Yes, I’m back again talking about self care. But that’s because it’s important for our wellbeing. It can also help us cope with stress. And, for many of us (including me), focusing on self care is something that continues to be a work in progress.
When we’re struggling to cope
The window of tolerance is a psychological concept that is often used to talk about times when we feel that stress and pressure are manageable. That is, when we feel like we can cope with what life throws at us.
When we’ve been stressed out for a long time, we’ve experienced trauma or we’re sleep deprived, the range of stressors that we can cope with can get smaller. What I mean by that is that we can get stressed by more things than usual. Including things that wouldn’t have bothered us in the past.
At these times, we might struggle to control our reactions. We could feel really anxious or angry. Or we may feel like we have shut down.
This is because life can feel too much and we might go into a place of fight or flight (hyperarousal) or we may freeze (hypoarousal). This is our brain and body’s way of trying to keep us safe. But it can leave us feeling anxious or on edge. Or we might feel low and struggle to take pleasure in life.
I’ve summarised the idea of the window of tolerance in the image below.
What can we do as parents to help us cope?
As parents of babies and very young children, we are often not strangers to sleep deprivation. We also might be feeling stress for a number of reasons. To name just a few, maybe our baby is crying for no apparent reason, we are struggling to feed them or we worry that they aren’t hitting their developmental milestones as we expected. We may also be survivors of trauma and still feeling the effects of these experiences.
Despite these challenges, we can build up our ability to cope.
Self care is one of the things can help us to soothe our nervous system, expand our window of tolerance and build up our ability to cope with stress again. The type of self care that we need will depend on our unique personal needs and preferences. I talk about self care in more detail in this post about my self care advent calendar. It might also give you some self care ideas.
Doing things to care for ourselves can also help us to build strong foundations that allow us to use or learn other techniques to soothe our nervous system.
Learning (or re-learning) how to manage stress
Sometimes, we may need to learn coping strategies or find new ways to manage stress. As new parents, some of the ways that we used in the past to manage stress may no longer feel available to us. Perhaps we can’t take a long hot bath or go for a run on our own when we feel the need to decompress.
Or maybe we’ve forgotten what used to work for us in the past if we’re feeling overwhelmed or consumed by parenting.
Using techniques like breathing or simple grounding exercises can make a huge difference. For example, you may want to try taking a few breaths where you extend your breath out. Or you could try taking a minute to notice things in the space around you that make you feel calm or joy. Notice how you feel afterwards. You can use techniques like these anywhere.
It might also mean making time and/ or finding support with childcare so that you can do things that you know help.
Feeling overwhelmed or not sure where to start with managing your stress?
You may be ready to feel calmer and more able to cope with life. But sometimes it can be hard to get started.
We may feel like it’s another pressure placed on us and that might feel like it’s too much. Or we might try doing all of the things for a couple of days and then abandon our plan because it feels like too much. Or we might just not know where to start or need some new ideas.
And then we might freeze and do nothing. Even though we know that we can’t go on like this.
This is when it can be helpful to reach out for support.
How I can help you
Sometimes we may need to believe that we can make a change. Maybe you’ve been struggling with anxiety for some time and are telling yourself that you can’t do anything about. Or perhaps you are struggling to find the time or headspace to focus on your self care or using techniques that will help you manage stress.
This is something that I can help you with through transformational coaching. In these sessions, we can work on shifting your mindset and focus to help you make the changes you want to your stress levels. We can also spend time building your confidence so that you know you can make these changes.
Offering suggestions is not usually part of coaching. However, I can also draw on my personal and professional experience to offer suggestions that can help soothe your nervous system. I would only do this with your permission and if it feels appropriate.
If you are still feeling the effects of trauma or distress experienced on your parenting journey, we can also discuss how the TBR 3 Step Rewind technique could help you. TBR 3 Step Rewind can help if you feel that you are still affected by difficult emotions that you want to release.
I offer a range of packages, including bespoke packages that can be tailored to your needs. Please book a free, no obligation 15 minute exploratory call with me to talk about how I can help you.