In Sleep Coaching looking at parental self-care is an important factor. If we are tired, physically ill, experiencing stress and anxiety or generally overwhelmed addressing our children’s sleep issues are going to be that much more difficult. In fact, if we are feeling ill, stressed or overwhelmed it is likely our child/children will pick up on that and react to it. Managing our own health issues, including stress and anxiety can have a real impact on improving our children’s sleep. If we are able to regulate our own stress, particularly before naps and bedtime, that can be a game changer in enhancing our patience and tolerance for managing our child/children’s sleep. There are a range of things we can do to enhance our own well-being.
Do things that are good for your body and mind:
- Exercise: Being physically active is good for your body and mind. If you can go outside, try a walk, run, bike ride, or an outdoor sport. If indoors, try dancing, stretching, or any other movement you can do.
- Your diet: Try to make healthy choices about what you eat. Eating enough fibre, fruit and vegetables will boost your energy levels.
- Take notice of yourself and the world around you: This means becoming more aware of your breathing, your body and your surroundings. Try to be present in the moment and not worry too much about the future.
- Sleep and Sleep Hygiene: Try to get the right balance of sleep each night. This can mean not oversleeping, which can cause you to feel groggy and slow, as well as sleeping enough to ensure that you have energy and focus during the day. Good sleep hygiene means that the sleep environment and bedtime routine are conducive to falling asleep relatively quickly.
- Find things that make you happy and do those things more: Singing, listening to music, reading, playing games, chatting with friends, gardening, cooking, sport, drawing/painting etc – whatever you enjoy.
Keep in touch with your family and friends however you can. Use social media, email, phone calls, write a letter! If you cannot connect, then think about a memory of a shared time together or something that you appreciate about that person. If you feel isolated, find your “village” or “tribe” and if you can’t find this in the “real” world, find supportive communities online.
Recognise how you are feeling:
Understanding how you feel is important. Sometimes writing your feelings can help. Try this “I feel ……. right now”.
The “The Worry Tree” Exercise can be a useful way to help identify your current worries and develop an action plan to address some of them. Think about what you are worried about and identify if you can do something about it. If the answer is yes, the next step is to make an action plan about what to do, when to do it and how to do it and then let the worry go and change your focus of attention. If you cannot do anything about the worry then let the worry go and again change your focus of attention.
Try and be grounded in the present. Use yoga, meditation, guided relaxation, mindfulness, positive affirmations or journaling to help with anxiety and stress.
Be kind to yourself:
It is okay to feel however it is that you’re feeling. Putting pressure on yourself to always ‘be happy’ or ‘stay positive’ or ‘stay productive’ can sometimes make you feel worse. Instead, if you notice you are experiencing difficult emotions, try telling yourself: “I feel worried and scared, but that does not mean I am not coping.” “It’s been a tough time, it’s okay to be upset.” “I am feeling [insert how you are feeling] and that is okay.” “These are difficult times, it’s normal to feel upset.” Concentrate on time for you –“time to replenish” and remove the pressure on yourself “to sort things out”.
Make a self-care “kitbag”:
Put together a self-care “Kitbag” in a nice box or bag – collect together items that are meaningful or helpful; so items that are inspiring, empowering, calming, soothing, motivating, bring confidence, strength and calm composure. A Kitbag could include:
- Soothing music
- Smells (Essential oils/ Fragranced candles)
- Reminder of compassionate image (self or other)
- Book, poem, quotes
- Objects with meaning
- Soft woolly socks or blanket
- Hand or foot lotion
- Hobby items
- Reminders of strengths
- Grounding or soothing objects
Important Note: if self-help measures are not enough to resolve health issues or reduce anxiety it is important to consider accessing professional support via your GP.
Ali, B., Al-Wabel, N.A., Shams, S., Ahamad, A., Khan, S.A. and Anwar, F., 2015. Essential oils used in aromatherapy: A systemic review. Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine, 5(8), pp.601-611.
Borelli, J.L., Margolin, G. and Rasmussen, H.F., 2015. Parental overcontrol as a mechanism explaining the longitudinal association between parent and child anxiety. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 24(6), pp.1559-1574.
Brusilovskiy E, Townley G, Snethen G, Salzer MS. Social media use, community participation and psychological well-being among individuals with serious mental illnesses. Computers in Human Behavior. 2016 Dec 1;65:232-40.
Butler, G., 2007. Manage your mind: The mental fitness guide. Oxford University Press, USA.