I need help. I am a mom to two kids, ages 7 and 9, with food allergies. One is allergic to nuts, and the other is allergic to dairy, and I spend a lot of time trying to prepare meals that are safe for both of them, which is difficult. But I don’t want to cut out dairy or nuts for both kids since each allergen only affects one of them, and because they’re both already limited in what they can eat. Having to worry about cross-contamination at home and their safety while they’re at school is wearing me down. Both of my children have experienced anaphylactic reactions while away from home. So I feel like I can never relax. I’m not sleeping well because I’m so stressed, which makes me irritable. Our situation won’t change, so what I can do to make sure it doesn’t break me?
I’m glad you reached out. So often, parents get caught up (rightly so) in their kids’ needs that they forget to take care of themselves. It sounds like you are no different. It can be scary to have to worry about multiple food allergies, cross-contamination at home and your kids’ safety when they are at school or otherwise away from you, but I have no doubt that you’re doing a great job keeping them safe. In order to keep it that way, we need to focus on keeping you healthy as well. We need some stress in our lives, but not to the point where we are losing sleep and potentially lashing out at loved ones. So let’s look at ways you can reduce your stress, so you can continue to be a great mom to your two kids.
Finding ways to manage your stress can have both physical and psychological health benefits, including lower blood pressure, improving your digestion and reducing fatigue. We can approach stress relief from two different angles: things you can do on your own to take of yourself and things you can do with others to relieve your stress. First, let’s look at three activities you can do by yourself to reduce your stress.
Meditation: Meditation may be intimidating to people who are new to the technique, but with practice, you too can find and create your own inner peace. Meditation involves sitting and being present, something that may be difficult to do at first, since you are likely always anxious about your kids’ next meals. The key to meditative practice is to focus on your breathing and bring yourself to the present. Start out by doing two minutes in the morning when you wake up and two minutes before you go to bed. Increase the time when you feel you’re ready.
Yoga: Yoga is a fantastic weapon against stress. Not only does yoga encourage you to focus on your breathing and being in the moment, but you’re getting physical benefits as well. You can find free yoga videos online and do them anywhere you have floor space. Check out Yoga with Adriene’s Yoga for Stress and Anxiety video on Youtube.
Art Therapy: You don’t have to be an artist to participate in artistic activities. Whether it’s drawing, coloring in a coloring book, painting or writing poetry, there are many artistic activities you can practice to focus your energy on the task at hand, rather than worrying about the future. Think of an art activity you enjoyed as a kid that you’d like to pick back up, or an activity you’ve always wanted to try and make time at least one day per week to tap into that creative activity.
Any of the activities listed above can also be done with friends. It’s important that you have social support, or support from people you can count on to be there for you in good and bad times, as you work to manage your stress. Whether it’s a spouse, sibling or friend, find someone you can confide in and who makes you feel better when you’re with that person. Find a yoga class or art night to participate in together, or simply go grab a coffee and find an outlet for your daily stresses.
It may take time, but managing your stress will be well worth it.
All the best,