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Living With Uncertainty

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m a general pediatrician in the Northern Virginia area. I just joined a fabulous new practice and thankful for the journey that brought me here.  And from time to time, I like to write about things that interest me about health, parenting, environmental medicine, and such.  

However, it’s been over 3 months since I last wrote anything of substance.  You could say the events of today leave me speechless.  And during my work days, I’ve never said the phrases “I don’t know” and “I’m sorry” so much before in my life.

Although we’re all going through the same pandemic and world events together, we’re all experiencing it in different ways.  Parents with teenagers are having very different challenges than those with young children.  And our adolescents are certainly dealing with the current events in a very different way than our toddlers.  

My well visits this summer have been taken over by concerns for mental health, and the common thread underlying all of them is uncertainty.  Everyone is experiencing uncertainty about their children’s education, some express uncertainty about their safety, and others are uncertain how bills will be paid in the next few months.  

So, what to do now?  How do we help our children (and ourselves) cope with the uncertainty of our present world?  I really don’t know.  Medical school didn’t prep me for this amount of global and domestic discord coupled with a global pandemic.  However, I have found a few things to be helpful, and perhaps this is a space where I can share them to at least start a dialogue with those families we care for every day.

1) Set a daily routine.  I recommend trying to keep it simple.  Meaning, don’t make a schedule with a new activity every 30 minutes.  Just have a few goals and don’t beat yourself up if everything isn’t accomplished.  

2) Ensure good sleep hygiene.  Sleep is important for our body’s production of melatonin.  Turn off all screens/electronics 2 hours before bed.  Don’t eat anything 2 hours before sleep.  Turn off bright lights in the home after dinner, and aim for the evening time to be a time to unwind. Anything you can do to help your body de-stress will be very beneficial.  The calmer and dimmer the environment, the higher chances our pineal glands are producing melatonin, helping us drift off to a nice sleep.  Sleep is not just important for our children’s overall well-being, but also to the grown-ups who are raising them.

3) Express gratitude.  It’s been reported by many that expressing gratitude (in whatever form) can be very helpful in staying present.  Since we can’t plan for our kids’ schools, social life or vacations, perhaps staying in the now is more important than ever.

I try to remind myself daily how grateful I am.  This hold true even on the days when I’m exhausted, when I may have yelled a bit too much, or perhaps ordering pizza for the 2nd night in a row.   I just take a few minutes to close my eyes, and say quietly to myself, “I’m grateful to be a mom to 3 young boys who make me laugh.  Grateful for my husband who makes me feel safe and loved.  Grateful for my health.  And of course, grateful for the families that come to me for care and remind me why I love my job. “  As a caveat, I don’t think expressing gratitude makes us less aware or sensitive to the devastation others are feeling or experiencing.  Again, these are all strategies I think are important to do within ourselves to cope with the situation.  

4)  Be mindful.  Again, staying in the present is needed more than ever.  Luckily, there are lots of resources out there.  And 2 of my favorite apps are CALM and HeadSpace.  There are lots of options for families to do these things together.   I often advise to do this at least 10 minutes daily, and incorporate it somewhere in the daily routine.

5) Yoga.  I know it’s easier said than done, but yoga can be so calming.  It’s another way to incorporate mindfulness into your daily routine.  I highly recommend it, and typically advise 15-20 minutes daily for kids and grown-ups of all ages.  I’ve listed a few resources below.

In all, I hope everyone is able to take solace in the fact that we’re all struggling.  The struggle each of us is experiencing takes different forms, but it’s there.  Humans are not well designed to deal with uncertainty, but hopefully we can help train ourselves to deal with it a little better and ask for help when needed.  

What are your thoughts?

All the best,
Dr. Cohen

Yoga Resources:

YogaJournal.com is an excellent reference in general.  So, I recommend perusing its entire site to see what videos, posts, articles fit best for your family.

Sequence of yoga poses for kids to feel brave:  https://www.yogajournal.com/poses/kids-yoga-practice-poses-brave#gid=ci022d1bd5700025cd&pid=brave7

Excellent article (also from yogajournal.com) that offers advice on getting started with yoga for kdis:  https://www.yogajournal.com/lifestyle/teach-children-well

Other free yoga videos I’ve used in our home include those from these 2 sites:
www.YogaWithAdriene.com and www.CosmicKids.com

Mental Health Resources:
Psychology Today is one of the best websites I’ve been introduced to lately, including articles and ability to find a therapist in your area:   www.psychologytoday.com .


HeadSpace APP

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