Face it; parenting isn’t easy. With kids in tow, the simplest things can turn into herculean tasks. Your time is never your own, and you worry about doing right by your kids.
Once bedtime rolls around, you’re wiped. You can’t believe you made it through the day. Finally, you have some precious moments to yourself; it’s time for a treat.
If you’re in the habit of pouring a drink to reward yourself once the kids are asleep, how do you know if your nightly ritual is giving you relief from your daily stress? And what should you do if you don’t like having a nightcap as part of your routine but still need a way to take the edge off?
First, it helps to understand the difference between numbing and relaxing—activities that most everyone treats as one in the same. The distinction is subtle, but one worth learning.
Numbing only distracts you from your unease and, in the long run, can create a new set of problems. Rewarding yourself with a drink every night might take a toll with disturbed sleep, extra pounds, or a groggy start to the morning.
On the other hand, when you truly relax, you’ll be in a better place to tackle what’s stressing you out. When it comes to numbing and relaxing, it’s the difference between problem stalling and problem-solving.
Here are two signs you might be numbing:
Do you notice yourself wanting to go unconscious? You know the feeling. You just don’t want to think anymore. You want to turn your brain off. Zone out. Tune out. Check out. There’s nothing wrong with going unconscious now and again, but if escape becomes a nightly pattern, you’ll find it harder to make headway on what’s really bothering you.
Does your desire to tune out feel urgent? You need that drink now. It goes down quickly and you’re ready for more. Speed is a good signal that you’re trying to check out. A single drink (or bowl of ice cream or a TV show) can’t flip a switch on a negative emotion, which is why you might find yourself going back for more and more. The less tolerable you find an emotion, the more you’ll want to get rid of it as soon as possible.
Numbing can happen with lots of things, not just drinking. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what activity you choose, but how you feel afterward. Are you in a better place or just seeking more distraction?
Don’t get me wrong, the goal of life is not to live as an ascetic and swear off all forms of pleasure. But it’s important for you to understand whether you’re using pleasure for productive ends.
If you think that you might be numbing, the first step is to learn that you can be present with whatever you’re feeling without covering it up. Emotional fluency and self-soothing aren’t just for kids. Parents need them too. A big part of learning how to be present is to practice handling whatever emotion comes your way.
That may not sound appealing right now. Of course, pouring a drink will always be a quicker, easier fix for how you feel in the moment. But there’s a very powerful benefit.
The more discomfort and unease you’re willing to feel in the moment, the more comfortable you will be in all aspects of your life. When you stop covering up how you feel and start sitting with your emotions, you’ll learn that you can withstand whatever comes your way, a belief that is a central building block of confidence.
Stay tuned for part II where I’ll explain exactly how to do this.