Endurance stress or Connection stress?

Endurance stress or Connection stress?

A guest post by Alice Irving Pretty much all of my (yummy) clients are stressed. Most of them are doing too much. But that’s not really why they’re stressed. What’s causing their stress isn’t the volume of work they’ve got, it’s the feeling of fear and anxiety about what will happen if they don’t do it.  I can feel the internal roar as I write that: we’re also quite attached our stress, these days. It’s what makes us who we are, and that’s all part of the story.   Good stress: Endurance Stress   This is the stress which your body experiences when you’re running hard, dancing hard, thinking hard, working long days or otherwise stretching your ability to perform. It builds muscles, both physical and neurological. Endurance stress is what gets the job done: it’s the extra hour of humping.  It releases feel good hormones which help us recover physically and emotionally.  Endurance stress builds resilience. On its own, endurance stress is responsible for the great feats of human achievement. The freediver fishermen. The minute mile. Anyone who looks after small children. Endurance stress is great! (But if you’re burnt out already you need to go very gently with this stuff). When you combine endurance stress with the second kind of stress it leads to overwork and burn out: and that’s what most of us “stressed out moderns” are experiencing.   Bad stress: Connection Stress   Humans are wired for connection: we need each other, we need to feel in synch with each other. The prospect of being out of synch – because of conflict or disapproval – is really,...
When children are anxious or explosive

When children are anxious or explosive

“You’re KILLING me, I can’t BREATHE, I’m HOT, let me go! You’re hurting me. What kind of MOTHER hurts her own SON.”   I look down and check. My hands are so loosely around his 7 year old wrists. Admittedly, I was holding him pretty tight a few minutes ago but now it feels like he just needs an impression of being contained to thrash against.   “I’m right here Angel, I’m not trying to hurt you, I’m going to let you go as soon as you can stop hitting and breaking. I see you breathing. Yes, you’re getting hot.”   This routine on repeat was how we lived our lives for several months when my son was suicidal, wetting himself, had many explosive, aggressive meltdowns a day, was so anxious he couldn’t fall asleep and woke several times in the night. He would roll out of bed screaming some mornings, he’d hurt or throw his sister around if we got there too late or try to bite/slap/wet himself or headbutt the floor when he got distressed. Some of us have these intense kids. So beyond just keeping everyone safe, what measures can we apply to actually remedy this level of distress in the family? I’ve wanted to write something on helping children with anxiety/aggression/OCD/self-harming type behaviours using these therapeutic, trauma informed parenting tools from Hand in Hand and based on my experience as a mother, because I know they are many others out there enduring this level of stress in family life. And none of us tend to talk about it too much. Some of our kids show...
Cuts, bumps & scrapes

Cuts, bumps & scrapes

My daughter was playing with a gaggle of kids the other day and they decided it would be fun to all pile into our small sauna. In the scuffle, one of the other kids was closing the door and accidentally caught her finger quite badly. On hearing her shriek, I ran and lifted her out. She was screaming, very distressed and for a while I didn’t know what had happened so I took her to sit down and just held her. I could see she was holding up her finger and that it was squashed and bleeding. She was besides herself with heavy sobs and wailing and I just said simply “Your finger got trapped” as she heaved and tried to tell me the story. I stayed close as she shuddered and shrieked and told fragments of the story and just offered simple observations such as “That really hurts, your finger got caught” and letting her know “I’m with you, I’m so sorry that happened.” After about 10 minutes her crying started to die down and I suggested “Shall we have another look?” She looked again at her finger and once more started bawling. I wanted to help her stay with the feelings of upset so she could release them fully from her system and recover from this mishap. I continued encouraging her to keep looking at the finger and crying more. When children cry after small bumps, the intensity of emotion can often feel disproportionate to the level of injury. We tend to want to appease them with plasters or medicines or stop them crying through reassurance that...

The rescue we all need sometimes

This scene is the aftermath of deep emotional work. Where all the lights… and eyes, were on me. An experience unparalleled except for in ceremonies where all my people showed up just for me – like our wedding or my beautiful blessingways. I have shared a fair bit on Facebook about how I have recently been going through an intensely emotional time. I have had to face several really hard things this year, culminating in an excruciating situation which triggered two core hurts from childhood. This pain I had spent my whole life avoiding finally found a way out in the shape of a breakdown where I spent four months unable to do much beyond feeling, shaking, crying, raging. I was deeply distressed most of the time, waking each night for several hours distraught, frozen in angst and horror. I was exhausted and out of my mind. My capacity to think has been very much inhibited, as well as my ability to parent or hold space. I have leaned on my community a lot. My listening partners have held me through this with such presence, patience, love and dedication. And somehow through the shame of being so needy, broken and unable to give back and feeling that this was all my own fault and I deserved it, I knew I needed to ask for even more. So I rallied my listening partners and asked if they would be willing to perform what Patty Wipfler has developed as a ‘Parent Rescue Squad’. This is where a parent in crisis summons support through one way extensive listening time. An intervention that...
Your kid can recover from traumatic times

Your kid can recover from traumatic times

Dan Siegel, in his wonderful book, Parenting From The Inside Out, outlines research that suggests a child’s attachment status can actually be predicted by how coherent their parents’ autobiographical narratives are. Our stories reflect how well we have made sense of our lives and this directly impacts on our ability to parent responsively. I know personally from spending many hours using listening partnerships to make sense of some of the hard things in my life, that the process is transformative. I feel lighter, more authentic, more playful. I experience greater intimacy and uncontrollable belly laughs several times a day! Siegel suggests helping children heal their experiences too, by telling them their story. I had been waiting for the opportunity to do this with my 7-year- old. This morning we were off on an adventure, just the two of us. He was in the back of the car playing with Lego vehicles and one of them represented me. They fought and he said to my vehicle, “Aw, you broke my heart”. “Did I?” I asked. “Nah…” he said. Now was my moment; he was calm and connected and was captive to the car journey ahead. I took a deep breath. “I might’ve broken your heart at some points in your life,” I said casually. “Really?” he was intrigued. So I told him his story. How when he was a baby he had two very devoted parents who were right there with him and helped him with everything he needed. But when he was a toddler Daddy was confused about whether he loved Mummy or a different lady and became unsure if he wanted to...