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Childhood Regression in Quarantine by Charity Hagains MA, LPC-S

“Children don’t come with an instruction manual” makes it seem as if we brought our newborns home, then frantically began searching for the lost book of baby in our overnight bag convinced that its absence was a hospital oversight. We know they don’t come with a manual, which is what makes it so scary to be a new parent. It’s also why we are so thankful for the information on child rearing that we do find. Books, articles, blog posts, medical journals, our own mothers and friends are the resources we look to as a lifeline when we have questions about our child’s health and well being.

Sadly, there aren’t books or research studies on raising children during a global pandemic in the modern age. Our friends and parents haven’t charted a path for the world we now find ourselves in. We are the trail blazers now, and most of us have felt woefully unprepared to be such. Unprepared because we couldn’t, and still can’t, anticipate what happens from day to day and gage that against “normal.” Normal is ever shifting now.

I am not arrogant enough to tell you I have one clue what all of this means for ourselves and our children in the coming weeks and months. I can however give you insight into what we are seeing as a practice, how you can reframe some of that, and a few ideas on how to help your children (and yourself) cope with these unexpected changes.

With so many changes in your little one’s life lately you may begin to see some amount of developmental regression such as:

Potty Training Regression

Potty training is often externally motivated for young children. They choose to use the potty for reasons such as: their peers at school are using the restroom, adults they wish to please are happy with them (parents are excluded from this for various reasons), they are avoiding negative consequences of missing out on play time because they have to change, etc.

Many of these external motivators have been removed for them, and they fall back into old habits of accidents.

Try setting an hourly timer for “potty time” so they are routinely going to the restroom. Offer rewards for successfully using the restroom, and do not use anger or shame as a tactic when they have accidents. A gentle reminder that you believe in them and know that they will master this goes much further than angrily cleaning them up.

Sleep Training Regression

New routines and circumstances often lead to sleep regression. A new sibling, moving, attending a new school – these types of changes have often brought on some level of sleep regression.

The pandemic has had a huge change on their norm. Parents being home all day, lack of stimuli, and schedule changes can have a huge effect on their system. They may seek comfort from mom and dad in ways they hadn’t been before.

Disrupted sleep patterns, a desire to sleep in mom’s and dad’s bed, and difficulty getting to sleep are changes that you might expect while your little one is home in isolation.

First, take care of you. Sleep and nap when you can so that you have the energy to handle these difficulties. Go back to how you first successfully trained your little one. Maybe it is extra play time during the day, a solid unchangeable bedtime routine, and not making exceptions for sleeping in their own bed. These strategies will work again as they did before.

Emotional Regulation Changes

Tantrums may begin to reappear as well as unexplained meltdowns during this time. I know how frustrating this is, especially while you are trying to juggle working from home and your own heightened emotional state. This doesn’t make it easy to parent during isolation.

Young children have been in the midst of learning emotion regulation, and suddenly their newly implemented coping mechanisms have been shifted or removed for them. They are struggling to know how to process all of what they are feeling. Hell, I’ve been able to emotionally regulate for decades, and I still have moments I want to scream during quarantine.

Have grace with these little ones. Regulate yourself, then help them do the same. Hug them while practicing your own deep breathing, allow them to cry it out, and don’t try to change their feelings or reason with them. This moment of overwhelming emotion will pass for them, as it does for you.

Speech and Articulation Regression

Your child may experience a return to previous language patterns such as “baby talk” or poor articulation. They may appear to lose skills and words previously learned. This can be very scary for parents, as the cause of such changes can vary.

In some instances, this is due to a lack of typical stimuli they received at school or daycare. Another reason could be attention seeking.

Correct your child by using the proper term and articulation in a gentle tone. Use only the words they had already been using themselves, and don’t expect their articulation to necessarily improve beyond where they previously were during this time. If the issue persists and your concern mounts, reach out to your physician and get their input.

These regressive behaviors are most likely due to the drastic changes in your child’s routine, and no, that’s not because you have become lax with your own home routine. Everything about their lives has suddenly changed, and they have no way to understand why, nor do they realize it’s a temporary change.

The articles we write are typically inspired by a trend we begin to see in our practice. Five times this week I heard some variation of, “How bad am I messing up these kids?” You aren’t. They are struggling in their own way, much like we are as adults. Thankfully, us taller humans have the ability to articulate our concerns and work through them emotionally. Our smaller counterparts don’t, so they use whatever ways they can to process this new world. The best way you can take care of these little ones is to take care of yourself so you have the emotional bandwidth to care for them. Sometimes patience and peace feel in short supply, but remember we are a part of your village. We are here when you need an outlet!

Extending Positivity Through Quarantine and COVID-19 by Angela S. Taylor MA, LPC-S

So, I woke up this morning and thought, “yep, we’re still here.” I don’t know about you, but I’m having more and more mornings like this. As we enter the 369th week of quarantine, I think we can all say we’re pretty much over it. We’ve cooked all of the meals, cleaned and organized all the things, and watched all the shows. We’ve taken our 687th walk (which are life saving), had the zoom calls with friends and family, and had a ton of quality time with the kiddos. But now what? We’re all exhausted and in need of a good hug…and maybe a stroll through target.

So how do we continue to stay positive as this drags on? It’s important. It’s important for our mental and emotional health, and really, what other choice do we have? We can choose to drown in it or thrive through it. I hope you will join me as I continue to strive to choose the latter. Some of these tips will sound familiar, and I hope will serve as good reminders. Others may be some new ideas to help invigorate you to push forward. Let’s hold each other up during this time and find the joy whenever we can.

1. Get your body moving. Yes, get in the walks. But maybe, throw yourself a dance party, find a new hiking trail, take part in an online yoga class, or jump on your kids’ trampoline. Find some things you haven’t tried before that are fun and new. This could be just what you need to keep going, physically and mentally.

2. Turn off the news and social media. I mean it. Limit yourself to 10-20 minutes a day, and be done with it. You aren’t getting new information, and it’s definitely not making you feel happier. Pay attention to how it makes you feel/spiral, and step away.

3. Focus on what you can control. A lot feels out of control right now, but this is really just illuminating what is true in general. We have so much less control than we want to believe, which can be either freeing or debilitating. Letting go of the need to control is liberating but also takes a lot of work. Guess what? You can start that work now. What do you have control over? Your morning and night time routine, your personal hygiene, bringing focus back to the positive, deep breathing, stepping outside, etc. Lean into those things in this moment, hour, and day.

4. Watch your favorite (funny) movie. So much of what people are watching right now is pretty serious. It may be time to take a break from all of that and watch something that you know will make you smile and laugh. Bonus if it makes you belly laugh. I think we’re all in need of a good belly laugh at least once a day right now.

5. Find a routine and a rhythm to your day. Set a schedule that works for you, and try to stick to it. Our bodies and minds like a routine and feel more settled and at peace when there’s some sort of rhythm to our lives. A good morning and night routine plus intentional time set for pursuing personal and career goals will do the trick. Making this nonnegotiable to yourself, for the most part, will help you stick to your plan.

6. Do something good for someone else. Write positive messages on your sidewalk, deliver groceries to your elderly neighbors, write snail mail cards to your local retirement home, contribute to local businesses (yay take-out!), or just smile at people as you pass them on your daily walks (trust me, it really does lift someone’s spirit). Doing good for others is a win-win, they feel good and we feel good too.

7. Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude. I know you’ve heard this at nauseam from me, but it’s so important – now more than ever. Find 5-10 things everyday that you’re grateful for. Be specific, and write them down. Keep a journal on your nightstand that you can record these in everyday. Just think, if you do this for two months of this quarantine, you will have 600 things written down that have brought you gratitude. Try not to find positivity in that!

8. Look to your past, and remember how resilient you are! You have survived every hard thing you’ve been through, and you will survive this too. Think about those things that you thought just might kill you and how far you’ve come since then. You are a fighter and survivor, and I know you will make it through this (and probably be better on the other side of it). The human spirit is more resilient than we can possibly imagine, and we are built to pull through this too.

9. Acknowledge that you are doing your best. You’re taking the precautions, feeling the feelings when they come up, supporting your friends and families, and getting out of bed each day. You are winning at this quarantine thing and doing your part to get us all back on our feet. Be proud of yourself. You’ve made it this far – it hasn’t been easy at times, but you’ve done it!

10. Remember, this will not last forever. I know, I know…some days it feels like it just might. But, it won’t. The day will come when we can leave our homes safely, walk in a store, go to a restaurant, go back to our businesses, and live our lives. We will get there, and possibly, be happier and more optimistic on the other side.

We are thinking of you here at Noyau. I can’t wait to see your faces and hug your necks (when appropriate)! Until then, let’s lift each other up and try to find some joy!

Dealing with Confusing and Conflicting Emotions During a Pandemic by Charity Hagains MA, LPC-S

“I’m tired and I haven’t done anything today.” “I cry for no reason. I’m in a much better position than so many other people, but I’m still crying.” “Why am I so angry? I just snap sometimes. I should be way more chill without a commute or early wake up times.” These are some of the things I have heard this week, and felt myself. We are all in the struggle at one point or another during this isolation period. I call it my quarantine cycle.

Every few days I start to feel overwhelmed – not by anything particular, just kind of over the whole thing. It’s week three in our house (I think…could be 4…I’ve lost all track of time) and it’s feeling hard. I heard that same sentiment from my clients this week, as well as friends and family members.

It doesn’t feel like a vacation anymore. It doesn’t seem like a much needed slow down. It feels more like one long endless day and that makes the hopelessness that much easier to come creeping in on us. My advice to everyone (myself included) is to accept that feeling in that moment. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed from time to time right now. Even if you are healthy and not experiencing an immediate crisis. Don’t compare your situation to anyone else’s.

Sitting around all day isn’t as easy as it sounds, and staying positive during a global pandemic is a mental challenge. Reassure yourself that your reaction to all of this is normal and part of the human condition, because it is.
Love your kids but also feel impressively annoyed by them? Normal.
Love staying in your pjs but miss feeling put together in your favorite outfit? Normal.
Love the quality time with your spouse, but also desperate for alone time? Normal.
Love the slow down of life, but also miss your fast lane lifestyle? Normal.
I know I’m not telling you anything new. I think everyone logically understands the strain of these strange times and that having these contradictory feelings is to be expected. But if what I heard this week and last is any indication, we are still struck by confusion as to how it can feel so hard and depleting to hold space for both kinds of emotion. And there is a fair amount of beating ourselves up for lashing out or expressing what we feel in an uncharacteristically big way.

Maybe you are like me. I went all kinds of angry lady on the poor guy who dared tell me they couldn’t get out to fix my internet speed for four days. This was not a big deal and that guy had no control over anything, but I can’t yell at a virus. I can be angry at the full stop of our society and disappointed by so many missed opportunities, but I don’t really have anywhere to direct that anger…until some poor sap tells me something I don’t want to hear, and I unleash all those feelings at once. Misplaced anger is pretty typical in a situation where we don’t have an appropriate target. In case you were concerned for the internet guy, I did apologize and explain I’m a little extra at the moment.

Breaking out in tears is much the same way. We carry the stress of a situation that is far outside of our control, even when we are chanting our positivity messages and writing in our gratitude journals. It’s still sitting with us every moment of every day, and we have few outlets to unleash those pent up emotions. Therefore, they can bubble over and we are suddenly crying. Maybe you saw something that touched a cord, maybe an errant concern or sad memory crossed your mind and left you uncharacteristically sobbing. That actually is an appropriate reaction to the situation we find ourselves in, not an “overreaction.”

Expect big displays of emotion from time to time while we remain in isolation. Meet those expressions with compassion and forgiveness, not only for yourself but for those around you. Remember they too are in the same boat and will be experiencing similar conflicting feelings.

Curious as to why your teenager is more moody than usual while he is getting to sleep in and play video games more? Shouldn’t he be excited about that? Well, he is and he isn’t. Just like you feel both sets of feelings, he does too.

Upset that your younger kids are more needy than usual even though you are spending so much more time with them? They too are experiencing an abnormal routine and feeling a wide range of emotions, and they don’t know how to express or process those.

Is your spouse snapping at you for no reason? That is likely to happen and leave you feeling hurt and confused. While it isn’t “okay” to take our frustrations out on one another, we aren’t perfect. We will mess up and lash out when we don’t intend to.

In this moment of heightened emotional responses we need to offer as much grace as possible. That doesn’t mean we have to abandon our boundaries. It’s still okay to say “that was hurtful and I didn’t like it. Please don’t misdirect your feelings onto me.” But it’s easier to respond rather than react when this happens if we are viewing the situation through the lens of grace, understanding, and forgiveness.

Remember to offer yourself those same things. Be gracious with how you judge and talk to yourself. Share compassion with yourself as well as others. Be generous with your inner monologue. This is what it means to really be “in this together.” That phrase is easily overlooked when we hear it so much. The truth of that statement is “we are all feeling off our game and we all need more grace than ever because of it.”

Good luck this week everyone! I know we are all feeling exhausted by our suddenly changed lifestyles and disappointed that our holiday weekend was so different than we had hoped for. I hope you will continue sharing those hard feelings with one another, and with us, so we can all be there to offer support to each other!

Body Image and COVID-19 Navigating those familiar voices in the midst of quarantine by Angela S. Taylor MA, LPC-S

So here we are. Stuck at home with food and mirrors everywhere, and they’re coming for us again. Those voices that tell us we should finally lose that weight, our thighs are too big, our stomach is too jiggly, and on and on. Some of us have worked really hard to minimize or get rid of those voices while others of us were already in the midst of a full blown body image crisis.

What a time for issues with our bodies to creep their ugly heads. But it makes sense, right? It’s the one thing we feel like we can control when everything feels so out of control right now. If we finally get our bodies the way we want them, all of this will feel better. Or will it?

There are so many directions I want to go and things I want you to hear about this, but the main thing I’d love for you to believe and own is that, your worth and value has absolutely nothing to do with your body. Getting to that perfect size/body will not bring you peace, joy, happiness, success or any of the other things you have tied to it. There will always be farther to go in an unattainable journey to have the “perfect” figure, whatever that is (or society deems is the ideal at this moment in time). Your value lies in so much more than the shell you’re living in.

I’m assuming you’ve heard all of this before. Most of us know these things, logically, but find it difficult to actually believe them internally. How did we get here? Who told us this was the most important thing to pursue? That question is so incredibly layered. From the messages you received from your parents to words from classmates and peers to society in general, all of these unhealthy words and ideas have impacted how you feel about yourself today. But…they’re wrong. Likely, they were projecting their own unhealthy ideas of themselves onto you, and I am so sorry that you are now having to struggle in the same way they did, or worse. They don’t deserve that power over you, and you owe it to yourself to take that power back. You are worth it.

Your body is a tool that has taken you to great places, helped you accomplish unimaginable things, and moved you from one place to another. It has given birth to babies, created new ideas and brought them to fruition, climbed mountains, accomplished numerous goals, and gotten you out of bed each morning. And now…it’s helping you survive a pandemic that the world has never seen. Be gentle with it – it’s just trying to survive right now. It wants nourishment and movement, but it/you also need extreme kindness. Kindness that you’ve never known. Your body is working extra hard right now to get through the day with a world that is changing before our eyes. Listen to it and what it needs. It’s an incredible thing that our bodies are walking through right now, and that body deserves so much gratitude.

Thank your body for helping you survive all of this. Thank yourself for continuing to move forward, physically and mentally, in the midst of fear and uncertainty. You couldn’t do that without that body of yours, no matter what shape or size.

Yes, get out and move…because of the way it makes you feel. Pay attention to that. Do you feel less stressed, stronger, more capable, more positive? Listen to that energy and that voice. This is not an effort to lose weight – this is to give yourself those positive, feel good chemicals we all need right now. Your body is craving that and will need it to keep going. But, when you hear that voice saying to keep moving to lose the weight, stop. Go back home, you’ve done the work for the day. Challenge that thought, and praise those legs for moving beneath you. They really are incredible with what they can accomplish.

This is a battle, and I truly feel you and understand that. But it’s a battle worth fighting. My biggest desire is that you love all of you because you are a warrior and have so much more value than I can tell you right now. I am fighting with you on this, and we are all in it together. You are so valuable – do not let those voices deceive you on this. They are wrong, and you deserve to fight back.

If you are struggling with this, please reach out. We are here to help. We also know that eating disorders are being amplified and growing right now, so we want you to know that we are here for you. Our therapists are expertly trained in this area and are ready to talk to you via telehealth. Give us a call when you are ready.

Finding our way…Together by Charity Hagains MA, LPC-S

Isolation status: It’s week two, or three, or four (for those of you who were way ahead of this), and many people are feeling frustrated. These few weeks I have heard a range of emotions: anger, concern, confusion, anxiety, disappointment, loneliness, restlessness, sadness, resolve; and I don’t think anyone is surprised by that. My clients are healthcare workers, attorneys, expectant moms, CEO’s, teachers, and grandparents. From every generation, race, faith and socioeconomic class, we are all sharing in the experience of a worldwide pandemic.

This is hard. Mostly because what we are being asked to do, is to do nothing. We are tasked with sitting still and pausing our world. Sadly, our culture is not used to doing nothing. We are a society of action and achievement. We take pride in our “pull yourself up by your bootstrap” mentality. To be asked to abandon that way of thinking is difficult, no matter how easy it sounds on the surface.

Our self worth has long been measured by action. What we do, who we help, what we achieve, what we earn, these are measures we are comfortable with. To tell American’s that their worth is measured in Netflix episodes is not an easy sell.

I work tirelessly as a therapist to convince people their worth is innate and lies beyond these measures. Clients who know me can probably hear my speech on repeat: “You are born with worth. It doesn’t increase or decrease. It’s a birthright.” Again, this has never been an easy concept. Truth be told, that belief system is one that takes me an incredible amount of worthwhile practice. Therefore, I do not expect the entire population to easily lean into that feeling of discomfort. However, there are ways in which we can lessen our pain.
Reframe
For parents, it’s easy. Does your child do something that makes you love them? Are there tasks they perform that make them more valuable or more dispensable to you? No. We love them because they breathe. We like some behaviors, and we dislike others, but we love them either way. Be it difficult or easy. You too are a child of someone, and thus, have earned the birthright for love and worthiness.

For non-parents you too have that same capacity for love. Are the people around you dispensable? Do they have to accomplish something to be worthy of being alive and valuable? Likely not. You love them because of who they are and how they make you feel. I doubt you care if they make a million this year. I mean, you might be happy for them, but it isn’t the basis of your friendship.

That being said, you get to give yourself that same grace. You don’t have to have a clean home, a plush bank account, a kid on the honor roll, the corner office or any other “achievement,” You are worthy just the same while sitting at home being “non-essential” because you are essential to your tribe (and essential even if you’ve yet to find your tribe).
Feel it
Did your promotion get postponed? Your birthday trip cancelled? Wedding on hold? Maternity photos impossible? I can’t tell you how many times in these last few weeks people have shared with me their monumental disappointment, yet followed it by, “But it’s stupid. I’m blessed. I should be grateful.” Let me say this loud and clear: There is room for both. You can feel gratitude and disappointment at the same time.

Don’t try to make this feel better before it’s time. I swear to you that you will move through these feelings, but only if you allow yourself to have them. They are valid and I can tell you that letting yourself feel them, without guilt, will help you move past them faster than denying they are valid.
Reinvent
It is easy to fall into “pre-pandemic” thinking. Hell, it’s our default. But in difficult times priorities change, as they should. This new world, new work environment, new social interaction mediums, all these new things mean we are reinventing our lives. Why not take it all the way?

Reinvent your “to-do” list with mandatory “play” time. Make evening walks with your spouse more important than laundry, make self forgiveness non-negotiable, prioritize your self-care above your company’s bottom line. This has always been possible for us, however now it is essential to us. If we want to come through these difficult times we have to change our mindset, not just our daily routines.

The reality is we are grieving. Grief on a global scale has never been something we have experienced, nor had I imagined we would. Yet, we grieve together. We grieve for missed experiences, for people we are fearful of losing, and for those we have lost to this pandemic. We grieve for normal. I implore you to allow yourself the space for that grief. Let yourself be changed by this experience, and more importantly, let yourself experience the shared human condition of those feelings.

I hope that during this most difficult and unprecedented time you are good to yourself. I hope that when you struggle, you reach out. I hope that through this experience, you find unimaginable ways to grow. I hope. Most importantly, I hope that you hope too.

Should this new world become overwhelming, or you find it difficult to create that necessary space for emotion amidst the many concerns of our era, reach out. Our therapists are waiting to give you a reprieve from dealing with this alone. We have used telehealth mediums since we opened our doors, and we are grateful at how that experience has prepared us to help others in this time of social distancing. Remember you are never alone.

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