In my last blog post, I talked about food allergies and anxiety in parents. Along with what healthy vs unhealthy anxiety looks like. In this post, I’m going to talk about my top three ways to manage anxiety as the parent of a kiddo with a food allergy. These three takeaways are to have a growth mindset, how to approach anxiety from a physiological perspective, and self-care. Let’s dive in a little bit on what a growth mindset is!
Having A Growth Mindset When Dealing With Allergies and Anxiety
Growth mindset. Depending on what circles you travel in, this may be a new term. According to Carol Dweck people either have a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. Which one you have is determined by what you believe to be true about yourself.
What are Fixed vs Growth Mindsets?
People with a fixed mindset believe that their core qualities are unchangeable, or fixed. Instead of believing they can grow and change they believe themselves to be static. You can’t get much or any better at things because you are mentally set in your ways.
Carol Dweck states that a growth mindset is a belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts.
Why mindset is important when it comes to allergies and anxiety?
Why does mindset matter in regards to food allergies and anxiety? The fact is, food allergies call on a number of qualities, and what you believe about them makes a big difference in how you face challenges associated with having a food allergy kiddo. For example, instead of fearing the unknown, you might believe that you will rise to the occasion and that navigating new situations will increase confidence and decrease anxiety. Behavior comes before emotion!
In regards to advocating for your children and teens with food allergies, there are many ways a growth mindset can make a difference. If you believe you can find your voice and that it will get clearer the more you use it, speaking up won’t be as anxiety-inducing. Imagine yourself saying “Of course, it will be hard and shaky at first, but I know there will be plenty of opportunities to try again.” This is so much more empowering than ruminating on how you “can’t” do something. Reminding yourself that you can practice what you need to say to make it come easier is also a powerful mindset shift.
One of my favorite mindset shifts is to add “yet” to the end of statements that are otherwise concrete and unyielding. For example:
- We haven’t traveled internationally… yet.
- He hasn’t had an independent playdate… yet.
- I don’t feel like I have the hang of this… yet.
- I haven’t found the right preschool… yet.
Adding “yet” to the end of a statement makes doing that thing a possibility in the future and doesn’t lock you into a life shut down because of food allergies.
Approaching Allergies and Anxiety From a Physiological Perspective
Because of the mind-body relationship, there are some body-based strategies that can help you ground yourself and find relief from food allergies and anxiety. Some of these include breathing slowly and deeply, meditation and mindfulness, or a warm shower. Exercising is great as it ends the stress cycle and gets out all of the energy being held onto by your body as you experience anxiety.
Mind Based Strategies
Body-based strategies are great, but learning to reframe your self-talk can go a long way in finding your strength as a parent of a child or teen with food allergies. A type of self-talk reframe that I love is to change “what if” to “even if.” Instead of “What if my friends choose a restaurant I don’t feel comfortable with?” try “Even if my friends choose a restaurant I am not comfortable with, I can speak up and advocate for a different restaurant or bring my own food!”
Another example is “what if you enter a restaurant and there are peanuts all over the floor?” Instead, “Even if the restaurant has peanuts all over the floor, I can pick my child up and leave immediately. Or we can have a family member enter restaurants before we enter to scan for safety.” Reframing from “what if ” to “even if” opens up the possibility to problem solve and your brain gets curious instead of anxious.
Sometimes when you are anxious, it is difficult to problem solve. There is a framework of basic problem-solving STEPs which include:
- Say the problem
- Think of solutions
- Explore consequences of each solution
- Pick a solution
Having a process to problem-solve can go a long way when your brain is in the fight, flight, or freeze mode. This way you can process through what the problem is, what some solutions could be, what those solutions might entail, and allows you to pick a solution and roll with it.
Of course, self-care is central to managing anxiety as an allergy parent. There are many types of self-care, but here are three of my favorite (totally better than bubble baths!).
Support Network, Who’s your tribe?
Who is your support system? Who are your people whom you can rely upon to take care of you? Keep these people close. Having a strong support system makes a HUGE difference in your anxiety levels and having a tribe of like-minded parents helps you feel less alone in all of this.
Set Boundaries When It Comes to Allergies and Anxiety
You have needs. Everyone does! You have to take care of your own needs so you can be there for your kiddo as they need you. Being a superhero and taking care of everyone but yourself only ends in difficulty. You have to set boundaries on how much you do and what you take on. Having weak boundaries doesn’t help anyone, especially not your kiddo!
Food allergies and anxiety can be all-consuming. I mean, food is everywhere and we all need it to survive. However, you have to take breaks from the food allergy and anaphylactic reaction world and find space outside of it. If all of your friends are food allergy parents, you’re missing out on some amazing friendships! Take the opportunity to go to a restaurant you wouldn’t be able to with your kiddo with some adult friends and enjoy the moment!
Begin Counseling For Allergies and Anxiety in Scotch Plains, NJ or Branchburg, NJ
If these tips are helpful but aren’t quite enough to get you past your anxiety, it may be time to consider therapy at Brave Minds in New Jersey. Our compassionate therapists specialize in food allergy therapy and help people navigate life with food allergies and anxiety. We will work with you so you can move forward with a more positive mindset. It all starts with these three steps:
- Contact us to get started at Brave Minds Psychological Services
- Meet with a food allergy and anxiety therapist
- Start living a life not ruled by allergies and anxiety
Therapy Services We Offer in Scotch Plains, NJ and Branchburg, NJ
Allergy and anxiety therapy isn’t the only service that our understanding therapists offer at Brave Minds Psychological Services. For adults, we provide trauma therapy, EMDR Therapy, couples counseling, postpartum counseling, and birth trauma therapy. Our services extended beyond adults. Our therapists provide therapy for teens and children. This is why we offer teen anxiety treatment, social phobia therapy for teens, child sexual abuse therapy, child anxiety treatment, and more. Prefer building a support network with group therapy? Our therapists also offer several options for group therapy. Our services are offered in person at our Scotch Plains, NJ office and through online therapy in New Jersey.