Tips for parents on coping with stress and anxiety

Newbridge mum Ruth Chambers of 'It's Just A Phase' blog on some coping skills for busy, stressed-out parent

Ruth Chambers

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Ruth Chambers

Tips for parents on coping with stress and anxiety

So this week I’m veering a little off course. I’m not going to be rambling on about the kids per se. What I am going to be talking about, yet again, is stress and anxiety.

You may recall a few months ago I wrote a column all about my stress and anxiety disorder. Well, it appears there are far more parents suffering with it than I could have ever imagined. With that in mind I recently sat down with mother of two and counselling psychotherapist Laura Ryder.

Here she gives her top tips for parents who stress easily and feel anxious. I really hope this helps anyone who may have that sinking feeling.

“Anxiety is a regular visitor in my life. One of those visitors you don’t get along particularly well with, who gives you no warning and just rings the doorbell one random day with its elbow, due to its hands being busy carrying enough luggage to stay for who knows how long,” explains Laura.

She added: “Anxiety sucks. For me it sucks the joy out of being a mother. It sucks the spontaneity out of our days. It dulls the little moments that make motherhood worthwhile and crystallizes the bad bits. It makes me second guess my every move. It makes me tired, not in the need-more-sleep sense but in the weary, unmotivated sense that means I’m more likely to wake up with a “same s**t different day” sigh rather than an “I can’t wait to see what today brings” bounce.”

So, read on to see what she recommends you do!

* Me time: Anything will do. If you can carve out quality time for yourself, please do it. It’ll make you more relaxed, which in turn will make you less vulnerable to anxiety. I can’t seem to carve out anything that resembles me time at the moment more than making myself a cappuccino every day though, so that’ll have to do for now. In the past feeling like my me time wasn’t good enough made me more anxious, so try not to fall into that trap!

* Mindfullness: Bringing your attention to what’s happening in the moment is all the rage these days. You can do loads of things mindfully, but I find the easiest one is breathe. When anxiety threatens to overwhelm, just concentrate on breathing lovely deep breaths. (FYI, this can also work when your little people have been pushing your buttons all afternoon.)

* Set aside time to be anxious: It’s hard to go cold turkey on anxiety. Try giving yourself a set time period – half an hour maybe – to be anxious each day. When you begin to feel anxious outside of the set time, mentally reschedule it. Within the set time don’t hold back, really go to town on feeling anxious.

* Pare down the to do list: I love my to do list, but it works against me when I overestimate what I can get done on any given day. If you’re the same, try cutting the number of things on it by half. You’ll get through your list and get that lovely little lift completing the list brings. Try also putting relaxing on your to do list. If it’s there you have to do it!

* Write it down Or say it out loud, or tell it to a tree; whatever you fancy that gets how you’re feeling out of your head.

* Catch the thought: Constant worrying is like a rolling snowball; it gets bigger and bigger and flattens everything in its path. Trying to catch a worry early is hard, but with practice is gets easier. When you find your mind going there, stop it by shouting “STOP” (effective, but it can lead to your children/the neighbours looking at you a bit funny) or snapping an elastic band or hair tie that you keep on your wrist for that very reason.

* Challenge the thought: I find it helps if you pretend to be your best friend here. What would they say to the negative, anxious thoughts? What are the other possibilities? Try to externalise your anxiety for a minute – take it out and have a look at it from all angles, and try to think of some other options to avoid taking your anxious thought as gospel.

And remember, says Laura, it’s just a phase. “Your anxiety is not the whole story. You might be in the middle of it right now, but that doesn’t have to mean it’s forever. It might be a sentence, it might be a chapter, but the rest of your story has yet to be written and it doesn’t have to include anxiety.”

You can contact me on ruth@itsjustaphase.ie; Twitter - @_itsjustaphase_; Instagram - @itsjustaphaseblog, or you’ll find more of my musings at www.itsjustaphase.ie.

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