Are you familiar with this Life Lesson: Put on your own oxygen before helping others?
Even though that makes sense, as parents, we have a tendency to prioritize our children’s needs above our own. We must be mindful about attending to our individual needs.
Here are some questions to ask (yes/no):
Do you allow for your emotions as they arise?
Do you model self-regulation for your children?
Do you give yourself as much compassion as you give your children?
Social-emotional health is an interplay between our relationship with ourselves and subsequently to those around us. When gauging your personal social-emotional health, rate these questions (on a scale of 1-5):
How is your relationship with yourself?
How do you talk to yourself?
Do you regularly dedicate time for yourself?
The reason that your responses to these questions are so important is because our internal relationship with ourselves directly influences how we relate to everyone around us, from our most intimate to most formal relations. In short, how you connect with yourself is how you connect with others. It’s easy to remind ourselves of what we “should” do, but how do we do it? This is easy to talk about when we’re in a resting state, much harder to do in an aroused state. The first place to start is in a clear space of non-judgment.
Emotions, neither good nor bad, are merely functions of the brain, related in one way or another to our survival and well-being. (Watch this video for a neural explanation of big emotions.)
Forming a habit of observing the emotions we have on a daily basis can help us take proactive steps in attending to our needs in a healthy way. Marriage and Family Therapist, Kristin Green, depicts emotions as waves: we don’t always expect them, they can knock us flat on our face, and perhaps most importantly, they are impermanent. Emotions, like other sensations we experience, ebb and flow. So what do we do when another potentially dangerous one builds?
Let’s think about this question right now, “What are your feelings telling you about your needs?” When I feel ____, what I need is ____. (For an in-depth look at communicating needs, see Marshall Rosenberg’s book on Nonviolent Communication.) This “stop and check” practice puts overwhelming emotions on pause, to look deeper into what they are trying to say. Checking in on yourself throughout the day, even when no emotions are readily present, keeps us in tune with ourselves and our intentions, and out of the “trance” of daily checklists and pressures.
Kristin Green recommends a simple practice anyone can practice at any time or place. When you realize you’re in a state of overwhelm, have been disconnected from your body, or feel you’re “going through the motions”, connecting with your breath is a practical tool to use. For a guided practice on connecting with your breath, watch for Kristin’s full interview later this week. Click here for more reading on breathwork.
Kristin reminds all of us, “When we are addressing our unmet needs. Our relationships shift because we are taking care of ourselves first.” For parents, this is doubly important because of how our children will observe our practices and internalize our responses to them and the world. “When we model what taking care of yourself looks like, they have an opportunity to do the same.”