Here's how to take care of you AND take care of them.
Our society is in overwhelm mode because, let's face it, balancing your life is hard ... and that's before you even have children. It's an even greater challenge if you're a parent with mouths to feed and diapers to change.
Parents today feel stressed from having to juggle long work hours while raising a family. This seemingly impossible balancing act places a great deal of pressure on our time and energy.
But, if you're not only a parent and also a highly sensitive person — you get a bonus extra layer added to your stress levels.
As you likely know, over-stimulation and overwhelming emotions are the number one problem for highly sensitive parents. And when they feel over-stimulated, parents tend to get irritated and lose their cool with their children easier. Which then leads to guilt, which then, due to our perfectionist nature, leads to overcompensation and thus more stimulation.
It's an easy downward spiral from there into burnout or depression.
One of the members of our community of Highly Sensitive Parents describes how she experiences overwhelm:
“I think I find lots of overwhelm due to toys everywhere, lots of loud playing, being asked the same question over and over again, lots of 'Mom! Mom!' and being clawed at by youngsters who want my attention and need to be held. I get tired of being bombarded with smells and accidents from potty training, having to bathe an uncooperative child while myself getting sweaty and wet, etc.
I find a lot of my over-stimulation comes from simply being touched more than I would like or having to listen to more noise than I would like, etc., and that just comes with the territory of having very young children. Unfortunately I haven't found much way to avoid that short of literally pushing my children away from me when I feel my skin start to crawl, and I hate to do that to them.”
Self-care becomes a priority for us Highly Sensitive Parents to balance our energy, our emotions, and our thoughts, and to clear over-stimulation as well as clear our minds.
To help you with that, here are 5 effective ways to cope with parenting overwhelm when you're a Highly Sensitive Person:
1. Chose your 'one thing' and make it your foundation for self-care.
What is the one thing you must do every day that, without it, your day doesn't feel complete? What is the thing your body really needs? This could be sleeping eight hours, meditating for 10 minutes, writing on your blog, praying, journaling, painting, or running two miles. (For me it's yoga. If I don't do yoga, my whole day feel off and I am not as nice a person as I want to be.)
This 'one thing' is your foundation, nonnegotiable self-care behavior, that will help you build on all the other things you want to get done on any given day. This thing you do first thing to start your day and it makes sure that your day starts off right.
2. Realize that you do have time and learn to prioritize.
Having no time for self-care is the main objection I hear from clients when I tell them that they need a solid self-care practice.
But I’m here to tell you that you DO have time. The question is, what are you doing with it?
A week has 168 hours. Even if you worked for 50 hours a week, and slept your eight hours a night (56 hours in one week), you would still have 62 hours for other things. If we even only look at our weekends, we actually have 60 hours between 6 PM Friday and 6 AM Monday. Even if you're asleep for 24 of those hours, that still leaves 36 hours for waking rejuvenation.
You just have to start scratching the drainage from your days, and start adding the things that restore you. Question all your beliefs about how you should be spending your days This is crucial! Are these really your beliefs? Or, have they been imposed on you? Make sure your beliefs are aligned with your values, see how you can do more of the things that do align, and just stop doing the things that don't (I.e, if you really don't like gardening, buy plants that don't die easily instead of having to maintain the garden every weekend).
It's time to transition from MUST, to SHOULD, to WANT and learn to PRIORITIZE! Then give yourself permission to spend time on yourself!
3. Create clear and helpful boundaries.
Boundaries are hard when you want to be liked and when you're a pleaser. Always being in touch with other people's wants and needs drains you and makes you forgot your own. Instead, start asking for what you need as a parent and as a person. Start saying "no" when you need to and only say "yes" when you mean it. This will not only help you maintain your energy, but also keep you from resenting your children and life itself.
This means blaming others less and holding yourself more accountable for asking for what you need and want. This way you take responsibility for your own well-being. This also means that you must communicate to your family your need for 'alone time' or even drawing a big 'FORBIDDEN' sign on the door of you meditation/inspiration room.
4. Follow your intuition.
Everyone has an opinion. As sensitive parents our most powerful weapon to cut through the volumes of information, and advice and reduce overwhelming feelings in these choices, is our intuition. When we are at peace with ourselves and with our lives, it much easier to access our intuition, the voice of our soul, the voice of who we truly are.
5. Create a support network.
Rally some other parents and help each other by taking care of each other’s children once in a while. Ask grandparents and other friends for help, too. Get a babysitter at least once a week. Get a nanny for more consistent care.
When my eldest was young I had a great support network around me, and, because of this, I could create enough me-time AND be fully present for my daughter. She was 7-years old before she realized that I actually worked. With my two youngest children we have NO support and had to create it by hiring an amazing nanny. Yes, it is not free support, but I place a huge value on my sanity.
Another way to create support is by finding a tribe of people who "get it", who are positively-focused, and who understand the power of gentle, self-kindness. You deserve to be supported (by yourself and others) as much as you support other people, especially when it comes to what you need most, but resist the most. It is that support and self-kindness that will help carry you through to success on the other side. This is the main reason I created the community of Highly Sensitive Parents on Facebook.
You cannot compare yourself to non-HSP's on this issue, just as you cannot on most issues. This point cannot be emphasized enough.
If you're not enjoying parenting most of the time, if you dread getting up and facing another day, GET HELP! You are not a failure for not feeling capable of doing it all and handling it all.
Dr. Elaine Aron, an HSP expert tell us: "The secret for HS parents is to 'do less and accomplish more.' When we are rested we are so effective as parents that we can afford to take the time off we need to be that good. But how do we get the time? The answer is obvious, but it has to be faced and acted upon. HS parents need help. Hopefully they have a partner, and the two of them are not working full time jobs. Even with a partner, the one with more time with the children needs frequent breaks to be alone and to be with adults. For HSPs, the need for time off from parenting is much greater than it is for other parents."
I hope you realize that taking care of yourself BEFORE it is necessary is vital for a balanced life as a Highly Sensitive Parent.
Drs. Karin Monster-Peters is a Psychologist, Personal Development and Parenting Coach and founder of Highly Sensitive Parents. To contact Karin, click here. For in-depth information and actionable tools then download her free Ultimate Self-Care Guide for Highly Sensitive Parents.
This article was originally published at Highly Sensitive Parents. Reprinted with permission from the author.