Because of COVID-19 and its associated life disruptions, many children have become emotionally and physically affected. Some children have become anxious about becoming sick, or about the health of their family members. Others have become depressed because online learning is difficult for them and/or they miss in-person social interactions with their friends. Yet others have become frustrated and angry as a result of the imposed restrictions on their lives and have taken out the anger on their family members. Some children have even developed stress-associated physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, and chest pain.
The key to coping better with stress is to learn how to think in a way that allows stressful triggers to be interpreted calmly. As a result, such triggers are much less likely to have intense physical or mental effects.
There are many ways of achieving such a shift in thinking pattern:
Refocusing - Rather than focusing on the upsetting nature of a stressful event a child can learn to think about what good can arise as a consequence of the event.
Stress reduction techniques – These include self-calming, slow breathing techniques, exercise, eating a well-balanced diet, and sufficient sleep.
Choice - Once children recognize that a stressful event is external, they can learn how to prevent internalization of stress.
A spiritual perspective - Development of perspective allows the child to understand that the stressful event may be temporary or that in time it will be easier to contemplate. Such perspective helps decrease the perceived impact of the stressor. It can be achieved through prayer, contemplation of the grandeur of nature, or listening to inspiring music.
When I have worked with children who have been stressed by COVID we have applied all four of the aforementioned techniques, including through the application of hypnosis. The following examples represent only some of the ways my patients achieved a more balanced state in dealing with COVID.
Refocusing – I have discussed with children the good that has come out of COVID including the opportunities to become closer to their families, to read more books, studying a new language, and to learn a new skill such as playing a musical instrument, art, writing, and even learning how to invest in the stock market. I told my patients, “Several years from now, once COVID is behind us, wouldn’t it be great if you can look back and say, ‘I picked up a new skill as a result of COVID, that I never would have had the opportunity to learn had it not been for this unusual time.’”
We discussed how society would improve as a result of COVID by learning about how to conduct business from home and becoming more comfortable with technology. Further, we noted how the air pollution improved dramatically and the ozone layer re-formed during the quarantines. By recognizing all of these benefits and not just thinking about all of the negatives, many of my patients began feeling better.
Stress reduction techniques – Hypnosis is a great tool for self-calming, including through envisioning being in a calm, safe place, and learning how to trigger a relaxation response whenever the child feels stressed. For example, when my patients became stressed with online learning they employed their rapid relaxation technique and were able to continue studying effectively.
Choice – My patients learned that by thinking in a positive way, including through use of hypnosis, they were able to avoid allowing negative thoughts and feelings about COVID from affecting them as much.
A spiritual perspective –With hypnosis children can learn about the knowledge and wisdom of their subconscious. A spiritual perspective can be attained when children become aware of something greater than themselves, such as the abilities of their subconscious selves. It is comforting for them to realize that a part of them feels calm in dealing with difficult situations such as caused by COVID.
A shift in your child’s thinking can dramatically improve their outlook: As an exercise in maintaining a good perspective, I suggest to my patients that the skills they learn as a result of coping with COVID will help them to become more resilient and be useful for them for the rest of their lives.
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