The short answer is no. We are surviving right now. Expecting to “thrive” during this time puts so much pressure on people. We already suffer from “comparison syndrome” under normal circumstances i.e. feeling like we never quite measure up to what everyone else is doing. There is so much pressure on mothers to be the best mothers e.g. always cook a wholesome meal, always give their kids undivided attention, put the kids to bed on time, etc. Dads experience this too. We simply cannot be all things, to all people, all the time. Even under “normal” circumstances, we are all trying to do the best we can and frequently feeling like we are falling short. So, to believe that your routines and habits can be completely disrupted the way they have been right now and that you can somehow do even better than you did before seems like a certain way to meet failure. Let’s put our goals for this period of time into perspective.
We have been talking frequently with NJ therapist Jennifer Hilligus, who spends most of her practice with children and adolescents. She offered her view of “thriving” vs. “surviving” in the current climate.
Therapist Jennifer Hilligus had this to say about “thriving” in the current environment:
I think in the beginning stages, maybe we'll have a conversation [about thriving] in a month or so when we're all settled with a new normal. But this is still new. There's a sense of loss that you're going to feel. You've lost your freedom, you've lost friendships, you've lost interactions. That's really not the time to go and try to climb the mountain. It is time to take some inventory of the landscape and decide where you're going to move toward. I have a client that was getting ready for a half marathon, but now she's home. She's home schooled. She's going to college and taking classes online. She's doing all these things that she didn’t’ do before, and she hasn't been training and now she's beating yourself up for that. You need to get your basic needs met first before you can try to thrive. And when your world turns upside down, putting everything back is a great foundation to then start moving and progressing forward.
Therapist Jennifer Hilligus also explains how dangerous “comparison syndrome” can be:
I want everybody to just take an inventory and recognize that you are having multiple feelings at once. What we tend to do when that happens is try to get rid of the negative feelings. So, for example, I really don't like looking at a computer screen for work all day, but someone else might say, “You're so lucky to have a job.” And that’s true; I am so lucky to still be able to work, to not have to worry about that, but it doesn’t change the fact that I don’t like looking at a computer screen all day. So what we end up doing in those instances is we make ourselves feel guilty for having these kinds of emotions. So that's super important to recognize that it doesn't work to compare. Pay attention to the self-talk that you do right now, because it is going to make or break you.
This COVID-19 experience also affects children. However, children don’t always express themselves the way adults do so the stress can be harder to spot.
Here is what Jennifer has to say about being aware of the experience your kids are having right now:
Most of the kids I am talking to are telling me that honestly, they want to go back to school. They miss their friends, teachers, activities and their routine. This is why it’s important to be careful about restricting your kids’ access to devices, because they're connecting with their friends as much as they possibly can. Even with gaming, they'll connect more with their friends as well. Right now, that's our only source of communication. They need a connection. That's what they're looking for. Right now, technology equals friends. So before you restrict use of devices, check in to see if they are mindlessly playing Candy Crush, or are they socializing with their friends. That's how you tell if it's important or not.
If you want to see the full-length interview with therapist Jennifer Hilligus, you can watch it on our YouTube channel here.
We're all in this together. So moms and dads,give yourselves a break. You got this!
If you need any further assistance, please feel free to contact us for a free consultation.