It seems that just about every parent on the planet is overwhelmed. Add a highly sensitive nervous system and it makes it even worse. Obviously, there are many factors to consider here, but there is one that rises above the rest as a causing factor. Wanna take a guess?
I’m talking about self-care. Specifically, lack of self-care. There are generally a couple of reasons parents forego self-care in favor of taking care of everyone else. First, our society have this mentality that taking care of ourselves first is selfish. It has been engrained in us and it makes us feel like we are being selfish if we insist on taking care of our own needs first. Secondly, we get so busy in our day-to-day lives that many times, we forget to step back and see the bigger picture. We forget that by putting everyone else as more important than ourselves, we are doing a lot of damage. A lot of times, we can’t even see how damaging it is. Not only is it damaging to our own self-worth (“I’m not worthy of being taken care of.”), but it also sets a bad example for our children. Do you really want them to grow up with that attitude?
As a general rule, every overwhelmed parent is that way because they are really good parents and have great concern for their little ones. After all, if they didn’t care, they wouldn’t be as overwhelmed. Don’t think for one second that because you are so concerned with things that don’t directly relate to your kids that maybe you’re not a good parent. This is so common and a symptom of lack of self-care that it needs to be pointed out here. I have a client who feels like she is a bad parent because she gets so consumed with working and doesn’t spend as much time with her kids as she wants to. Yet, the reason she is so consumed with working is because she wants to be able to put quality food on the table and give her kids opportunities that she didn’t have growing up. If that doesn’t say good parent, I don’t know what does.
The trick is that we need to learn how to manage that overwhelm so we can eventually get to the place we want to be. So for this client, we are working together to devise and implement a plan of action that aligns with her high sensitivity to get to the point that she can work less and spend more time with her kids. A big part of this, believe it or not, is self-care.
You know how you are supposed to put on your own oxygen mask first in the event of cabin pressure change on the airplane? Most of us, myself included, would usually be very tempted to take care of our kids’ masks first. Why do we do that? Because we have it engrained in us that taking care of other people is more important than taking care of ourselves. And because we feel like we are expressing our love to them by taking care of them first.
I’m a sucker for metaphors, so I’m going to give you another one here: you can’t pour water from an empty glass. Regardless of how thirsty your loved ones are, if your glass is empty, you will have nothing to give. And that empty glass creates a whole lot of overwhelm. It create stress and causes you to do and say things that you wouldn’t if you were not so thirsty. It causes you to worry about things that are not all that important or urgent.
So what is an overwhelmed parent who lacks proper self-care to do? First, figure out what fulfills you. Whether it’s a nice shower without any disruptions or going for a walk alone to clear your head or something else entirely, figure out what you need to feel fulfilled and calm. Then, create a plan to start doing that more regularly. Sure, you may not be able to do it as often as you would like, but if you can do even just a little more for yourself, you will notice a difference. And you are worth it.
Another thing to keep in mind is that we all need to move our bodies, get quality sleep, and put healthy food into our bodies to function and feel optimally. It’s understandable that the idea of that actually creates more overwhelm. Change is always difficult. However, doing those things will make such a huge difference in how much less overwhelmed you are, it’s hard to even imagine until you experience it.
So there you have it. My number one reason that highly sensitive parents get overwhelmed. Of course, there are many other reasons, including an overactive nervous system, but self-care still comes out as the top cause. Improving that will greatly improve your overall sense of calm and reduce overwhelm.
I created a checklist for you with 7 things you can do to calm down when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Grab it here and keep it handy so you always have some tools to use when you’re overwhelmed.