Today we are continuing our series on self-care and stress management for the whole family with our friend Elisa Torell, who is changing the world through her work as a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. When we were early on in our journey with Audra’s EoE illness, our family’s rhythms were completely turned around, and we were left scrambling to figure out how to navigate that season with any semblance of balance. This is a resource that would have been helpful at that time, and it also makes me grateful for the times that we did color together to pass some of the difficult times. Enjoy!!
When tough things happen in our lives, you may often hear friends or family say something like “make sure you take care of yourself.” We talked about caring for your body in the last post in this series, but your state of mind can also play a significant role in handling tough situations. In order for you as a parent to be effective and manage the stress of what your family is dealing with, taking care of your mind is an important thing to consider. In this post, I will also cover things you can do as a family to teach your children how to care for themselves too!
How to Manage Stress by Caring for Your Mind
Ever feel like your mind is racing with thoughts and you just can’t stop them? I often talk with clients about how just telling ourselves to “stop thinking that way” doesn’t help much—we need other things to focus our attention on. An example of this is if I told you, “Ok, right now, DON’T think of a white elephant. Stop thinking of a white elephant.” It’s likely that all you can currently picture in your head IS a white elephant. But if I say, “Ok, don’t think of a white elephant, think of a PINK one,” you will likely have a much easier time focusing on a pink elephant in your mind’s eye. It is the same with worried thoughts.
Keep a journal or diary
Keeping a journal or writing down all the things racing in your mind can be a very helpful way to process, organize, and release some of these thoughts. This can be especially helpful if you find yourself awake at night with a racing mind. Try spending 15 minutes writing down what you are thinking about before bed. Letting the paper hold those thoughts and closing your journal creates a physical way to put away the worry.
For kids and adults, coloring is a GREAT way to distract the mind or slow it down. There is a recent trend of adult coloring books because research has shown it to be a great way to cope with and relieve stress! Next time your brain is buzzing, grab some crayons or colored pencils and sit down with your kiddo to color. Maybe even turn on some soft music while you do this for some added relaxation.
Elisa is a state licensed Marriage and Family Therapist at Fountain Gate Counseling Center in Kennesaw, GA. She works with individuals, couples, and families dealing with a variety of issues including anxiety and depression in the midst of life transitions. More information about Fountain Gate and her practice can be found here.