Parents (USA)

6 WAYS TO COPE IN THE MOMENT

Strategies from mental-health experts for handling negative thoughts, even when kids are around

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1

When depressive symptoms spiral or if you’re stuck in an anxious thought, take off your shoes and walk barefoot outside.

Or splash cold water on your face. Or squeeze your daughter’s stuffed narwhal. These sensory activities “take you out of your thoughts and bring you back into your body,” Dr. Pooja Lakshmin says.

2

Ask yourself: Would I let someone treat my kids the way

I’m treating myself? Imagine the mama-bear roar you’d let out if someone told your son he was stupid or called your daughter a loser. Try to show yourself the same considerat­ion, says therapist Kristen Granchalek. “It helps build self-compassion, and then we start to act with that compassion in mind.”

3

Remind yourself that it’s okay to want a break from your child or look forward to their bedtime or miss your old life. It doesn’t mean you love them any less. Baby-step toward healing by normalizin­g

thoughts like these. “The reduction of guilt you’ll feel can be lifealteri­ng,” says Dr. Sarah Oreck.

4

Phone a friend. Chances are, you know someone who has felt what you’re feeling now. Ask them to share a strategy that worked for them, or just vent. (Texting works too.)

5

Find a peaceful spot, or

create one. Anxiety is stimulatin­g; add the cacophony of noise that comes with children and it can feel overwhelmi­ng. Vanna Winters, 36, of Naples, Florida, wears Airpods when the volume generated by her three kids threatens to flare up her anxiety or depression symptoms. “My kids understand the benefit to them; a chill mom is better to hang out with than a freaking-out mom.” Other ideas: a meditation app or five minutes of reading, even if you need to hide in the laundry room to do it.

6

Take ten deep breaths. You hear this one a lot for a reason—it really does help. Slow, deep breaths with exhalation­s that are twice as long as the inhalation­s calm the nervous system, bring your heart rate down, and ease muscle tension. Exhaling (not inhaling) through a straw can help. Dr. Lakshmin notes that if these techniques don’t work, it may be time to seek help.

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