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For Families

Calming Techniques for Parents

Woman sitting at a table and taking a deep breath.

Hannah Larson

Licensed Professional Counselor

Last modified 19 Mar 2024

Published 06 Mar 2024

As a parent, do you find yourself exhausted, burnt out, tired, or just having a bad day?

In these moments, we can find ourselves in a place of frustration and needing to calm down. 

Here are some calming techniques you can use for those rough days 

Watch how you are talking to yourself 

The way we talk to ourselves affects how we feel. 

Notice if you’re saying things to yourself like these examples 

  • “No one ever appreciates what I do.” 
  • “No one sees how hard I work.” 
  • “I bet they’re just doing this to make me mad.”
  • “No one helps around here.” 
  • “They are always about themselves.” 

Self-talk that is negative, such as these examples, will affect your mood and your ability to handle a situation with a clear mind. Instead, say to yourself, “I am feeling upset right now and need to take a break from this situation.” Next, put your focus someplace else. 

Journal your feelings 

Often, when we are upset, how we feel about a situation can be overwhelming. 

We may feel stuck in our thoughts about how someone has wronged us, how unreasonable someone is, or about any number of other situations. 

Write out these thoughts and feelings uncensored. There is something therapeutic about being able to write uncensored. This is a place where you can be completely heard. 

Writing down your thoughts and feelings helps you to externalize what is racing through your mind.  When you journal often, you can see the situation more clearly. While you are writing, you will begin to calm down.

When it is time to face the situation, you are less likely to say something you will regret. 

As a clinician, I have found that one of the things that holds people back from journaling is the fear that someone will find their writing. Try writing your thoughts on a password-protected Word document. You can also write or draw how you are feeling on paper and then tear it up immediately afterward. 

Get up and move 

Movement can help move feelings through your body. If you have time, get out and exercise.

Add movement by one of these options if you are short on time

  • Take a short walk around your office or neighborhood
  • Stand up and shake off your frustration
  • Get up and refill your water bottle 
  • Move to a different room and notice the scenery
  • Take a stretch break, need stretch tips, find a video on YouTube 
  • Do a quick chore that needs your attention, such as vacuuming
  • Dance, turn on one song, dance, and then get back to work 
  • Sit on a stability ball 
  • Do squats or lunges while you are waiting for your food to heat up in the microwave

Notice something new

When we are upset, our minds quickly fixate on why we are upset. It can help to quickly shift our attention off of why we are upset to something else. 

Take a moment to notice something new in your environment. Do you notice a stain on a wall or a color you never noticed in a painting? Doing so will allow your mind to switch from your lizard brain to your wizard brain. 

Remind yourself that most things don’t need to be solved at this exact moment 

When we are upset, frustrated, and flooded with emotion, we are unable to bring our best selves to the situation. 

Outside of dire emergencies, very few scenarios need to be solved right at that moment. Yes, doing the opposite and avoiding a problem altogether is not helpful and creates greater problems in the long run. Avoiding is not the same as taking a mindful pause to bring your best self forward. 

If you find yourself flooded with emotion, give yourself some time. Try saying, “You mentioned some important ideas. I would like some time to think about what you have shared. Let’s schedule a meeting later today or later this week to discuss different options.” 

With your child, you could say, “I need some time to think about this. I don’t have an answer. Let’s connect again…” 

It can also be as simple as saying, “I need some time. Let’s meet again on Friday at 12 p.m. Does that work for you?” 

Give yourself some space from what is upsetting you. Take time to calm down, and then rejoin the person and the conversation. 

Take deep breaths 

When we are upset, we can find ourselves taking short, shallow breaths. These breaths keep the amygdala (Lizard) part of our brain active. 

When we take slow, deep breaths into our diaphragm, our nervous system calms, allowing the thinking part of our brain to take over. 

Deep breathing works best when practiced in moments of calm. Practicing deep breathing allows you to be skilled at it in moments of stress. Before bed, it can help to take deep breaths while lying down. In this position, you may find it easier to fill your diaphragm with a deep breath. This experience will allow you to experience successful diaphragmatic breathing. 

Relax your muscles 

When we are stressed, we often hold tension in our muscles. Tensing our muscles and then slowly relaxing them can help. Be careful not to tense to the point of strain. Start with your feet and work up to your face. This strategy can help you let go of extra energy in your muscles and bring calm to your body. If you want a guided experience of this, request Cadey from your employer. In Cadey, we guide you through this technique. 

Visualize relief

Calm ocean waves hitting smooth rocks.

Take a moment to close your eyes and picture something that leaves you feeling calm and peaceful. (Avoid imagining drugs or substances. Think of a favorite place, a beach, a mountain home, your backyard, etc.) As you are imagining this calming, peaceful place, repeat to yourself; “I am OKAY.” 

Get Access to Cadey

Have you found these strategies helpful? Request Cadey as a benefit from your employer today! With Cadey, you’ll get coaching on how to calm down, set boundaries, enjoy life, parent, and more.