Before we begin, let's make it clear, I am not a psychiatrist. Nor do I have the secret to magically transcend anxiety or stress. If experience is education, however, I do feel pretty comfortable speaking on the subject. Although my ability to speak freely and calmly about how I handle these things is, at best, a recent development.
During this past summer, due to events outside of my personal control, my life got fairly complicated. I drew pretty near to my personal breaking point. I have learned a few coping techniques that I use in order to help myself deal with the challenges I am facing.
Again, I understand that I am not an expert, but quite often, I have personally benefited from something one of my blogging friends has penned. So here we go.
1. Try to be realistic with your time
I have a limited amount of time, as does each member of my family. Realistically planning for what we all can do in one single day is vital to reducing some of the anxiety that can be felt by over-scheduling yourself and those around you.
I know that sometimes, for example, we can't control that the spelling bee is going to happen at the same time as the doctor's appointment that we scheduled months in advance. And since we can't be in two separate places at the same time, we need to choose to spend our time in the way that is most important.
This might involve making arrangements and communicating what you will realistically be able to do, and maybe even disappointing your child by not attending their spelling bee.
It really is that easy, and I promise that if you do miss the second grade class spelling bee, it won't become part of an emotional backstory that eventually sends your child on the road to becoming a supervillain.
2. Take deep breaths
I stop midstream in the middle of my most intense days and take a moment to deep breathe. I have done this when tempers were high, in ER rooms and pretty much every stressful place you can think of.
It works and doing so helps to give you a moment to collect yourself, re-focus and bring yourself back to the issue at hand.
3. Cultivate a sense of humor
I have shared this story before, but many years ago on a night that now lives in familial infamy, all three of my young children threw up at exactly the same moment. The carnage was vast and far-reaching. I remember standing there shocked and covered in vomit, and as I looked at my husband, the look of shock and horror we saw mirrored on one another's face made us laugh out loud!
What happened that night wasn't funny, but dealing with it in a humorous way helped us take care of the situation. But, yeah, we never went into that McDonald's again. Positivity and humor only goes so far.
4. Teach children and partners to lend a hand
In my home there are six people, and successfully managing that many people is a lot of work. So around here I make sure every family member shares the load. We help each other by doing chores, helping siblings with homework, cheering one another on at games, activities and so forth.
Although it is still is a lot of work, our family works together as a team with the understanding that this work helps to directly benefit the life of each family member.
This summer as I spent many hours at the hospital caring for my mom who had just suffered from a stroke. I was impressed and heartened to see my children carrying much of the load at home. They did laundry without complaint, cared for younger siblings and helped to keep our family running.
I have never been more proud as a mother. Also, doughnuts might have been involved.
I remember one intense day this last summer where I felt like I was drowning. I had too much on my plate, and I felt like my ability to cope was maxed out. I excused myself for a moment from the medical meeting that had just ended and walked out to my car and sat in it for a moment and prayed.
I asked God to give me the strength to deal with this latest occurrence, and to do it in a way that was true to who I was and would benefit the life of the family member for whom the meeting had been held. This simple prayer worked for me, and it gave me the strength to continue with the rest of that very long day.
I have even been known to quietly pull my children to the side during stressful situations to offer a prayer. Some might think this is weird, but truthfully I don't care. My belief in God gives me strength, and that is all the explanation I feel should be needed.
6. Just don't do it
Or in other words just say NO. If doing something is going to exceed your ability to cope, then say no. If the task is unavoidable, reach out for help and explain to others why you need their help. I have never had someone do this with me and felt anything other than compassion for the struggle they were facing.
Sometimes we try to bottle it all up to attempt to exemplify the whole "stiff upper lip" behavior. Doing this is a bad idea. Every one of us will have situations where we desperately need help and trying to hide it hurts us. It really does.
A few months ago during a chance meeting at a local park, I had a heart to heart with a woman who was struggling with postpartum depression. She hadn't even been diagnosed. She actually hadn't even yet admitted to anyone how bad she felt, but that day she hit her own personal rock bottom.
I was grateful to be there. Together we cried and I shared with her that what she was feeling happens to so many of us. She was not alone, and taking the first and most scary step of talking about it was huge.
And on that note, let's talk about kindness
After that experience with the mother at the park, I was reminded of the fact that you never know the battle another person is waging. So be kind, because someday it might be you on the receiving end of a kindness that feels like a lifeline.
This piece was originally published on BlogHer.
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