Self care for when you're stressed

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    I have bene struggling with stress for a while. My son has been unwell with anxiety and panic attacks, then he told me he was suicidal. The childrens mental health team refused to help saying I’d be the best person to help him and things got worse for him. It’s caused me so much stress seeing him so upset and scared, and the fight with the mental health team trying to get them to help him. It’s caused me nothing but stress and anxiety. Now I feel every day tight in my head, shoulders and exhausted. I feel agitated and anxious all day. All because I have been coping with this for so long.

    How can I cope with stress better? Maybe I do sit around all day and cry about it all. I can’t seem to get myself on my yoga mat the last 2 weeks, and I can’t relax enough to meditate.

    Any advice?


    Dear Libby:

    Advice: quit any relationship with a person who harms you other than your son, of course! Quit communicating with anyone who distresses you by being disrespectful to you or otherwise abusive, or a person who was abusive repeatedly and never repented.

    Also: have a meeting every day with your son, a scheduled one (once you relax enough) and have him tell you what worries him. Make a list of his worries. Express empathy to him for each worry, validate the perceived danger. Then gently evaluate the danger for being real or not. The whole time being validating, making him feel validated … and then helping him evaluate his thoughts as is done in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Maybe as you list each worry on a piece of paper and evaluating it, if it is agreed it is not realistic, have him crumble the paper and throw it in a jar of discarded worries. Do it every day.



    1 hour of simple exercise a day will help. By simple, I mean simply walking at medium pace, whether in streets or in parks. Your body has taken the stress, now dissipate it by moving. Your son might also benefit from this. You could both talk while you walk. I hope things get better. Once you dissipate the stress, you might thereafter be able to do some yoga or meditate. Call it your ‘walking meditation’.


    Hi Libby,

    Your son is fairly young, right? How old is he?

    Dollars to donuts there is something he is NOT telling you. I remember you had issues with your family. Well, kids don’t think about their extended family all day every day, so I’m telling you that’s not it. Not enough to have panic/anxiety/suicidal thoughts.

    Example: My son had been bullied and I did not even hear about it until the last day of school! And my other son would suddenly come down with pneumonia and migraines and it turned out he was so stressed out by this one horrible teacher he had. As soon as she was out of his life, no more migraines!

    This is what I did whenever life became “irregular”:

    I would be as happy as I could around my children (no telling them or them overhearing of my problems). I would go out with them (a change of environment). And I would have classical music or “spa” music playing when I was making dinner (the house is a place of calm) and I would watch classic movies or public broadcasting (high quality shows). I’d volunteer in the school quite a bit (teachers AND children will treat your child better unconsciously if your presence is there). Cook organic/healthy food, no junk food. Keep their room organized (calming). If they are young enough/will let you, read to them. I’d drag them to church, too!

    Of course, it should be like that all the time, but I made sure it was all the time when something was “off”.

    When the home and school front has calmed down, you might be able to ferret out what’s really going on. Did something happen? Anything abusive?

    Just throwing suggestions out there!

    Good Luck,


    • This reply was modified 8 years, 4 months ago by Inky.

    Dear Libby:

    Thanks for sharing. I too struggle with getting on the yoga mat. Here’s some other things I do to de-stress:

    – Slow down when doing laundry or other chores. Sometimes I feel I am rushing and then I realize that I don’t have to. I slowly do it in my own time and space…like I take 5 minutes instead of 1 minute…then these chores becomes quite comforting as a break in the day
    – Have a “mindfulness bell” (you can download the app on your phone or have a real bell in the house) and have it ring every half an hour or whatever suits you. When it rings, take a moment to breath. I don’t use this one everyday but when I am super stressed, I turn it on and it helps me breathe and calm down during the day.
    – “Take five” – You and your son can do this quick activity together. “Take five” means you look at one of your hands and count the fingers on your hand. Each time you count a finger, you can say out loud “one…inhale and exhale. Two…inhale and exhale” until you have counted all 5 fingers and taken 5 big breaths. You can repeat as long as you want. I find this one very effective especially for kids with anxiety.

    Classical music as Inky pointed out is also very good for calming the mood.

    I wish you all the best! Take care Libby!


    Thank you all for your kind advice, it has been really helpful.

    My son is 11. He was bullied from October last year until June this year. It has since stopped but since then he has struggled with a low mood, low self esteem, always says he is ugly/fat, panic attacks and fears when he is out of the house that someone will beat him up. The bullying has stopped now in high school and he is doing really well but all these things have continued. We are intouch wiht school very closely and there are no bullying issues but his panic attacks effect him mostly in school. I wish it would stop for him, the bullying hast stopped but all these issues have left a deep impression and not left him, my poor boy. He has had an assessment at the childrens mental health team and he was honest and even spoke to them alone and told them it all began after the bullying and also since I cut out members of my family he has missed his aunties and cousins. Which tears me apart because my siblings were violent and toxic and I had to cut them out for our families sake. Now I worry I did wrong by him because for 3 years it’s just been the 5 of us (hubby, his siblings and I) and I worry I have let him down. My brother was violent and hit my husband and a year later chased after me, police involved both times and he was diagnosed with a serious mental health illness. My GP and friends all said I did the right thing cutting him out but as a result my mum and sisters cut me out because they said I was being unfair, my brother was ill and I should have given him a third chance. I could not risk that. After he attacked me I became agoraphobic for a while, I am now fine and go out. I still have some anxiety issues but I am happy. I cope with them.

    Have i let my son down?


    I can’t see you ever got an answer to this. Reading what you’ve said, no I don’t think you have let him down. You took the right (albeit harder) option for the long run rather than the easy one (accepting your violent brother back into your life so everyone was happy with your decision). That must have been hard, especially with your mum, sister cutting you off and now your son missing his extended family. It was a tough decision, but you also matter too. I don’t think you made then wrong decision.

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