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  • Writer's pictureKristen Genzano, LPC

caring for your kids' food allergies… and caring for YOU!

a stressful situation

You may be aware that food allergies and intolerances are becoming more and more common. Living with a child who suffers from food allergies can result in incredible stress. A recent article in Allergic Living, reminded readers of the 2010 study at Northwestern University Mount Sinai School of Medicine that revealed a “profound impact on both patients and parents” quality of life.

Jodi Franken, Nutritional Consultant and owner of Homegrown Health, and I recently presented to a group of caregivers of children with food allergies. Jodi provided several useful tips about how to use diet and nutrition to help reduce the impact of food intolerances. I spoke about three key ways to reduce the caregiver’s stress when confronting food related allergies. Below are a few key points I covered concerning the impact of chronic stress and ways to take care of yourself in the face of it!

why do i need stress reduction?

In a world where each day seems busier than the day before, it is easy to forget that all the stressors in our lives build up. This can leave you in a position where you’re working to manage several effects of stress on your body, mind, and spirit.

Some of these may include:

  • Difficulty sleeping (falling asleep/staying asleep)

  • Being tired when you wake in the morning

  • Frequent worry

  • Ongoing headaches

  • Pain in the shoulders/neck

  • Getting sick often

  • Unhealthy eating habits (too much, too little, or not nourishing)

  • Feeling light-headed or weak

  • Extreme sadness/depression

  • Excessive alcohol consumption

  • Short temper/anger/agitation

how do i care for myself?

Prioritize self-care by making time for things that feed your soul. This could be taking a walk, reading a good book, asking your kids to help you prepare dinner, or setting a date night with your partner where you can forget about your child’s food allergy.

Work to set boundaries. It can be quite uncomfortable for women to say no to people they care about. Often this means you stretch yourself too thin and don't have energy or time left for yourself. Establishing boundaries brings up guilt for a lot of women, so go easy on yourself. Set small goals. Try telling your family you will only prepare one meal each night rather than fix specific dishes for each person in the house. This can (and will) cause unhappiness. Setting and maintaining boundaries takes practice; be kind to yourself when you fail.

Slow down and become mindful of your emotions. Because our bodies and minds are in frequent motion it can be difficult to be aware of your emotional landscape. This can lead to outbursts, arguments, and exhaustion when you’re stressed. One way to turn your attention to your emotions is by pausing for just a moment to pay attention to your breath. You can do this anywhere, any time, and for any length. Once you notice the breath, pause and allow your attention to go inward—even for a brief moment—to observe what’s going on inside of you. If you forget to implement this practice, set a reminder on your phone or stick post-it notes around the house.

i've heard this all before... it doesn't work!

As with most things in life, reducing your overall stress takes time, practice, and gentleness toward yourself. Although these tips may sound easy, they require intention. More importantly, they require you to be compassionate toward yourself. Cultivating a sense of care for yourself in the midst of caring for your children and loved ones is an ongoing path you will inevitably veer off. When you do, treat yourself as you would a friend with forgiveness and understanding.

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