Many of the moms I work with report experiencing moments of anxiety that send them spiralling up and up, getting more and more tense and convinced that something bad is going to happen. Maybe it was triggered by the news (read the latest on the flu epidemic, anyone?), or a child's temper tantrum (my kid's temper is just like my dad's, did I pass this on to him!?). Or perhaps the anxiety has lodged itself in your brain for no apparent reason, but man, wouldn't it be nice to evict that unwelcome guest?
So first let's look at what anxiety is. Just amped up worry? Sort of. Worry tends to me more specific, whereas anxiety tends to feel more diffuse and is felt in one's body. Having a pervasive sense of dread, the sensation that something bad is DEFINITELY going to happen, even if there's no real evidence, are common manifestations of anxiety. You might also experience insomnia, irritability, and inability to relax and enjoy, as well as physical symptoms like headaches, tension, and digestive issues.
Why is parenthood so fraught with anxiety for many? I think in many cases there is a lack of support. People are away from their families of origin, so that built in help isn't there. Certainly financial stressors, the dearth of affordable childcare options, and precarious jobs play a role. So does having a history of trauma, such as birth trauma, or a history of past anxiety, where those neural pathways have been laid down and an anxious response becomes our natural go to when faced with stress. There's also that pesky perfectionist tendancy that can easily set us off because there isn't a perfect parent out there, and if that's the only acceptible standard, then you're in trouble!
We all get anxious at times. It's easy to only see the worst case scenarios. So how can we learn to manage our feelings, putting us back in control instead of having the anxiety control us? Here are four easy steps to remember, all of which revolve around self care. And how convenient that the steps happen to spell SELF!
Sleep: Getting more sleep and rest is key. We all know that being tired has a multiplyer effect on negative feelings, making everything seem worse. If you have very young kids that still wake in the night, shoot for 5 hours uninterrupted. If you have older kids, get to bed a bit earlier and go for at least 7 hours. I know you have other stuff to do at night, but set it aside for a week and give yourself a much needed chance to recuperate.
Exercise: Once you're medically cleared to exercise, do make the time. Studies have shown that cardio can be as effective as medication for improving moods. You'll feel more connected to your body, and that can go a long way to helping you acknowledge where you're holding your anxiety and letting it go.
Laughter: It really is the best medicine. Laughing (or crying) can help dispell stress hormones and leave you better able to look at your situation and challenges realistically. So put on that comedy, and help shift your mood!
Food: What we put into our bodies, really does impact how we feel. Drink lots of water, eat a high protein, whole grain diet. And eat at regular intervals. Low blood sugar does not a patient, calm person make!
You might also want to consider professional help. Therapy and, particularly, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), is extremely helpful in treating anxiety. There are medications that can also be very helpful in addressing chronic symptoms.
As always, I'm happy to offer a free phone consultation if you'd like to see about getting some targeted help to work on your anxiety. Just email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or give me a call (917.747.7017). Be well!