Post submitted by
Healthy Body Image Team Blogger, Strong Momma Heidi
My mother recently emailed me a New York Times article about teaching children resiliency, specifically emotional resilience. In the article, Dr. Susan Davis, psychologist, noted
Research shows that when teachers help preschoolers learn to manage their feelings in the classroom, those children become better problem solvers when faced with an emotional situation, and are better able to engage in learning tasks. In teenagers, “emotional intelligence,” or the ability to recognize and manage emotions, is associated with an increased ability to cope with stressful situations and greater self-esteem. Some research suggests that a lack of emotional intelligence can be used to predict symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Emotional skills, said Dr. David, are the bedrock of qualities like grit and resilience. But instead of allowing a child to fully experience a negative emotion, parents often respond with what Dr. David describes as emotional helicoptering.
“We step into the child’s emotional space,” she said, with our platitudes, advice and ideas. Many common parental strategies, like minimizing either the emotion or the underlying problem or rushing to the rescue, fail to help a child learn how to help herself.
That passage came back to me last night as I sat with a friend at a bar in my sleepy suburb of Minneapolis, sipping on a glass of wine, and listening as she echoed my own feelings back to me. We weren’t talking about our children. We were talking about ourselves. I find just as much truth in what Dr. David says about children in adults, and specifically, in the moms I know.
My friend and I are both struggling with self-love right now. She has twin 9-month old boys and has just started her own successful LuLaRoe company, and among all that, is finding it difficult to prioritize time for herself, and especially for her fitness and nutrition. She feels bad about it.
I, too, have found it increasingly difficult to meal plan or track macros or make sure I work out every day as my life has become consumed with pressing things not at all related to my body or my fitness. And I, too, feel bad about it.
We’ve both gained a little weight. We both feel less strong than we were at our peaks. But we’re also both going through some major shit. And shit that can and should not be minimized simply for the purpose of looking like we have our shit together.
The reason my mom shared that article on resiliency with me is because our life, mine and my children’s, has been in upheaval for the past two months. Nine weeks ago, my husband asked me for a divorce, and in the short time since, we’ve sold our house, I’m in the process of buying a new house, and, well, we’ve gotten divorced. Yes, it really can happen that quickly.
I’ve coped the way humans naturally cope with stress and uncertainty. I’ve reached out to some friends. I’ve withdrawn from others. I’ve immersed myself in work to stay busy at the same time that I’ve distanced myself from any work that is too mentally taxing. I’ve talked about it. I’ve had some wine. And I’ve fallen back into comfortable eating patterns with food that brings me comfort.
I forgive myself each day that I decide that a dark chocolate cappuccino truffle really is exactly what I need to end my day on a high note. I forgive myself when I do not roll out of bed at 4:40 a.m. to hit the gym after having been awake from 2-3 a.m. in the midst of intense anxiety about what my and my children’s future now holds.
I forgive myself that comfort food for it really does bring me comfort. And I really am consoled and comforted by friends who join me over food and wine. These things are comforting, and we should not feel ashamed by that. Nor should we feel ashamed by the fact that life sometimes really is utterly overwhelming. And if we feel guilt or shame about that, rather than self-love and forgiveness, then we’re not helping ourselves learn the lasting behaviors we need for wellness. Not at all. Not even a little bit.