels lonely

The expat life is lonely. Period. It doesn’t matter whether you like the new place or not, it still feels lonely at times. 

Feeling lonely as an expat is quite a normal stage in the integration process. In fact, it starts even before you land at our next destination: you are in the middle of packing your stuff and you are already flooded by a nostalgic feeling of all the places and the faces that you will definitely miss.

And then you move to the new country: you are immersed in a completely new culture with a different set of values and way of life, you meet different people, you don’t speak the language, you miss your friends and family, but most of all, connecting with the people around you is really hard (especially in the beginning). You have no idea where to start, how to approach people, and most of all, how long it will take until you feel at home.

How to Make it Feel Like Home and Connect as an Expat

 
1. Acceptance is key. 

First of all, let’s accept two things: 1. it will never be exactly like home and 2. It’s ok to feel lonely. With these two realizations, you are actually relieving yourself from the heavy and sometimes unrealistic expectations that you have to make expat life feel good all the time. This is your life, with its ups and downs, with its ebb and flow, and you are doing your best, but you know that this feeling of no-local, or outcast, is a feeling that will take years to go away.

2. Embrace difference

Accept that we are different and that’s ok. Yes, you are different from the locals or the other cultures you meet, and that is exactly what makes you interesting to others. Instead of believing that you are the outsider, start seeing yourself as a person making the most of this diverse canvas you live in.

3. Learn the local language (verbal and non-verbal). 

Making the decision to learn the language is a very smart one. Not only because you will need it for your daily communication with the locals, but also because you will feel more alike and less different from your surroundings. You will belong. Moreover, it’s very important to observe how the locals greet, laugh, or express their feelings. It’s a useful lesson in order to communicate with them better, but also to avoid misunderstandings.

4. Aligned socializing. 

Choose social events wisely so that they match your background, values and interests. It has been proven that we feel less lonely when we join in activities with people with the same hobbies, experiences and values.

5.  Be patient. 

In those meetings, everybody is scared and everybody is protecting themselves from getting hurt. Real, authentic, meaningful relationships take time. When interacting with like-minded individuals, try to practice empathic listening and to get into their shoes. Be unapologetically authentic and honest when you are around them. But try to be curious about them too and not judgmental about their life and their experiences. Accept them as they are and provide support. And, who knows, you might end up meeting unique and wonderful people. 

6. Be kind to yourself. 

The step you took to move to a new country is a brave and yet a challenging one. Being an expat is not a walk in the park. If you are expecting yourself to be back to normal a few days after you’ve landed in a new country, that’s a high standard you’re setting for yourself. Take your time, allow yourself to observe the environment, explore, be curious, and most of all, be compassionate with yourself especially when you are struggling with this transition. 

7. Old connections, new connections.

Last but not least, maintain the connections with your friends and family back home, but don’t compare them with your new connections; that’s an unfair comparison. That will only lead you to idolize the past and keep you with one foot at the door all the time. The new friendships you are making don’t carry all the memories, the history and the emotions of the home relationships, but they bring some freshness and excitement in your life. Enjoy your new country and make the most out of this new opportunity. 

Once again: Ithaca is not an actual place, rather than a symbol of the roots we are all looking for in order to feel safe and loved. 

You are not alone. 

About Vassia Sarantopoulou

Vassia Sarantopoulou is the Founder, CEO and Head Psychologist of AntiLoneliness, a company offering mental health services in The Netherlands and also worldwideShe is also a Trainer, a Perfectionism Expert and a Mental Health Ambassador, promoting Inner Peace, Mental Strength and Healthy Relationships with others and with our Self. AntiLoneliness offers support to those struggling with anxiety, depression, trauma, grief, burnout, loneliness, relationship issues, transition/change, expat life. 

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About Peekabond

Anieke Lamers, our CEO created Peakabond at the onset of Covid-19. A mobile app to help global families bond with young children remotely. Inspiring families to create playful and engaging moments with young children.

Asynchronous video connection and inspirational science-based content suggestions. Allowing families and loved ones to share small moments and build better bonds. Every play experience is designed with care and approved by child development experts. Always age appropriate. Always private and secure, never showing ads. Our intention is to build a movement that connects families across borders and over generations. To try storytelling activities at Peekabond go here. 

Discussing the Loss of a Relation Within the Family By Anieke Lamers

How to be supportive when your family at a distance is grieving

The Ukraine/Russia conflict inspired this post. My heart is heavy as so many are experiencing loss. Unfortunately, most of us will have moments in life when we are very challenged by a painful situation. Experiencing loss, grief, and sadness is a part of what makes us human. 

Loss and grief can come in many forms;  The death of a loved one, a miscarriage, bad news about a loved one’s health, a painful breakup, or job loss. 

But sadness and grief can also be experienced in “smaller” ways such as not understanding new technology products (my grandmother has been known to feel this way), feeling excluded by a new culture, missing cultural products or foods, being rejected by someone, not getting something you really wanted, or really just worrying about changes in a new environment. 

A few anonymous examples of suffering and grief from my own circle include: 

  1. A miscarriage: Having a miscarriage is more common than most people know. For women who know they’re pregnant, about 10-15% end in miscarriage (See source here). Yet it’s still taboo in many cultures or too painful to talk about. Sadly there isn’t a manual that teaches us how to deal with this kind of trauma. Especially not from the perspective of loved ones at a distance. 
  2. A child trauma: A friend of mine recently experienced her niece (at a distance) suffer a dog attack, for which she was hospitalized. She said she cried for two full days and was unable to fly and visit due to Covid. Experiencing your loved one at a distance suffering from an accident or even hospitalization can be very traumatizing.
  3. A sick older parent: Being separated from family due to political unrest can cause feelings of loss and grief. Especially for those who are unable to return to their home country. 

These things happen to our loved ones – especially to loved ones at a distance –  seeing them suffer can make us feel powerless. 

Personally, I miss my family in Australia when they are struggling with something in their life. Of course, I also hate missing birthdays and the fun stuff, but I feel even sadder about not being able to be there for them physically in times of sorrow. 

Sometimes all you want to do is give them a big hug and be there for them. Being present in their situation without necessarily saying or doing anything.

So what can you do and how can you be supportive when your family at a distance is struggling with grief?

Here are some steps that I have researched and have helped me with my grief:

1. Express your emotions

Sometimes, just being able to express how you or the other person feels can relieve the pain of not being there physically. For example, when I’m going through a rough patch and I speak to my sister in Australia, I can say out loud that I miss her and it sucks that we’re so far apart. I feel some of the pain releasing as I express this. 

Some of us are better at recognizing our emotions than others, but sometimes we just need a bit of help labeling our emotions. This is especially true for younger children. I believe it is our duty as grown-ups to help children in our family to navigate their difficult emotions. 

2. Ask about the other person’s need

When someone we love is in pain, sometimes we intuitively want to “solve” their problems by coming up with a solution. However, it can be better to ask an open question, such as: “What do you need? How can I help?”. Sometimes the answer might be: “I don’t know” or “Just listen and be here for me, that’s enough”. Another great question to ask is “Do you want to a) talk about it, or b) do you want to be distracted so you don’t have to think about it”? When the answer is a) your sole task is to listen. The best way you can be supportive is to listen and be there, letting them take the lead in the conversation.

When the answer is b) it can sometimes be a bit harder to come up with something distracting right on the spot, but this reminds me of the healing power of a simple joke (when timed right). When you make a joke to distract the other person, make sure it’s not at their expense, but a little bit of self-mockery can be healing.  Sometimes I find that when I ask to be distracted, I end up talking about the problem anyway.

3. Be thoughtful (and remember the after-care) 

Everyone deals with grief in their own way and in their own timeframe: Some people like to deal with it by themselves while others prefer a shoulder to cry on. Some appear to get “over it” in a heartbeat whereas for others the pain seems to linger forever. Whatever the situation, don’t judge and respect the needs of the person in grief. Let them know you are there in your own way. A simple heart emoticon ❤️ or a “I’m thinking of you, let me know if you need anything” note can be enough. Don’t expect them to respond (because they might have enough on their mind as it is): it’s not about you, it’s about being there for them. 

4. Send Good thoughts

There is a lot of research showing the power of meditation, prayer.ending good vibes to those in need can have positive effects at a distance. (For example: NYTimes)

Concluding thoughts

In conclusion, most of us will have moments in life when we are very challenged by a painful situation.Just because we aren’t there physically doesn’t mean we can’t be there for each other emotionally to help each other through the rough patches. Expressing your emotions, asking about each others’ needs, being thoughtful and sending good thoughts are all ways to be supportive. 

If you’d like a creative and playful way of supporting young children (and indirectly their parents) at a distance, try out our Peekabond app. We start by giving simple playful, creative suggestions to share videos with each other. This helps to deepen the connection with your loved one and create a space to start sharing the more difficult things. 

You can give Peekabond a try, it’s completely free and you download the app here