how to treat yourself with kindness

We try our best to treat others with kindness, and we teach our children to treat others with kindness. However, how often do we treat ourselves that way? For many, we are our own worst critic rather than our greatest source of comfort and support. As a result, I am sharing with you 18 ways to treat yourself with kindness.

18 Tips and Strategies To Treat Yourself With Kindness

 

(1) Challenge negative thoughts and feelings

It seems like such an obvious thing, but avoiding self-criticism is something that so many of us struggle to actually implement! We often find ourselves falling victim to our inner critic, who is a master at telling us that we are stupid, worthless, and failures. Our inner critic is formed from painful early life experiences in which we witnessed or experienced hurtful attitudes towards us. As we grow up, we unconsciously adopt and integrate this pattern of destructive thoughts and behaviors towards ourselves. This continuous way of thinking becomes the story we tell ourselves.  In turn, these negative beliefs are the lens in which we interpret ourselves and the world around us. We fall into the vicious cycle of confirmation bias – we seek things to confirm the story that we tell ourselves. If we believe we are failures, we will naturally view the world in a way that confirms that belief.

How do we stop this? By challenging the self-criticism and negative thoughts. Replace the negative beliefs with positive ones. Challenge the story that you tell yourself. The next time you tell yourself that you are a failure, stop and think if that is indeed the case. Change your confirmation bias by pretending you are opposing counsel and remembering about all the times you did something that was difficult. Think about examples of your accomplishments and goals that you have achieved. Replace your self-criticism and negative thoughts with kindness and self-respect. Speak positively and compassionately to yourself, and tell your inner critic that you appreciate its intentions, but you are going to take it from here. 

(2) Positive affirmations

I’m a big believer in faking it until you make it. Write down a list of things you like and believe about yourself (or want to believe about yourself). Include all positive qualities and attributes. However, remember to primarily focus on who you are as a person rather than how you look. Whatever negative stories you tell yourself, write the opposite in an affirmation. For example, if you have a negative belief that you are unlovable, write positive affirmations such as, “I am loveable just as I am.”, “I deserve love.”, and “I am loved.”

be kind to yourself

Make a commitment to yourself to say positive affirmations daily. I think saying them aloud in front of the mirror is a great way to reinforce these affirmations (huffpost, 2016), but there is no right or wrong way to do this. The important takeaway is that these positive affirmations should be used to help you to believe in yourself and help you change the way you talk and view yourself. Treat yourself with kindness, and you will start to believe the things you are saying.

(3) Prioritize yourself

Treat yourself with kindness by putting yourself first. You are important, and you need to start valuing yourself. That means implementing a self-care routine and setting boundaries. We all have limited time, but even ten minutes a day dedicated to caring for yourself will do wonders for your mental wellness as well as self-esteem. By scheduling time for self care and setting and maintaining boundaries, you are telling yourself that you matter and respecting yourself.

Ask yourself what you need and what type of care you need every single day, and make sure to take the time to give it to yourself. Check out my worksheets on self-care and my boundaries worksheet for step-by-step instruction and examples of each.

(4) Accept that mistakes are inevitable, and you are not perfect

As humans, we are all fallible. Imperfection is inevitable; judging yourself for your mistakes is not treating yourself with kindness. Instead, try to create small, realistic goals that set you up for success (healthshots.com, 2020), and remember to acknowledge and praise yourself along the way. If you set a goal and it wasn’t achieved, remind yourself that you did not accomplish this goal YET. By including the word “yet” in the statement, you are giving yourself space and time to achieve your goals rather than criticizing yourself and interpreting it as a failure.

(5) SElf-Acceptance

We all have visions of how we want our lives to turn out and what we want to achieve in the future. Often, life does not work out the way we anticipated. Our individual journeys are comprised of a series of curveballs, and all we can do is play the hand we were dealt. Accept what is out of your control and focus on what is within your control. Treat yourself with kindness and respect while holding space for growth.

This applies to us and our healing journey as well. Accept all parts of yourself by remembering that each of us are works-in-progress. We can always strive to be better and do better, without setting unrealistic expectations for ourselves or expecting perfection.

(6) Be your own friend

The standards, words, and thoughts that we have for our friends should set the precedence for the standards, words, and thoughts we use for ourselves. Give yourself empathy, compassion, and understanding just as you would a friend. The next time you are harsh with yourself, ask if you would react the same way if these circumstances applied to a friend. Treat yourself with kindness by being your own friend, avoiding self-criticism, and respecting yourself. 

(7) Discover what brings you joy

Do things that make you feel happy and content. Even if it is only for a few minutes each day, make sure to discover and take time for your hobbies. Whether it is listening to music, reading a book, or painting, invest in your own self-happiness.

(8) Be your own advocate

Encourage and motivate yourself daily. This also means recognizing that everyone needs support. Reach out to others and ask for help if needed. Just as you would fight to get support for your child if it was needed, fight for yourself.

(9) Surround yourself by people who love you unconditionally and treat you well

Others treating you with kindness is not a substitute for treating yourself with kindness. However, if you want to respect and care for yourself, you cannot be around people who do not appreciate you and treat you badly. Set boundaries to ensure healthy relationships, and distance yourself from people who are toxic. Defend yourself and speak up if you are not treated in a way that aligns with your values and beliefs.

(10) Give yourself the validation you seek from others

It is natural to want others to acknowledge and support your feelings. However, you must learn to get that validation from yourself first and foremost. Otherwise, you are opening the door to codependent behavior and seeking reassurance from others rather than giving it to yourself.

A way to learn self-validation is through journaling. Write down your thoughts, feelings, challenges, and any behavior that makes you feel guilty. Also, write down your accomplishments and things you feel proud about.

Practice mindfulness by taking time to acknowledge your feelings, good and bad.  In order to validate the negative feelings, normalize them instead of judging yourself for what you are feelings. For example, if you snapped at your child, remind yourself that everyone feels frustrated. Then, take time to give yourself support for the negative feelings/actions. Write down ways you can comfort yourself. For example, remind yourself that it is understandable that you snapped due to feeling overwhelmed (thehealthy.com, 2017). The next time you feel overwhelmed, perhaps you can try to practice breathing or taking a break. Remember to not judge yourself, but rather to validate and support your feelings.  As long as you aren’t acting abusive, you need to understand that you are human and are doing the best you can.

(11) Discover your own love language 

love language

Knowing your love language and your partner’s love language is crucial for your romantic relationship, but it is also a great way of showing kindness to yourself. Remember to speak your love language to yourself. For example, if your love language is words of affirmation, remember to tell yourself on a regular basis that you are doing a great job and that you appreciate everything that you do.

(12) Take care of yourself

Just as you should practice self-care for your mental well-being, it is necessary to take care of yourself physically. Make sure to eat healthy and exercise regularly. Treat yourself with kindness by looking out for your health.

(13) Embrace your differences

Instead of looking at your differences and insecurities as something to be ashamed of, what if you embraced them? Whether it is the unusual way you laugh, your unusual sense of humor, or the freckles all over your face, remember that differences are what make you special.   

(14) Focus on your strengths

Make a list of things that you like about yourself. Include all accomplishments, acts of bravery and perseverance, and anything that is a source of pride. Also list traits and qualities you appreciate about yourself. Look at this list often, and keep adding to it as needed. Whenever you are feeling badly about yourself or are treating yourself harshly, look at this list as a reminder that you deserve to treat yourself with kindness. This list is who you truly are, and that person deserves to be treated well.

(15) Don’t compare yourself with others

It is fine to look at others’ accomplishments and appreciate them. They can be used as inspiration, but they should not make you feel like you are lacking. Every person’s circumstances are different, and comparing ourselves to others is a game we will never win. Success is subjective and we all have our own pace and way of achieving it (healthshot.com). The only person we should strive to be better than is ourselves.

(16) Give yourself physical reassurance

Treat yourself with kindness by giving your feet a massage, give yourself a hug, or hold your own hand (thehealthy.com). Remind yourself that you are your own source of comfort.

(17) Meditation

Repeat a kind mantra to yourself or listen to a guided meditation to treat yourself with kindness. Meditation “teaches your brain to be more compassionate and soothing throughout the day, even at times when you are not actively meditating” (thehealthy.com).

meditation is a key to kindness

(18) Understand that change takes time

This new way of treating yourself is going to be a work-in-progress, as it’s hard to learn how to change. Instead of getting mad at yourself or judging yourself, remember that treating yourself with kindness means accepting that you will mess up. You may take two steps backwards after you take one step forwards. That’s okay. Pick yourself up and try again. 

 

 

Learning to be kind to yourself means accepting that like everything in life, you will fall down and have to get back up. It is up to you whether you fall down and kindly dust yourself off, or if you fall down and yell at yourself for falling.

Don’t forget to share this post with someone in your life who deserves to treat themselves with kindness! <3 

 

things i wish i knew before becoming a mother

There are so many times I’ve thought to myself, “I wish I had a crystal ball so I could know the future”. However, when it comes to motherhood, I wish I had a time machine so I could talk to the version of myself before I became a mom. That woman (aka me) didn’t have a clue! For those that are navigating the intricacies of motherhood, this post is for you. Here are the things I wish I knew before becoming a mother:

THE 15 THINGS I WISH I KNEW BEFORE I BECAME A MOTHER

 

1. You can never be fully prepared to be a mom.

Sure, you can have the basics like a crib, changing table, and diapers, but the true complexities of motherhood? No way. You can read every baby and parenting book out there, take every course, and speak to every mom, and you still won’t be prepared.

I don’t say this to freak out any mothers-to-be.

I say this because parenting isn’t one-size-fits-all. Every kid is different, and the moment you think you’ve got the parenting thing under control- BAM!- something new happens. Your kid is always changing, and their preferences and needs will change. What worked today may not work in a month (or even tomorrow, as is usually the case in my household). The only way to be a mom is to actually be a mom.

I was one of those pregnant women that thought I could study my way into motherhood. I did well in school by studying, so why not apply that same principle into motherhood? So I read. A LOT. Guess what? Those books didn’t prepare me for the helplessness I felt the first night when I tried every technique I read, and nothing would make Brielle stop crying. I had to figure out what worked for her, and that took trial and error and a lot of tears (on her part and even more so on mine). Motherhood is a constant work-in-progress.

2. Parenting is HARD. SUPER HARD.

It is the most physically, mentally, and emotionally draining thing you will experience in your life. It will test you in every way possible, and it requires endless patience.

I wish I knew before becoming a mother that parenting will always be a challenge. I thought that taking care of a newborn was the most demanding thing, until Brielle became a toddler. Then she became a little kid, and I had a whole new set of challenges. Parenting doesn’t get easier. It just gets different.

3. Parenting is the biggest responsibility you will have in your life.

Being responsible for the well-being of another human being is a privilege, but is an overwhelming responsibility. It is one that should be taken seriously. That doesn’t mean you should feel you have to do everything right (because that is impossible), but it does mean that the precious life of an innocent child is in your hands. It is up to you to do your best to guide that child into a self-sufficient, well-rounded, kind, compassionate adult.

4. You will love your child more than you ever knew was humanly possible.

love your child more than you will ever know

I know I’ve probably terrified many new and expecting moms with the first three. However, of all the things I wish I knew before I became a mom, this one matters most.   The love you will feel for your child is immeasurable. You will feel like your heart actually grew because you won’t understand how it is possible to love that much.

I want to clarify something though. You know those movies that show moms feeling this instantaneous love the moment they hold their child? That is simply not the case for all moms. Hormones are soaring, you’ve just endured pain that can only be described as torture, and some women struggle with postpartum/peripartum depression (PPD). Just because you don’t feel that kind of love at the beginning, doesn’t mean you won’t.

When I had Brielle, I was overwhelmed.

I was in complete shock (she came 6 days early), and I was in a panic.  I looked at Brielle and I felt connected to her, but a part of me also wanted to run. FAST.

I remember hysterically crying to my father-in-law 3 weeks after I gave birth. My husband had to go back to work when Brielle was 1 week old, and I couldn’t get Brielle to stop crying (she had acid reflux, had her days and nights mixed up, and she had a set of lungs on her. She actually made herself hoarse on many occasions). I was sad all the time, I wanted my old life back, and I felt guilty and like a failure for feeling that way. I was too overwhelmed and depressed to fully grasp the extent of my love for her, but once I did, WOW.  

5. Educate yourself about postpartum depression.

I wish I knew this before I became a mother because I would have recognized the symptoms. I was extremely depressed for many months at the beginning of Brielle’s life. Some of it was due to my husband’s lack of presence, some was due to the challenges of being a new mom, but a lot of it was hormonal. Had I spoken to my OB-GYN or a mental health professional about it, my quality of life during all those months would have probably been a lot better.  

“Peripartum depression is a serious, but treatable medical illness involving feelings of extreme sadness, indifference and/or anxiety, as well as changes in energy, sleep, and appetite…Peripartum depression is different from the “baby blues” in that it is emotionally and physically debilitating and may continue for months or more. Getting treatment is important for both the mother and the child. ( Psychiatry.org , 2019). Please know that there should never be any shame about seeking help if you are struggling.  

6. Privacy is a thing of the past.

Once you have a baby, time to yourself is limited. I couldn’t take a shower or go to the bathroom without my little bundle of joy accompanying me. She would cry hysterically if I wasn’t within her view at all times. My body was no longer just mine. I had a baby come out of me, and she was now breastfeeding around the clock. Although I wouldn’t take back those times with her for anything in the world,  it was a huge adjustment. I was being touched, vomited on, and producing milk constantly. Even when your baby gets older, your kids will still be all over you, and you will often have an audience in the bathroom.

7. Self-care and boundaries are crucial.

You can’t set boundaries with a baby, but you can implement a self-care routine for yourself. I wish I knew before I became a mother that it is crucial to practice self-care.  Parenting is demanding, and you cannot pour from an empty cup.

Figure out a time to Implement self-care.

It can be when the baby is napping or when your husband is with the baby. It can be when the baby is in the playpen. Don’t take it for granted, as it is easy to overlook it with all of life’s demands.

When your child gets older, continue to practice self-care. Remember that looking out for your mental well-being is a priority, no matter the age of your child. You can also start to state boundaries with your children such as, “I don’t like when my arm is grabbed.” or “I will be able to help you in five minutes.” Your needs matter, and it is up to you to verbalize them. Obviously, boundaries have to be set with children based on their age and ability.

8. Remember who you are separate from being a mom.

I wish I understood the importance of this before I became a  mom. For a long time, I completely neglected my identity besides being a mom and wife. I am a Stay-at-Home-Mom, and those responsibilities completely enveloped me and my identity.

Hobbies and other things that bring you joy should be done daily, if only for a few minutes. There should be time for YOURSELF and who you are as a person, separate from your family roles.

9. You will not enjoy motherhood all of the time.

I feel that so many moms believe they are supposed to soak in every moment of motherhood. There are times when that is not the case. I don’t relish when I am trying to get something done and my child is screaming for me. My daughter having a meltdown is not something I find enjoyable. I don’t soak in when my daughter refuses to listen to me or acts disrespectful. I can love being a mom without loving every moment of motherhood. It is so important to know this before becoming a mother.

I’ll take it one step further. There are moments that I miss the freedom that comes with not having any children. When my daughter was first born, I missed it like crazy. However, that does not mean that I ever regretted being a mom. There is not a single moment when I felt that way. I always love my daughter, and I will always choose her. I can miss and occasionally look back wistfully at my pre-motherhood life and still not want to trade being a mom for anything in the world. You can feel both, and that IS OKAY. That does not make you a bad mother. It makes you human.

10. Motherhood will give you strength you didn’t know you had and make you feel fears you didn’t know existed.

I lived in New York my entire life (with the exception of living in NJ for a year) and moved to another state because I felt it was best for my daughter. People literally took bets on when I would return to NY because I am such a creature of habit.  I argued with every member of her student support team to get her tested and have an IEP created (and I am an introvert and have social anxiety). Additionally, I dealt with my husband’s addiction while taking care of a newborn and raised her by myself because it was what I needed to do. I am capable of things that I probably wouldn’t be capable of otherwise because of my love for my daughter. She is the reason why I strive to be the best version of myself.

Alternately, she is the reason why I fear so much. You don’t know the meaning of worrying until you have a child. I worry if she knows how much she is loved and how my choices will affect her. I question if I am doing it all wrong. No matter her age, I will always worry.

11. Your child will teach you more than you teach your child.

It is a parent’s job to teach and guide their child. However, Brielle has taught me far more than I could ever teach her. She taught me the true meaning of unconditional love. She taught me how to be a better person. My daughter taught me the importance of working on myself to be the best mother I can be. She taught me that perfection is an illusion. Brielle taught me what matters most in life. She taught me how strong I really am, and how powerful a mother’s love truly is. Most of all, she taught me that I can be the kind of mother she deserves, regardless of the fact that I didn’t have that kind of mother myself. She taught me that I get to make my own present and future regardless of my past.

12. You will see beauty and joy that you didn’t see before.

Getting to view life through the eyes of your child is the most amazing gift and privilege. I didn’t have a happy childhood, and so I cherish this even more. Seeing my child smile and hearing her laughter is a blessing and one that makes every difficult moment of parenting worthwhile. It is a gift that I will never take for granted.

13. You will struggle.

motherhood is overwhelming

This is something we all experience, and I wish I knew this before I became a mother. There will be times when you will want to draw the covers up over you and hide. You will feel overwhelmed, sad, and/or a plethora of other emotions. People experience feelings of sadness, loneliness, anxiousness, fear, etc. Having a child doesn’t make those feelings go away. You have an added stressor now that you have a child. Motherhood is a struggle in of itself, and when you add that to the revolving door of responsibilities, it amplifies those emotions.

It is okay to struggle. It is okay to not always be okay. You are not superwoman. The best thing you can do for yourself and your child is be honest that life isn’t always sunshine and roses. Show your child that life can be rough and don’t pretend that you’re always okay. Model healthy coping mechanisms to help you deal with your struggles and to teach your child healthy ways of dealing with life’s obstacles.

14. Motherhood can be isolating

I felt very lonely when I became a mom. I didn’t have any friends with newborns, and there weren’t any groups for new moms in my area.  Moving to a new place without a support system made it even more isolating for me. I have heard countless stories from moms who felt extreme loneliness after having a child. “Surrounded by new life – screaming, crying, unappeasable new life at that – can be far from the idyllic picture of new motherhood often portrayed. It can actually be an incredibly lonely and isolating time in a mother’s life. For many women the postpartum period can be a time of hardship, confusion, drastic change and intense loneliness” (CT Examiner, 2019).

15. Your priorities change.

Having a child really does change everything. Every decision you make, every action you take has an effect on your child. It is no longer just about you. Your child needs to be your number one responsibility and your priority.     

I wish these were things I knew before I became a mother. I wouldn’t have been so hard on myself, and I would have understood that it was okay to struggle. Motherhood is a beautiful thing, but is not for the faint of heart. Grasping the complexities of motherhood is what allows mothers to truly embrace it. It is only then that we can accept it fully, with all its dips and peaks.

What do you wish you knew before becoming a mother? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

avoid raising an entitled child

WHAT IS AN ENTITLED CHILD?

We love our kids. That is a given. However, in our quest to shower our kids with love and the best things in life, we often find ourselves raising entitled children.  How does a child become entitled? They seem unappreciative and act demanding, ungrateful, and selfish. In a nutshell, we took a wrong turn somewhere along the way and found ourselves in Entitled City.

TIPS AND STRATEGIES TO AVOID RAISING ENTITLED CHILDREN

Do you ask yourself, “Why is my child so entitled”?  Here are 10 strategies on how to avoid raising entitled children and stop entitled behavior dead in its tracks:

(1) Gifts are a privilege

Kids need their basic needs met- food, clothing, and shelter. Many of us didn’t have many materialistic things growing up, so we want our children to have what we lacked. Remember that gifts don’t fulfill what our kids really need. Love and memories are what matter most. Memories are far more valuable than tangible objects.

Of course, that doesn’t mean your children shouldn’t get any books, toys, or games. However, be mindful that too much of anything is not a good thing. If your children never want for anything, they will never learn to truly appreciate what they have.

(2) Institute chores

age appropriate chores for children

In order to avoid raising an entitled child, teach your child that they have responsibilities in the household as well. This teaches them self-sufficiency and the value of contribution. Chores will obviously vary based on age and ability, but even young children can do chores. This allows them to feel a sense of pride and accomplishment. Increase responsibilities with age and ability, and remember that doing their chores for them is not doing them any favors.

I don’t believe that a child should get paid to do chores, as there are certain obligations that we do simply because they are necessary. I don’t get paid to wash the dishes, and my husband doesn’t get paid to mow our lawn. That said, it is a different story if you want to give your child money for doing extra chores that are not their responsibility. Teaching your child the value of earning money is an important lesson as well.

(3) Give back

We often don’t appreciate what we have until we see how blessed we are. Children don’t always realize that many others lack the things they get so readily. It often takes seeing others who have less than we do to not take things for granted.

Let your child give back and spend time helping others. Whether it is volunteering at a soup kitchen or taking care of animals at the shelter, they are making a difference and see the value of giving. If your child has a ton of toys, let them gather up the ones they no longer use and donate them. Learning that giving is better than receiving is a life lesson worth learning at any age. They will feel good about themselves for helping others. This will help them to appreciate what they have and put their own good fortune into perspective.

(4) Make sure to spend quality time with your children

spending quality time with your child

The amount of time isn’t as important as the quality of time. Teach your children that love isn’t something reflected by the amount of toys they possess. Rather, it is shown by the connections people share. Set aside time each day to focus entirely on your child, without any distractions. Allow your child to determine how you spend your time together. It gives them a sense of control and independence, while teaching them that love cannot be bought. This time together should never be taken away as a punishment.

(5) Do not encourage entitled behavior

If your child doesn’t use their manners, acts demanding, or starts whining, simply state, “I will not discuss this with you until you are respectful.” Then ignore or walk away if necessary. Engaging will only send the message that this behavior is tolerated. When setting expectations, make sure they are age/ability appropriate.

Remember that although it is easier in the moment to give in and buy that candy bar when your child is throwing a tantrum in the store, it is also rewarding inappropriate behavior. It sends the message that your kid is entitled to get what he/she wants at any cost. In order to stop raising entitled children, remember that the values we instill in them now lay the foundation for their adulthood.

(6) Don’t solve their problems

As parents, it is heartbreaking when we watch our kids struggle. We want to step in and do whatever we can to make it easier for them. However, hardships are a part of life. If we don’t teach our children how to handle difficult situations now, how will they be equipped to deal with them as adults? They will grow up expecting that it is other people’s jobs to do challenging things for them. More importantly, they will have no coping skills for life’s challenges.

Talk to your kids about the fact that life isn’t always easy. It is okay to not always be okay. Model for your child ways you give yourself love and support during difficult times. Be a source of support when they are struggling too. Remember that you can support your child without fixing their problems. Instead, brainstorm about what they can do during difficult circumstances so they have the tools to help themselves. The harsh truth is that we will not always be there to soothe our kids and take their pain away. They must learn to rely on themselves.

(7) Teach the importance of intrinsic rewards

Good acts and behaviors are rewards in of themselves. We cannot give our child something every time they behave or say the right thing. It is okay to acknowledge their good behavior, but stress that they should feel proud of themselves. The next time your child makes a good decision say, “You should be proud of the way you ______________. How did that make you feel?” Allow them to take pride in their decisions and feel a sense of responsibility for their actions.  

(8) Actions have consequences through choices

Allow your children to make their own choices (within reason and based on age/ability), and to deal with the consequences of those choices. For example, if your child shows no regards for his belongings, remind him that he will misplace his toy if he isn’t mindful of where he puts his things. If he then loses his toy, the natural consequence is that he cannot use the toy it until he finds it. Do not help him look for it or repurchase it for him. Your child will learn that he is responsible for the outcome of his decisions.

(9) Teach your child empathy

importance of empathy

First, model empathy by showing concern for other people’s feelings. Demonstrate what you can do to support a person, even if it is just picking up phone and listening.

Next, encourage your child to consider other people’s feelings as well. For example, if a classmate has a family member who is ill, ask your child how they think their classmate is feeling. Discuss ways to comfort others during those difficult times (e.g., telling your classmate you are sorry about their grandmother, making a get well soon card). When events come up, discuss the impact it has on others. Help your child to consider other people’s feelings instead of solely focusing on their own.

(10) Model good behavior

You cannot expect your kid to be well-mannered and appreciative if you walk around demanding and rude. Our children watch and listen more than we realize. Being a kind, giving person goes a long way towards instilling compassion and kindness in our children.

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Our kids will grow up one day, and it is our job as parents to avoid raising entitled children. We must give them the tools they need to be well-adjusted adults . Setting them on the right path now will take them from entitled children to caring, empathetic, and grateful adults.

implement healthy boundaries

Boundaries. A word that holds so much importance, but is so often misunderstood. The reality is that implementing healthy boundaries is crucial for your mental health. Additionally, they allow you to have healthy relationships and protect your mental, emotional, and physical well-being.

The Importance of Implementing Healthy Boundaries for Your Mental Health

Boundaries have a bad rap. People feel uncomfortable with the idea of setting boundaries. Additionally, they feel boundaries are giving ultimatums or telling people what to do. The truth is, without boundaries there is likely to be burnout, anger, and resentment. You cannot have a healthy relationship without implementing healthy boundaries. Period.

Boundaries allow for healthy relationships because you are deciding what is best for yourself. In other words, you are focusing on your identity and not holding yourself accountable for others. Equally, others are not responsible for you. This prevents codependency and other unhealthy or toxic behaviors.

Setting healthy boundaries allows you to prioritize your non-negotiables. This in turn promotes putting your mental health and wellness first. Boundaries are a necessary form of self-care. In order to love yourself, healthy boundaries are needed.

Recognizing Healthy Versus Unhealthy Boundaries

As explained above, implementing healthy boundaries allows for improved mental wellness and promotes healthy relationships. That said, not all boundaries are healthy. A boundary is unhealthy if you keep a distance from others to protect yourself from getting hurt, are afraid to say no, and/or accept disrespectful behavior or comments that don’t honor your core-values and needs. Unhealthy boundaries also take place when too much personal/private information is shared, you rely on others’ approval before making decisions or stating an opinion, and/or your sense of self is based on how others treat you. “In other words, healthy boundaries can be the difference between a healthy, happy relationship and a toxic, dysfunctional relationship” (positivepsychology.com, 2020).

HOW TO SET HEALTHY BOUNDARIES FOR YOUR MENTAL HEALTH

setting healthy boundaries

Now that you have a better understanding of why healthy boundaries are crucial, the next question is how to set boundaries.

Here are things to keep in mind to implement healthy boundaries (psychcentral.com, 2016):

(1) Tune into your feelings and ask yourself what you want and need from your various relationships.

This includes romantic relationships, friendships, children, family members, and co-workers. What goes on in these relationships that makes you feel resentful or uncomfortable? Those are likely the things that require boundaries.

(2) Figure out what your core values are.

In other words, what matters to you most? What are your non-negotiables/limits?

(3) Examine your current boundaries (if any), if they need to be applied to other relationships, or if they don’t accurately reflect what you need.
(4) Start small.

Pick something that isn’t as stressful for you to set, and then work your way up to more difficult boundaries.

(5) Make sure to clearly communicate your expectations.

You want to ensure that there are no misunderstandings.

(6) Do not apologize for your boundaries and try to be as concise as possible.

It is not necessary to go into great detail and justify yourself. You can state why the boundary is important to you. However, boundaries are not asking for permission. People don’t have to agree with your boundaries, but they do need to respect them.

(7) Remember to say “no” if you feel uncomfortable or to prevent a violation of your limits.

Alternately, be respectful of other people’s needs and if they say “no” to you, as long as they are not violating your boundary in the process.

(8) Try to keep the focus on yourself and your needs rather than focusing on what someone else’s actions.

For example, “I will not pick up the phone after 10pm” rather than saying, “Stop calling me so late.”

(9) Consistency is everything.

Don’t set a boundary unless you are going to follow through with it.

(10) Remember that setting healthy boundaries may be uncomfortable to you at first.

You might feel guilty about setting boundaries. You may feel that you are hurting someone’s feelings or are being disrespectful. Change is hard, and your hesitancy is understandable, especially in environments that don’t embrace boundaries. For some, lack of boundaries is all that is known.  It might be an adjustment, but with time, it will get easier.

(11) Prioritize yourself.

Remember to put yourself first. Additionally, be mindful of your well-being to set and maintain boundaries. Remember that implementing healthy boundaries is for your mental health and will improve the quality of your relationships.

Types of Healthy Boundaries

healthy boundaries for your mental health

Setting boundaries will vary based on various relationships (coworker versus spouse), but all relationships need each of these boundary types (mindbodygreen.com, 2019).

Physical Boundaries

This incorporates your need for personal space, whether or not you want to be touched, and your privacy.

Examples of physical boundaries are:

“I need 30 minutes to myself after I get home from work.”

“I don’t like kissing in public.”

“This room is off-limits for other people.”

“I don’t tell my daughter to hug people. That is her choice.”

Intellectual Boundaries

This refers to your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and beliefs. It is making sure that you are heard and that your ideas are respected, even if they vary from others. It also means stating when you feel comfortable or uncomfortable discussing something.

Examples of intellectual boundaries are:

“I don’t like discussing politics.”

“I think it is better to discuss this when the kids are asleep.”

“We have different opinions, and I’d like to be able to state mine as well.”

“I won’t continue this conversation if I am talked over.”

Emotional Boundaries

This is respecting your feelings, what you are willing to share, and when you are willing to share personal information.

Examples of this are:

“Are you able to talk? I am struggling right now.”

“You seem upset, but I am upset too. I need a few minutes to calm down before we sit down and talk about this.”

“I don’t need you to agree with my feelings, but I do need them to be listened to with empathy.”

Sexual Boundaries 

This encompasses all aspects of sexuality, including consent, respecting different preferences, and limitations.

Examples of this include:

“I will only have sex with a condom.”

“No. I don’t feel comfortable doing that with you.”

“Please keep your hands to yourself.”

“I am not in the mood for that tonight.”

 “I really like __________. Is this something you’d feel comfortable doing with me?”

Material/Financial Boundaries

This refers to money and materialistic objects. Setting expectations for what is yours financially, what you feel comfortable sharing, and how your items should be treated all encompass this boundary type.

Examples include:

“I am not able to loan you money.”

“If you borrow my car, I want it returned in the same condition in which I loaned it to you.”

“I lent you my dress, and it was returned with a stain. I will not loan it to you again until it is taken to the dry cleaners.”

Time Boundaries

This includes how you use your time and how much time you spend with others or doing things. You need to prioritize your time and who you spend it with.  This is necessary in order to set and maintain healthy boundaries for mental wellness. Failure to do so will result in overcommitting and feeling overwhelmed.

Examples of this type of boundary are:

“I can only stay for 20 minutes.”

“I have other obligations, so I can’t volunteer for this event.”

“In order to spend uninterrupted time with my wife, I do not talk on the phone after 8pm.”

 

 

Implementing healthy boundaries for your mental health is not optional. It is crucial for your mental, physical, and emotional wellness, and for any type of relationship. This should be considered a part of your self-love and self-care practice. Just as you cannot pour from an empty cup, you cannot prioritize your needs and limits without setting boundaries. 

Only you can determine what boundaries to set, and what happens if those boundaries are not respected. Depending on severity, it may vary from reinstating your boundaries more assertively to ending a relationship. Show compassion for yourself as you learn to implement boundaries, and remember that it is necessary to respect the boundaries of others as much as others should respect yours.

 

ways to celebrate valentines day

Valentine’s Day is typically an opportunity to spend time together outside of the home. Although COVID-19 has put a damper on that, you can still have a romantic Valentine’s Day. Wait until the kids are asleep and spend time together. Unsure of how to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year? I’ve got you covered! Use these 10 simple, yet memorable ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day with your beloved:

Have an indoor movie night

Pick a romantic movie, pop some popcorn, and snuggle on the couch. Having a private watching party is a great way to relax, unwind, and enjoy time together on Valentine’s Day.

Plan an indoor picnic

Spread out a blanket on the floor, gather your food, and open up a bottle of wine. Toast to one another and pretend you are eating outside without having to worry about any bugs.

Make a simple dessert together

smores

Whether it’s making cheesecake with a store-bought crust or making smores by the indoor fire, use some simple ingredients to celebrate Valentine’s Day at home.

Cook dinner together

You have to make dinner anyway, so why not do it together? Pick a recipe that is special to the two of you, help tie one another’s aprons, and sneak in a few (or many) kisses while cooking. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate, but the important thing is that you are making something together.

Play a game

Friendship is a crucial part of maintaining your relationship, so why not celebrate Valentine’s Day at home while kicking your spouse’s butt at a game of Scrabble? Our personal favorites are Othello and Mastermind. You can also do a puzzle together or play a game of cards. Enjoying one another’s company is the best way to celebrate Valentine’s Day at home. 

Do a subscription box for couples

There are tons of boxes for couples that get delivered to your home:

  • Escape the Crate: A bi-monthly “Escape Room” subscription box full of puzzles and mysteries to solve. We actually did this one for awhile, but we found that some of the puzzles were too vague to figure out due to ambiguous clues.
  • Crated with Love: Crated with Love is a date night box designed by therapists and family counselors. Each month they send a new, uniquely-themed collection of 4 or 5 challenges and activities created specifically for couples.
  • The Adults and Crafts Crate: Create something with your spouse or significant other on date night with this monthly, DIY craft box.
  • DateBox Club: With a unique theme every month, each box provides an activity, a snack, a playlist, and best of all, DateBox Club’s signature Connector pieces.
  • Love Language Card Game: Cards are divided into 5 categories to make sure every topic of life is covered: Family, Intimacy, Couple, Individual, and Past & Future. You can either focus on one category you want to deepen with your partner, or mix them all.

There are many different subscription options based on how frequently you want to get a box. Based on your personal preferences, you can find a box that you and your sweetheart will enjoy doing together. If you aren’t already a subscriber you won’t be able to get this on time for Valentine’s Day. However, you can always use it another time for an extra special indoor date night!

Have a private dance party

dance party

Nothing says romantic like playing some romantic music and slow dancing. Turn out the lights, sway slowly to the music, and see where the night takes you! If either one of you isn’t a fan of slow dancing, you can stream your musical preference and snuggle on the couch.

Talk

You can tell each other about something funny that happened to you, or you can use THIS printable for intimacy where you ask and answer questions. 

Make homemade Valentine’s Day cards for each other or write poems for one another

I prefer a written letter or poem from my husband over a store-bought card any day. You can even write a poem together. It’s Valentine’s Day; sappy is good.

Get touchy feely

Buy some massage oils and give each other a nice back rub. Light some scented candles, play romantic music, and enjoy!

 

 

Even if you’re stuck at home, there are still many ways to make Valentine’s Day memorable. Use one or many of these suggestions, and have a wonderful time celebrating Valentine’s Day together at home!

My Love/Hate Relationship With affiliate marketing companies

As a new blogger, there is a lot I don’t know. I could fill up a house with the amount of things I am clueless about regarding blogging.  I naively thought the hard part was writing. Haha! Between researching, social media, marketing, keyword optimization, visual graphics, and technical skills, I have a deep and tremendous respect for the intricacy of blogging and for those who stick with it.

Unlike popular belief, all bloggers do not make money. It takes a ton of time and effort to become a successful blogger. However, one thing I knew a little bit about was affiliate marketing. Having relationships with affiliate marketing companies is something many bloggers do. It allows them to get a commission on the products that they endorse without any extra cost to the costumer.

Truthfully, it wasn’t something I really wanted to do at first.  Then I looked around my home and realized that several of my favorite purchases are due to reading about it from various bloggers. I decided to be an amazon affiliate marketer because I am under no obligation, and I only mention products I personally use or would use myself. However, the idea of advertising for other companies seemed wrong to me. I am a writer, not an advertiser.

Until now, I have not had much interest in affiliate marketing companies.

I have received several emails and DMs from companies asking me about affiliate marketing. Clothing companies, engraving companies, one person that had some random items he wanted me to try out and blog about…?

Having a relationship with affiliate marketing companies is a lot like finding the right relationship partner. If it doesn’t quite fit, it probably isn’t going to work. I would not promote anything to my readers unless I believe in it. Period. Call me naïve or a terrible business person, but that’s not why I write.

Unfortunately, just as I had a hard time explaining to the 54 year old man in Africa that nothing was going to happen via online dating, many of these companies didn’t want to take no for an answer. Whether it’s online dating or being asked to promote a shoe company, there is just no nice way of saying you’re not interested.

When I got a DM from a woman saying that she loved my writing and asking if I was interested in hearing about a product, I was already debating whether to ignore it or prepare to get insulted when I said it wasn’t for me. However, she caught my attention when she said that this was her daughter’s product and that it was in regard to anxiety.

Now I know you may not know this, but I have a slight interest in advocating awareness about anxiety.

Okay, I see your mouths dropping; perhaps it is more than a slight interest. As an anxiety sufferer, and as a mother to a child who has bouts of anxiety, I feel awareness about it is crucial.

Therefore, I figured I had nothing to lose by getting some information about it. The truth is, she had me as soon as she said, “My then 10-year-old daughter has anxiety and wanted to help others.” My hesitation about affiliate marketing with a company went out the window as I heard about what this girl is trying to accomplish. Hook, line, sinker. I get to spread awareness about anxiety and promote a product to alleviate it, while supporting this amazing girl? That’s something I will proudly stand behind.

Affiliate Marketing with SUNCards- a great product to help battle anxiety

Without further ado, I am excited to introduce you all to SUNCards! 

SUNCards are a deck of cards developed by a girl named Eva. She started struggled with anxiety when she was 8 years old. When she was 10, Eva worked on a school project called Children Helping Our World. It tasked them to create a nonprofit that could be led by kids that would improve the world. Her parents encouraged her to think about her own life experiences to come up with an idea for the project. Her idea was to help other kids who are nervous and scared by teaching them tips and tricks to help them get through tough situations. That’s when SUNCards was born.

SUNCards uses evidence-based strategies like cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness, positive psychology, and random acts of kindness to help kids manage their anxiety. Even though this product is directed towards children, adults will also be able to appreciate and use them as well. The cards say they are useful for anyone ages 4-104.

SUNCards is the 2020 NATIONAL parenting project award winner. Each deck comes with 50 cards. There is a lovable monster on each card, and the cards contain three different styles:

Sunshine Cards 

There are 20 total sunshine cards which have positive sayings and confidence building affirmations.

Action Cards 

There are 28 action cards which have helpful techniques to help kids manage their anxiety and/or refocus on something positive instead of their anxiety, worry or trouble.

Spread the Sunshine Cards 

There are two in each deck and are intended to help you with random acts of kindness.

How to use SUNCards

*IF YOU CLICK ON ANY OF THE PICTURES BELOW, IT WILL TAKE YOU TO THE LINK TO PURCHASE THE CARDS!

If you are feeling anxious, you select an Action Card and use the technique. There are many different types of actions the cards tell you to take, such as “Relax and take 10 deep breaths. Deep breaths calm you down,” “Find distractions to take your mind off of your worry. Play a game, read a book, find a friend,” and “When things get overwhelming, take a moment for yourself. Put everything else aside and focus on what makes you happy,” among many others. You may find that multiple cards will be the way to relieve your anxiety. Also, depending on the circumstances, what works for you in one situation may not be what works best in another. 

affiliate marketing company action card

In order to increase the effectiveness of the cards, it is suggested that you use these cards to practice coping skills when you are not feeling anxious.

Select an action card and practice the technique. This will allow you to familiarize yourself with the cards and also help you to determine which cards will work best for you. Learning new tools is a process of trial and error, and practicing will allow more awareness and capability to calm yourself.

Once you are calm, select a Sunshine Card to give yourself a boost of confidence for a job well done. You can also use them any time you are feeling down and are seeking positive affirmations. Some of my favorite Sunshine Cards are: “Being scared is not a bad thing. It just means that you are about to do something super brave,” “Your anxiety doesn’t define you. Be the person you are meant to be and happiness will find you,” “If you fall back one day or your path gets blocked, you will not be stuck forever. Keep moving forward,“ and “It’s OK to not be OK. Just know that it will get better.” 

sunshine card

What truly warmed my heart is that Eva has partnered with a few non-profits and instituted a “get a deck, give a deck” program where for every deck purchased, another one is donated to a non-profit to help kids. In August of last year, she was able to donate over 1400 decks to non-profit organizations.

Not only are the cards useful for your children, but you can feel good knowing that by purchasing a deck you are allowing a child to receive a deck who couldn’t afford to have them otherwise. All children deserve tools and support to alleviate anxiety, and Eva is helping that happen.

HOW I USED SUNCARDS WITH MY DAUGHTER

I used these cards with my daughter to see how they work firsthand. The other day she came to me scared and anxious that she lost costume jewelry I had given her. 

It had belonged to my grandmother, so she was very anxious that it was “gone forever”.

There are many techniques I normally use with her when my daughter is feeling anxious, but this time I pulled out the SUNCards. She selected several action cards and implemented the different techniques. In this particular situation, the technique that worked best for her was the action card to replace her thought with another thought, which helped change her feelings. The card looks like this:

change thoughts to feelings

When I asked her how she could change her way of thinking about losing the jewelry, she paused for a few moments, and then said, “It is somewhere in the house. It will turn up.” Once she changed her thoughts, she felt reassured and started smiling.

Best of all, she changed her perspective about it on her own.

That gave her a huge sense of accomplishment. We then did a breathing exercise suggested on another action card.

deep breathing

When she felt better I had her select a Sunshine Card. She beamed when she read the one that said that nobody in the world is like her.  Instead of a snowball effect of worry and panic, these cards brought her empowerment and comfort.

affiliate marketing company positive affirmation

Although these cards and no techniques are a replacement for professional treatment, this deck is helpful for kids of all ages. They are small enough to be portable, so kids can take them with them and pull them out anytime. I like to think of them as a portable anxiety security blanket. They are easy to use, have great suggestions, and teach self-awareness and acceptance. I highly recommend them, and I think they are useful no matter the level of anxiety.

If you would like to purchase a deck of cards, click on the picture below:

suncards link

I can’t wait for your kids to try SUNCards!

the lies we tell ourselves about motherhood

There are many false ideas and lies we tell ourselves about motherhood. Before I became a mother, I had this dream of what motherhood would entail. I imagined a well-behaved, perfectly mannered child. I had a husband who I never argued with. In turn, I was put-together, organized, cool as a cucumber under pressure, and never raised my voice. Basically, I thought we were going to become the Brady Bunch.

There are many harsh realities I faced as a mom. I had many idealized notions blow up in my face, and I had many misguided ideas of what I needed to be as a mother. I’m sharing the lies we often tell ourselves that prevent us from truly embracing motherhood.

It is our duty to be the perfect role model for our kids

role model

Raise your hand if you feel guilty when you don’t say or do the right thing. Okay, now ALL of us (myself especially) need to give ourselves a good whack on the head. It is a lie to tell ourselves that being a mother means always getting it right.  News flash- none of us are perfect. To expect that we are always going to set the right example for our kids is unrealistic at best. Truthfully, it is the reason why so many of us are wracked with guilt. We feel we are failing our kids when we make mistakes.

There is not a day that goes by that I don’t have regrets. There are instances where I feel I raised my voice when I should have been patient, or I was too lenient and should have been firmer.  Some days I wasn’t fully present when asked a question, or I was too overly involved and didn’t give Brielle enough time to play independently and foster self-sufficiency. There are instances where I’ve lost my temper when I could have modeled emotional regulation, or Brielle saw me get frustrated instead of persevering.

I am emotional, I am anxious, I am frazzled, and I am completely and utterly imperfect.

However, isn’t that what being a good role model is truly about? Showing your kids that you are human and that all we can do is learn from our mistakes and keep striving to grow? Isn’t being a good mother showing your kids that imperfections are what make us lovable?

When I make mistakes, I apologize to my daughter. I show my daughter that it is important to take responsibility for our actions, but that we should not demand perfection from ourselves. Trying is what matters. In the instances where I start to fall back into my perfectionist tendencies, I tell Brielle that I need to remember that I’m not perfect. Being honest with our children about our mistakes allows them to feel comfortable with their own imperfections.

We can beat ourselves up for our mistakes, or we can be model self-compassion and self-love. That is how we are good role models for our kids. The truth is, being imperfect role models is what makes us good role models.

We are doomed to be bad parents if our parents weren’t good to us

I am the poster child for having a dysfunctional family. I had a mother who did terrible, unspeakable things to me. Her mother did terrible, unspeakable things to her. However, it is a lie to tell ourselves that we cannot be a good mother because of our parents.

It Is true that there is a cycle of abuse, and that those who abuse were often abused themselves. That said, you are not doomed to repeat the sins of your parents. If you are worried that you are going to be like your parents, that means you recognize that what was done to you wasn’t okay. If you have that awareness, you can implement change.

As I mentioned, my mother was abused and abused me. However, she refused to admit that her mother was abusive, and also refused to acknowledge that she was abusive. It is that refusal that enables the cycle to continue. How can you stop doing something wrong if you aren’t able to see that it is a problem?

If you know that terrible things were done to you, then you have the power to do better with your own children. If you are unwilling to turn a blind eye to what happened to you, then you are able to do the same thing with your children.

Awareness brings change. It brings understanding, acknowledgment, and healing. Use what happened to you as a reminder of what to never do with your kids.

Having terrible things done to you does not mean you will do them as well. It means you have the opportunity to do things better. I did it, and you can do it too.

You must always stay strong for your children

hiding your emotions

This lie we tell ourselves about motherhood is an especially hot button for me. I know there are many parents out there who will go into another room when they are sad, so their kids don’t see them cry. I know there are many parents who go out of their way to stay even-keeled at all times.

That’s not me. I don’t think it should be you either.

Here’s why- in our efforts to protect our kids from seeing us sad, mad, anxious, hurt, etc., we are inadvertently telling our kids that those emotions should be hidden. Negative emotions are inevitable, and hiding it from them sends the message that those feelings aren’t okay. It makes our children shy away from feelings, rather than making space for them. It tells our kids, in big, bold letter, that it is not okay to not be okay.

I am a firm believer that it is absolutely, positively, without a shadow of a doubt, okay to not be okay.

In fact, I encourage it. If we run away from our emotions, and we bury them, we will never learn to cope. That is why people land up turning to drugs, alcohol, and other unhealthy choices. If we don’t learn healthy coping mechanisms, we will turn to unhealthy ones. It’s like buying a car without ever learning to drive. How do you deal with life’s obstacles if you are never given the tools to handle them?

If your kids are sad, upset, frustrated, overwhelmed, please don’t tell them to be strong. Being strong IS having emotions. True strength is allowing yourself to feel without judgment, while figuring out how to deal with those feelings. Strength is not sucking it up and acting like you’re fine when you’re not. Being a robot isn’t being strong; it’s burying your feelings. Encourage your children to discuss their feelings with you.

Show them empathy and understanding.

Hold space for their feelings and learn to feel comfortable with them not being okay. Accept that your children are not always going to feel happy. It’s part of life.  That teaches them to become comfortable with their emotions instead of running from them. Let your kids see that you feel. Show them that moms get sad, mad, and worried too.

Be open about your feelings, but don’t discuss your adult problems with them. Rather, show them that you feel different emotions, and that it is okay for them to have them too. Showing your emotions also doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take time to yourself to process your feelings. You can absolutely tell your kids you feel overwhelmed and then go into another room to cry, scream into a pillow, etc. There’s a difference between that and pretending that you don’t have any negative feelings at all.

Above all, model healthy strategies to deal with your feelings, so they in turn can use those strategies too.

Whether it is writing in a journal, doing breathing exercises, reading a book, listening to music, or just having a safe person to talk to, show your kids how you handle not being okay. It is important to teach them that sometimes, despite all the strategies implemented, there is nothing that will make them feel better but time and acceptance. There are situations where problem solving can make you feel better, and others where there is no solution. Sometimes we just need a hug, support, and to know that people care.

There might be times when you or your child has difficulty regulating your emotions. If you explode into a fit of anger, or your child has a meltdown, acknowledge that there are healthier ways of handling our emotions. Discuss what should be done differently next time, and remind your child (and yourself) that learning better ways to handle emotions doesn’t mean we aren’t allowed to feel emotions at all.

Showing your kids that you are human gives them permission to feel whatever they need to feel. It is a wonderful gift to show your children that ALL emotions are okay, while teaching them healthy ways to manage their emotions.

To be a parent, you are not able to have any issues of your own

Ha! Ha! If that was the case, I think many of us would still be childless (myself included). 

If you are in a bad place in your life and aren’t emotionally or psychologically in a position to properly provide and care for a child, that is one thing. However, to think you need to have yourself and your life completely figured out in order to be a good mom is horse rubbish. It is merely another lie we tell about motherhood.

We are all works in progress. Just as there is no perfect mom, there is no mom that has everything figured out. We all have problems, we all have struggles, and we all have baggage.

We can accept our issues and also strive to work on ourselves.

It is necessary to be honest with ourselves about our issues, while holding compassion for our struggles. Continuing along our healing journeys is what makes us good parents.

Truthfully, being a parent allowed me to grow and heal more than anything else. I want to do better and be better for my child, but I also know there is a fine line between growing and expecting to have everything figured out.  I will never have all my issues figured out.  With that said, I learn new things about myself all the time. That allows me to work on new areas and see areas where I’ve made progress.

Showing our kids that we don’t have all the answers is okay. Showing your kids that you are flawed is okay. We can have baggage and still love our kids with all of our hearts.  Being aware of our issues and trying our best is what makes us good parents.

The Amount of time you spend with them will determine whether Your children will feel loved 

Nope. Not true. Quality is so much more important than quantity.

Being intentional with your time is what matters the most. If you are around but are preoccupied, that doesn’t give your kids a warm and gooey feeling inside. They want to feel like they matter.

Life doesn’t allow us to always be fully present.  There are endless responsibilities, demands, and other things that require your attention as well. It’s okay to not always be available to your kids. Believing otherwise is a lie we tell about motherhood.

Instead, set aside a realistic amount of time to focus your attention on your child.  

Don’t sneak peaks at your phone. Don’t run a to-do list in your head. Be completely present.

We institute “fun time” in our house. That means that during that period, Brielle gets to pick whatever she wants to play with me, and I put all electronic devices away. She gets my undivided attention, and she knows that is something she can count on daily. I never take fun time away as a punishment. No matter how hectic our day is, she knows I will always set aside that quality time to spend with her.

Kids, like adults, want to feel like they are the priority. Whether you are a Stay-at-Home-Mom or a working mom, you can set aside time each day to be completely devoted to them. You can have limited time, but still make your child feel loved and valued.

 

I don't need you to be perfect

Don’t buy into the lies we tell ourselves about motherhood. Your kids don’t need a perfect parent. They need a mother who is real. A mother who no matter the number of imperfections and flaws, tries and keeps on trying. They need someone who will guide them and support them. Our children need a mom who is always in their corner, cheering them on.  Loving our children is what our children need most. That is the biggest truth about motherhood, and it is one that we should always remember.

how to cope with anxiety

Learning how to cope with anxiety is necessary for all of us. There are numerous ways to reduce anxiety whether you have occasional bouts of anxiety or suffer from an anxiety disorder.  If you missed the first article that discusses tools to manage anxiety click here. This article will discuss a variety of other suggestions for anxiety relief and management for children and adults.

Challenge Your Way of Thinking to Help Cope with Anxiety

Anxiety takes place in the mind as well as the body. As a result, it is helpful to notice your thought patterns when you feel anxious and try to adjust/challenge your thinking when necessary. This is helpful to manage anxiety whether you are an adult or child.

Practice self-kindness

It is crucial to not judging yourself for how you are feeling. This will cause a spiraling effect that will only intensify the anxiety. Therefore, when you or your child are feeling anxious, say phrases out loud or to yourself as reminders that it Is okay for you to feel anxious. You can also say aloud things that you like about yourself. Phrases can be “I know I feel anxious, but I am trying my best”, “It is okay to feel anxious”, and “I am brave”.

Facing fears

  1. Those that struggle with making mistakes or the unfamiliar will avoid situations or activities out of fear of doing something wrong or not feeling prepared. Challenge your fears or your child’s fears by asking what the worst thing is that will happen in the situation. If it is making a mistake, remind yourself or your child that mistakes are part of life. If it is a fear of not participating in an event perfectly, counter the fear of making mistakes with missing out on an opportunity to do something enjoyable.
  2. Remember that being brave is not a lack of fear. Rather it is being afraid and doing it anyway. When my daughter is anxious, I remind her that anxiety is okay. She cannot control how she feels, but she can control her actions.
  3. If you have a child that is anxious, make sure to point out when you are anxious about facing your fears. Model your bravery so that your child sees that facing fears is something we all have to face.

Correct extreme thinking

People with anxiety tend to imagine wort-case or what-if scenarios. Therefore, when there is a situation that is causing anxiety, try to reimagine a more realistic portrayal. For example, if a child is afraid of failing, remind your child that they have studied very hard. They may not get a perfect grade, but remind them that they are prepared. If you are anxious about a big meeting, instead of thinking that nobody will like it, remind yourself that you worked hard. Some people may not like every part, but that is not the same thing as every person disliking your entire presentation. Remind yourself or your child of the number of times that things have worked out okay in similar situations. “Getting into a pattern of rethinking your fear helps train the brain to come up with a rational way to deal with your anxious thoughts” ( webmd.com , 2017).

Brainstorm

Anxiety often occurs due to a feeling of lack of control. a) If there is a situation that is causing anxiety, try to think of things you or your child can do to feel more in control. “If your child gets anxious about intruders, make shutting and locking their bedroom window part of their night-time responsibilities” (healthyfamilies.beyondblue.org.au, 2020). b) If there is a scary situation that doesn’t have an immediate solution, try brainstorming how to break down the situation into smaller chunks. Create mini-goals that will allow you to eventually reach your ultimate goal. For example, if your child is afraid of riding a bike, first have your child watch other kids on their bikes. Then have your child stand next to his/her bike, then sit on the bike without pedaling, then pedal for ten seconds while holding the bike, etc. This allows time to feel more comfortable with the situation.

Worry box

  1. I do this with my daughter at night when her anxiety makes it challenging for her to sleep. I created a “worry box” that she puts all of her worries into when it is not the right time to think about them. She visualizes what the worry box looks like, imagines opening it up, and then lists her worries aloud one by one. When she is done saying everything, she then imagines putting all of the worries into a box and putting a lock on it. She then throws the box into the ocean, over a mountain, out of an airplane, or buries it underground. When I can’t sleep, I run a mental list of worries in my head, imagine putting them in a box, and I imagine putting them somewhere I can’t reach.
  2. Determine in advance an appropriate time to think/address concerns. That way the anxiety isn’t being dismissed; rather, it is being set aside for a designated time. Try to schedule a time daily that you or your child (or both) can address your concerns. Set a timer for 15 minutes to journal or draw whatever is on your mind. When the timer is up, it is time to stop.

Have difficult conversations

If you have a child that has concerns about big topics, such as death, allow them to come to you with any questions. Talk through their concerns and be honest, while putting things into perspective. If you have a fear of something, do your research and be willing to have an honest conversation (with yourself or find a friend to talk to) that can help you to see things in a more realistic/clearer light.

Stay organized

Take control of your stress by making sure to prioritize your to-do list. Don’t procrastinate, and make sure to schedule your tasks so that you don’t feel overwhelmed. Help your child to stay organized by creating a schedule with time left in to take breaks.

Prioritize mental health

  1. Make sure to set boundaries so you don’t take on more responsibilities than you can handle. Remember it is okay to say no, and remind your child to be honest so they don’t feel obligated to participate in activities if they have other things they are juggling.
  2. Incorporate self-care into your daily routine and/or your child’s daily routine. 
  3. Practice anxiety reducing strategies daily and model them for your child so they see healthy coping strategies.

Breathing Exercises for Anxiety Management

breathing exercises for anxiety management

People tend to take short, shallow breaths when they are anxious. There are many types of breathing exercises that are meant to invoke relaxation by slowing and deepening the breath. These exercises can be used by adults and children:

4-7-8 Breathing

Inhale for 4 seconds through your nose, hold it for 7 seconds, and exhale for 8 seconds through your mouth. If this is too difficult for your child, you can count aloud while your child breathes or do this alongside your child. An alternative is having your child inhale for 3 seconds, hold for 3 seconds, and then exhale for 3 seconds.

Deep belly breathing

Inhale while filling your stomach with air and then let the air leave your stomach while you exhale. You can do this while doing the 4-7-8 or instead concentrate on slowly and evenly inhaling and exhaling. If helpful, you can think “in” during inhalation and “out” during exhalation.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

This is a favorite of mine for stress relief. It involves tensing and releasing your body from your head to her toes. To do this, inhale while tensing/contracting the body part, hold it for 8 seconds, and then exhale while relaxing/releasing the body part. Start with your feet, and work your way upward to the calves, thighs, pelvis, stomach, chest/neck area, arms, hands, and then face. At the end tense everything at the same time, hold, and release.

Vagus Nerve Stimulation

Take an inhale and then exhale for as long as possible while vibrating your lips to make a “wwww” or “ommm” sound.  According to Neurosculpting Instititue, “The researchers found that the vibrations from ‘OM’ chanting stimulate the vagus nerve, which then sends out neurotransmitters and electrical signals that reduce activity to key areas of the brain like the amygdala, associated with our flight/fight/freeze response. In addition, the increased oxygenation of the blood from the vibration facilitates feelings of relaxation and release in the muscles and structure of the body.”

Aromatherapy is Helpful to Cope with Anxiety

Essential oils and scented candles both promote relaxation and relieve stress (healthline.com, 2018). Children can benefit from aromatherapy as well, but consult with your child’s pediatrician first to ensure proper usage.

Some of the ones most associated with promoting calmness are: 

Sleeping Through Anxiety

Sleep and anxiety are interconnected. Anxiety disorders can cause insomnia, and lack of sleep can worsen anxiety and emotional health. “Strong evidence indicates that sleeping problems are not only a symptom of anxiety. Instead, sleep deprivation can instigate or worsen anxiety disorders “ (sleepfoundation.org, 2020). My daughter and I both suffer from sleep problems, and I discuss numerous solutions to aid in sleeping here.

Get the most use out of these anxiety reducing strategies

  1. Remember that as with most things, there is not a one-size-fits-all strategy. What works well for one, may not be the strategy of choice for another. There will be trial and error as you see which strategies work best for you and/or your child.
  2. Don’t assume that if something doesn’t work the first time (or as soon as you try it), that means that it won’t be effective. Allow the chance to acclimate to these practices. Keep track of their effectiveness by rating how you feel on a scale of 1-10 (1 being least anxious, and 10 being most) before and after. Try each a few times and see if the numbers change to determine whether it is a strategy to add to your tool box or not.
  3. Become familiar with how to do these strategies (i.e., practice doing them) so that you able to utilize them fully when the need arises. Try using them when you aren’t in distress so they are familiar when necessary.
  4. Utilize these strategies as soon as you feel anxious. It will make it harder to alleviate your anxiety if you wait until it escalates to try and manage it.
  5. Try to focus on sensations rather than feelings. If you focus on your anxiety, it will only make you feel more anxious. Try focusing on the sensations or facts rather than your emotions.

I hope these suggestions on how to cope with anxiety are helpful. Please share this post if you know someone who is struggling with anxiety! Don’t forget to ask for help from a professional if your anxiety is interfering with your quality of life.