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.
It is crucial to not judge 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 to feel anxious. You can also think about 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”.
Those that struggle with making mistakes or the unfamiliar will avoid situations or activities. This is done 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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Incorporate self-care into your daily routine and/or your child’s daily routine.
Practice anxiety reducing strategies daily and model them for your child so they see healthy coping strategies.
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:
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:
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Everyone experiences feelings of anxiety and stress. Below are numerous tips and strategies to help reduce anxiety naturally in both children and adults. These strategies are useful whether you experience occasional or frequent anxiety.
Grounding techniques are practices to help you focus on the present moment. This is helpful for anxiety and any type of distress. It is particularly useful in those that suffer from PTSD and Panic Disorder. There are a variety of grounding exercises that can be implemented by both children and adults:
(1) Repetition of Phrases
Repeat something over and over when you are trying to anchor yourself. An example is, “My name is _________. I live in _____________. The weather outside is ______________. The time is _____________. “ You or your child can make a list of such phrases in advance, and pick phrases to say aloud when feeling anxious. You can keep saying different phrases on the list or the same phrase until you feel less anxious.
(2) Label items in categories
Choose a few categories that you can easily list, such as types of animals and favorite desserts. You can either mentally or verbally list as many items as possible from those categories.
(3) Recite something
Pick a favorite poem, song, or lines from a book that you know. Either say it aloud or to yourself, while focusing on each word.
(4) Recall details
Take a photograph, drawing, or piece of art and stare at it for a few seconds. Then look away and say as many details about it as you can recall. This can include remembering where you were when the picture was taken, what you were wearing when the picture was drawn, or any other related details.
Some examples include reciting the multiplication table, adding different numbers together, or counting by 3s. The types of math can vary based on age and ability. For example, a younger child can count until 5 several times.
(6) Use the 5-4-3-2-1 Method
This is one of my favorites as it incorporates all your senses, really helping you to stay grounded in the moment. Look around your surroundings and use your senses to list things around you, working backwards from 5. For example, you can notice 5 things you see, then 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can smell, 2 things you can hear, and 1 thing you can taste. Focus on your surroundings intensely so you can pick up on sensations you may not normally realize.
(7) Put your hands in water
Put your hands in a bowl of cold water, allowing yourself to focus on the sensations of the water on different parts of your hand. Leave them in there while you concentrate on the various sensations. Then take them out and put them in a bowl of warm water. Focus on how the various temperatures feel differently on your hands. Continue to switch them back and forth.
(8) Pick up different items around you
Notice the texture, shape, weight, smell, colors, or any unique features about each item. How does it feel in your hand? Try to be as specific as possible when labeling their features.
(9) Hold a piece of ice or put a cold pack on your head
Notice the sensations in your hand or face, again being as specific as possible. Notice how the sensation changes as the it melts or becomes less cold. Putting anything cold on your head “triggers the vagus nerve that turns on all rest-connect nerves” (Kate-Cohen Posey, 2016).
(10) Focus on your body
Concentrate on how your body feels from your head all the way down to your toes. First, do this sitting, and then try it again standing. You can raise and lower your feet on the ground, wiggle your hands or your arms, and/or cross and uncross your legs. Notice how each body part feels when you make those changes. Also pay attention to feelings such as your hair on your back, your glasses on your nose, or the feeling of your clothing on your body.
Notice how your body feels when you stretch or move each part of your body, from your toes to your face. You can rotate, wiggle and/or flex your body, focusing on each part as you do so.
Additional grounding exercises besides those in this post may be found here.
Diet and Supplements Are Helpful Ways to Reduce Anxiety Naturally
Watching what you eat and consuming certain supplements are beneficial for reducing anxiety:
(1) Limit your sugar intake
Research has shown that too much sugar can worsen anxious feelings and impact temperament (webmd.com, 2017)
(2) A diet that contains vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean protein may benefit those with anxiety.
Chemicals in processed foods may cause mood changes in some people (healthline.com, 2020).
(3) Limit caffeine
Caffeine can cause jitteriness and nervousness in some people. Try reducing or eliminating your caffeine intake and see if it improves your anxiety symptoms. Remember that there is caffeine in chocolate, so be mindful of whether your child has caffeine in their diet as well.
(4) Eliminate alcohol and cigarettes
Alcohol can become abused if used as a coping mechanism for anxiety, so do not rely on alcohol to soothe your nerves. Similarly, smoking can worsen anxiety over time and “research also suggests that nicotine and other chemicals in cigarette smoke alter pathways in the brain linked to anxiety” (healthline.com, 2020).
(5) Supplements can help with anxiety reduction
Please consult your child’s doctor before giving any supplements to children.
Check with your child’s doctor before giving any probiotics to children.
Exercise to Reduce Stress and Anxiety
(1) Moving your body is a great way to relieve mental stress
When you get your heart rate up, your body releases endorphins, which are chemicals that improve your mood. Find something you and/or your child enjoys doing such as running, walking, dancing, doing jumping jacks, swimming, playing sports, or riding a bike. Do this regularly as it is great for your physical health as well as your mental health.
A main goal of medication is to practice mindfulness, which is staying focused on the present. This is a grounding technique, and one which relieves stress and anxiety when practiced regularly. It is important to note that there is no “wrong” way to meditate. I like to repeat a phrase in my head to keep me anchored while I inhale and exhale. There are many YouTube videos that provide various options to help you or your child meditate.
Restorative poses are yoga poses that activate the parasympathetic nervous system. This helps elicit a relaxation response. You can google “restorative yoga poses” to see a variety of options, but a favorite of mine is Legs-Up-the-Wall-Pose. To do this pose, you lay down on your back on a floor or bed and put your hips as close to the wall as possible. You then elevate your legs by putting them up against a solid object, such as a wall. Your body forms an L-shape. Place a towel or blanket under your pelvis to elevate your hips for further benefits. You may also place a pillow under your head if you prefer. Focus on your breathing or listen to relaxing music. Stay in this position for 10-20 minutes depending on age, comfort, personal preference. This is something that children can easily do as well as adults.
Journaling for Anxiety Relief and Stress
Journaling is a great way to handle stress. It is an outlet which allows for insightfulness and introspection.
(1) Some people choose to keep a gratitude journal, where they write/draw what they are grateful for daily
This allows them to focus on the positive things/people/circumstances in their life that they can remember when feeling anxious.
(2) A journal may also be used to list positive affirmations daily (e.g., I feel anxious, but I am not anxious. Being anxious does not define me.)
You can also list/draw things you like about yourself as reminders for when you feel anxious.
(3) Another/additional option is to put down on paper what you feel stressed about
This provides a healthy outlet of coping with anxiety. It can also help identify a pattern of thinking or way of thinking that isn’t helpful, allowing an opportunity to adjust your perspective.
Children should be encouraged to journal as well. They can either draw or write in their journal depending on which method is preferred/age.
(1) There are MANY different strategies and ways to alleviate anxiety.
There are so many, in fact, that I have another post devoted to an entire new list of tips and techniques to manage anxiety in both children and adults!
(2) Remember that anxiety is experienced differently for everyone.
What works for one person may not work for another. Also, what might work for you or your child in one instance may not be as effective another time. Experiment with various strategies so you have options.
(3) It takes practice and patience to figure out what techniques or products are the best for you.
(4) Lastly, if you find this article helpful, please share it with others!
My hope is that these tips and strategies will be beneficial, and that this post can help spread awareness and support!
If you’ve been reading my posts for awhile, you know that I talk a lot about awareness and acceptance. They are crucial for healing from trauma, and they are crucial to properly advocate for your child. My husband was able to get the help he needed to get sober when he closed the door on denial and chose awareness and acceptance. Awareness and acceptance are also necessary components of a healthy marriage. Without a doubt, the hardest thing I had to to accept was that my relationship with my mom was toxic. As a result, I made the decision to go no contact with her.
My mother is many things to me. As a child, she was the center of my world. I wanted more than anything to get her approval. I believed that somehow she would become the mother I needed if I kept believing and trying.
She did terrible things to me, and as an adult I realized those things were abusive. I understand that my mother is toxic. Yet, I have fond memories of her too. In some ways, the good memories made it harder to accept the truth. I have memories of her singing songs to me, rubbing my stomach when it hurt, and playing games with her.
When Brielle was born, I was determined to be the mother to her that I never had. Still, I hoped my mother could be a part of my life and part of my child’s life. After all, she was my mother, and she was Brielle’s grandmother. Although I hated what she had done to me, I loved her.
My toxic relationship with my mother
Several times over the course of Brielle’s life my mother got mad at me, and she would stop talking to me. As a result, she would also stop talking to Brielle. I warned her that this couldn’t happen. Brielle deserved consistency, and it wasn’t healthy to have her in and out of Brielle’s life. It was confusing and painful to try to wrap my mind around her behavior, and I didn’t want Brielle to experience this.
Three years ago my mother and I got into an argument. On that fateful day she told me she didn’t like me and wanted nothing to do with me. I felt like a knife was plunged into my heart.
I reminded her that Brielle was a child. There was no way she could see Brielle without making some sort of arrangements with me. She refused to communicate with me and sent me an email threatening to sue me for visitation rights. As angry as this made me, it also made me incredibly sad. She would rather take me to court than be cordial with me for the sake of her granddaughter? I knew on a rational level that her behavior was erratic at best, but knowing that my mom would go to such lengths to avoid me made me feel like the problem was me. What was wrong with me that my mother could just throw me away? Why did I have such a toxic relationship with my mom?
my decision to go no contact
After decades of wishing upon a star for my mother to love me, I looked at my innocent child and had to face reality. My mother would never be someone I could count on for emotional support. My mother is incapable of unconditional love. If I allowed her in Brielle’s life, it was inevitable that she would hurt my daughter in unforgivable ways. I had to accept going no contact with my mom.
Although my mom would eventually reach out to me (this wasn’t my first rodeo with her), I knew this wouldn’t change my need to go no contact. I defriended her on Facebook and removed her from my email and phone contact list. Brielle knew that her grandmother was constantly in and out of her life. I had to explain to her that that kind of behavior is unacceptable, and I wasn’t going to allow that. One day I might tell her about my horrific childhood, but for now, I want her to know as little as possible. I had my innocence ripped away from me as a child, and I am determined to not have that repeated with my child.
estrangement was my only choice
My mother texted me two years ago. She said she missed us. It took every ounce of strength to not respond. I’d like to say that I decided to go no contact with my mom because it is what was best for me. Although that is true, the reason I had the courage to do it was because of Brielle. My toxic relationship with my mom would translate into my daughter having a toxic relationship with my mom too. I went no contact with my mom to spare my daughter the pain of loving someone who cannot love her back in a real and healthy way.
There are moments of weakness where I think about the fact that my mother is getting older. I feel waves of sadness that my mother is now a stranger to me. Guilt absolutely creeps in from time to time, along with grief. I am mourning the loss of the mother I had, and I am mourning the loss of never having the mother I needed.
Surviving No Contact
It is a personal decision to go no contact, and everyone is entitled to decide what is best for them. For those of you that have gone no contact with someone who has brought you tremendous pain and suffering, I hope it brings you some comfort to know that I understand how hard it is to make that choice. I also recognize the bravery and strength it takes to do this.
I am proof that surviving no contact is possible.
The biggest piece of advice I can give you when making (and continuing) this choice is to ask yourself if this person is capable of change. The definition of insanity is making the same choice over and over again, expecting a different result. I realized that I was acting insane for being on this endless roller coaster with her; hoping each time that things could change, that she could change.
Going no contact was a hard pill to swallow. I will never have the mother I needed. It took decades of denial for me to get to a place where I was aware and accepted that she cannot be a mother to me in the real sense of the word. My mother is toxic, and having her in my life would only bring pain to me and to my daughter. I will never allow anyone to do that to my child, even if the perpetrator is my own mother. To give my daughter the childhood that she deserves, I had to close the door on the person who destroyed mine.
I have had to accept a lot of hard truths in my life. Sometimes it took some time for me to get there, and other times I looked awareness and acceptance straight in the eyes. What I’ve learned is that you can’t reach the light at the end of the tunnel unless you are willing to walk through darkness. I never claimed that acceptance and going no contact is easy. However, like Robert Frost said, “I took the road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”
Marriage isn’t easy. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that it is hard. Really, really hard. Learning to merge two people’s lives together takes time, energy, and a lot of patience. I’ve written about lessons learned from marriage before, and like everything else in life, I will never know everything. I will continue to embrace learning from my marriage, as learning and growing is what makes any marriage stronger.
LESSONS LEARNED FROM MARRIAGE
(1) Marriage isn’t 50-50
This one is big. I used to think marriage was each of us putting in the same amount of effort all the time. That simply isn’t the case. The reality of marriage is that two people will take turns leaning on each other during difficult times. Obstacles will be thrown your way throughout your relationship. It may affect both of you, or something might happen that greatly impacts one of you. Stepping up for the other person is crucial. There will be times I have to shoulder more responsibilities because my husband is struggling. Likewise, there are times when my husband is there for me and will take on more than his share. Doing your best will vary throughout your marriage. Marriage can be 60-40, 80-20, or even 90-10. There is a difference between having a spouse who doesn’t want to put an effort into the marriage and knowing that relationships are a give and take that sway with life.
(2) Intimacy isn’t just about the physical
True intimacy comes from knowing one another in the good, the bad, and the very, very ugly. I have gotten wax out of my husband’s ears, and he has held my hair back when I vomited. Although these are not the stories from which fairy tales were born, they are ones that comes from truly loving and knowing someone. Intimacy is a closeness that comes in many forms, and all of them are an important component of marriage.
(3) Marriage takes work
Marriage isn’t something you should ever take for granted. Like a plant that needs constant water to grow, your marriage needs constant nourishment. For a relationship to flourish, there needs to be effort, consideration, and appreciation for one another. The same effort that goes into any job needs to be put into a marriage, and yes, marriage is a job. It is the hardest job, in my opinion, except for being a parent. Like parenthood, it is a job that brings great joy, but that does not denote the responsibilities and energy it takes to make a marriage work. An important lesson I learned from marriage is to stay committed to being the best spouse possible each day.
(4) The things that initially drew you to your partner often become the things that irritate you the most
This lesson I learned the hard way. My husband was initially drawn to my sensitivity and openness to express my feelings. However, living life with a human ball of feelings is challenging for a person who is used to keeping his feelings private (and often buried). Likewise, I was drawn to my husband’s self-sufficiency and independence, but it is challenging and frustrating that he keeps his feelings to himself. Our differences are what made us appealing to one another, but over time they triggered what we need to work on within ourselves. In other words, I need to work on validating my own feelings instead of looking to him to do that for me, and he needs to work on being more open about his feelings.
(5) The person you married will not be the exact same person in 10, 20, or 30 years
Although we are married, we are each on our own unique path as individuals. That means that we separately evolve and grow with time. The important lesson to learn is that we can grow individually while also growing as a couple. I can love who he was 10 years ago while also loving the man that stands before me today. Working on ourselves is a wonderful thing, and that growth is necessary so that we can become better versions of ourselves. In turn, that makes us a better team.
(6) Accept your spouse
This lesson was another hard one for me to learn. We want to believe that love will change the other person. Nope. Never going to happen. Love can give people the encouragement that they need to better themselves, but that comes from that person wanting to make that change. You cannot make someone else grow. We can only work on ourselves. Supporting and cheering someone on is not the same thing as forcing or demanding anything. I’ve learned that when I work on myself, my marriage improves because things naturally shift. Whenever I start to focus on what my husband isn’t doing or what I wish he’d do differently, tension builds. He feels criticized, and in turn, he starts to dig in his heels and become angry and defensive. I want to be accepted as I am, and my husband deserves the same thing.
(7) Communication is a constant work-in-progress
New obstacles will always come up throughout our lives together. There will always be something new that needs to be voiced. The key is learning to communicate in a way that is both loving and honest. Bottling up your feelings only leads to resentment and hurt. Again, I cannot control if my husband will be receptive to what I say or how he will react, but I am responsible for the way in which I communicate. I am working on taking time to cool down before I initially approach him. When I talk to him from a calmer place, he is naturally more open to what I am saying. Likewise, he is working on understanding that my feelings about a situation aren’t an attack on him. The words you use are important, but it is equally important to be mindful of the way in which you speak to your spouse.
(8) Your partner doesn’t need to agree with you in order to respect you
This is another biggie in my marriage. There are some things that my husband and I will never agree about. However, feelings are valid regardless of whether or not you feel the same way. We each have our own unique views and experiences, and that shapes our perceptions and emotions. We can have different sentiments about the same experience, and that is okay. They are each valid and each deserve respect and understanding.
(9) Love unconditionally
Your partner isn’t perfect, and neither are you. We all make mistakes, and we will inevitably say or do the wrong thing. There are some lines that should never be crossed, but we all will experience disappointment, anger, and hurt. Love and appreciate your significant other during the good times, and love and appreciate your spouse during the times you want to throw the other person out the window. Love doesn’t make problems go away, but love allows us to work through those problems. In order to truly love someone, we must love all of them.
(10) One team, one dream
I don’t know where I heard that, but it stuck with me. It is something I tell myself when I feel like my husband and I are treating each other like adversaries, as opposed to working together. Kids grow up, people retire, life around us changes. The constant should be your commitment to one another. Even when you have very different views, even when your world seems like it is being turned upside down, remember that you are a team. That means that what hurts your partner hurts you, too (and vice versa). Resolving issues with that in mind is one of the most important lessons I’ve learned in marriage.
(11) Marriage consists of 2 separate people
You each are your own person. It is imperative to retain your own identity separate from your marriage. Maintain your friendships, hobbies, self-care, etc. Many of us get infatuated during the initial honeymoon stage of the relationship. We have complete tunnel vision and obsess about the other person. We love our spouses, but we should not lose ourselves in the process.
(12) Enjoy one another’s company
Spend time together doing things that you both enjoy. We often get so caught up in the day-to-day responsibilities of jobs, children, and obligations that we neglect each other’s company. Maintain your friendship so that your relationship doesn’t merely feel like a business interaction. Like I mentioned before, it all started with the two of you. Remember what drew you together in the first place and make it a priority to spend quality time together.
(13) It’s okay to need help
There is no such thing as a perfect relationship. It is okay, and even advantageous to your relationship, to seek external support. That can mean reading marriage books (I personally found learning about the 5 love languages to be incredibly helpful) or seeking marriage counseling. Couples often wait until their marriage is on the rocks to seek help. Even if your marriage is great, learning new tools from an objective third party can only enhance your relationship.
Life changes. People change. Cherish one another and remember that marriage is an ongoing commitment. Some days will be easier than others, but the lessons learned from marriage is what binds us together, no matter the sands of time.
Self-confidence is something we all want to build and something many of us are lacking. It isn’t surprising that we lack confidence as adults. Many of us were told as children that our best was not enough. Others didn’t get any motivation or encouragement to step out of their comfort zone or try something that was challenging. What was once our parents’ voices soon turned into our inner voice/critic. As a result, the story we believe as adults is that we aren’t good enough. The good news is that there are strategies to build self-confidence in yourself and your children.
my struggles with self-confidence
I grew up with a mom that expected perfection. When I was 5 years old, I had a small writing assignment for school. I was extremely proud of what I wrote and showed it to my mother. Her response was to rip it into pieces and instruct me to write it again. That experience rattled me and will forever be imprinted in my mind. The lesson I learned was that I should feel intense shame if my best wasn’t perfection.
My struggle with perfection crept into every facet of my life. In first grade there was a competition that whoever read the most books by the end of the month would get a box of crayons. I was determined to be the winner. So was another girl in the class. Eventually other classmates stopped participating in this contest, but neither me nor this girl would relent. Finally, the teacher stopped the contest and declared that we both were the winners.
I defined myself and my value based on how well I did in school.
I would beat myself up over any mistake I made. In my mind, nothing other than an A was an option. Eventually my mother told me that I didn’t have to get top grades as long as I was trying. By this point her words rang on deaf ears; the bell could not be unrung. I was terrified of not getting the top grades in exams and I was ridden with anxiety every time I had to write a report or do a presentation. I always agonized that I wasn’t good enough despite the number of times that was proven to be untrue.
Shame, not self-confidence, became my constant companion. I feared everything because I didn’t believe that trying was what was most important. In my mind, if the result was unsuccessful, the effort was worthless.
the inner critic that creates guilt and shame
Regardless of our childhood circumstances, I know that many of you live with that same inner critic. If we try something and it isn’t a success, we beat ourselves up over it rather than feel proud of ourselves for trying. It only reinforces that we shouldn’t put ourselves out there or reaffirms our belief that we are failures.
It is often easier to look at the laundry list of mistakes or flops rather than focus on how hard we tried or the things we did well.
This way of thinking starts to take on a life of its own, and eventually we tell ourselves that we are failures instinctually.
When we speak and feel this way about ourselves, is it any wonder that our voice becomes the inner voice of our own children? It is an endless cycle of guilt, shame, and self-contempt. In order to teach our children to have self-confidence, flaws and all, we first have to believe that about ourselves.
What if we changed our inner voice? Told ourselves that we are enough just as we are? Applauded our efforts rather than our successes? What if we recognized that what matters most is putting ourselves out there? What if our determination and resiliency was how we judged ourselves rather than a tally of achievements?
ways to build self-confidence in ourselves
Obviously, this is much easier said than done. Stopping and changing the story we have told ourselves constantly isn’t going to magically vanish. Luckily, there are ways of building self-confidence in ourselves and our children:
(1) Change your inner dialogue
Our inner voice is determined to rear its ugly head any time we feel guilt or shame. We can counter those thoughts by putting new ones there. Each time that we try something, no matter what the outcome, we need to acknowledge that putting ourselves out there is an accomplishment in of itself. Showing up and trying is something to be proud of. Counter your thoughts of shame with thoughts of recognition for how hard you try.
This way of thinking applies to our children as well. Instead of commending our children for their grades on a test, applaud them when you see they are studying and taking it seriously. Acknowledge the effort, not the result. Success isn’t a guarantee, but it takes great courage to put oneself out there and try. Our children deserve recognition for the journey instead of the destination.
(2) Fake it until you make it
This new message that you are telling yourself doesn’t align with the inner critic you’ve lived with for years. It takes time to truly feel what you are now saying. Reaffirm this new way of thinking with mantras such as “I am enough,” “I can do hard things,” and “I am brave,” and say them to yourself and your child. Counter those shameful thoughts with confident ones.
Make a list of these affirmations with your child. Explain that this list is to be used daily and when we feel badly about ourselves or are afraid to try. Let your children see that you are using this list and encourage them to use it as well.
(3) Don’t give up
I remind myself and my daughter that no matter how many times we get knocked down, all we can do is keep picking ourselves up. It is inevitable that we will make mistakes. What we do with those mistakes is what matters.
I wrote a children’s book, and the road to getting an agent is far harder than what I anticipated. My daughter has seen me send query letter after query letter. She has asked me why I don’t give up. I told her that some of my greatest accomplishments are the ones I had to work at the most to achieve. My hope is that my daughter sees that what truly matters is perseverance and believing in yourself.
(4) Instead of focusing on your failures, make a list of the things you accomplished despite feeling afraid or self-conscious.
Ask your child to make a list of things he/she worked hard to achieve. The next time you or your child feel badly about yourself, look at the list of reminders of how brave you are. Remind yourself and your children that it takes great courage to put yourself out there.
(5) We all have strengths and weaknesses
We are human, so we are flawed. It is inevitable that there will always be someone that is able to do something better than us. As a recovering perfectionist, I remind myself and my daughter that all we can strive for is to be the best versions of ourselves. Perfection isn’t the goal, but courage and strength of conviction is everything.
(6) Self-care is necessary to incorporate into our life and our routine
Encourage your children to explore what they enjoy and to devote time to it. Our emotional well-being is the foundation for learning to love ourselves.
Feel proud of yourself for trying regardless of what others say and do. Remind yourself and your children that there are people that will try to say and do things to make you feel badly about yourself. It is imperative to be your own supporter and cheerleader.
I remind my daughter often that she is not defined by any labels. She is defined by who she is as a person. That means that she should strive for inner beauty instead of focusing on her appearance. My hope is that she believes in herself as much as I believe in her.
(8) Be your own friend
When I feel shame or guilt, I often ask myself what I would say to my friend if the same thing was happening to her. I tend to give others far more support and understanding than I give to myself.
When I notice my daughter is being hard on herself, I ask her what she would say to her friend if that person was in the same situation. I then ask her to say those words to herself. That often helps her to put things into perspective.
Giving kindness and compassion to ourselves is crucial in building self-confidence. We need a gentle reminder that we deserve better than how we are treating ourselves.
The journey to building self-confidence is a long and difficult one. There will be easier days as well as days that are more challenging. Be mindful of the story you tell yourself and the example you are setting for your children. It is inevitable that we will fall down along the way, but like everything in life, we must pick ourselves up and try again. You are enough. We are enough just as we are.
Self-care is something that many of us take for granted. We are so busy taking care of others, that we often neglect our own well-being. The saying that you can’t pour from an empty cup is so true. Without self-care, we experience burnout, resentment, overwhelm, anxiety, and fatigue. There are 7 types of self-care, and it is important to incorporate them into our routine.
What are the 7 types of self-care?
(1) Emotional self-care
Processing our emotions in a healthy way is key. Having self-compassion and practicing healthy coping mechanisms allows us to feel whatever it is we are feeling without judgment. This is necessary to regulate our feelings.
Examples of emotional self-care
Setting boundaries with others– Communicating our emotional needs to others allows us to prioritize our emotions and have healthy relationships with others. (theblissfullmind.com, 2021)
Positive affirmations– Write down or say aloud affirmations or mantras that help you to regulate your emotions.
Journaling about your feelings and experiences– Writing is an excellent outlet for our feelings, and it helps us to process them.
Challenging your inner critic– The stories and belief systems engrained in us from childhood are often false. Challenging that pesky voice that tells you that you aren’t good enough is necessary to be kinder to yourself.
Asking for help when you need it– Being attuned to when we need assistance prevents overwhelm and burnout
Talk to a therapist– Speak to a therapist about your feelings and triggers. Having better understanding of your emotions goes a long way towards self-compassion and learning ways to manage your feelings in a healthy way.
Speaking kindly to yourself– Learning how to be your own friend is necessary in order to replace unhealthy coping mechanisms and to react to your feelings in a constructive way.
(2) Physical Self-care
This type of self-care involves anything that helps with your physical well-being. This allows you to boost your energy and strengthen your immune system.
Examples of physical self-care
Getting enough sleep– Set a regular bedtime so that you can get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep a day.
Be active– Taking care of your body is crucial for your physical well-being. This can be done through yoga, Pilates, walking, running, bike riding, dancing, etc.
Go to the doctor– Make sure you get regular doctor and dentist visits, as well as other medical checks (e.g., eye doctor). When there are health concerns, do not hesitate to make an appointment with a doctor.
Nourish your body– Eat healthy foods and take necessary vitamins.
Stay hydrated– We are so busy that we often forget the importance of drinking fluids.
Practice proper hygiene– Wash your hands regularly, including after using the bathroom, before meals, and after blowing your nose. Also, sneeze and cough into your elbow, change your toothbrush every 3 months (or after you are sick), and sanitize doorknobs, remote controls, and light switches.
Know your limits– If you are feeling sick, it’s important to stop working and/or exerting yourself as much as possible. Sometimes we have no choice but to keep going, but be mindful of how your body is feeling and set limits accordingly.
Take your medication– If your doctor prescribed you a medication, follow the directions on the label and take it as prescribed.
(3) Mental/Intellectual Self-Care
Challenging your mind and being open to learning new things is crucial for our well-being as well. This ensures that we keep growing, no matter our age.
Examples of Mental/Intellectual Self-Care
Having a growth mindset– Seeing new challenges as an opportunity for growth rather than feeling badly about what we don’t know allows us to be lifelong learners.
Reading– We open our minds to a world of new things when we read.
Learn a new skill– Whether it’s playing a musical instrument or learning how to cook, acquiring new skills allows us to keep our mind sharp.
Writing – Writing allows us to tap into our creativity and stimulate our minds. (theblissfullmind.com, 2021)
Challenge your brain– Do a logic puzzle, a brain teaser, or anything that makes you challenge your cognition.
(4) Social Self-Care
Nurturing our relationships with others allows us to have support and companionship, which is necessary as human beings. Having healthy relationships with other people goes a long way towards our own well-being. Life is incredibly hectic and a constant juggling act, and there is no right or wrong amount of time to spend with others. It is up to each of us to figure out what our social needs are, and to create time for them in a way that enhances our life, as opposed to feeling like it is an extra obligation.
Examples of social self-care
Get rid of toxic relationships– Relationships that are harmful to your well-being should be ended. I’m not saying you should end relationships because of a disagreement, but if there is a pattern of behavior that is hurtful and continues despite discussing how you feel, it is better off to sever ties.
Schedule times to talk on the phone or meet in-person– Life can get overwhelming and plans to speak or meet up can get pushed off if there isn’t something set.
Have a date night– If you have kids, it is easy to neglect the relationship with your significant other. Even if you can’t find a sitter, have an indoor date night after the kids have gone to sleep. It will do wonders for your well-being, as well as your relationship. (healthcoachinstitute.com, 2021)
Choose quality over quantity– You may not have a ton of time, but even a few minutes of checking-in or sending a text are helpful to maintain relationships.
Setting boundaries with others– In order to have healthy relationships, it is important to be honest about our needs and limits. For example- telling your friends that you won’t answer the phone after 10pm, telling your mom that questions about when you are getting married are off-limits.
Get creative– You can invite friends along with you while you run, have a group zoom call, or chat on the phone while you are picking up your kids from school.
(5) Spiritual Self-Care
Despite what the name implies, this does not necessarily mean religion. This type of self-care means anything that enhances your soul and your purpose in life. The way that one connects with their inner spirit will differ from person to person.
Examples of spiritual self-care
Spending time in nature– Taking walks, sitting in your backyard, or going camping are all ways to connect with the outdoors. (healthcoachinstitute.com, 2021)
Get involved in a meaningful cause– Become a part of something that you believe in, whether it is volunteering at an animal shelter, doing fundraising, or giving to charity.
Connecting with a power greater than yourself– That can mean prayer, attending a religious service, discovering what inspires you, or meditation.
Identify your values– Figure out your beliefs, and be open to challenging beliefs that don’t serve you.
(6) Professional Self-care
Finding a healthy work-life balance is crucial for our self-care. Whether you work full-time, part-time, or are a Stay-at-Home-Mom (which is a job as well!), there still needs to be time set aside for you that is separate from your obligations throughout the day. (developgoodhabits.com, 2021)
Examples of professional self-care
Take short breaks throughout the day– Even 5 minutes to yourself every few hours is important to decompress and reduce overwhelm.
Set a reminder to take a lunch break– Whether you are busy on a work project or chasing after kids, it is necessary to stay well-nourished.
Turn your phone off after a certain time– Not answering emails or scrolling through your phone after an allotted time allows you to relax and unwind.
Say no when needed– Do not bite off more than you can chew. Learning to say no to things allows you to say yes to the things that bring you joy.
Keep lists– Writing your obligations down and staying organized ensures that you remember what you need to do and that you won’t procrastinate.
(7) Environmental Self-Care
Taking care of the spaces around you helps you to be more efficient and to also reduce stress. It also creates a sense of belonging and comfort.
Examples of environmental self-care
Organizing your workspace– Whether it’s putting family pictures on the desk or organizing your drawers, make sure that your space promotes calmness.
Cleaning your house– Taking the time to tidy up creates a sense of control and belonging where you live.
Delete unnecessary emails– Reduce a cluttered inbox by deleting things that are simply taking up space.
Sooth your senses– Put on comfortable clothes, listen to relaxing music, dim the lights, and/or eat your favorite food.
Planning– This can mean meal-prep, setting out clothes in advance, or creating a budget.
There is more to self-care than bubble baths and messages. The truth is that your well-being needs to be prioritized in all aspects of your life. Use this list and the examples provided as a guide for what type of self-care you might be neglecting. Although all areas are important, take your time incorporating additional types of self-care into your routine. See which ones need your attention more and focus on those. Your needs may differ month by month, week by week, or even day by day. The goal is to find a self-care routine that enhances your quality of life and helps you to find balance. Remember that incorporating a new routine will not happen overnight, and an important component of self-care is to show yourself compassion and grace.
P.S. If you are looking for further support to implement self-care, don’t forget to print out my FREE self-care worksheets!
Regardless of the quality of your marriage or its duration, going through a divorce can be one of the most trying and difficult transitions of your life. Being able to heal and move on does not happen overnight. Acknowledging and processing your feelings in a healthy and productive way is crucial in order to heal from divorce and move forward.
I have wanted to discuss the topic of divorce for some time; however, I felt it was best to be written about by someone that experienced it firsthand. My husband was married once before, and he knows all too well about the pain of divorce. He is sharing in his own words about his divorce, as well as strategies to aid in healing.
Guest Post: MY DIVORCE STORY
I went to college at Ohio State. I had a very good time there, partying and enjoying my late teens and early 20s. In 2002, after Ohio State beat Michigan to go to the national championship game, my fraternity had a huge party. That night I started talking to this girl that I thought was cute. Perhaps it wasn’t the best way to start a relationship, as I don’t remember a lot of that night due to taking a lot of different substances. I started to date her right before winter break, and it continued once we got back to school after the holidays.
We dated for our last two years of school, and we continued our relationship after I moved back home to start working. I asked her to marry me when she came to visit me a month after I graduated from college. She said yes. We were engaged for almost two years because she wanted to get her masters and I wanted to get my career started.
I was always nervous about being in a long-distance relationship, and my fears came true.
Those two years were awful. The time apart started off fine, but as the months passed things got more difficult. We saw each other once a month, but when we weren’t together she would rarely call or return any of my calls. We would go longer and longer periods of time without speaking to each other. When I asked what was going on, I was told that she was busy and that everything was okay.
About two months before our wedding, she called me and told me that she wanted our engagement to be over. She said that she had kissed another guy and she didn’t feel comfortable moving forward with the marriage. My heart sank into my stomach. I talked with her and asked her to stay with me. I told her that I loved her and wanted to be with her in the worst way. At the end of the day, we both decided that we would get married and that our long-distance had taken a toll on the relationship.
This is one of my few regrets in life. I was a very young 23 year old who was terrified to be alone. Being single and starting over was not appealing to me. I should have known that if someone didn’t love me for who I was and wanted to be with me, then I should have let her go. At that time I didn’t know my own self worth. I identified who I was through her and by being with her, which was not a healthy way to live. The relationship should have ended and I could have started working on finding who I was as a person, which would have been a much healthier life choice.
I told myself that once we got married and started living together, things would get better.
After our honeymoon we moved into our apartment in New Jersey. She got a job and started working. However, things never did get better. She would make calls with the door shut in our second bedroom or go outside. We would get into arguments or simply not speak to each other because we had the same personality type and didn’t know how to effectively communicate with each other.
We flew back to Ohio in December to spend time with her family. One Sunday I went with her brother to a bar to watch football. She didn’t want to go; she said she was tired. Her brother and I went and had a good time, but when I got back, I knew something was wrong. She was in her bedroom, under the covers, trying to sleep. I didn’t push the issue until we got back to New Jersey. A few days before New Year’s Eve I demanded to know what was going on. Eventually she told me that she cheated on me with a guy that lived in Ohio, and that it had been going on for several months. She told me she wanted a divorce. My marriage at that point was over, after only 6 months.
MY WAY OF EMOTIONAL HEALING WAS BY NOT FACING MY FEELINGS
We didn’t have any children together, so our divorce was straightforward and uncontested. Even though the process was very fast, it didn’t make how I felt any easier. I still loved her, even though what she did hurt me. I was alone and in a lot of pain.
People need to process their feelings in order to heal from divorce. However, I decided that I did not want to feel the sadness coursing through my body. I spent as much time as I could drinking and partying. I’d go out most nights during the week after work, drink, and meet as many girls as I could. I dealt with my pain by not dealing with my pain at all. That course of action set off a chain of events that I would not realize for many years down the road.
I was planting the seeds to my alcohol and pill addiction by not processing my pain
It doesn’t matter if you are going through a simple divorce, or one where there are children involved. Going through that process is incredibly difficult and sad. Each person has an outlook on change. Some people handle change very well, accepting the changes and moving forward as best they can. Other people are resistant to change. If you are resistant to change, acceptance can be extremely difficult. Like any loss, admitting to yourself that your marriage is over can be incredibly painful. However, it is a necessary step to move forward with your life.
Emotional wellness and healing are of the utmost importance when you are going through a divorce, as well as after. There are many things that I wished I had done differently when I was going through my divorce.
TIPS AND STRATEGIES TO HELP HEAL FROM DIVORCE
Going through a separation or divorce can be very difficult, no matter the reason for it. It can turn your world upside down and make it hard to get through the work day and stay productive. Here are some things I wish I had done to get through this difficult adjustment:
(1) When you’re at your limit, stop
Everyone has a threshold of what they are able to accomplish in a day. You have to learn that when you hit that emotional threshold, you need to stop doing whatever you were doing. Continuing to work when you are physically, mentally, or emotionally exhausted will make things worse. It will wear you down and make you less productive. Stopping, taking a break, and coming back to your task will increase productivity. (com, 2021)
During a divorce or separation it’s normal to feel sad, angry, depressed, frustrated and confused. Divorce is a form of loss, and that means it is necessary to grieve. These feelings can be very intense. Give yourself permission to feel whatever you are feeling. Processing your feelings while you are going through them is a lot healthier to heal from divorce than suppressing them and having them resurface later in an unhealthy way. I learned the hard way that using alcohol or drugs as a way to cope will only lead to more problems.
(3) Get sleep
It’s completely normal to have trouble sleeping when you are going through a separation or divorce. However, sleep deprivation alters your ability to think, concentrate and remember things. If you are going through long periods of time not being able to sleep, it might be time to think about seeing your doctor or a psychologist to help process your emotions and feelings (org, 2021)
(4) Learn to say “no”
Going through a divorce will take a physical and emotional toll on your mind and body. Outside of work and spending time with your kids, there might be other commitments that you are unable to do. It’s okay to say no to them and take the time for yourself.
Self-care goes a long way to helping yourself heal your mind and body. Regular exercise will boost your energy, help improve your mood and will also help you sleep better. It is a phenomenal way to relieve stress and help work your emotions out of your body.
(6) Set and Respect your Boundaries
Once you start the process of separation or divorce, it is extremely important to set new boundaries that you would like to have in your life. Your ex may have to stay a part of your life if there are kids. It is crucial to implement and set boundaries to find a way to co-exist. It is also important to set boundaries with family and friends about what you need during this time. Doing so might feel awkward at first, but the more you state your needs, the more you will be able to free yourself mentally and emotionally . This will help in your healing from the divorce. (com, 2021)
(7) Take time to explore your interests
When you were married, you had to compromise with your spouse and didn’t always get to do what you wanted. Now that you are single, use this time to explore new things that might be of interest to you. It will not only give yourself enjoyment, but also let you find your new self and help to make you grow through this difficult time.
(8) Don’t involve your children in the conflict
If you have children in your marriage than this one is for you. Avoid arguing with your ex in front of your children or talking negatively about your ex in front of or to your children. Don’t use them as spies or messengers or make them take sides. Try to keep them out of it as much as you can.
(9) Don’t go through this alone
Being able to share your feelings with family and friends is invaluable. They can be there to help support you during this difficult time. Also consider joining a support group where you can talk with others going through similar situations. Isolating yourself can cause you more stress and amplify your negative feelings and emotions. (org, 2021)
(10) Learn to let go
Divorce is full of things that you will not be able to control. Instead of being angry about how the process goes, or how your former spouse acts, consciously decide to not focus your energy on things you can’t control.
Everybody has gone through something that changed them in a way where they could never go back to the person they once were. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. The transformation that you go through during your healing journey from divorce is one of self-discovery and personal transformation. Anyone who gets divorced goes through pain, but you come out of it. When I was going through my divorce, I was crushed. I spent a lot of the time either crying or numbing myself to keep myself from crying. I buried my feelings so far inside of me under lock and key so it would never come to the surface.
In retrospect, I wish I had used the strategies that I wrote in this post. They would have helped me to grow into a better person than what I became out of that dark period in my life. It took me a very long time to become a better person, a person who can at least try to face my feelings and heal the scars and wounds that I have from that time. Grieving is such an important thing to do, because it helps you to move on from despair into hope. Hope that things will get better and that good can come from the pain and trying times that you had to endure.
Divorce is not easy for anyone to go through. There is no right or only way to heal from divorce. What I do know is that things will get better. Live your life to the fullest. Life will get back to normal, it will just be a new normal. I don’t regret my past marriage, because it led me to my wife and the life that I have with her today. I will always be grateful for the path that I had to travel because it led me to her. It was necessary to go through the darkest time of my life in order to receive the love from a woman who truly loves every part of me. Divorce is terrible, but you will get through it.