Reacting to Stress: Making Something Ordinary Out of the Extraordinary

Updated: May 4

These are tough times for families, children, and practices. In this case, the entire world is going through it at the same time, leaving no escape. There are so many new things each of us needs to do, and for some of the challenges, we are completely thwarted by safety restrictions from doing anything. Adults and children alike are trying to work or learn at home in new ways. This also means that old daily routines have been broken. The sense of disorientation is pervasive. Although it is only one part of what is needed, reestablishing routines can go a long way toward restoring a sense of control and meaning that you can institute for yourself and recommend to your patients.

The Importance of Re-establishing Routines

Routines are important for both physical and mental health at every age and time, but especially when a major change is occurring. Examples of such change include:

· Natural disasters such as COVID-19

· Deaths or separations from loved ones

· Moving

· Job loss

· New financial instability

Many families and many doctors and staff are experiencing several of these at once these days.

Evidence from studies of times of major disruption such as divorce, a death, war, and natural disasters show that parenting tends to shift to being:

· Less organized, with less overall discipline or more arbitrary punishment

· Less parent-child connection

Children, on their part, also tend to act differently under these conditions. They are more:

· Irritable

· Upset

· Anxious

· Clingy

· Aggressive

· Likely to regress in recent developmental achievements such as maintaining toileting and sleep patterns

Parents often do not see the connection to the stress and react to these behaviors in ways that may make things worse by scolding or punishing.

I was really surprised to hear Daniel Kahneman, Ph