I set an intention for this summer to spend as much time as possible OUTDOORS and WITH MY KIDS and I’m happy to say I’ve been doing a great job with this! I took time off from work and everything to really be PRESENT with my kids and myself to enjoy this beautiful season. I have also taken time to really kick up my personal yoga practice.
Let me tell you WHY I’m consciously taking more time for ME…
Being a caregiver (aka “allergy mom”) to my child with severe anaphylaxis is honestly stressful. There are the moments that frighten me as I worry that something she is eating may be contaminated and I feel the stress as I wait and watch and pray that she is ok. There is the trauma that is stored in me from the day she had her most serious reaction and all of the stress of that horrible day. And there is this pervading anxiety that is always with me, knowing that she has these allergies and the risks that other families don’t have to worry about for their children.
For those that suffer with severe allergies and anaphylaxis, there are fears, traumas and stress. I get emails all the time from families who share their true fears and anxieties with me. Children who are refusing to eat because they are afraid of food…those types of stories. There is most definitely a psychological component to living as a caregiver or having these allergies yourself and unfortunately many people feel isolated, alone and embarrassed to admit that they are not coping well emotionally.
Please know that what you are feeling is NORMAL! Understandable… and that there are people who get what you are going through even though it may not feel like it!
Why you need to take better care of yourself starting NOW!
I know how important it is for you to take care of your children, your partner, and all of the people in your life that are important to you. As a caregiver, we often put those we care for on the top of our priority lists… this often means that we don’t make the time for things that WE NEED such as fitness classes, date nights, vacations, time to relax and read a book, etc. We are so busy caring for everyone else that we neglect our own needs. To be healthy physically and emotionally, we need to actively take care of ourselves! This means getting adequate rest, eating a healthy diet, taking time for fitness and giving ourselves a break from the stress and anxiety that we feel dealing with these allergies.
Here are 5 things you can do RIGHT NOW to take better care of YOU!
Simply by bringing an awareness to your feelings and acknowledging them is the first step to any positive change. Acknowledge the real stress, anxiety and tension that you hold and feel it. We tend to bury uncomfortable feelings but this does not make them go away. We need to acknowledge them and validate them – the only way out is through.
2. STOP BEING SO SYMPATHETIC!
When we’e afraid, stressed, and anxious we are using our SYMPATHETIC NERVOUS SYSTEM (the infamous “Fight or Flight” response). This is extremely draining to our body and our mental health. We need to balance things out by enabling our parasympathetic system which gives us rest and restoration. For me that comes from this place:
For you it could come from:
- taking time away and allowing someone else to be responsible for everything for a day or two (I know this may sound crazy but we can chat about how this can work).
- going for a mini-retreat – massage, spa day in town with a friend, etc.
- taking time to do something that you really enjoy that relaxes you (i.e., enjoying a hot bath)
If you have difficulty relaxing and find that you cannot avoid the anxiety and stress you are feeling even when you try to relax, you may need some help. We can be so chronically stressed that we are unable to turn off this sympathetic response and we are literally wired. This cannot continue forever and you will end up with health or emotional issues. If this is what you are dealing with, please get in touch with me for a free phone call or skype consultation to discuss.
3. START FROM THE VERY BEGINNING…Tell me everything!
When I began my website, TheAllergyMom.com, I wrote out my story of how allergies have come into my life. I wrote the entire long-winded tale of my mom’s anaphylactic reaction to bees, my seasonal allergies, my son’s environmental allergies and the traumatic story of my daughter’s anaphylactic reactions, eczema and food allergies.
My husband said to me, “Who on earth is going to read that?” …
Well, first of all it didn’t matter who was going to because it felt so good just to write it! Second of all , LOTS OF PEOPLE! I have had literally hundreds of emails in response to my story including parents, allergic teens, teachers, pharmaceutical companies, and reporters…. It has meant so much to me and them to have my story out there and I am grateful for the connections I have made as a result of sharing my story.
Writing out your story in a journal will help you to express your feelings and emotions and actually takes you out of your emotional brain and into your thinking brain which reduces anxiety and stress by making the emotions less salient. There is some truth to the idea that you should tell your story as many times as you need to to feel better. I am delighted when someone takes the time to share their story with me after reading mine on the website. It is comforting to know you are not alone!
It sounds ridiculously simple, but did you know that when we are stressed or anxious, we are often breathing very rapidly with shallow breaths or possibly even holding our breath?! By recognizing moments of stress and anxiety (Back to #1 -awareness & acknowledge) we can then identify when we are feeling stressed or anxious and check in with the breath. Notice if you are breathing and the quality of the breath – is it shallow or deep? Fast or slow? Then gently deepen your breath. Focus on the exhale. See if you can extend your out breath to be as long as or even up to 2x longer than your inhale breath. This will calm your nervous system and you down. Quality breathing is a great way to detoxify from negative thoughts and emotions. I know that it sounds too simple but trust me on this one. Consciously improve your breathing and it WILL affect your mood.
5. Get Help!
Have you ever considered therapy? Did you know that a counselor is a health and wellness professional that is there to provide you with an empathic ear… someone who will listen to your story, without judgement but with compassion. Psychological health and wellness deserves the same type of care that we provide our physical bodies yet in the case of chronic disease or illness there is rarely this type of support offered to patients or their caregivers. If you have never considered speaking to someone about your feelings and what you are going through – the stress of daily life and the challenges of being a caregiver, I encourage you to try it.
Counseling can help with:
- stress, anxiety, depression, and trauma
- strain on family relationships
- feeling that you are not alone and that you have someone who “gets it”
- providing a safe space to openly express your fears, feelings and concerns
- providing tools for handling anxiety, depression or stress
You need and deserve to take care of you!
Taking care of yourself allows you to have the energy and ability to take care of others. It does not have to be a choice whether to take care of yourself OR others. It is not helping anyone to put yourself LAST. Too often we do this – we compromise our sleep, our fitness, our health because we are so busy caring for others through work or family but the truth is we can and must take care of ourselves!
I welcome your comments and emails anytime you want to vent, share or ask something. Please don’t hesitate to reach out!
Original Post Date: August 15, 2014. Last Update: May 10, 2017.