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Managing Anxiety: Three Top Tips

Our emotions can seem like a lightening strike at times!
Our kids, dyslexic or not, come into our lives and we are ever more richer for that experience.  However being a parent is a journey that involves ups and down.  It involves our heart strings being tugged, our nerves stretched and often heightens levels of frustration too!

When we see the emotional burden that can often come with having dyslexia being carried by our children, it can, not surprisingly, build up a level of anxiety for us.

Being parents that care deeply about our kids, we have a tendency to ignore our stress and anxiety in favour of supporting our young ones.  In doing this we restrict our effectiveness in supporting our children and, of course, we are not keeping ourselves healthy which may have a longer term impact on ourselves and our kids.

So what can we do about that?

I am going to share three top tips that I have used to ensure that my mental health is in good condition.  I use the term 'mental health' because stress and anxiety affects our mental health.  Mental health is probably the most important part of our lives that we need to keep healthy but it is often neglected and for some this can lead to devastating effects.

Build Self-Awareness.

Self-awareness is a skill.  It is a skill that enables us to take responsibility for how we feel and gives us a steer on what to do about it.
Have you ever been in a situation when someone has said something to you and then you have reacted strongly to what they have said (regardless of whether or not you have showed that)?  Have you then been unsure of what the reaction was about and so felt that it was easier to 'swallow' it rather than face it, explore it and do something about it?

By facing the way that we feel and getting to understand it we are building self-awareness.  In having a good sense of self-awareness we start to live in a way that is healthier because we are taking responsibility for how we feel and maybe we build better relationships with people as we become more authentic.
A personal example for me has always been about avoiding confrontation with 'angry' people.  For many years if I came across someone who was showing anger at me for whatever reason (I am sure at some points probably justified but not always) I would feel a feeling of panic and a need to detach myself from that situation.  I would judge that person for their anger and then my actions as a result would be governed by those emotions.  In hindsight, I can see at times that if I could have put my fear of confrontation to one side and really get to the bottom of what the problem was, then I may have had a chance to have nurtured those relationships and made some kind of meaningful contribution.
Instead, I ignored the fact that I was having these feelings of fear and I would use some kind of self-righteousness to disengage with the person classing them as 'angry people' who don't deserve to be listened to.
In recent years I have taken time to explore these feelings and be aware of my reactions to people, by doing this I am recognising how I feel, but I am gaining control of those feelings and giving myself some space to function effectively in many different situations.

A great way to be more self aware is to practise mindfulness.  Mindfulness is a form of meditation that gives us an opportunity to stop and allow ourselves to generate a level of deep relaxation.  It is proven to reduce stress and anxiety and I believe that this is because it changes our relationship with stress and anxiety.  It doesn't go away but it loses it's ability to control our actions and gives us a greater sense of personal control.

When you have those moments when you are feeling anxiety for your child, it can make us want to 'save' our children i.e do actions that may not be what our child needs.  At a deeper level those actions might be about making us feel better and if we are not aware of that then we risk not giving our children what they need.

Personally, I have used an app called Headspace which has guided me through developing my self-awareness using mindfulness.  The video below explains nicely about how to have a different perspective on how we feel and how useful that is.

Do What Makes You Feel Fulfilled.

Sometimes we might not feel good as parents.  We may have self doubts about how well we are parenting our kids, and about other areas of our lives.  Referring back to Self Awareness, sometimes we find ways to ignore how we feel.  We might comfort eat, have an evening of watching a box set, maybe we drown out whatever is happening around us because we are staring at social media a little too much.
I don't know about you, but these things often make me feel dissatisfied and as a result, if I am already not feeling great about myself, I might accelerate negative feelings rather than deal with them.  After all, those feelings are still there after we have eaten that chocolate, drunk that extra glass of wine whilst watching the whole box set of Game of Thrones!

So if those actions don't help us to feel better about ourselves then what does?

I am not a big fitness fan but sometimes I have a burst of going to the swimming pool or going out for a long walk.  By doing these things somehow I feel calmer afterwards and pleased that I have done something constructive.  They make me feel good about myself.

I would like to challenge you.  Since having kids, what activities have you reduced or stopped doing that make you feel good about yourself?  Has the balance been upset because you have over compensated for having kids.  It is absolutely OK to have time for yourself doing things that you love, that emotionally feed you.  By doing these things your levels of anxiety will drop and you will be more 'present' when you are helping your kids with their needs.

Get Help

Sometimes we can feel anxious and for some reason we can't shake it.  It makes us 'snappy' at home and distracts us from the serious role of guiding and supporting our children.
If my first two tips don't help you to shake the grip that anxiety and stress may have on you then it is OK to get external help.

Over the past five years I have developed my own self awareness and at times have felt the need to get someone else's opinion on what is happening for me.  I have used counselling to explore feelings and I have use coaching to help me push through and achieve essential goals.  Non of this gets rid of negative feelings but does help to reduce intensity and has enabled me to be there for my family as I am less anxious and stressed (most of the time ;-) ).
There seems to be a stigma in getting help like this, but the reality is that you are showing courage and commitment to keeping yourself healthy and by being more attentive to the needs of your family.

What do you think about my top tips for managing parental anxiety?
You may have some yourself and I would love to hear from you about yours.

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