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Putting Your Oxygen Mask On First

Parenting Are You Exhausted and Depleted and in Need of Self-Care?

What exactly does it mean to put your own oxygen mask on before putting your child's on? We need to be as centered and calm as we can for ourselves if we are going to take care of our children calmly, which is so difficult for so many reasons, both taking care of ourselves as well as staying calm. If you are struggling with internal conflict, depression, anxiety, anger management difficulty, marital conflict, please be good to yourself and get some professional help. You cannot be fully available to your children when you are overloaded yourself. Our children look to us not only as role models but as models of who they are to become. We may feel depressed and fake it but that will only confuse a child or make them know you are depressed and trying hard to mask it. THey don’t just use us as models but they pull us and our internal struggles and mood into themselves so that part of who they become is us, as a part of them. We could be transmitting our own trauma to them unknowingly, and they might become our voice piece. Some practical tips:

1.Structure your upcoming day the day before with specific time for exercise, walks, meditation, read podcasts and ask your partner for help. Ask a grandparent or teenager for an hour on zoom for community service, to help you.

2. Give yourself longer to get things done and know that you can’t be perfect. We all have a conscience that tells us right from wrong. We have all had the experience of being in a car with a police car behind you with its lights flashing and being sure they are going to stop you even though you didn't do anything wrong, and then it passes you. That’s one end of the continuum. The other end of the continuum is when there is so much self-recrimination that one causes self-sabotage and punishment with intrusive thoughts of being no good, and in need of punishment and therefore doing poorly on interviews and getting fired from jobs.

3. Loosen self-judgement. When bad things happen, what can we do instead of thinking badly of ourselves?

4. Ration bad thoughts and find silver linings and gratitude for what you do have.

5. Anxiety is an opportunity to cope and model for our children. When anxious, ask yourself what you are anxious about, what triggered it. IF YOU CAN NAME IT, YOU CAN MANAGE IT. Anxiety can get triggered by the unknown, uncertainty, adn wanting to know that there is someone out there to take care of you. A partner, spouse of a God. When things go wrong, or threaten to go wrong, and there seems to be nobody in charge, that leaves us helpless and anxious. Often, anxiety is a signal that something else much more threatening is amiss, something that feels unacceptable. If you are plagued by anxiety, it would be helpful to have a consult and get some relief. If you just suffer from situational anxiety, you can:

  1. Take 3 deep breaths and let them out slowly, or even 10 deep breaths several times a day. If something happens like you spill milk, take 3 breaths and say out loud so your kids hear, “I’m going to take 3 dewep breaths to calm down. Its not great that I spilled but it also is not the end of the world. I'm going to clean it up.

  2. Learn self hypnosis, do a relaxation technique of imagining yourself in a calm and beautiful setting and that there is a dial in your brain like a timer, and turn the timer from a 10 stressful to a 3, where it belongs. You can even ask yourself first, is this a 1 or a 10 on a scale of 10 and if it is an 8, ask yourself if it deserves an 8 or a 3.

6. Breathing 3x/day, 10 breaths, resets the parasympathetic nervous system for continued calm. If this doesn't work, there might be something else going on and you can call for a consult. I can help.

7. When overwhelmed, check in with yourself and ask:

  1. What am I feeling

  2. What triggered this feeling

  3. On a scale of 1-10 how are you and what value are you putting on it and is it really worth that value in the scheme of things? Dial it down.

8. When upset, ask yourself what you need and use grandparents, a sitter, a husband for intermittent support.

9. Sometimes re-negotiation of roles and responsibilities is necessary.

Try to limit escapism to alcohol, binge eating or movie watching or screen time since it might help in the short run but make things worse in the long run.

10. Make sure you integrate intermittent time for yourself to check in with yourself to see how you're feeling, three times a day, plan time to meditate or watch a podcast or whatever you want to do for yourself.

In summary: if you can name what you are anxious about, you can manage it and if that doesn’t work which is true for so many people I work with, give me a call and let’s figure it out together. If you suffer from unreasonable self-recrimination and self-punishment, call me. You shouldn't have to suffer, even if that inner voice says you do.


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