Finding Sanity in an Insane World—Parenting for You and Me
Written by Kristen Dudley, Psy.D.
I am a wife, a mother, a therapist, an employee, and an employer. Like most of us, I have many roles which I juggle on a continuous basis. Like most of us, each of these roles and the thoughts and decisions of each role influences the thoughts and decisions in the other roles. And, like most of us, I work on developing and implementing self-care habits for myself, in order to function as best I can in each of my roles.
Why self-care? Because life is filled with challenges and my reality is that many people need me and pull me in many different directions. Regardless of how many children you have, how easily they are navigating their childhood, or how much it is a struggle; one thing each of us can do to increase our personal success in each of our many roles is to develop better self-care regimes or habits.
The place I have learned to start is by really watching how I am talking to myself. We all have the “voices” of other people in our heads—mother, father, grandparents, teachers, mentors, etc. which becomes part of our own self-talk. Usually, these voices guide us and help us make decisions in line with our personal goals and agendas. However, there are times; often when we are under stress or have too much on our plates, when the self-talk turns from helpful to destructive.
So what are the hallmarks of destructive self-talk? First, think about tone—if the tone of your internal voice is harsh and/or critical or a tone you would not use to talk to your best friend then why would you accept it in your own head? Now that we have that addressed, let us turn our attention to what is actually being said. In other words the language we use to talk to ourselves. Do you find yourself thinking the word “should” or “must” often? Should and must are the authoritarian words which often create feelings of shame, guilt, anger, or defeat in the listener. Not exactly motivating or caring, especially when directed at oneself. Do you often find yourself thinking (and perhaps believing) that if something does not go EXACTLY or close to the way you had it planned in your mind that it is all wrong; an emotional “OH.MY.GOD!” moment. These are two different, common, thinking errors which drain us of our energy and interfere with our caring for ourselves (which in turn interferes with our ability to care for others).
Now for the money section—change! How can you change the way you think in order to promote a more mentally healthy lifestyle?
- Take a day or two to really pay attention to how your inner dialogue sounds—words, tone, and what are the triggers—the events/situations which set the “voice” in motion.
- Start catching yourself when you hear that critical voice—“OK, ‘Mom’ is telling me I should do X, Y, &/or Z. Do I need to do this now? Perhaps it will be ok if I do it later.” Or “Thanks Dad, great input. Here is how I am going to do this…” The point is to listen to your internal dialogue and then assess if what you are thinking is true vs. reacting to the dialogue as if it is the “gospel truth.”
- Breathe. Take a strong, deep breath in through your nose and, with more force, exhale via your mouth. Repeat 5-7 times or until you can feel the stress and tension leaving your body. By remembering to breathe you give your body and mind the mental and physical space necessary to think and assess the automatic thoughts in your inner dialogue.