- Merrily Hope
You weren’t always on edge. You weren’t always losing sleep and over-analyzing every decision. Remember back in college, or in the early days of your marriage…you were willing to try new adventures and gave little thought to a change in plans. But now, if your well-laid-out plans are changed, it is sometimes as if someone picked you up and set in in the middle of a new country…at midnight, where they don’t speak English. Your mind starts to race, and all sorts of worst-case scenarios jump into your mind. This less-than-flexible attitude is really frustrating to a lot of moms, especially when they used to be able to roll with the punches. But it is often for good reason. Your schedules are packed so tightly, that one glitch and the whole thing comes unraveled. Or, if you have littles, just getting them packed up and ready to go is like coordinating troop movements in the Middle East, and if someone dares to change your plans, you might release a ballistic missile. If you have anxiety about taking your kids out, or about fitting everything in to your day, a change of plans can derail you to the point of a major stress attack. I get it. Cut yourself some slack. I’m not saying to be more flexible. I’, saying realize that it is not a personality flaw that you aren’t more flexible, and let that be ok. It won’t always be like this. You will get back to your fly-with-the-wind days eventually, but for now, acknowledge that a change in plans stresses you out, warn loved ones that may not understand this, and don’t be too hard on yourself. Especially now, we have to all learn to be a little more flexible, but know that you are not flawed if it throws you. Take a deep breath. Acknowledge that you are thrown, and ALLOW YOURSELF A FEW MINUTES TO REGROUP AND REPLAN.
By nature, moms worry. It’s what we do. We worry about health and safety. We worry about long-term psyche damage because we said the wrong thing. We worry about pushing too much, or not pushing enough and raising a sloth. We worry about every single decision that involves our children.
Now, there are a lot of moms that have clinical anxiety, where anxiety attacks are frequent and debilitating. To those moms, I say: I understand your hurt and your fear, and your fear of fear. Please take the time to get help from a mental health professional. You are so important, and your children need you to take care of yourself. Do not let any stigma, or “other obligations,” or anything stand in the way of getting help.
To the moms who have anxious bouts, we can work on this!
For years, this fight or flight instinct with our kids has kept us hyper vigilant, and has kept our kids safe. We make sure they don’t run into the street, or play with matches, and we watch them like a hawk when they are by the pool. It’s our job and our instinct, and it keeps them alive. We have honed our threat-detection system for years. Our minds are then reinforced by our success….staying vigilant = protection and safety. So if we continue this loop for 14 years, or so, we feel comfortable here.
This natural heightened anxiety in moms is meant to be there. It is what helps us keep our kids alive.
Suddenly, we long for the days of watching over them to keep them alive. Because as soon as they are adolescents, we have to rely on blind faith that everything will be ok. We no longer have control of the situation. And what is the worst thing for a person with anxiety? Not having control. We can’t control everything they do and everywhere they go (nor should we!) So, we have to believe that they are going to make the right decisions in some really big, potentially life-altering situations. A lot of moms do try to suppress this anxiety with alcohol, or food, or overshopping…anything that will quiet the noise of anxiety. Others, simply refuse to give up the control and turn into, or remain, helicopter moms. This is damaging not only to the parent, but also to the child, and most certainly to the parent-child relationship.
Ok…so what do we do? We need reflection! We need to acknowledge that we are stressed out. We need to identify the behaviors that we are using as coping mechanisms, and we need to give ourselves permission to feel our emotions, rather than push them aside, say, "I’m fine,” and keep going. How do we reflect? Slow the hell down. When we are feeling like the sky is falling, take 60 seconds to figure out what is going on inside, and what is triggering this feeling. I promise you, there are very few instances when 60 seconds is going to make or break a situation. (And in those obvious situations, pretty sure your mama bear instinct will be in full force, and nothing would stop you anyway.) So give yourself 60 seconds to define what’s going on. Have more time? Maybe as part of your evening routine? Go back through your day, either while journaling or meditating, and really dig around to see what caused those feelings of anxiety. Was the sky actually falling, or was something else triggered inside you that caused a feeling of anxiety.
Once we spend some good quality time in reflection, we need to come up with some healthy solutions.
First, you have got to give yourself some self-care. List 5 things that bring you joy. Actual material, tangible things…Make sure that you have at least two of them in your life every day. Make yourself happy. If you spend more time in the happy part of your brain, you will be calmer, if you are calmer, you are less reactive. If you are less reactive, you will be less likely to lose your shit when things take a turn.
Ok, so you have added happy tangible items to your life…Now find a self-care routine that you like. Make a list of 5 things that you like to DO. Is it stargazing? Hot coffee alone? A good book? DO at least one of these things every day.
Anxiety as a mom is real, and it sucks, and some moms need to get some help from a professional. But some moms just need to tweak a few things. Realize it’s not a personality flaw, its nature’s way of ensuring our kids survive. Learn some strategies to calm yourself down, and start to fill your life with joy that does not revolve around your kids. It’s going to be ok. You’ve got this.
If you’re interested in some tips on meditation, and some guided meditations, check out my private online community.
Parenting is hard, it’s even harder now, but we can do it…and we can do it with grace, and self-compassion.
For a copy of the free guide, Four Pillars of Mindful Parenting, which helps you create routines and strategies to combat stress in parenting, click here.