- Christy A. George, LMFT, SEP
Battle Stress With Compassion
The new year is well on its way and moving fast. I have noticed in my years of working with children, teens, their families and the community in general, people’s stress levels tend to acceleration from February through June each year, then taper off in the summer months.
If you are a gifted person, or the parents of gifted children you are likely experiencing this pattern like many other people with a few added pressures. For example, if you are the parent of a gifted child, you may be feeling exhausted from your attempts to work with your child’s school to get their needs met, combined with a sense of panic, because the school year is now half over. If you are a gifted adult, you may be struggling to make connections with others, or relate to your significant other. This can create a growing sense of loneliness, which is highlighted by holidays like Valentine’s Day.
It’s okay to acknowledge your child’s or your hardship if that is what you are experiencing, and then give yourself and them a break. It’s so easy to beat ourselves up when life is hard, which can lead to feelings of anxiety, hopelessness and worthlessness. This is also true for kids, especially, our bright young people who can be huge perfectionists. Now is a great time to learn the practice of self compassion and teach our loved ones to do the same.
What is self compassion you ask? In a nutshell, it is being nice to yourself. It is suspending the judgments of your inner critic. Doing away with your ideas of what you should or shouldn’t do, and engaging in some real self care. This is not to be confused with being selfish. It means setting appropriate boundaries with others, taking care of your physical and mental well-being and having some fun in life. This is essential to a person’s short and long term health, can improve the quality of relationships with others and can contribute to living a richer and fuller life. And if you are a parent, this will give you a greater ability to connect with your child and avoid meeting them with frustration. Openly practicing self care, also gives you the opportunity to teach your children how to care for themselves by setting a good example.
Here are some ideas to help you start practicing self compassion as you move forward:
1. Practice gratitude, even if you think you have nothing to be grateful for. Make a list of at least ten things you are truly thankful for, even if they are small. Each day as you start or end your day, think of one thing or person you appreciate and notice the sensation you feel in your body connected with that thankfulness. If it’s something big, that’s wonderful, but it doesn’t have to be. It can be as small as witnessing the beauty of a flower you saw when you walked outside this morning.
2. Be present and aware of what you are doing in the moment. This will help you to enjoy what you are doing now, and reduce worry about the past and future. For example, when you are eating, notice your food. Allow yourself to savor your meal and avoid mindless eating on the go. Another example, is when you go for walks outside, have a few moments of silence to notice the sounds and environment around you. This can be very peaceful, calming and will allow you to connect with the world in a positive way.
3. Recognize what you do right and what your child is doing right. Also recognize anyone who gave you support when you needed it, and anyone you were kind to. As it is important to honor our pain, it is equally important to honor our healthy pleasure. Negativity can have such a strong pull in our hearts and minds, the good stuff in life can drift aside without us even noticing it was ever there. Noticing when something has gone right can help us to hang on to it, and notice more positive things in our lives can reduce the effects of the negative.
4. If there are things you want to change, make small, tangible and measurable goals you can stick to. Plan little, healthy rewards for yourself as you reach those milestones. This is also a good way to help your gifted child, who might be reluctant to try new things.
5. Make time to enjoy life. So often we get caught up in getting things done, helping others, working hard, etc. we forget to have fun. Fun shouldn’t be a luxury, but a necessity. We humans are made to enjoy life, and we deserve to do so. This doesn’t mean shirk your responsibilities, binge eat or drink, or go off on a relentless shopping spree you can’t afford. It means, do something harmless that brings you pleasure each day, and notice it. Again, this can be big and/or small. Take a hot bath, talk to friends, read a book, color. You know what you like. Do it and help your children to do the same. Play is important at every age.
6. Be kind to others. Be kind to yourself. Allow others to be kind to you. Kindness feels good, spread good and improves relationships.
Part of taking care of yourself is having a good support system, which includes people who can help you reach your goals and who encourage you to do what is good for you. It's always good to try to surround ourselves with people who bring out the best in us. If you or your child, need extra support, you can also connect with an experienced mental health professional in your area to help you through any stress you are experiencing now. Good therapy can be an excellent way to care for yourself, and show self compassion. It is an investment in your well being and future happiness.