I hope you are staying safe, happy, and healthy.
My name is Rachel Saenz and I’m a licensed professional counselor at Mind Works. Life is filled with stressors. Right now it seems like the whole world is stressed. I want to talk about your window of tolerance during stressful times.
On a normal day where everything is going okay, you have a pretty good window of tolerance. You don’t necessarily lose your cool when someone cuts you off on the freeway or you don’t have to lock yourself in your room after your child has a meltdown. You are better able to cope with negative bumps that happen during the day. When things are stressful your window of tolerance gets smaller. Instead this might mean you shutdown or meltdown if you get cut off or your child is upset.
With everyday being uncertain with the COVID-19 situation it is normal and natural for you and your child’s window of tolerance to be smaller. This means that things that would not normally upset you may cause you to shut down or experience a meltdown. The first thing I want to tell you; don’t beat yourself up if you go into meltdown mode. This is your body trying to release and reset. Become aware of what your new window of tolerance is for this time. If you know that one thing really upsets you during non-stressful times be prepared to ask for a break or use one of your coping skills if you have to face your stressors. It is okay to ask for these things for yourself and your child. You are not less of a parent because of this. Everyone is adjusting, and adjustment is hard!
As we deal with COVID-19, the new normal in your household might look like your child quickly becoming irritated or to react with a immediate meltdown. Just as you might need to prepare your own coping toolbox, you will have to teach your child how to equip the proper tools as well. Be aware of your child’s triggers and help them to notice their body’s cues that it might be time to take a break or to equip a coping skill from their toolbox. I encourage you to make a list of things that help you calm down or that better your mood. It’s definitely more difficult to equip coping skills when you are emotionally distressed. This is even more amplified for children. Dysregulation is the inability of a person to control or regulate their emotional responses to a specific trigger. Having a visible list to reference means you don’t have to fight the dysregulation happening in your head while trying to figure out what calms you down in that moment. It may not make you or your child feel 100% better but it will help bring those larger feelings down so you don’t have to meltdown or shutdown for several hours.
This is hard but you can get through this. Be kind to your own emotions and equip your emotional toolbox with understanding and empathy for your child’s window of tolerance. It is normal and okay to have a shorter window of tolerance during this time, and it helps to recognize it as a fact of life for ourselves and for others as well.
Take care of yourself and continue being the amazing parents you are!