The Rising of the Inner Child in the Age of Pandemic
Have you felt irritable when folks are not social distancing?
Have you felt stressed when you see the news about the expanding outbreak?
Have you felt grief that you can't do that thing, go to that event, see that person?
Have you felt helpless at times, like you need more and better protection?
You are not alone.
The inner child is rising up and talking--or yelling!--loud and clear.
So how do we react to that inner noise?
We take too much toilet paper, or hand sanitizer, or cleaning supplies out of fear, leaving none for the next person.
We stoke arguments on social media, riling yourself--and other other people--up.
We binge on sweets, or alcohol, or YouTube, seeking to numb out.
We get caught in a worry cycle and end up lashing out at our family members.
We've all been there in some way or another. We all have a place within ourselves that, when poked, we feel like tantruming. We aren't getting our needs met, and it makes us feel sad, fearful, angry, ashamed.
And this Covid pandemic is one big poke.
So what do we do when we notice our inner child so upset, lashing out, doing things that on the outset may seem reasonable or excusable but with some self-reflection and distance we realize are harmful, unhealthy, and unsustainable?
Poke #1: The fearful, upset inner child hates being in the moment, so they distract by acting out.
Remedy: Stop and breathe every day, multiple times a day. Set your alarm on your phone. Once an hour, three times a day--a reminder to stop, and breathe. Better yet, incorporate some light stretching, or go outside. Notice where your thoughts are, and where they go when you bring them to the present. The present is where feelings are, and thoughts often reflect our need to get out of the present. Resist the urge, for that moment, to distract--and instead, settle down.
Poke #2: "Must. Buy. All. The. Bread." You notice you're hoarding, can't stop the worry train, and obsess over the news.The fearful, upset inner child doesn't like feeling unsafe.
Remedy: Make it feel safe. Wrap yourself in a soft blanket, nourish yourself with a healthy meal, give yourself a warm drink, draw yourself a bubble bath. Remind your inner child that it is safe and you will take care of it.
Poke #3: "It's 11 but one more show won't hurt..." The fearful, upset inner child doesn't like to sleep.
Remedy: Make sleep a routine, just like a parent would, by gearing up well before bedtime. Stop screen time at least 30 minutes before bed, and read, or do something calming and relaxing. The bedroom is a sanctuary for the inner child--protect it mightily by banishing stress and creating an environment that beckons the sandman.
Poke #4. "Why isn't anyone doing anything about...<insert exasperated complaint here>" The fearful, upset inner child wants to be heard.
Remedy: Listen to the complaints and fears, and kindly answer them with facts and reassurance. Reality check yourself. The feeling is real, but is the fear/upset/anger really an expression of the emotion rather than a reflection of reality?
Poke #5: "Ack this family is driving me nuts!!" The fearful, upset inner child forgets to be thankful. As difficult as it is to practice at times, gratitude has an important place in the age of pandemics.
Remedy: Gently, ask yourself, What are you grateful for, deep inside? What can draw you out from the cloak of despair into the light of hope?
Our inner child is a place of refuge and love. Take care of it, lest it rise up and take over, turning over tables with tantrums and causing chaos in an already stressed self. Give yourself the kind words and self-love you deserve.
In self-compassionate solidarity,