USE NATURE TO COPE WITH 2021
I can see that C19-life could be affecting the wellbeing of kids and their parents. So, I want to help you understand how the human brain responds to stress and to remind you that NATURE is effective, free and always available as a tool to help you cope better. If you use tools to help you cope better, this will have a positive affect on your children.
The pandemic has triggered many changes for people and each of us will be concerned or worried about different things and to varying degrees. You might not THINK you are worrying about any of it, but every update, mandate and new strain will trigger a response in your mammalian brain.
As a mammal, we are constantly scanning for potential threats to our survival. Many C-19 related things will be causing small or large amounts of worry in each of us. People are worried about different things but the brain interprets each of them as a threat to our survival.
-If you’re worried about you or your family catching the virus, every time you hear about case numbers and locations, you’ll produce cortisol which tells the brain ‘there’s a threat to your survival.’
-If you’re worried about getting vaccinated, each time you hear about the mandates and the traffic light system, you’ll produce cortisol which tells the brain ‘there’s a threat to your survival.’
-If you’re worried about your job, business and financial situation, every time you hear information that relates directly to this, you’ll produce cortisol which tells the brain ‘there’s a threat to your survival.’
-If you’re worried about not being able to visit your family overseas and you believe you’ll be able to do that once everyone is vaccinated, every time the unvaccinated are mentioned, you’ll produce cortisol which tells the brain ‘there’s a threat to your survival.’
Knowing this, can you see why many people are heightened, stressed and opinionated about all of the small and big changes we are experiencing?
Now, this is the part that I’m concerned about…. amongst all these parents, teachers, aunties, uncles and grandparents whose brains are in and out of survival mode for various reasons, are their CHILDREN. Stunning, precious, clever and curious children. Children who are seeing, hearing and feeling how their adults are responding to the C-19-life. Children whose mammalian responses are tuned into OURS!!
-Adults who are stressed have less patience with their kids.
-Adults who are worried may want to withdraw from their kids.
-Adults whose mammalian brains think their survival is under threat, might not chat and hug and nurture their kids as well as they could.
-And finally, adults who are scared pass that fear of the world onto their children.
So I believe we have to be proactive about this AND WE CAN IF WE USE EFFECTIVE TOOLS! NATURE is effective, free and always available as a tool to help you cope better. If we support our own wellbeing then we’re in a better position to support the wellbeing of our growing humans.
So how can you use NATURE to help manage your stress?
Nature helps us to feel happy, relaxed, alert and energised, so it’s a powerful tool for mood management and wellbeing. If we become separated from nature, we become disconnected from key aspects of being human which can lead to anxiety and less resilience. Nature supports mood, memory, cognition and the immune system. It brings us into the present moment, helps us to practice mindfulness and to switch of from C-19-life.
1) When you're feeling worried, head outside for 5-20 minutes and go for a walk. It costs nothing and gives you many things that your body needs including Vitamin D, fresh air, exercise and a serotonin boost.
2) Each time you drive or take the bus, look outside (without crashing!!) and instead of thinking about ALL THE THINGS, observe the sky, hills or anything from nature.
3) Have a daily cuppa while you look out the window instead of at your phone, or even better, sit outside.
4) Walk outside on your lunch break (if you have one).
Quick ways to incorporate NATURE into family life.
NATURE TIP No 1: Be outside together EVERYDAY! (even just for 5 minutes)
- Look at the sky together and talk about what you can see.
- Comment on the beauty of the clouds, or the interesting shape that they make.
- Observe the hills, sea, trees, flowers, insects or animals.
Say things like, “I feel a little stressed, lets’ go outside for a few minutes because I know it will make me feel better.” Or, “I need some energy, let’s get some fresh air to help together."
NATURE TIP No 2: Just add water!
- Water the garden or your indoor plants with your small human. Talk about how all living things need water to survive.
- If they’re young, fill up the sink, a bucket or the bath with water and get containers to fill up, pour and move the water around. Turn on the sprinkler, jump in the pool… just add water!!
- Walk, drive or bike to the sea, a creek, river or lake and put your feet in it. Watch the way the water moves. Feel the sensations and talk about these with your child.
- Get over yourself and get wet together next time it rains (I dare you)!!
Say things like “Water makes me feel really calm.” Or, “I love the way it feels on my skin.” Or, “Look at the way that water is always moving .”
NATURE TIP No 3: Look at the sky!
Every time you see a beautiful sunrise, sunset or unusual cloud formation, yell out “COME AND LOOK AT THE SKY!!” Your family might think you’re nuts the first time you do it, but I bet they come running and look at it anyway!
The sky IS SO BEAUTIFUL! Big, bulbous, fluffy clouds are STUNNING to watch and the colour of a vibrant sunset is mind-blowing! Tune your whole family into the beauty of the world around you ON A REGULAR BASIS. When they learn that nature is beautiful and amazing, they’ll turn to it in times of need and appreciate the natural world a whole lot more, which will make them a happier human.
Do you want more NATURE IDEAS?
My Amazing Brain includes a chapter of Nature ideas, as well as chapters on Movement, Connection, Music and Creativity. It’s a fantastic tool for zooming in on what’s great in the world while teaching you lots of facts about developing brains and bodies.
If you’re in New Zealand, I recommend the softcover. Otherwise, download the PDF copy to get it straight to your inbox.
Victoria Jenkins is a mum of two small humans, primary school educator and creator at Brain Essentials. She's on a mission to help kids and their parents THIVE AND SHINE through her passion, skills and resources about brain based parenting and teaching.