We have entered year three of the Covid pandemic. I feel as if I’m in a marathon, and I don’t know how many miles are left to go! My toes are numb, I’m developing blisters, and it’s starting to get dark. Will I make it to the finish line? Is there a finish line? This could be a dream, or a nightmare, or maybe it is the mundane reality of how my anxiety and stress abide in the age of Covid.
What I hear from youth is some of the same—they are tired, they are stressed, they are hurting, anxious, and mostly they are grieving: grieving the loss of relationships, a way of being in the world, and the life they once lived. I think this grief and anxiety often manifest as disordered eating, depression, self-harming and compulsive behaviors, or addictions.
What can we do when our teenager is suffering and feeling untethered? How can we show up in a way that supports them, and nurtures ourselves? I think the anxious and grieving young person wants nothing more than an open-hearted listener. The one thing I hear repeatedly is a desire that parents listen to them—only listen.
That might seem like a tall order when we too are feeling anxious and strained. The practices that help me quiet my mind and body are useful when I need to be an active and engaged listener. I try to limit caffeine. I engage in outdoor activities and spiritual practices that help me feel connected to something outside myself. I practice conscious breathing, yoga, and my musical instrument, too! Anything that helps me focus my attention and increase my awareness helps me show up in a grounded way for myself, my family, clients, and friends.
I close with words from the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, from his book How to Love: “In the practice of compassionate listening, you listen with only one purpose: to give the other person a chance to speak out and suffer less.” As always, his simple wisdom delivers a clear message about the healing power of loving presence and attention.
Cultivating Listening Skills: https://www.nytimes.com/guides/smarterliving/be-a-better-listener
5:1 Listening: https://www.family-institute.org/behavioral-health-resources/skillful-listening-tips-parents
How to Love: https://www.themarginalian.org/2015/03/31/how-to-love-thich-nhat-hanh/