Stress-busting tips please!

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by Marguerite, Feb 22, 2008.

  1. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    I just had a l-o-o-o-n-g talk to easy child 2/difficult child 2. She arrived home from work and within minutes, she and difficult child 3 were screaming at each other, with her rushing out of the room to her 'space', slamming doors on the way. I had been working on difficult child 3 getting his chores done (including doing more homework) and she totally undermined it, simply because the bath hadn't been run (by difficult child 3) because he was running late.

    While talking to her (and totally avoiding the subject of who, what, where etc with the fight) we covered a lot of topics. I've been trying to get her back to her therapist for months and she always has some excuse; "I'm too busy." "I'm too stressed." "I just haven't got the time."

    I finally explained to her that her current coping methods (screaming at people; being offensively defensive; trying to get her point of view across like a ram-raider) is just not working.

    Of course while talking to her she was dissolving in floods of tears again. I had to constantly make it clear that I was not chastising her, only pointing out that a rage such as she demonstrated shouldn't happen more often than once every few years, certainly not several times a day/week. At first she was blustering, "It's because difficult child 3 is such a little ****!!!" but I kept her away from that - she reacts like this with us, too, and we're fed up with living in a war zone. I told her I was feeling shell-shocked and just wanted to walk out of the house sometimes, to get away from it. And as I have not been the target of it, I shouldn't be feeling the fallout this badly. I also had to emphasise that after all that adrenalin was expended, not only had she achieved exactly zero, she had actually set herself up for an even more difficult communication next time. He IS being oppositional with her, but she has brought it on herself by screaming at him like a hysterical banshee. As husband says (quietly), "She'll make someone a wonderful fishwife one of these days."

    So, the outcome is - we have agreed to differ on how badly she needs the therapist at the moment. She says she's too stressed to see the therapist, I say that the therapist will help her cope with stress more efficiently. So in the absence of her willingness/ability to make the adjustment, I had to play therapist and try to help her find other ways to de-stress.

    What she does now - she works four/five days a week from 8 am to 5.30 pm with half an hour for lunch. On two days, she finishes at 3.30 pm, but on both those days she has to go to evening classes from 5.30 pm. She de-stresses by window-shopping (and sometimes buying what's in the window). I said that's not healthy, because it can spill over into retail therapy as the only coping strategy, and that not only breaks the budget, it can lead to hoarding behaviour.
    She can only window-shop when she has several hours to spare and nothing she has to do afterwards (other than come home). So she can't window-shop for more than an hour on college nights.
    Nor can she see the therapist on college nights - she doesn't want to turn up to college after she's been crying, she needs space to go somewhere quiet and calm herself. She ALWAYS gets teary when she has to talk about what is worrying her.

    So we tried brainstorming about other ways in which she can de-stress [we're building up a heap of soggy tissues by this stage].
    Exercise is out, it makes her feel sick. "And while we're on that subject, if I wasn't so sick and tired of being sick and tired of being sick and tired, I wouldn't be so STRESSED!!!!" [another half-dozen tissues are added to the heap of papier-maché].
    She likes doing puzzles. But there's nowhere to lay out a jigsaw puzzle to do one. There isn't even space, if she uses a puzzle mat. And a big part of THAT, is the house really is a mess from having a family who won't throw things out, and a mother who is too tired/unwell to go crawling round the floors collecting all the rubbish/dropped papers/fallen clothing/hoarded toys. It's nowhere near as bad as some, but I'm not happy with it and it can't be fixed until at least difficult child 1 leaves home, taking his collections with him. Then I'll have somewhere to start.
    I suggested puzzle books, but she can only do book puzzles for so long. There is something about jigsaw puzzles that appeal, but they need to be complex but still pretty. Smaller but trickier wouldn't work, she said - she wants SOME clues from the pieces themselves, not just the shape.
    I suggested puzzle books for those odd moments when waiting in the car, or at other times. Maybe.

    She's very obsessive. We live too far from the mall for her to use up her days not at work to go shopping. On days when she's not at work, she stays home and does stuff on her favourite website (fantasy forum) but is currently fed up with it as there are too many newbies who she has to stop and explain things to.

    Are you getting the picture?

    So, to re-cap - her current stress-busting strategies include window-shopping and doing jigsaw puzzles. Exercise is out, she feels sick. Book puzzles will only help a little, for a short while.

    I've suggested massage - her and BF2. She said, "We already do that."
    I suggested using massage oil, or talcum powder. She doesn't like the feel of most oils on her skin, but I might be able to persuade her with some almond oil (not too heavy? Any alternative suggestions welcome). I told her that oil feels different that just skin on skin.

    So, any other suggestions? She won't go to the beach in the daytime - too much sun, she's a redhead. She won't go at night because there are too many mosquitoes. She DOES grow roses but there's not a lot you can do with six pots of rose bushes.

    I'd like to find something she could do that is portable, that she can do on her own, that she can use to help her calm at moments when she is stressed. Failing that, I'm looking for easy access to effective inexpensive de-stress options so she can more effectively use what time she does have.

    Medication - the gastroenterologist has put her on tryptanol, which is not sedating her (good) but we don't know yet if it's helping. After she's been on it for two weeks, if she can tolerate it (looks like it) she is to double the dose. So she IS taking an antidepressant.

    I'm relieved and amazed that I got through to her this evening, as well as I did, but the house is still going to be a war zone. She keeps trying to 'parent' difficult child 3, because she sees our "Explosive Child" methods as too soft and WILL interfere. And she won't listen, can't help herself.

    I really worry about what sort of teacher she will make...

    All ideas welcome.

    H E L P!!!

  2. LittleDudesMom

    LittleDudesMom Well-Known Member Staff Member


    I think you covered a lot of good stuff in your talk with her, but I think returned to the doctor is going to be key in her case. I think you are right in trying to make that happen for her.

  3. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    I know she needs to see the therapist, but it's not going to happen any time soon unfortunately. I'm going to try to push her to give up at least part of one of her days at home and make a special trip in (I'll drive her) which she can then follow with a window-shopping session and then bring BF2 home from work. Maybe I can get her to combine it with house-hunting - she says he is desperate to get their own place but neither of them seems to have the time to go organise finance, look at houses etc. When the college assignments start coming in, she's going to be even more stressed - Catch 22. The worse she is, the more she says she can't spare the mental energy or time for therapist.

    I think I'll try and organise a couple of house inspections for her, and link it in with a new appointment with therapist. It also means organising a lot of paperwork from the GP to authorise the therapist, plus the waiting time for appointments etc. A real headache, but her obsessions and other issues are getting in her way right now, log-jamming everything. I COULD try and get BF2 on side, but he lacks the subtlety needed for this.

    Blimey, she's a headache right now! But I know this is going to get worse fast, if we can't find ays around. If only she could de-stress enough to see reason enough. She makes times to see the gastroenterologist, but that doesn't stir hr up emotionally like the therapist does.

  4. nvts

    nvts Active Member

    Ok, this might sound stupid, but what about a Bonzai tree? You said she likes growing roses, but doesn't like the sun or skeeto's, she's somewhat obsessive, she might really like something like that. It's detailed (like puzzles) it's soothing and non-interactive.

    Let her clean up a part of the house and decorate it for relaxation. Try some "fung shwey" (I KNOW I massacred THAT spelling!!!). Sitting in a chair, pushing down with her feet, holding the seat and pulling up on the seat will allow her to stretch her muscles without getting sick.

    A bubbling fountain in her room (although those things always make me want to go to the bathroom) is restfull.

    Scrapbooking or journaling are relaxing too.

    Just a few thoughts!

  5. Shari

    Shari IsItFridayYet?

    Scrapbooking is a great idea and they have great portable cases now that can go anywhere! Bonsai tree is good, too, they need pretty routine maintenance. along that lines, saltwater fish are beautiful, calming, and require maintenance that I have found I generally enjoy "having" to do.
    She sounds a bit like I feel right now - just "stuck" for the time being. Time will alleviate some of the stress - but also it may be replaced by new stresses.
    Keep pushing the therapist. (tho you seem to be great at it)
  6. babybear

    babybear New Member

    How about journaling?? I don't know if she would do it or not, but it has been a great tool for my niece with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). I've started doing it too. It was hard to get going (for me) but it is starting to become a habit.
  7. Star*

    Star* call 911


    Marg - sending you hugs- I go for walkabouts. Nature is my valium.
  8. Marg,

    I sending hugs as well. I don't really have an answer but I do have an observation. Our easy child, who is very much ADHD, but chooses to not use medication- is much like this at times. He is living at school now, but he visits often. Everytime he comes home for a visit it is like a whirlwind whooshing through our house. We love him, but he absolutely wears us all out - difficult child included.

    He is terribly high energy and he always has WAY TOO MUCH on his plate.. He is a full time student, he works full time as a teaching and research assistant, he is the manager of the campus radio station, he has a talk show and a musical show at the station, he is involved in a video contest, it just goes on and on and on...I really think that he comes home when he's just at the breaking point. He usually gets very angry at least one time when he comes home and difficult child and our "liberal" treatment of him is often the reason. Sound familiar?

    We consider ourselves very lucky because his visits are short, and the whirlwind whirls on out pretty quickly. I can't imagine what it would be like dealing with that day in and day out. I would suggest she cut back on at least one of her activities and get some rest - but I know that our easy child would be very angry with me if I made such a suggestion like that to him. I think that they need to find their own equilibrium - and that really takes time.
  9. timer lady

    timer lady Queen of Hearts


    One of the very first things we did when kt got home from Residential Treatment Center (RTC) was to have her sit down & write out her top 3 self calming skills learned & work best for her while in Residential Treatment Center (RTC).

    Shower, snuggle with mom & draw. Every week or so we update her list of self calming skills - what worked last week isn't going to necessarily this week.

    The list is printed out in colors of her choice - heck she makes it out herself now; we put it in a clear plastic sheet protector & hang it in the kitchen, in the bathroom & one copy in her bedroom. I have a copy at my desk as does husband.

    kt puts a lot of thought; a lot of practice into self calming. She wants to be "normal". kt needs very little cuing on this anymore though there are times nothing is working & I pull out old copies with a suggestion or 2 that helps.

    The top is a shower & always will be.

    Good luck in your endeavor. I hope difficult child finds ways to de-stress.
  10. everywoman

    everywoman Active Member

    Yoga, yoga, yoga. It will help detress and is exercise without being overt. Try renting a yoga tape at the local library.
  11. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Some good ideas. She's at work at the moment, plus I have to go out in about five minutes (after a quick shower and hair wash). I'll talk to her about it when she gets home. This time I'll try and draw BF2 into it, he needs to know what he's buying into here. She is HIS problem too.

    I do let my kids find things out for themselves, if they break the rules. For example, we don't allow the kids to eat in their bedrooms or in the living room, but I found a lot of cola bottles (empty) under the coffee table and the living room is fast-disappearing under difficult child 1's crud, while HE complains I don't keep a tidy house!
    easy child 2/difficult child 2 has been buying blocks of chocolate and taking them into the spare room/sleepout she occupies with BF2. Yesterday I saw a plastic container of chocolate sitting on top of the bin, crawling with ants. This has happened to her before, but the ants will be contained to THEIR (the kids) space. They broke the rules, they have to deal with the ants. Not My Problem.

    Scrapbooking - I shudder at the mess she will create, and not clean up. Maybe she can join BF2's hobby/work of painting figurines. Bonsai - she would need a forest to deal with all that energy. And she never has the energy to water them (besides, it's exercise and makes her feel sick) so I would have to do it. We can only use the hose on Wednesday evenings and Sunday evenings, other times it's watering can & bucket, filled form the rainwater tank.

    Showers - water again. As it is, she showers for so long we lose all hot water. I'll add it to the list though, as something she already does.

    She's a very sensual creature (too sensual for our comfort - "round heels" is how husband describes it) and I'm hoping I can get her to maybe dabble in some aromatherapy.

    I just wish I could convince her specialist that this is screaming "Aspergers" at me. Her need to control everyone around her; her extreme obsessiveness which gets worse the more stressed she gets; the degree of stress she feels for minimal provocation; the face blindness; the incredibly high IQ that is going to waste here.

    I'd better dash, I'm going to be late. It'll have to be a two minute shower. But I grew up in the country, with camp showers. I can do it.

  12. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member


    I am awful with handling any sort of stress. I get overly emotional and irritable as all get out. Just picture a screaming banshee here and that would be me.

    I am learning some calming techniques for me. Odd as it sounds, I love the smell of vicks vapor rub and they now have a baby bath product that smells just like it. I take hot baths with that in it. I also go play games online when I simply cannot sleep because of stress. If she likes flowers, what about doing a terrarium?

    Isnt this the child who is so into anime? If so, how about working on that on the computer. Crocheting, needlepoint, some other crafty type thing.
  13. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It


    First of all, she is lucky to have you. Esp as you have not strangled her for "reparenting" difficult child 3. Remind her that if she wants to parent someone, it should be HER child, not yours. Seems to me that making this boundary clear might help everyone. I could be very wrong, but at least difficult child 3 would be less stressed.

    Maybe, if she is insistent on "parenting" difficult child 3 due to your "soft" parenting, she can take over some of the other "Mommy" tasks, such as cleaning all the rubbish off the floors, etc.... I totally get the house disorder, we have it too.

    For ways to destress does she have a computer or access to one? I am thinking of computer jigsaw puzzles. For that matter, is there somewhere in her and boyfriend's space that she could clean up to do jigsaws?? by the way, what is a puzzlemat???

    There is also a computer game called Triazzle that is wonderful. You have a picture (ours is bugs, colorful ones - it came with a kid's book order years ago). Then you have triangle shaped pictures. When you get the picture right, it comes to life. I can spend HOURS on this.

    What about soapmaking? I LOVE it. There is a LOT of stirring, very relaxing if you are sitting and the stirrer is long enough you don't have to worry about splashes. You CAN speed that part up by using a stick blender. Then, you can add coarse chopped oats, any scent, whatever you want. The result is a very luxurious bar of soap. With most methods you have to wait 30 days before it is safe to use, but I have a method where after it is ready to "set" you put it into the oven and cook it in there until it is safe to use. IF a batch goes "wrong" you may have to wait 2 weeks, but that is better to a difficult child than a month. It is also easier on the house as you don't have to find a place for the soap to sit for a month undisturbed.

    I would encourage almond or macadamia nut oil for massages. Aromatherapy is awesome, esp if she can have a candle SHE makes in her area.

    This next may sound totally wasteful and extravagant. Many who LOVE books are horrified by it. I love books, but worked in a used bookstore, so I KNOW that often there are just too many copies of a certain book. As a teen I used to sit on my floor and SHRED books by hand. Depended on what/how I was feeling as to how many I tore up. I tore them into tiny pieces. I used books I got from work (at a used bookstore) that we were going to pitch anyway. Mostly they were old Harlequin romances of which we had boxes and boxes in back from a previous owner. It fed my need to destroy things, with-o hurting anyone. Of course, I was the one who cleaned them up, and I was only allowed to do this in my room. It was very cathartic. Even now, if I feel just a certain way, I will take a book I know has NO trade value or resale value and shred it.

    As she is very sensual, I think that making massage oils, testing them, then washing them off might be fun for her. She also might like cooking. I know you do most of your cooking from scratch, but what about letting her cook? Every female on my mom's side of the family (including my Jess) does it when stressed.

    She might enjoy making her own spice mixes, cake mixes, etc... I have several very good books on making your own mixes. Not sure the following books cover things sold in the Aussie market, but there is a line of books called Top Secret Recipes. They have things like Reese Cups, Oreos, etc to clones of various restaurant recipes. I have MOST of the books, and the website has a number of the recipes. On the website you pay for each recipe. I can PM you most any of them, if there is a list she wants to try. Or you want to try. My fave is cherry limeade from a burger joint here in the states. It is about 2 oz cherry juice concentrate, about 1 oz lime juice, and the rest lemon-lime soda. Just wonderful on almost any day. The website is

    If crafting is up her alley, is there a church with an easter egg hunt coming up? Or other group with one? Sometimes making things for these is very relaxing. One thing I have done for this is to make bunnies from white plastic spoons. Had a friend who's church funds for the easter egg hunt were embezzled. So friend asked me to help, and we did hundreds of these, and other things. The bunnies are just ears cut out of felt and glued on, then faces drawn with sharpies. You do it on the back of hte spoon, and the handle can be stuck into the ground for use during the egg hunt.

    What about homemeade playdough? Easy to make, can be scented with whatever she finds relaxing, and can be made into things.

    My husband finds blowing things up relaxing. He and thank you like to use the cannisters film comes in, and about 1/4 of a denture cleaning tablet (with cheap brands may need a half). It seems to reset his bad mood.

    In the book The-Out-of-Synch-Child-Has-Fun there are a whole LOT of ideas that might help. I firmly believe that our kiddoes, in addition to their other problems, mostly all suffer from some degree of sensory issues. So I use this on the whole family. Not sure where my copy is, but your library should have it. It is by Carol Kranowitz too.


  14. SRL

    SRL Active Member

    Instead of window shopping, how about stopping at a cafe for a cup of coffee (or whatever) with a book or magazine. Bookstores and libraries are calming places to me and I use that to my advantage when I know I need it.
  15. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    There are some good ideas here.

    She's already into computers in a big way, has her own laptop and is role-playing on her fave animé website, which involves her writing her own avatar's fantasy journal and back-story. But lately says that it's getting boring, with too many people saying, "I feel a bit awkward here," and getting out of character in the RP and thoroughly annoying her. I suspect this is what has always been happening, but her increasing intolerance (plus increasing obsessiveness over this) is the problem, for the other players.

    It's also costing us a great deal in download, we are limited in our usage. She brings us close yo our maximum limit each moth but we've been letting her get away with it because she starts screaming at us again if we dare to suggest she cut back (for our sakes). It is for that reason I only rarely access YouTube videos.

    Soap-making - we have space in outdoor storage that we could use to cure soap - with Australia's fairly arid and warm climate it wouldn't take so long. She could use mother in law's very warm laundry if necessary, or the sleepout she shares with BF2 which is warm. I use either the sleepout of mother in law's laundry to prove my bread when I'm baking.

    Cooking - she has a few of her own favourite recipes, but like a lot of things she insists on what SHE wants. I'm beginning to realise just how much I have given in to her in little ways over the years. I've always tried to compromise to cook what people want, which at times means modifying a meal or removing serves early, so we can get as close as possible. She doesn't like change; she asks for help if she has to step outside the square. "I haven't got any cream cheese for this recipe, what can I use?"
    And the classic, so oft-heard - "I'm just reheating last night's leftovers. What setting do I use on the microwave? How long for?"
    If I dare reply with, "Work it out for yourself - it's what I have to do!" or my standard, "Give it two minutes on medium, then check it, stir it and give it more in 30 second bursts", I get tantrums of, "I can't do this! Just tell me now, exactly how to do it!"

    With food - I don't cook biscuits because I prefer using nuts in them and she won't eat biscuits with nuts in. If I cook a stir-fry meal (which she loves) the only nuts I may use are cashews. I make risotto without any change - no added chicken meat, and certainly no peas. And yet, it is how everyone else prefers it. She is so thin, I'm reluctant to tell her to eat it or go without - she will go without.

    She helps me make fresh pasta. Gnocchi is therapeutic, but she hates it so won't make it. She's made play-dough (had to, for her college course), but doesn't like getting dough on her hands. She refuses to handle raw meat, even with gloves on. mother in law is similar (and also, I suspect, at least partly Aspie, or something similar to easy child 2/difficult child 2 in some odd ways).
    She sometimes helps me with bread dough, but again, is fussy about what I make and how I shape it.

    I'll suggest the soap. I'd love your recipe, if you've found some techniques to streamline the process. I have a comprehensive set of essential oils, plus I grow a lot of fresh herbs (especially fragrance plants) and have textbooks on herbalism and aromatherapy (which could be partly why my fundamentalist cleaner doubts my faith and thinks I'm a closet dabbler in the occult).

    I might also suggest sketching - she's meticulous in anything she creates (always has been, from infancy - it was weird, seeing the first drawings she did). Maybe if she carries a sketch book...

    She's also a skilled writer. I was trying to get her to collaborate with me on a children's book, but I think I'll have to give up.

    I was talking to my best friend today, sharing with her about our problem children (her son was in court yesterday - acquitted, thank goodness). She says that from her experience (most of easy child 2/difficult child 2's life) this is about control. She needs to be in absolute control of everyone and everything around her. One of her co-workers (who used to be her trainer) tells me that easy child 2/difficult child 2 insists on doing things her own way, even if it is slower. Independently, easy child 2/difficult child 2 complains about her former trainer because she nags, nitpicks and can't understand that sometimes you need to do things properly the first time.
    easy child 2/difficult child 2 can never be wrong. If you have any criticisms, it often triggers a meltdown as she gets defensive. She might get home from work and I'll say, "How was your day?"
    She might answer, "Tiring."
    If I say, "Can you get a chance to sit and rest at lunchtime?" I will get an escalating diatribe of, "How can I rest? I get half an hour - that's HALF an hour, not a whole hour, and in that time I'm expected to go buy my lunch, find a space somewhere to eat it, stop myself from feeling sick, get back to work, grab a drink of water and you expect me to find the time to REST? How could you? I thought you at least would understand just how hectic it is, and here you are criticising me instead of trying to help! I DON'T KNOW WHY I EVEN BOTHER!!" [rushes off to room, slamming doors, floods of tears.]

    She is stressed to the eyeballs. And as a result, so are we. And I just can't convince her doctor of this, partly because if I try to explain while she is there, it will cause all sorts of problems and miscommunications. He is a very peaceful man, he would probably throw us out.

    So, suggestions to date that I think have the most legs -

    1) getting her to make her own lists of how to de-stress.

    2) Anything with smells - massage oils (dabbling in and using), bath salts, fragrant soap, candles.

    3) Garden - her roses (learn more, get practical, maybe try rose breeding, grafting). Herbs, vegetables, topiary. I don't think I can hook her into bonsai - I've tried. But small potted topiary is possible.

    4) Sketchbook/diary, as an alternative to her computer activity.

    5) Puzzle book.

    6) when she's home with access to her computer, get her to do some online puzzles, games, role-playing and associated stuff.

    7) Maybe encourage her to work with BF2 and paint up her own figurines.

    8) Painting? Other craft? I have supplies...

    There are other ideas for which she needs more leisure time - horseriding, for example.

    As for getting her to help me tidy up - that would blow her stress over the top, she'd be screaming at people in seconds. I can just imagine how SHE would have reacted to difficult child 1's mess we found in the living room today - "difficult child 1! Come here RIGHT NOW and pick up your rubbish!" She gets a shrill tone to her voice that sets your teeth on edge, difficult child 1 really gets angry with her and they do almost come to blows.

    I really do have to have a long, serious talk to BF2, if he is willing to hear me. For his future sake, he has to come on board with this, or she will be HIS fishwife...

    That's the summary so far, of things we haven't already tried or which I know have a chance of working. I'll hopefully get to talk to her tomorrow night (they went out for diner, are still not home, said they may be staying overnight with friends, we're out early in the morning).

    Please keep any new ideas rolling in. It's at least partly the Ross Greene principal - if she sees me making all this effort to help her de-stress, she might stop being so adversarial. She might also realise just how desperate I'm feeling!