I’ve always been a bit tightly wound. I love order and structure and nothing makes my heart sing quite like a good plan.
As one might safely assume, a person with my personality type is prone to a bit of anxiousness on occasion, as order and perfectionism tend to take their toll over time. Anxiety is just par for the course when you’re a Type-A’er, but it was never something I would state as a characteristic of myself. (“Hi, I’m Lauren and I’m anxious!”) Anxiety was more of a feeling I got every now and then when I found myself in particularly stressful situations and even then, it was something that never hung around for long.
Then I became a parent.
Suddenly it was as though all the fears surrounding having and raising children exacerbated this part of my personality and threw it into hyperdrive. When my babies were newborns, I found myself constantly worried about 10,000 things that were going to hurt, maim, or kill them at any given time. I worried that they were going to die of SIDS and slept with the baby monitor basically cradled under my head. I would check to make sure they were breathing every single night before going to bed.
I think some of this was just typical mom stuff, but over time I found that my anxiety was seeping into the rest of my life as well — even the must mundane and innocent things can trigger it. My kids want to play in the sandbox and make a mess, I get anxious. My daughter attempts to do something on her own but I know she’s not going to do it “the right way,” I get anxious. We’re running late for a play date, I get anxious.
Some days I can push through, but other days this anxiety feels almost crippling and brings me to tears. I literally almost started crying the other day because my son’s nap schedule was thrown off by an hour. I know in my head that these feelings are irrational (because really what is the worst thing that’s going to happen from my 14-month-old missing his nap?), but they overwhelm me far more often than I care to admit.
That said, I am actively working to control my anxiety and go easier on myself. I’m still going down this road, so I am by no means an expert, but there are some things I’ve tried that have helped.
1. Verbalizing realities
When a situation is causing anxiety for me, I sometimes stop and ask myself, “What is the most likely outcome?” At first I asked myself “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” but my anxious mind was able to quickly come up with a laundry list of outlandish ideas. Asking myself what the likely outcome is helps me to put things in perspective and pulls me back down to reality instead of dwelling on fearful possibilities.
2. Lowering expectations
If I am completely honest with myself, I have to admit that a lot of my anxiety comes from the fact that I have unrealistically high expectations, so I’m working to lower them. When I find myself feeling anxious about things that are just part of being a kid (think: getting messy or doing something “the wrong way”), I mentally stop and remind myself that: “He/she is only X years old.” It’s really hard for me to step back sometimes and let my kids figure things out on their own because it causes me stress, but intentionally reminding myself (sometimes even out loud) that they are indeed just little ones who are still learning, really helps me to take a breath and keep things in perspective.
I think that regardless of your view on the power of faith, simply stopping to pause, breathe, and meditate can do a world of good for anxiety. Prayer always seems to center me and bring me back from anxious chaos in my brain.
4. Limiting technology
I’ve found that the fast pace of technology is something that really contributes to my feelings of anxiety. So as much as I enjoy connecting with friends on social media, it’s also important to disconnect, slow down, and simply practice being present.
5. Do something physical
Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people aren’t anxiety ridden. It’s science. I’ve really enjoyed taking Barre3 classes, because I always come away feeling energized and calm simultaneously. But, it doesn’t even always have to be exercise. I’ve found that doing anything that utilizes my body helps. Sometimes it’s a walk around the block. Other times it’s writing in a journal or practicing with water colors. I’ve found that by channeling my physical energy elsewhere, I have a harder time feeling so wound up. My body starts to relax and my brain seems to follow suit.
Anxiety is something that a lot of us moms struggle with silently. We all want to be the cool, laid back, free-range mom (or at least I do). We don’t want anyone to see that beneath the cool, nonchalant exterior you see as you chat in the diaper aisle at Target, lies a mom who is pretty sure her child just contracted Hepatitis from the shopping cart handle they licked.
Mamas dealing with anxiety, you are not alone.