If you are a parent or caregiver, then you know that some days can be incredibly difficult, while others can be filled with joy. Even one moment to the next, can feel like you are on a seesaw of emotion. It is a whirlwind that often leaves you feeling like you have whiplash! Maybe you are not a parent, but you have been feeling overwhelmed with life lately and you want a few tips on how to cope. The steps below can help you too.
I often talk to my clients about “zooming out” and how this can be a helpful strategy for managing challenging situations or even uncomfortable emotions. Here is what I mean: when we are feeling stressed, especially intense stress, we start to experience tunnel-thinking. This happens often when our kids are melting down, are not listening, or are being defiant. Our brains get a little stuck. We get hyper-focused on the challenge, and we forget to look around. So, zoom out! Widen your lens and examine your surroundings, take stock of what you notice. By “zooming out,” you might notice that your kid (or you) has an unmet need—perhaps they are tired, hungry, or had a bad day at school and just need some affection or a listening ear.
At times, the reality of parenting is we are overwhelmed and feel fried. We don’t have the capacity to “zoom out” (yet), and we need to cool our jets ASAP. The very best thing you can do for yourself is breathe through it. Take a big breath in, fill your belly with air, and sigh it out. You can also breathe in, hold for a count of 5 and slowly breathe out. This sounds simple, but it is science! Numerous studies have shown that breathing techniques help reduce anxiety, trouble sleeping, and have positive impacts on our physiological and psychological health. Another factor to intentional breathing in stressful parenting moments, is that we are modeling the behavior to our kids. They see us breathe to cope, so perhaps they will try it too.
Lastly, I want to normalize that parenting is hard. Perfect days are a rarity at best. That’s OK. With parenting, so much of the experience is temporary. One day our kids struggle to understand a concept, and the next day they seem to understand it completely. By reminding ourselves that today was hard, but tomorrow (or next week) might be better, often gives us enough of a shift to reduce our stress.
Take care of yourselves, parents. You are doing great!
By: Katie Landry