Dear Tacit: Answering questions about mental health

Dear Tacit mental health column

Kim Silverthorn Master Practitioner of Clinical Counselling (M.P.C.C.) jpg, BN

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Dear Tacit,

My kids are going back to school and life is about to get crazy busy for us all again.  My husband and I both work full-time and the kids are in a bunch of different activities.  It seems like we are rushing everywhere, all of the time.  How can we keep things calm and manageable?

Signed: Frantic and Frenzied at Times

Dear Frantic and Frenzied,

The question you pose is one asked by most families!  We never mean to let things get so crazy – we typically start off September with the best intentions of keeping things structured and flowing smoothly.  We have a plan – and on paper, it should work.  But life has a way of tipping the apple cart – and before we know it, we are rushing from one place to another, trying to remember if we have all the kids in the car as we back out of the driveway!  What we really need is to do less, in order to be able to do things more successfully!  Let me explain …

Studies have been conducted to show us how many times stress hormones are secreted during the course of the average person’s day when nothing too worrying is happening. In the 1950s, we realized these stress hormones were produced naturally about 25 times a day – today, we see them being produced closer to 50 times a day.  That number gets doubled to 100 or more times a day when we are trying to deal with additional challenges/problems in our lives – the car breaks down, someone needs a trip to the hospital, the roof starts leaking, we get laid off.  There is no doubt that the pace of life has become far more chaotic and frenzied over the past 50-75 years or so.  There is a huge amount of societal pressure on every family to keep up with what is considered the norm/necessary.  We have to pay the bills – we want our kids in the activities they enjoy – we need to attend the social functions that keep us connected to friends and family.  And before we know it, every waking moment is filled with something that needs doing.  Downtime is almost impossible to find – and being bored or just relaxing is considered a sin of laziness.

What we know is this – we NEED quiet time – time filled with nothing – in order to self regulate.  And we need this nothing-time interspersed a few times in our day – not just for a few moments before we drift off to sleep at night.   Emotionally, we need to be able to process what we are feeling throughout the course of our day, so we can release that emotional energy and let things go.  Cognitively, we need to allow our experiences to move from our short-term memory into our long-term processors, so we can retain the wisdom and knowledge that we garner from each event.  Physically and mentally, we need time to rest so we can switch gears and launch into the next challenge at the top of our game.  None of these things are possible without being still and present in the moment we are in – it doesn’t work if we are thinking about four other things at the same time.  Filling every waking moment with things to do is what drains us – it adds to the stress we are already feeling – it helps manifest mental health issues like anxiety, depression and low self-esteem – and it creates physical struggles like problems with our sleeping patterns, our weight,  and our energy levels. 

So slow down – schedule downtime in your life – and in your kids lives.  Allow for times when nothing needs to be done, every single day.  When you need to see the dentist, you schedule the appointment and work the rest of your day around that commitment.  Make a point of purposefully and intentionally scheduling your own “nothing time” as a family.   Smile when you hear your kids exclaim, “I’m bored”.  You will be amazed at the conversations that start to happen – the self-awareness that is realized – the connections that begin to grow – and the balance that you can create in your own life.  It is healthy – and it is truly what is necessary!

Take care!

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