We’ve all been there. The stresses of adult life seem to be piling one on top of another. The laundry is piling up, you’re about to miss a work deadline and you’re barely going to have dinner on the table before bedtime. You manage to get dinner on the table and go to round up your family, only to discover that your kiddo has knocked over a plant and there is dirt all over the carpet. The carpet that you just vacuumed yesterday, after everyone was in bed, before you collapsed on the couch, completely spent. And in the scheme of things, you know that this isn’t a huge deal. It’s par for the course with young kids. But still, in this moment, it feels huge. It feels like one more thing, one more responsibility, one more task to add to the never-ending list.
You want to yell. You can feel the anger bubbling up. The emotion feels huge, almost bigger than you can handle and it’s threatening to explode at any second. So now what? You can react, and yell, which we’ve all done before. But there is another tool you can use and it’s a game changer. You can pause. And it’s hard. This is work. Taking a moment to pause when you feel explosive doesn’t feel natural at first. The chemicals flowing through your body are telling you to freak out, but you are in control and you can pause.
When you take that moment to pause, it’s helpful to think about the root of your emotion. Are you feeling explosive because of the dirt on the carpet? Or is there more to the picture? Pulling back and giving yourself some perspective can be really helpful in these moments. The dirt on the carpet was the last straw, but the root was likely the built up stress of multiple big demands in a short period of time. Did it make you feel inadequate that you were struggling to get everything done? Did it make you feel unappreciated that despite all you were doing, there was more to be done? Did you feel helpless in accomplishing the daily demands of parenthood and adult life?
Feelings of overwhelm, inadequacy, or helplessness can be triggering. They can transform a challenging moment, like dirt on a carpet, into a consuming emotional response. Feeling triggered can lead to reacting quickly and in ways that are not in alignment with our parenting goals. In the heat of those challenging moments, the most powerful thing you can do is to pause. Think about what the root of those feelings might be. Use your coping strategies, and then move towards your response.
While pausing in the moment is powerful, there is a lot of behind the scenes work you can do to help yourself experience your triggers in a different and less consuming way. Taking care of yourself, thought it can be incredibly difficult as a parent of small children, is important. And it doesn’t have to be a spa day, or a warm bath at night, or any other curated idea about self-care. It can be taking five minutes a day to focus on your breathing. It can be saying “no” to something when you feel stretched too thin. Self-care doesn’t have to be complicated, or picture perfect, or Instagram worthy. It just has to work for you, to replenish you.
In addition to implementing self-care, tapping into your village can be a game-changer. As parents there is this pressure to have all the answers and do all the things. It doesn’t have to be that way. You can find support with no judgment and no shame. At Seed we are cultivating a parenting village, a place to bring your challenges and worries and overwhelm, and find practical, realistic solutions.