Q&A: Managing your reaction to danger

"True Christmas confessions" over at my personal blog today. Feel free to submit your own, and branch out to Hanukkah or any other holiday that's on your mind right now.

Kristie writes:

"I think I need a reality check. My daughter is a year old, and I just found out that my parents wanted to buy her a walker* for Christmas. I put an end to that plan, but am now living in fear of what other things people might give my child. All the talk about lead paint and contamination, small pieces that are choking hazards, etc.

I realize that I can't protect her from everything, but I'm starting to get freaked out about everything that could go wrong. Intellectually I know I should just relax, but I'm not sure I can. That scares me, because it makes me feel out of control and almost crazy. Can the readers help?"

* This is the old-school thing that a kid sits in and the feet touch the ground, and it has wheels, so the kid theoretically learns to walk while assisted by the contraption. They've pretty much been proven not to help anyone learn to walk, and to be death traps if a kid wheels to the stairs and then falls over in the walker.

I think the first step is to cut yourself some slack for worrying. As a parent, it's really your job to worry. Evolutionarily speaking, if parents didn't worry, we wouldn't have survived as a species, and a monkey would be typing this column and having a running joke about Trained Human Assistants to replace pacifiers in the middle of the night. (Ah, opposable thumb jokes--Are they ever not funny?) If worrying wasn't hard-wired into us, dingos would have stolen our babies long ago.

So worrying is your job, and it sounds like you're doing a good one! Now, the trick is to make sure it's not getting out of control.

People can give you all sorts of advice and basically blame you for getting into a worry/anxiety cycle, but I think a lot of out-of-control worrying is caused by something being biologically a little off with our bodies. especially at this time of year, it's super-easy to get out of balance. I have a couple of suggestions that should be easy to implement to give you a better body balance so you might be able to assess the dangers more realistically:

1. Stop eating so much sugar. Sugar. corn syrup, et al. really screw with your system by causing glucose/insulin reactions. All that stuff messes with your hormones and causes mood changes and anxiety cycles. It also depresses your immune system pretty seriously, making you vulnerable to illness. If you can keep it at a decent level and only have one Christmas cookie instead of five, you might find you feel better in general.

2. Take some magnesium. Lack of magnesium is a big culprit in anxiety. You can pop some magnesium supplements, but it's actually absorbed better through the skin (the tops and bottoms of the feet are particularly good places) so if you can find magnesium oil and rub it on your feet every night before bed you might notice a big change in anxiety levels. (I order my magnesium oil from Joan at www.health-and-wisdom.com and have had great experiences. Joan's also a font of knowledge about minerals.)

3. B complex vitamins. Excellent for mood. You can buy a bottle of the sublingual drops at any pharmacy or Target for a couple bucks. (They taste like gross orange drink, but do the trick.) If I'm feeling down I can feel my mood lift within 10 minutes of taking some B complex drops. Taking a regular daily dose helps keep me on an even keel.

4. Sleep. Easier said than done, but if you're staying up just because, force yourself to go to bed earlier and you may see a big difference in mood.

5. Hang out with other people who are more realistic about worrying. If you hang out with people who are freaked out about every little thing, it'll rub off on you. So see if you can cultivate some friendships with people who are concerned about safety but not consumed with it. There are lots of us out there.

You notice I haven't said anything about the actual dangers. That's because there are so many of them. You just take each one as it comes and try to strike the right balance between protecting your child and allowing him or her to learn by doing.

Readers, whaddaya got for Kristie?