Grab that bag of chocolate!

Because we need to emotionally eat!

Yikes, ok, just me? 

I get that today – Valentine’s Day – is a day all about love and joy and connection, but I don’t think I’m alone in saying that so many of us didn’t even realize that today was Valentine’s day because we are too darn busy trying to just keep up. 

If it weren’t for the chocolate strewn aisles in stores I really think it would have passed me by (ok, I do have a pretty keen sense that holiday candy will go on sale tomorrow though). Are you stocking up too?

I’m joking of course, but only slightly. 

Emotional eating is a pretty common way to deal with stress, and hooo boy are we all stressed. 

February is notoriously the hardest month in the calendar year. It’s cold, damp, dark, the holidays have passed us by, the snow is no longer fun, fresh and festive. We’re just ready for it all to be over. We’re all seeking the renewal that comes with spring and the hope of sunnier days ahead. 

With a pandemic on our hands, that hope for sunnier days, metaphorically speaking, is all too palpable. 

Last week we talked about your teen’s grief because of these continued “dark days”. This week let’s address how you are coping with it all, as you try to take care of youth who are struggling to cope with it all. 

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So how do you not get burnt (out) this Valentine’s Day?

In times like these, it’s important to have things to look forward to, that give us hope and moments of joy. 

Perhaps that’s why they put Valentine’s Day smack in the middle of the hardest month. We needed something to remind us of love and connection again. 

Positive Psychology offers an equation for lasting happiness; the combination of past experiences, with future outlook, coupled with your own genetically-given “level” of happiness capacity, all come together to determine whether you will live a contented life. 

It’s important, according to this equation, that we find hope for the future, we work to reframe the difficulties of the past, and we make a point to include small moments of joy in our present lives as much as possible. 

It’s not about ignoring the negative or denying it or putting a positive spin on hard things, it’s about working with those hard things and not forgetting that joy and positivity can also be found along side pain. So often we get wrapped up in what’s going wrong that we fool ourselves into thinking there is no hope or pleasure left. 

You teens are very likely to get stuck in this mindset. It’s hard for them to see above and beyond current circumstances. And your efforts to help them keep going might be sucking all of your energy. 

You’re getting burnt out. 

When caregivers give “too much” or are in a position of “prolonged empathy” (meaning in a constant state of feeling the needs and pains and grief of others – like what therapists, teachers, support workers do on a daily basis) they feel what is called “compassion fatigue”.

This is a special type of burnout that essentially comes from loving so hard that you deplete yourself. Your cup runs dry and you have nothing left to pour out for others. 

As a parent in a pandemic, with a tween or teen dealing with the complicated grief of loss due to the pandemic and the resulting mental and emotional health concerns, it is 100% expected that you would also be experiencing compassion fatigue. 

If you pride yourself on being giving and taking care of others, then you are likely feeling especially exhausted and empty…with a side of guilt, because you may have constructed your worth and identity around helping others and being needed, and you subsequently don’t take as much time for yourself to refuel. 

But you can’t give when you have nothing left. You need to re-fuel. 

Here are just a few symptoms of compassion fatigue: 

  • feelings of helplessness and powerlessness in the face of your kid suffering
  • reduced feelings of empathy and sensitivity – you find you have a hard time caring as much
  • feeling overwhelmed and exhausted by parenting demands – and this exhaustion is bleeding into other areas of your life like work and relationships
  • feeling detached, numb and emotionally disconnected – you’ve felt so much for so long, you just shut down
  • loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy – will there ever be joy again, or is it just a matter of survival from now on?

If you are feeling any of these symptoms, it’s a warning sign that your cup is running dry, or is already empty. 

As a parent you want nothing more than to be there for your kid when they need you. But right now I’m telling you that the only way to do that successfully is to make sure you’ve taken care of yourself. 

Put your oxygen mask on first so you can be the parent you want to be. 

So what do you need to do this week to take care of yourself?

What do you need to let go of? What do you need to ask for help on?

What joys can you build into your day to give you something to look forward to?

These are not wastes of energy or effort. They are crucial to surviving and avoiding the long lasting impacts of burnout.
Treat yourself this valentines day. Re-connect with loving and cherishing and pampering you.