Thoughts Aren’t Facts.
Happy Monday, Practice families!
You may have noticed that we didn’t send out a newsletter last week– that’s because I was having one of those weeks. My baby has had a terrible cold (that he then generously spread to the rest of us), and my preschooler woke up last Monday morning and promptly vomited all over both himself AND me.
In addition to how completely disgusting it is to start your day/week with someone else puking all over you (#parenthood), the fact that we are all sick also launched my mind into thinking a million thoughts… most of them not particularly helpful. It is only mid-September! It is too early for this! If this is how the cold and flu season is STARTING for us, how is the rest of the year going to unfold?! One or the other of these kids is going to be sick all the time! How are my husband and I going to manage all the time off work that taking care of TWO sick kids is going to require?
And on, and on, and on. My mind was taking an event happening in the present moment– both my kids being sick– and running with it, making predictions about the future that may or may not actually unfold. And I was feeling STRESSED.
Cold and flu season is something that definitely pushes my buttons. My older son had chronic ear infections (and ultimately ear tubes)– so we had almost an entire year in which he would get a cold or virus, be home sick for a few days, and then he would go back to daycare for a few days before getting an ear infection and fever that kept him at home AGAIN. He was miserable, we were all exhausted, and my husband and I both missed an immense amount of work while covering all of our son’s sick days. Staring down another potentially similar year– with not just one vector of infection, but now TWO– is absolutely terrifying.
It doesn’t help that I’ve also been under the weather and short on sleep– just like for our kids, accessing emotional equanimity (and thinking calmly/rationally!) is easier for us as parents when we are healthy and well-rested.
Anyway, this whole episode reminded me of one of the primary ideas or skills that we teach both kids and parents at Practice: thoughts are not facts. Behind every big emotion lies a series of thoughts– many of which are not accurate… and even if some of them ARE accurate or truthful, focusing on those thoughts often is not helpful. It may be true that my kids will be endlessly sick this year. It is entirely possible. But there is no way to know ahead of time, and ruminating/stressing out about it now isn’t going to do anything to change the way in which things unfold (although you’d better believe we are hand-washing like there is no tomorrow!).
So this week, if you notice yourself feeling stressed or upset, pause and ask yourself– what am I THINKING in this moment? Are those thoughts truthful? And even if they are truthful, are they helpful?
If the answer is no (to either question!), notice that– and try to switch gears. Take a deep breath. Ground yourself in something happening here and now. Do something that you know might make you feel a different way.
If you want more support in putting this skill into action in your own life (or identifying and working around the things that push YOUR personal buttons!), remember, we’re here for you! Our clinical team offers one-on-one support for parents around exactly these kinds of things– so reach out to us if you’re finding yourself feeling stressed, anxious, or irritable and want help in shifting gears to live a different way. Parenting is hard. Juggling the demands of parenthood and life in general is hard. We’re right there with you… and we’re also here to help.
P.S., Our online program for parents, How to Not Lose Your Sh*t With Your Kids, provides more information and support around these same ideas– plus others– to help you manage frustration and emotional reactivity in the context of interactions with your kids! Only $30 for 30 days of a daily email with research-based strategies to help you keep your cool– read whenever works for your schedule.
P.P.S., Our Mighty Minds program also teaches these same skills and ideas to kids! We’re mid-way through a sold-out session with kindergarten to second grade girls, and we’ll be launching two new sessions on Thursday, November 7 (ten 45-minute sessions, beginning 11/7 and ending 2/6, with no class 11/28, 12/19, 12/26, or 1/2):
- Kindergarten to 2nd grade boys, 3:45-4:30pm
- 2nd-4th graders (co-ed), 4:45-5:30pm