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It’s normal to feel consumed by your child’s substance-related problems. You may feel overwhelmed with fear, anger, resentment, shame and guilt. You may feel zapped of emotional and physical energy. And it’s not uncommon to develop physical symptoms like headaches, insomnia and stomach aches. You may feel helpless and hopeless. You may have stopped feeling happiness.
So what can you do? Remember to take care of yourself.
The idea of self-care may make you roll your eyes and ask, “You want me to do something enjoyable for myself when my world is crumbling around me?!?” Yes. And we aren’t the only ones.
According to Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, principal investigator of the Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology Laboratory at the University of North Carolina, self-care increases positive emotions like joy, gratitude, hope and serenity:
“When people increase their daily diets of positive emotions, they find more meaning and purpose in life. They also find that they receive more social support — or perhaps they just notice it more, because they’re more attuned to the give-and-take between people. They report fewer aches and pains, headaches, and other physical symptoms. They show mindful awareness of the present moment and increased positive relations with others. They feel more effective at what they do. They’re better able to savor the good things in life and can see more possible solutions to problems. And they sleep better.”
When you feel better and more optimistic, you’re better able to handle things. You can think, plan and act more effectively. You’re able to use your best judgment and problem solve better — which is so important, because when you feel depleted from your child’s struggle, it’s easy to react and make snap decisions instead of taking time to think things through.
In addition, self-care can make you more resilient, meaning you can adapt and roll with life’s ups and downs better, without falling into despair or getting angry when your child has a setback.
"You need to take care of yourself too because you’ve got to stay strong; you’ve got to be stronger than your kid through this. Because if you don’t, how are you going to help your child?”
Carol Allen, parent
Self-care allows you to model healthy behavior and coping skills for your son or daughter. For example, if you come home from work, tell your child that it was a really stressful day and then go for a walk or take a hot shower to relax, you are modeling a healthy way to deal with life’s challenges.
Give it a try. Take a break from worrying. Try infusing your life with something positive on a daily basis for the next week.
Treat yourself to a cup of coffee with a friend, buy some fresh flowers, light a candle, take a walk in nature, spend 10 minutes doing a puzzle, take a yoga class, listen to a podcast, get a haircut, read a book. Go for a run, cook your favorite meal, watch a funny movie or take a long, hot bath.
Self-care can look different to everyone. Seek out whatever it is that you enjoy doing that will fortify your mind, body and soul.
Living in panic mode isn’t healthy or helpful. You can’t afford not to take care of yourself.
Take some time to nourish yourself and see how you feel. It will be a gift not only to yourself, but also for your loved ones around you.