I’m so worried about my children. I feel as though I can’t cope with the stress well. I’m so anxious. Why can’t I get on with being a strong calm capable parent who is a great role model? Other people can do it, why can’t I?
I feel as though I worry too much and I show it, they shouldn’t see me like this.
Ok. So starting from the top – it’s ok to be worried about your family, that’s part of the joys of parenting! Along with the love comes worry at every stage of their lives and showing them you worry is part of the balancing act that being a parent is. Every day we juggle our lives to do the best for them and often we put what’s best for us last. But you have a real obligation to teach them that it’s normal and natural to have negative experiences and it’s how you go forward (even if it’s slowly!) and you show them you love them that matters the most. Of course you don’t want them to see you in a mess but we do have to remember that we are who we are and hiding every sign of trouble won’t help set them up to cope with their own problematic feelings. We need to show them that mental illness isn’t something to be ashamed of.
There are so many ways of helping yourself get through the stressful times but when you’re in the middle of a stressful situation you often can’t see a way forward. What matters here is remembering that there is a way, we have to find the one that works for us. After all our worries and stress are individual to us so the way forward will be too, yes? A few ideas that I try to do include
- Try to get some exercise. Even a short brisk walk can help,it releases feel good hormones and helps to ease the feelings of ‘fight or flight’ that stress gives us. If you work maybe you could get a quick walk in at lunchtime or after work? If you have small kids at home strap them in the buggy and off you go. Often though if you’ve got more than one it’s not practical to go for some sort of power walk so maybe try some fun exercises at home that they can do with you? Or you could try a quick exercise routine when they have a nap? Or maybe try dancing to the radio with them? You might not feel like dancing and singing but it can really help.
- I spend a lot of time with my animals. My dogs give me unending love and never judge me or think I’m stupid. They have saved my life and are always there, ready to just be with me, no matter what.
- Sounds obvious but lack of sleep is a real downer. A routine can really help and maybe trying some relaxation techniques before bed. I’m still struggling with this one!
- Make a list of things you have to do, try to prioritise and a big thing is then crossing them off the list as you go – but really, don’t try to do it all at once. I keep a diary and try to complete one or two really important things a week and those days I’m feeling stronger I can complete more. I also sometimes note the things I have done during the day, even if its only getting a meal on the table. You can then look back over your week and feel proud that you have managed to complete some of those things!
- Not everyone can present a calm front without fail. In fact most people have moments they feel they can’t help showing their feelings. I believe it’s reasonable to show your family that it’s ok to have strong feelings. It’s not possible for me to present a perfect image to absolutely everyone and I have to have somewhere or someone I can trust to express some of my feelings too. I’m still trying to learn not to feel guilty about burdening others with my pain and fear but I fully support others needing someone to talk to so why can’t I accept that I deserve the same? Maybe being a great role model includes showing that having difficulties is ok. That we are allowed to have sadness and fearful thoughts, that depression isn’t a shameful condition we have brought on ourselves.
- Its no use comparing ourselves to others. We are all different, individuals with our own problems and others have their problems too. There are many things about you ( and me! ) that are great, I’m trying to learn to appreciate my better points, that’s part of this journey I’m on. It’s hard because my natural mindset defaults to feeling like shit but somewhere in there there is someone who is doing it, putting one foot in front of the other. Maybe sometimes it’s one step forward and two back but I’m trying to find my way.
- Seeking help for depression from professional bodies is the way forward but for me trying to learn a bit more about depression and anxiety has helped me understand myself better and not be quite so hard on myself every time. I just wish I could do better with that one. I’m hoping to improve that as I go on this journey and hoping that I can learn more about how to cope as I go.