Compassionate Self-Talk for the Stressed-Out Parent

By: Kristen Lipari, Ph.D. | November 18, 2022

The tasks of parenthood can feel overwhelming. Whether you are a stay-at-home parent or balancing a job with parenthood, these years are trying. You’re managing your own mental and physical well-being as well as that of tiny humans. There are dozens of seemingly invisible tasks that add up and it feels like there’s never enough time to get it all done. From tantrums to running out of household supplies to forgetting appointments and important work tasks, it’s hard to keep it all straight! So, what can be done to ease the burden and make it all bit easier?

Self-talk is our internal dialogue, or our “inner voice.” The way we talk to ourselves can be negative and critical, or positive and encouraging. When we are overwhelmed and stressed out, we are much more likely to talk to ourselves in a negative way. This negative self-talk only makes the stress feel worse.

By adapting more encouraging, self-compassionate self-talk you can take the edge of the stressors of parenthood.

If you are drowning in the tasks of parenthood – dealing with the tantrum of the moment, feeling overwhelmed by laundry or dishes, or trying and failing to balance work and home responsibilities – try to offer yourself kindness.

Follow these steps to develop compassionate self-talk:

1. Acknowledge Your Feelings

This isn’t about sugar coating how you feel. If you are overwhelmed, call it that. If you are frustrated, embrace your anger. Pushing away your feelings only makes them grow in intensity. By labeling how you feel, you can experience some relief and validation.

2. Ask if How You Feel is Permanent or Temporary

During our most difficult moments, we are dealing with many different types of stressors, some of which are temporary and will eventually pass. Ask yourself if what’s on your plate will change in the coming days. If the answer is ‘no,’ brainstorm what needs to change so you can keep your head above water.

3. Be Self-Compassionate

Cultivate self-compassion by treating yourself with the same type of kindness that you would offer to a friend. If you justify how you are feeling by telling yourself it’s understandable given the circumstances, you are less likely to feel shame and guilt, which only makes matters worse.

4. Practice Acceptance

Emotional relief can be found in allowing for difficult feelings rather than pushing them away. If you told yourself that your feelings and struggles were acceptable rather than judging them you could avoid thinking traps, also known as cognitive distortions. If you tell yourself that you are doing “good enough” rather than telling yourself you “should” be doing better, you can avoid common thinking traps in parenthood. This small shift in language allows room for the difficult realities of parenthood, which is so much kinder than judging yourself.

Take this relatable example: Sienna comes home from a long day at work at 6pm after picking up her two children at school and daycare. She scrambles to put a balanced dinner on the table and her toddler tells her he won’t eat a bite. Her baby cries while her husband starts the laundry.

If Sienna pushes her feelings aside, it’s easy to imagine that she may become even more frustrated and resentful than she understandably already feels. If she tells herself:

“Look at my life! It’s going to be like this forever. How will I ever get through it? I’m the worst mother,” she is likely to feel even more stressed out and bad about herself. If she shames herself for making a quick dinner that isn’t perfectly balanced, she’s going to feel like a “bad mom,” which makes her feel discouraged and may even undermine her motivation in other areas of her life.

Now let’s try a self-compassionate approach in which Sienna labels her feelings and practices accepting them. Sienna tells herself:

“I’ve had a long day at work and in this moment, I feel frustrated that my son doesn’t like my dinner. It’s understandable that after trying hard to prepare a balanced meal, that I feel frustrated when my son rejects it. I acknowledge that this stress will pass and even a few minutes from now I may feel better. But it’s okay that I’m frustrated right now.”

Practice the key phrases below the next time you find yourself feeling overwhelmed. A small shift in how we talk to ourselves can go a long way to reduce stress!

  • “I feel…”
  • “I know stress will pass because…”
  • “It’s understandable that…”
  • “It’s okay that…”

If you find yourself feeling down, being hard on yourself, and engaging in negative self-talk, help is available. A professional San Diego Psychologist that specializes in issues related to parenting, healthy families and perinatal mental health will help you practice self-compassion to feel better about yourself, and learn skills to reduce negative, critical self-talk. Therapy is a safe and effective way to express your feelings in a non-judgmental space. You and a member of our talented team of therapists will develop strategies to help reduce stress in your life and find balance. Parenthood is not easy, and you deserve support. Contact Us today to schedule an appointment.



Photo by Tanaphong Toochinda on Unsplash

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