tips and strategies to reduce anxiety naturally

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.

It is important to keep in mind that there is no substitute for seeking professional help to manage anxiety disorders. However, these strategies can be used in conjunction with therapy. To gain further knowledge about anxiety, previous articles address various emotional and physical symptoms of anxiety and different types of anxiety disorders.

10 Grounding Techniques For Calming Down Quickly

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.

(5) Numbers

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.

grounding techniques for anxiety

(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

  1. 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. 
  2. 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

reducing 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.

(6) Probiotics have also shown benefits in reducing anxiety

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.

(2) Meditation

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.

(3) Yoga

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 for anxiety reduction

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.

There are some great journal options here, here, and here.

4 Important Anxiety Reminders

(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! 

 

surviving no contact

The Road to Acceptance

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

toxic relationship with my mom

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.”
lessons learned from marriage

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.

how to build self-confidence in yourself

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.

(7) Don’t rely on others to validate you and feel proud of you

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.

types of self-care

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.
  • Breathing exercises– This practice can be incredibly helpful towards regulating emotions.
  • 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)

types of self care

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!

 

how to heal from divorce

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)

(2) It’s ok to not be ok 

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. 

(5) Exercise 

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.

 

how do i stop being codependent

If you missed my story of how I learned to break codependency and stop being codependent, you can read about it here. I also suggest reading the book Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself by Melody Beattie.

Codependency is not your fault. The good news is that the things we learned as children do not have to be repeated in adulthood. We can break being codependent and practice a healthier way of having relationships.

The first step is to take a step back from anything that is out of your control. Whether it is your mom, your sibling, your friend, your spouse, or even your child, there are certain things that are simply not within our power (or are right) to fix. This is difficult, but crucial.

Stop codependency by creating healthy boundaries 

Establish clear boundaries so that you can be supportive, loving, and encouraging, but not at the expense of your well-being or happiness. Others are entitled to make their own choices, regardless of whether you agree with those choices are not. Likewise, you get to take control of your happiness and make your own choices. 

Getting your power back and claiming responsibility for your well-being is not an easy task. It is something that is very much ingrained in our way of thinking and acting. I have to remind myself often that my husband’s sobriety is his responsibility. I am grateful that he has been sober for the last four years, but his sobriety is a choice that he has to make each day.

Healthy relationships require boundaries, which is foreign to many of us. Boundaries are essential so that you can stay in your lane, while clearly expressing what you need for your relationship. You are the only one that can determine which boundaries are needed for your well-being.

Make a list of boundaries, and decide which ones are requests and which ones are non-negotiable. Have an open and honest conversation about your boundaries and allow others to do the same. After all, boundaries are a two-way street.

If a boundary is crossed, then it’s your decision whether to discuss and reinstate the boundary, or if you need to walk away. You cannot force others to respect and provide what you need in a relationship, but you can respect yourself. It is also crucial to understand that you cannot save others, but you can save yourself. This is how you break being codependent.

practice self-care and focus on your needs

 

Next, stop codependency by focusing on what you want and need to feel good about yourself, completely separate from anyone else. What brings YOU joy? What are YOUR hobbies? Who are YOU as a person? For me, starting this blog has been incredibly healing because it is something that I do that is separate from being a wife and a mom. It is something I am passionate about, and I feel good knowing that I am trying to help others and give support, without trying to change or fix anyone.

It’s a good idea to take time to write down your thoughts and feelings. Keeping a journal gives you an opportunity to focus on your feelings and brainstorm ideas. Speak to a therapist and read books about codependency to help you on your healing journey. Discover your own identity.

journal prompts

I cannot stress enough that Rome was not built in a day. It will take time to learn new patterns of behavior. It is important to show yourself love and compassion as you navigate the foreign territory of breaking codependent behavior.

Just as codependency is not healthy, the polar opposite isn’t either. Being completely independent doesn’t translate into having genuine relationships. If you aren’t allowing yourself to be vulnerable, then your relationships will lack true intimacy. It is important to have your own identity separate from the ones you love; however, putting up walls and not letting anyone in is the same wolf in sheep’s clothing. Love is about sharing the deepest parts of yourself with another, but not expecting someone to save you.

create interdependence and stop being codependent in your relationships

Interdependence is the goal of any healthy relationship. It allows us to love and support each other, while not expecting the other one to make us feel whole or to change who they are.

My husband and I are each whole on our own, and we have the choice to grow individually and as a couple. That means that if I am feeling sad and hurt, I first try to comfort myself and give myself what I need before I share my feelings with him. I give him the space to try to understand my perspective without forcing him to say or do anything.

Stop codependency by remembering that your happiness is up to you. Just as you can’t save or change anyone, it isn’t anyone’s responsibility to save or fix you. Work on yourself and allow others the opportunity to do the same. Remember to establish clear boundaries to break being codependent. This allows others to choose their own path and make their own choices, but you control what you do with that choice. You also get to choose your own path and healing journey.

Show love and kindness to yourself and your feelings. Your feelings, thoughts, hopes, and dreams are important and have value because they are yours. Respect and honor them even if others do not.

Interdependence is a foreign concept for many, but a way of living that is possible for all of us. Change can be scary, and there will be many hiccups along the way. The good news? You can learn to stop being codependent and get to be the hero of your own story.

parenting a child with adhd

Imagine this scene: You are shopping at a grocery store, and you see someone nearby (pre-COVID, of course). That person watches your daughter touch various items in the aisle. You try to stop your child, and remind her that she can look, but cannot touch. As you push your cart, your daughter starts running ahead even though you tell her to hold your hand. The person who is watching then shakes their head and mutters something about a wild child. This is a mere glimpse into my life of parenting a child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Sensory Processing  Disorder (SPD).

“Parents who have children with special needs, also have special needs. They need to know more than the average parent. Need to do more than the average parent. They need more patience than the average parent, and so much more.” (Parents Supporting Parents).

parenting my child with adhd and spd

The scenario I described at the top is not at all shocking for a parent of a child with ADHD and SPD. The constant struggle to support our children is something that is an everyday part of our lives. Even worse, surveyors assume our children are spoiled and not properly parented.

This makes us feel shame, not only because we feel we are failing as parents, but because our children are being judged.

The purpose of this post is not to discuss strategies, although I’ve used many, which you can find here and here. On behalf of every parent who has a child with special needs, I am giving a glimpse into my experiences with my child who has ADHD and SPD. It is important to remember that “No two kids with ADHD are exactly alike. Their symptoms can vary in type and severity… ADHD isn’t an all-or-nothing thing.” (understood.org, 2014).

My hope is that sharing some of my obstacles will make other moms feel less alone and judged by others. Knowledge is the foundation for awareness and advocacy. My aspiration is that we spread awareness to those who do not understand these challenges.

lack of impulse control and emotional regulation skills

parenting a child with ADHD

One of the biggest challenges I face is my child’s lack of impulse control. Brielle needs constant monitoring. She has hurt herself several times because she runs down the stairs. Also, Brielle jumps off couches, is unable to take a shower by herself because she tries to jump and run in it, and throws herself backwards in chairs. She already fell backwards twice, but fortunately wasn’t hurt (although I aged ten years each time). Many times she went down the stairs at night and jump on the countertops. I continue to have a baby gate at the top of the stairs for my 8-year-old daughter. Whereas other children would learn from these painful mistakes, Brielle continues to put herself in danger.

Emotional regulation for Brielle is also a huge obstacle.

She perseverates on things that cause her to worry and feel sad. Using emotional regulation tools is very helpful, but she still fixates on things and needs extra support to process her feelings and move past them. “Kids with ADHD don’t have the same capacity to manage their emotions. If they don’t have it, how do you expect them to do it? How do you expect them to respond to what you’re asking them to do? It’s like they can’t win.” (Dr. Dawn K. Brown, MD, ADHD Wellness Center, 2016).

As I illustrated in my earlier scenario, taking Brielle with me on errands is a recipe for disaster. She is overly stimulated by all the things in the store and wants to touch everything. Due to her short attention span, she gets very frustrated when having to stay next to me and walk calmly. I only bring her for quick errands while providing redirection and encouragement. If my errand requires me to talk to a cashier or salesperson, Brielle will get restless and try to run around.

parenting a child with adhd who has endless energy and craves sensory stimulation is very difficult

sensory stimulation

Brielle plays outside every day as an outlet for all her energy. However, when playing in the yard, she runs up the driveway towards the street despite my consistent reminders. She tries to take her scooter and sit on it instead of standing. She’s fallen down the driveway on multiple occasions.

Brielle craves sensory stimulation.

She is always seeking out “more.” I am fearful at parks because she climbs up objects without looking where she is putting her feet. She jumps off of high places (I will never forget the time I had to catch her when she walked off a beam midair), and runs around without looking to see if any object can hit her. As a result, I can’t sit at a park and relax. It is imperative that I am hyper alert everywhere. Looking away for a few seconds is the difference between safety and disaster.

From morning until night, Brielle is always on the go. That means that from the moment she wakes up, she is immediately energized. She goes from 0 to 100. No matter my exhaustion or mood, I have to be alert. There is simply no laying low with her.

lack of focusing and difficulty playing independently 

independent play

Every day Brielle loses her stuff because she is always on the go. She doesn’t remember where she puts her things, so keeping her stuff organized is a must. When she had dance class, there was always at least one item missing. As a result, I had to go on a scavenger hunt with her to find her shoes, her leotard, or her tights. 

Brielle rushes through activities and moves on to something else very quickly.

She needs numerous reminders to stop and clean up before going to another activity.  She will leave papers on the floor, clothes on the bed, and toys all over unless she is redirected.

Playing independently is a huge challenge for her because using her imagination requires higher level thinking. She has difficulty coming up with safe ways of playing independently due to her sensory issues and impulsivity. I limit her choices to only a few items when she does “quiet time,” and I check in on her regularly.  When I haven’t checked on her, she’s done things such as jumping into the tub and turning on the water, spilling water all over the floor, and/or going into closets and taking things out.

Due to her lack of impulse control, she will interrupt and tap me when I am in the middle of something. I cannot look at my emails, talk on the phone, or have a conversation without Brielle trying to get my attention or get into something if I am preoccupied.

Boredom in a child with ADHD and SPD equals trouble. She has gone into my room and looked inside my drawers, in my closets, and through my jewelry. There have been many incidences where she accidentally shattered hung pictures on walls and items on floors because she is running around. I give verbal and visual prompts that she needs to wait for her turn, but this is something she struggles with daily. What may appear to others as being demanding or a troublemaker is actually a child who struggles with delayed gratification. Brielle always acts before she thinks.

inattention and executive functioning

Brielle has difficulty focusing and learning, as well as executive functioning issues. She has an IEP because she needs constant redirection, individualized instruction, and the use of multiple prompts to learn new information. There are times when she is unable to grasp new material because of her processing issues and poor memory.

She has a different learning style than others, but that does not mean she can’t learn.

Brielle has difficulty sleeping because of her sensory issues with her bladder. She will have accidents because it doesn’t register that she has to go to the bathroom. Most often, she uses the bathroom every few minutes because she is overly sensitive to the sensation.

Brielle’s body doesn’t register exhaustion like other kids, so she becomes hyperactive (more than usual) when she gets overtired. She also has difficulty falling asleep because her body and mind won’t quiet down. As Sarah Young explained, “Living with ADHD is like being locked in a room with 100 televisions and 100 radios all playing. None of them have power buttons so you can turn them off and the door is locked from the outside.”

 

 

childs advocate

There are many ways of supporting kids with special needs, and Brielle has made huge strides.

She is not defined by her ADHD and SPD; rather, she is a smart, funny, sweet, loving, sensitive girl who has ADHD and SPD.
“No mom who is actively trying to understand what their child is going through should ever feel like they are not doing enough or they are a bad mom. Your child is very lucky to be loved so unconditionally by you. Some day they will look back and say, ‘I got here because of you.’”

( ourADHDstory.com, 2014).

 
We are our children’s biggest supporters and greatest advocates. Wear that honor with pride and hold your head up high. Remember that your kids are lucky to have a parent who tries as hard as you do.
how to overcome mom guilt

If you are a parent, it is very likely that you’ve experienced guilt. Once I became a mom, I experienced guilt that I never knew was possible. It is something that often goes hand-in-hand with parenting. Guilt is healthy when it motivates us to grow and learn, but it can become problematic when it takes on a life of its own. Luckily, we can learn how to overcome mom guilt and decrease those feelings.

What is Mom Guilt?

Mom guilt is a feeling that moms experience regarding their role as a mother. Although guilt can be experienced by dad as well (aka dad guilt), it tends to affect women more.  It can be feelings of worry or regret that you’ve done something wrong, didn’t do it well enough, or did something that will affect your kids. Mom guilt can be fleeting and/or pervasive and can be based on both short-term and long-term decisions.

Guilt is often due to a behavior, which in turn, causes feelings of shame about oneself. This shame causes self-judgment and negative thoughts and beliefs. The guilt and resulting shame cause other feelings and behaviors. In other words, mom guilt can be a perpetuating cycle of guilt, shame, and self-criticism (mindfulreturn.com, 2017).

What causes it?

There are several possible causes of mom guilt:

(1) Postpartum depression

Guilt can be a major symptom of postpartum depression. A staggering 1 in 7 women experience postpartum depression or anxiety (mindfulreturn.com, 2017). Moms who are experiencing postpartum depression may feel numb and disconnected from their child, which can cause feelings of inadequacy as a parent. It can also make simple tasks incredibly difficult to accomplish due to a lack of energy. This all results in tremendous amounts of guilt.

(2) Working moms

Working mom guilt is a specific type of mom guilt due to working. They either are unable to stay at home or choose to go to work, causing them to feel guilt about being away from their kids. They feel guilty about putting effort into something besides being a mother. There can also be feelings of guilt if they miss their kids and/or feelings of guilt if they enjoy being away from their kids (funlovingfamilies.com, 2021).

causes of mom guilt

(3) Anxiety disorders

Those with anxiety disorders experience anxiety excessively, which can cause them to experience intense and frequent feelings of mom guilt (funlovingfamilies.com, 2021)

(4) Perfectionism

Mom guilt can occur even if nothing was done to warrant it. Moms often have a notion that we are supposed to be perfect in our parenting roles. As a result, we set impossible standards for ourselves that make us feel guilty and like failures when they aren’t achieved.

(5) Comparing ourselves to others

Comparisons to other moms, either ones we know or through social media, can cause us to feel guilt and inferiority.

(6) Actual mistakes

If we do something wrong, we feel guilty. We want our kids to be happy, and anything we do that negatively affects them can make us feel guilty.

(7) Our identity is tied to motherhood

We invest so much of who we are into our role as a mom, that we often don’t separate the two. Therefore, our success (or failures) as a mom is associated with our own sense of self-worth and value as a person.

(8) External pressures

Family member, friends, neighbors, and other moms can insert themselves into our decision making. Recommendations from doctors and parenting specialists can cause us to feel mom guilt with tips such as “breast is best” and “screen time is harmful.” They can put pressure on us, which makes us feel inadequate and believe that we aren’t making the right choices for our children.

(9) Personal insecurities

If you already had issues with not feeling like you were good enough before kids, this will only amplify when you are a mom. The faulty belief systems we had prior to becoming parents will rear their ugly heads tenfold when becoming a parent. Parenting will test our insecurities and bring everything to the surface.

(10) Internal pressure

We love our children so much and feel responsible for their success and failures. As a result, we feel guilt and fear that we will cause damage to them due to our mistakes.

What are the symptoms?

Mom guilt can manifest itself in many forms:

  • Depression and/or anxiety– feelings of sadness, intensive worry, anger, and
  • Reduction in dopamine (funlovingfamilies.com, 2021)
  • Perfectionism– this can be exhibited by overcompensating by appearing as if you are perfect, or it can be perpetual feelings that you need to be a perfect mom
  • Negative thoughts– thoughts that you aren’t good enough, aren’t doing enough, or are a failure as a mom.
  • Doing too much– moms often feel that they need to do more to be better moms. Unfortunately, this way of thinking and behaving usually leads to burnout.
  • Addictive behaviors– in order to avoid the feelings of guilt, a mom may turn to drinking, drugs, gambling, overspending, or other addictive tendencies (mindfulreturn.com, 2020).
  • Exhaustion– constant feelings of guilt can take a toll physically and cause extreme fatigue
  • Physically sick– chronic mom guilt can cause your immune system to become compromised (funlovingfamilies.com, 2021)

How can I overcome mom guilt?

Here are strategies on how to overcome mom guilt:

(1) Determine its origin

The first step to overcome mom guilt is to understand where it stems from. Is it a particular topic that causes mom guilt or does it stem from your own childhood experiences with your parents? Did you experience trauma that is impacting your feelings?

Use a journal and keep track of when you feel mom guilt. You can determine if there are any patterns that emerge. Once you’ve established the cause of mom guilt, you can be mindful of your triggers (healthline.com, 2020).

(2) Challenge your inner critic

Gain awareness into why you feel that way. Did you actually do something wrong or is it an irrational thought or belief that is causing your mom guilt? If you did something, can you work on it and improve and/or apologize?

Jot down the statements that pop into your head when you are feeling mom guilt, and then read them aloud. Talk to yourself as you would a friend and challenge those statements if they are stemming from your inner critic. Next, combat your negative statements by writing down more reasonable ones. You can also write down positive affirmations to challenge your inner critic.

Example of inner critic statement- I am a terrible mom because I wasn’t available to play with Johnny when he asked me to play with him.

More reasonable statement- I know I can’t always be available to play with Johnny, but I can set aside quality time to play with him every day.

Guilt often makes us feel paralyzed and helpless. Sometimes there is an underlying solution if we look passed our feelings and see the situation in its actuality.

(3) Name your mom guilt 

It can often be difficult to overcome the faulty beliefs and stories we tell ourselves. A way to put our inner critic in its proper place is to name it. Although it might seem silly, it makes it easier to combat that voice that tells you that you are failing as a mom and recognize its foolishness. (funlovingfamilies.com, 2021)

For example: “Samantha, stop telling me that I’m not good enough. You’re bothering me.”

(4) Forgive yourself

It is important to recognize that perfection is impossible and torturing yourself with guilt will not change anything. You will inevitably make mistakes, and by setting impossible standards, you will negatively affect your mental health and your relationship with your kids.

Forgive yourself for your mistakes and strive for a growth mentality. Remind yourself and your kids that being a human being means having flaws. None of us are perfect, but we can own up to our mistakes and do our best. This sets a good example for your kids to give themselves compassion and to not seek perfection.

(5) Stop the comparison game

We all have our own set our unique experiences and challenges. We never know what others are facing. Focus on being the best mom you can be instead of comparing yourself to others.

Take a break from social media if you feel that there is too much pressure. Also, do your own part in stopping comparison by supporting other moms, regardless of whether their parenting beliefs are different than yours.

(6) Avoid judgmental people

Surround yourself by those that will support you, regardless of their own personal choices. Additionally, distance yourself from those that criticize and judge you. Stand up for your choices and walk away from anyone that continues to insert their beliefs onto you.

(7) Trust your own instincts and do what is best for your own child

Despite the saying that it takes a village to raise a child, you are still the mom. You know what is in the best interest of your child. Don’t let other people influence your choices and trust your own instincts. There is not a one-size-fits-all way to parent, and every child is unique. What may work well for one child doesn’t have to be best for another. Do what is in the best interest of your child and recognize what areas can be improved based on each of your child’s needs.

(8) Practice self-care

A crucial part of overcoming mom guilt is to prioritize your mental wellness. Being the best version of yourself allows you to be the best mom (and person) you can be. Neglecting your self-care affects you emotionally and physically, which will impact your relationships with others. Taking care of yourself improves your relationships with your kids, and it also teaches them the importance of prioritizing their own well-being.

(9) Celebrate your triumphs

We are often so focused on the “should haves” “did nots” and “supposed tos” that we don’t take the time to applaud our achievements. It is crucial to recognize the positive things we do each day instead of harping on the negative ones. Mom guilt can be counterproductive because it sends a message to our children that our efforts are never enough. Practice being your own cheerleader in front of your kids and encourage them to do the same for themselves. It is important to work on ourselves and grow; however, recognizing things we can improve upon is not the same thing as being consumed with feelings of guilt and inadequacy.

(10) Seek professional help

If you find that your guilt is overwhelming despite your best efforts, please do not hesitate to contact a professional.

Takeaway: Managing Mom Guilt 

Humans feel a range of emotions. Guilt is something that in small doses can motivate us and indicate areas that we can work upon. However, extreme amounts of mom guilt are not beneficial to us or our children. In times of stress and uncertainty, it is easy to look at ourselves and the list of things that we want to do better. However, life is filled with difficulties, and therefore our expectations must shift accordingly.

We love and want what is best for our children. Ironically, allowing ourselves to be consumed with guilt often interferes with our intentions to do right by our children. It also prevents us from savoring motherhood. Showing ourselves kindness, compassion, empathy, and grace is not only in our own best-interest, but it models for our kids how they should treat themselves. It is a win-win.

I hope this article helps you to overcome some of your mom guilt. You are capable, and you are doing the best you can. Trust yourself and know that motherhood is hard for all of us. Your unconditional love is what matters most to your kids. Enjoy motherhood instead of trying to perfect it.

I have wanted to discuss the connection between perfectionism and procrastination for some time. However, I find research-based topics to be quite daunting. It is an arduous task to gather numerous sources, compile the information, write an outline, draft, edit, etc. As a recovering perfectionist, I want the content I put out to be comprehensive, detailed, and accurate. I push myself to be the very best in everything that I do, often going past the point of exhaustion. As a result, I find myself now writing about this topic months after I initially planned to do so. I am an example of how perfectionism and procrastination go hand-in-hand. This article will explain perfectionism and procrastination, as well as how to overcome the perfectionism and procrastination connection.

What is Perfectionism?

Perfectionists set extremely high standards. Self-worth is contingent on those unrealistic achievements. Perfectionism stems from a fear of failure and judgement. False belief systems make us feel that we aren’t good enough. We also often feel that others will judge us as not good enough.

Perfectionists are often sensitive to any forms of criticism, seeing any type of negative feedback as an indication of a lack of ability. There is often a black and white way of thinking, meaning that we believe that if we do not achieve perfection, we are failures. The inability to achieve these lofty standards causes stress and overwhelm. There is often performance anxiety and anticipatory anxiety. We feel incredible anxiety about not achieving the standards we set for ourselves, and this anxiety causes fear starting and completing tasks. The consequence of not achieving perfection is also seen in the mind of a perfectionist as catastrophic.

Even when perfectionists meet their goals, the feelings of success and accomplishment are temporary. In the mind of a perfectionist, there is always more that needs to be accomplished. The self-worth of a perfectionist is unstable, as it is contingent on results. Ultimately, perfectionists are setting themselves up to fail, as perfection is unattainable. 

What is procrastination?

Procrastination is an example of the Flight response, as it is done to avoid a threat (i.e., a task seen as challenging or unattainable). Procrastinators will put off making decisions, will give up prematurely, or will delay beginning a task (The Skill Collective, 2021). Due to discomfort about the task, procrastinators choose to put things off.

Procrastination stems from a variety of factors, including indecisiveness, lack of focus, lack of self-confidence, and task anxiety (webstandardssharpa.com, 2014). Procrastinators often feel shame about their behavior, which only perpetuates the procrastination. They don’t want to face their discomfort, so they continue to procrastinate, only furthering their shame and their discomfort.   

overcoming perfectionism and procrastination

What is the perfectionism-procrastination connection?

Perfectionists feel great anxiety about not achieving their goals. Procrastination allows perfectionists to not have to face their own anxiety regarding failure. As a result, something less threatening is done instead. However, procrastination causes its own feelings of shame, only perpetuating the perfectionistic way of thinking.  We avoid because we are not perfect, and avoiding only reflects our imperfections. Anxiety and shame are the constant companions of perfectionists and procrastinators.

Procrastination is often a symptom of perfection. That said, not all perfectionists are procrastinators, and not all procrastinators are perfectionists. However, for many people, perfectionism and procrastination are connected, known as the perfectionism-procrastination infinite loop (The Skill Collective, 2021).

The perfectionism-procrastination loop is:

  • you have perfectionistic standards
  • there is a fear of failure
  • there is great discomfort regarding an unsuccessful outcome
  • this discomfort causes fear
  • imperfection and discomfort are avoided by procrastinating

WE FEEL STUCK.

Ultimately, we stay in this loop because we never have to test our faulty belief system of not being good enough. If we procrastinate and perform well, it reinforces our procrastination because we can imagine that our potential wasn’t fully reached. If we perform badly, we can attribute it to time constraints and not our actual potential (which protects our fear of failure). This will also result in a continuance of this loop.

How do we overcome the perfectionism and procrastination connection?

 

Ultimately, the only way to end this loop is by changing our way of thinking regarding perfection and procrastination. Whether you consider yourself a perfectionist, a procrastinator, or both, these strategies are helpful:

(1) Lower expectations

It is necessary to re-examine the standards that we set for ourselves. This starts by understanding that there is a difference between excellence and perfection. Excellence is attainable through practice and experience, as well as developing confidence over time. Perfection is unattainable and fosters negative feelings from mistakes, regardless of excellence.

Remind your inner critic that some things are more difficult and harder to achieve than others, and THAT IS OKAY. Having a growth mindset instead of a fixed one allows us to see flaws as opportunities to learn and grow, as opposed to catastrophic thinking. It is great to have an end-goal in mind, but make sure that it is healthy (a realistic outcome) and remember that it will take time to get there.  

(2) Challenge your black-and-white way of thinking

The next time you feel anxious about a task, make a list of the best-case scenario, worst-case scenario, and a realistic-scenario. By breaking it down, it helps us to realize unrealistic expectations and visualize a more attainable outcome.

(3) Schedule your goals

Certain tasks and goals can feel quite overwhelming. Break them into smaller, more attainable goals. Instead of doing everything at once, break the task into realistic steps and schedule time in advance to do so. This will allow you to accomplish things in a more manageable way, and it gives you the opportunity to applaud your accomplishments along the way. This will help you to feel more motivated while also combatting procrastination. There are various ways to assigning time to complete a task (www.webstandardssherpa.com, 2014):

  • Set aside 5-10 minutes – set an alarm for 5-10 minutes and tell yourself that you will stop when the alarm goes off. This small amount of time is non-threatening and will help you to face your fears about starting something.
  • The Pomodoro Technique or Merlin Mann’s productivity technique– Both techniques involve setting an amount of time to focus your attention on a task and then taking a break. The Pomodoro Technique is setting a timer for 25 minutes, working until the timer goes off, taking a five- minute break, and then repeating the whole process another four times. After the 4th cycle, you take a 15-30-minute break. Merlin Mann’s technique is working for 10 minutes with a two-minute break for five cycles (altogether an hour).   
  • Choose your own amount of time– determine in advance how much time you will devote to a task, as well as the amount of time for breaks. Whatever you choose, make sure to follow through.
  • Schedule a task for a specific day– Put it on your calendar, and you can incorporate one of the set times above. pomodoro technique

(4) Set boundaries

We often feel the need to please everyone. When we say “yes” to too much, this only increases our feelings of overwhelm. This will fuel the self-destructive cycle of perfectionism and procrastination. When we start to say no to things that we don’t have time for, we can make time for the things we want to do. Adding activities that bring us joy is important for our well-being and for having a healthy balance of demands and enjoyment.

(5) Reward yourself

Make a daily list of the tasks you want to accomplish, no matter how small. Make sure to take the time to applaud your achievements when you are done. Whether it is taking out the trash or finishing a household project, treat yourself afterwards. That can mean reading a book, listening to music for a few minutes, or sitting down on the couch and relaxing.  It also breaks up the day and reminds you that you deserve positive reinforcement for your effort (www.healthline.com, 2019).

(6) Practice mindfulness

Recognize how your body is feeling as you are taking on tasks. Remind yourself that you are safe and that it is okay to not be perfect. Check-in with yourself throughout and take time to do breathing exercises or other grounding activities to manage your anxiety (www.healthline.com, 2019).

(7) Eliminate distractions

Put away anything that can interfere with your focus. That includes your phone, iPad, etc. Gather the necessary materials to complete your task and go somewhere free of interruptions.

(8) Mind tricks

Prepare to do something instead of actually doing it. That can mean jotting down ideas for a research project or doing an online search for topics. Once you start on the task, it is usually easier to continue it. By combatting your anticipatory anxiety, you are already on your way to accomplishing your task. You can also make a list of all the tasks you want to accomplish, in order of importance. Even if you don’t pick the most important one, you are still being proactive and not procrastinating (www.webstandardssherpa.com, 2014) .

Mindset shift

(9) Start a task without having everything

If you wait for everything to be in order to begin a task, you can always come up with reasons to procrastinate. Instead, begin something knowing that there are missing pieces. You will gather the necessary information along the way, but starting on it helps reinforce the belief that it doesn’t have to be perfect.

(10) Give yourself compassion

The standards we set for ourselves make us our own worst enemies. The next time you finish a project, look it over as if someone else had done it. Tell yourself the same words of support as you would another. Compassion also means that we should focus on our own achievements and not compare ourselves to others.  We should applaud our efforts instead of focusing on the results. Remember that mistakes do not make us failures, they make us human.

 

 

Perfectionism and procrastination are a way of thinking and behaving that stems from our belief system. It is not something that happened overnight, and it is not something that will go away overnight. Understanding why we do things the way we do goes a long way towards change. Remember that there will often be two steps back for every one-step forward along this journey. Like everything else in life, setbacks are inevitable. Be proud of yourself for your self-awareness and commitment to overcome perfectionism and procrastination.