For the Family & Loved Ones

When Things Feel Stressful

dealing with stress as a parent of an addict

When Things Feel Stressful

Sat, 20 Nov 2021 21:42:09 +0000

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Is life feeling stressful for you with the holidays approaching?

Would some ideas on how to better cope with the upcoming holidays be helpful?

A parent wrote:

We have a 20- year-old son who has been in and out of rehabs for the past two years. He dropped out of college and has used many different drugs. Now, he has progressed to heroin. He also has legal trouble due to drugs that we are working through now. Of course, I realize I have no control over my son. Yet, I am trying to learn how best to communicate and to understand my son more so I can be effective instead of part of the problem. We have the holidays coming up and I don’t know how I’m going to cope.

Often when our lives feel chaotic because we are caught up in our child’s addiction, it can be hard to want to celebrate anything, much less feel any gratitude.

Being concerned about our child can cause us to feel overwhelmed and unhappy with life.

We might feel that we are just trying to keep our heads above water to cope. We might feel helpless and believe there is not much we can do about it.

If the upcoming holiday time is feeling stressful, you are not alone. Many of us have felt the same anxiety-like our lives are out of control, yet we need to put on a happy face. It’s not an easy place to be and adds to the stress we are already feeling.

Thinking about what your family needs instead of trying to meet the expectation of others can be helpful.

You can do things to feel more in control and feel more at peace amid all the chaos.

If your life is feeling stressful, here are some ideas that might help. I invite you to test them out and see which ones work for you.

1. Do a brain dump. Make a long list of all the concerns that you have. Think about other areas of your life as well and write everything down. Your list can either be long-hand or in digital form. Then group your list into sections. Maybe put the most critical first. You can then look through your list and decide what you can control and what you can’t. Are there any action steps you can take? If so, see what you can tackle first. Even if you feel there is nothing you can do right now, it will help you emotionally to write down your concerns.

2. Get some support. If you are struggling to cope with your child’s addiction, reach out to a trusted friend or family member. Sometimes having someone just willing to listen without trying to fix the problem can help. Staying isolated or trying to handle the issue on your own can lead to more stress and anxious feelings. Some ways to get support are to learn more about how you can help your child, attend a group meeting or hire a coach to help you.

3. Practice self-care. When we feel stressed and anxious, it’s an emotional issue. Taking care of yourself is the first step to staying resilient and being a better source of help to your child. It allows you to have something left to give. There are many ways to practice self-care. Sometimes, the best you might be able to do is think about how you want to take care of yourself. One size doesn’t fit all, so find something that works for you.

4. Breathe. There are many ways to get yourself back in balance which is part of self-care. Andrew Weil has a great breathing technique called 4-7-8. Also, I have found two apps that help me relax and even go to sleep at night. One is the Calm App, and the other is Headspace. Last year I signed up for Calm, and this year I’m trying Headspace. I like them both and have found them helpful with sleeping and taking time to rebalance and breathe.

As the holidays approach, you may want to try one idea and see how it works for you.

While the problem is most likely related to your child’s behavior, the one thing you do have control over is our reaction. Rather than trying to push the pain away, remind yourself to feel your emotions. You can feel the pain of the situation and still help your child.

When emotions do bubble up, especially during this busy time, be nonjudgmental and gentle with yourself. Notice what you are feeling. Be curious about your feelings.

When you keep the holidays simple, you will feel less anxiety and stress.

The holidays are more stressful for families when things aren’t going well. You can help yourself by practicing self-care, noticing your feelings, doing a brain dump, encouraging your other family members, and generally looking for the good all around you.

Learn research-based tools that can help you motivate your child to change. Add the Sunday newsletter to your weekly routine. Sign up now. And consider getting access to my online course, Regain Your Hope, an online course that gives you an action plan to help your child. Know that your child can change. Love, Cathy 

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