When a child or other loved one is away at treatment you’ll have many emotions. It is easy to have judgment about our emotions. AND, that is not necessary or helpful to us or our loved one. So when we can prepare for emotions, name them and accept them, then we can have a plan to cope with them.
My article: What Parents and Health Care Professionals can Expect from Residential Eating Disorders Treatment, highlighted 15 points for parents to consider and prepare for while a child is in a RTC. I promised I’d go into more depth on each point. Please note that these pertain to anyone who cares about someone in recovery, I use ‘parents’ simply because they make up the majority of my coaching practice.
Here are just a few of the emotions parents/caregivers have expressed to me over the years:
● Out of Control
● Worn Down
Some of these may sound very familiar to you and some, like ‘angry’ may surprise you. It can often surprise us when we feel angry towards our very ill child/loved one. AND, when our loved one is acting out and using us as a punching bag and they aren’t taking responsibility for their actions, anger can be a natural feeling. We don’t help ourselves or our loved one in recovery when we judge our emotions. So how do we stop doing that?
Here are my 4 Tips for being calmer when your child has an eating disorder:
● Notice & name your emotions
● Accept your emotions
● Use a calming tool
● Make a plan for going forward
First, knowing we’re going to have emotions that may surprise us can prepare us so we’re not blindsided by the emotion. Then naming the emotion can help us gain clarity on what we are feeling so we can accept the feeling and make a plan. After we feel the feeling, name it and allow ourselves the compassion to have the feeling, then we don’t need to be stuck in it. We can then consciously choose to keep feeling it or to then release it when we are ready.
Part of the plan may be simply knowing that emotions are going to show up that we hadn’t expected. And being gentle and kind to ourselves.
Then we can have some coping tools to reduce our distress in our back pocket. One of the keys is to choose one or two that we really find easy and can do anywhere and anytime. Some parents even leave a post it note visible to remind them to use the tools they find most useful.
For instance, some parents really find DBT skills helpful. DBT is a mindfulness and distress tolerance therapy designed by Marsha Linehan. It stands for Dialectical Behavior Therapy. I love the DBT skill; ‘Opposite action to reaction.’ When a crisis comes up I can choose this skill to be extra calm so I can make rational decisions.
Some people like the 4-7-8 breathing tool that I teach my coaching clients. It is simply breathing in for a count of 4, holding for a count of 7 and out for a count of 8. And repeating 2-3 times.
Now, it may seem odd to you that I’m not focusing on your loved one’s illness or treatment journey.
This is about you AND when you take care of YOU, it helps your loved one in recovery.
It can feel counter-intuitive. It is essential. What I see is that coaching clients who work with me for 6 months or more are able to implement tools for self-care and then we both see their loved one improve in their recovery. It surprised me too!
When caregivers are not burned out, we can be calmer. More compassionate. More caring. And more confident. When a person in recovery has caregivers who are calmer, more compassionate, more caring and confident; they do better. What would be different for you to not be exhausted, overwhelmed and unsure?
So when people ask me, “Becky, how can I support my loved one in recovery?” I tell them, “Get your oxygen mask on 1st. Make sure it’s firmly in place before assisting your loved one.” Where have you heard this before? This is NO DIFFERENT.
I know, it can feel selfish…and please go back and re-read this paragraph again: “When caregivers are not burned out, we can be calmer. More compassionate. More caring. And more confident. When a person in recovery has caregivers who are calmer, more compassionate, more caring and confident; they do better.”
So what do you think? Are you ready to prepare for your emotions? To name them? Accept? Plan? What self care tools will you use?
Please share your comments.