The Roller Coaster– Don’t Let Stress Take You for a Ride

Posted 2.2.16 | Nutrition Specialist

Life can be like a roller coaster ride. Here’s a small description from ‘Parenthood’ – a classic movie - that might help you understand:

Life is thrilling, but can be stressful at times. Challenges of day-to-day activities combined with juggling food allergies can be complicated. If you struggle to juggle food allergy anxieties regarding your kids as well as your own ‘on-edge’ feelings, you’re not alone. Below are some stress buster ideas designed with you in mind.

Anxiety Relief Technique for Your Kids

Fire drills. Remember these from your school days? They provided everyone need-to-know info and action plans for ‘in case of fire’ situations. We learned by rehearsing. As a step-mom of 2 daughters, I’ve found the best way to help them (and myself!) prepare for life’s ‘what if’ situations is to practice them by role playing at home. That really helped de-stress all of us. You may want to employ this technique with your child in a food allergy scenario.

When practicing food allergy ‘fire drills,’ consider including 3 key elements in your role-playing: situation assessment, system checks, and back-up protection plan verification. Role playing with older kids? You may consider pushing the proverbial silence button and make talk-time with your teen happen- engage in label reading of teen-typical food, and give them ‘what if’ questions to answer. Take a look at this blog on Fun Ways to Teach Your Kids About Food Allergies. It’s full of creative ideas for teaching and de-escalating allergy anxiety with kids. The bottom line is practice the ‘what if’ and you should be fine. WHEW!

Not quite…. What about YOU?

Anxiety Relief Techniques for You

What are you doing about your feelings? Did you see the blog Irina posted a few weeks ago about stress and how stress can impact not just you but your entire family?

After reading this, you should consider the following as not self-indulgences, but self-necessities to combat stress.

  • Action. It’s amazing how physical activity can de-escalate stress levels. There’s a shift change in your body’s chemistry profile (endorphins) for the better. Kendra talked about this in her post, Tackling Your Daily Stressors…One Step at a Time, and I say ‘Hear, hear!’ Any activity and any amount of time is fine. Hear a favorite song? Bust a move! Office job? Consider some chair yoga that’s not embarrassing.
  • Breathe.Who hasn’t heard someone say, ‘just take a few deep breaths and you’ll be fine’? Why is this? When we breathe slowly and elongate the exhale, we trigger the relaxation response of the parasympathetic system.  The opposite of this is shallow, rapid breathing that signals stress, or the sympathetic system. By regulating our inhale and exhale, we can maximize relaxation and absorption of oxygen. The diaphragm is used more effectively and it increases our ability to better manage stress. I teach yoga, and breathing is deemed the most important element to practice. We use Ujjayi breathing (ooh-jy-yee), as it is a way to connect our mind and body. Ujjayi is an audible, rhythmic breathing, equal inhale/exhale coupled with an ocean/Darth Vader breath sound.    Here’s a quick video that explains Ujjayi breathing technique in a bit deeper detail:

    By using this technique during times of stress, you can help quiet your mind and your nerves. I use this breathing technique throughout the day- not just on my yoga mat.
  • HEE HAW! This is MY word. I say this to myself when I feel my heart beating faster and my breath becoming shallow - an escalating stress situation in the works. I say ‘hee haw’ to myself and it’s my cue to stop and ask, ‘where am I RIGHT NOW on the stress meter?’ If I’m honest with myself and find my number to be 7 or greater on a 1-10 scale, then I take time to BREATHE, MOVE, and/or PAUSE. Saying a word that triggers internal analysis is a self stress assessment, referred to as verbal de-escalation (though I say it silently). There is a lot of information available on de-escalation strategies. The Crisis Prevention Institute offers a list of 10 tips for de-escalation a situation,  which you may find useful. We need to remember that we are all in charge of how we react. Knowing how you can monitor and help YOURSELF de-escalate can help manage your stress levels.
  • Support TEAM. Do you have some go-to peeps with big ears for listening who don’t mind being a sounding board for you? Call them. Bend an ear. Are you a member of a support group with other parents of children with food allergies? National organization websites are a good source of direction to these. Check one out. These folks can relate to your situation and perhaps your feelings and frustrations as well. There can be power in numbers and knowing you’re not alone in the allergy plight. Sharing with kindred spirits may give you reassurance and new perspectives. Social media sites can be sources of support too. There are forums and Facebook groups to consider that may include information from professional organizations, subject experts and parents that have ‘been there, done that.’ Take our Food Allergy Living blog for instance! Offerings are usually free and available 24/7. 

Children’s food allergies are challenging, and being a parent role model who projects ‘cool, calm and collected’ isn’t always easy. So how does your roller coaster ride look? Are you making the bumpy parts manageable so you, like Grandma in the Parenthood movie, can be glad you rode the coaster? Do you have any good ideas for stress busting you can share with others? Let’s hear them!

By Jody Long-Benitz, M.S., RDN

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Food Allergy Living is a resource for parents of children with food allergies, brought to you by Nutricia, the makers of Neocate. For more in-depth information about our purpose & authors, see our About Food Allergy Living page.