My twelve-year-old daughter would rather jump out of a moving car than attend another day of 7th grade. I saw her hand on the door handle as she yelled, “I am going to jump out!” In that moment I had to decide in the best interest of my child. What would you do?

At the age of eight, my daughter was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. That was followed by other diagnoses: ADHD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, and later in her teen years, Depression and Suicidal Ideation. I was living in chaos every day.

So, in that moment, and what I did often, was to consider her safety first. I turned the car around. My child, with all her history, would jump out of the car. I believed it to be the truth and not an empty threat. And even in that moment I remained calm.

I’ve learned a lot over the years about how to deal with the chaos that comes from living with and caring for a child with mental illness. These hard-won lessons help me remain calm amidst the chaos.

  • Take time to practice self-care.
    Step outside of the chaos swirling around you and take some time for yourself. Self-care can come in many forms. Perhaps you’ll find your calm through meditation, journaling, praying, and reading. Creative expression, exercise, eating well, dancing, getting a massage or taking a bubble bath are also effective ways to nurture yourself. Don’t underestimate the power of laughing with friends and spending time with loved ones. Incorporating self-care into your daily routine will make the inevitable chaotic moments feel less chaotic. They’ll be more manageable, and you’ll be able to stay calm, cool and collected.
  • Find joy in the moment.
    When all else fails, find the funny side of your situation. Humor is a powerful coping mechanism that allows us to detach from the chaos for a few moments. Laughter reminds us of the joy in life. There is joy in each moment, even the tough ones. Focus on that joy and you’ll find that nothing else really matters.
  • Express gratitude.
    When everything seems to be falling apart, it becomes easy to focus on the negative. Every small problem becomes huge, and every difficulty threatens to overwhelm you. This negative energy creeps up on you, often without you realizing it. Maybe you feel like a victim. Negative energy, thoughts, and emotions make you feel powerless. In order to break this cycle and change your balance of power in the face of chaos, remember what you’re grateful for. Even in the darkest of times, I would find something, anything, no matter how small, to be grateful for. Be grateful for your strengths, for being alive, for the ability to separate yourself from the chaos and gain perspective.
  • Surrender.
    Sometimes chaos can seem so unimaginably terrible that the only thing you can do is surrender to a higher power. To surrender the moment and the outcome to the Creator, your Inner Power Source, or the universe, knowing that everything will be okay, can help restore your calm and focus. Have faith that ultimately, even if you do not understand the why of it, there is a reason for everything. We each have our own challenges to overcome, and there’s a bigger picture that is hard to keep in mind when we’re in the midst of the chaos. If you can let go of the outcome, then you’ll be better able to manage how you respond.

Back in the car with my twelve-year-old, I remained calm, speaking slowly and with a confident voice despite the stress of the situation. This brought her into a place of calm herself, and she didn’t react by jumping out of the car or doing something else to harm herself. When we can approach a tense and chaotic situation from a place of calm, we can de-escalate the situation and help everyone involved.

My daughter is now thriving at the age of 19. She still has days that are challenging, but we, as a family, have learned how to support her in the ways that she needs. She has been in recovery from mental illness from the age of 14 as we went down a holistic path.

“In the midst of movement and chaos,

keep stillness inside of you.”

– Deepak Chopra