**This was a somewhat difficult post for me to write because it is very personal in nature but from talking to friends and other moms I know that it needs to be talked about more. Anxiety is something I have learned to deal with and overcome and hopefully my thoughts on the topic can help another mom or person who may be going through it right now. Having anxiety doesn’t mean you’re crazy, and although it may not seem like anything can help, there are things that can be done to make life better and to even help you overcome those feelings completely. If you know someone dealing with anxiety, feel free to share this post with them and let them know they are not alone in their feelings. And please don’t take my thoughts as medical advice. These things have helped me, but please see a doctor if you are having severe anxiety. **
From the day I was born I believe I had anxious tendencies. I was a big thinker and because of that I often thought myself into a heap of anxiety when I would let my imagination get the best of me. For example, if my parents left us with a sitter and weren’t home at the exact minute they said they would be, every worst-case scenario would go through my head. What would start as a thought that maybe they got lost or ran out of gas, would quickly evolve into something completely irrational. And since those were the days before cell-phones, I would sit staring out the window and worrying myself sick until they got home.
I remember the time in elementary school when my parents left us overnight at my grandparents. I think I was awake ALL night worrying. But, this time not about my parents. This time it was about the fact that I was CERTAIN that E.T. (yes that creepy alien) lived in my grandparents “bird room” (Their storage room that was connected to the room I was trying to sleep in, that birds occasionally got into, hence the name.) I was positive that the minute I closed my eyes E.T. would come out of the closet with his glowing, stringy fingers and ask to “phone home” and what would I do then? It was a terrifying thought to a nervous little girl! And though it may seem a bit silly and completely irrational, and now we laugh about it all the time, that one night of worrying started what I would later recognize as anxiety attacks, although as a kid I didn’t know what was going on. For a long time after that I had a hard time sleeping at night because of that “feeling” that I couldn’t describe. And if you’ve ever had an anxiety attack, it really is something that you just can’t explain and unlike what other people may think, you can’t just “get over it”. The feelings and thoughts you have when dealing with anxiety are often completely irrational and most of the time you don’t even know what you are worrying about. Those feelings eventually went away for me but resurfaced again during other stressful times in my life. But those times the feelings of anxiety were much more severe and I was only able to get through those times with the help of supportive family, amazing, fun friends (who probably didn’t even realize they were helping me out because I didn’t talk about it much) and finally a little bit of medical intervention.
So, naturally when I became a parent, certain anxieties returned with each child I had, because now I didn’t just have my normal worries, but I had to worry about my kids as well. But, before you start to think that I must have a miserable life if I worry about everything, I want to make sure to point out that although being anxious about certain things has been a part of my life and at some times I suffered with severe anxiety, I have learned different ways to cope and to deal with the anxiety so that it doesn’t pop up very often anymore and I have a very happy and fulfilling life. I still have anxious moments or days but thankfully I haven’t had an anxiety attack in almost 13 years. YAY!
Many women may not experience any anxiety until they have children because, let’s face it, there is A LOT to worry about when you bring kids into this crazy world. So this post is for those who may have suffered with anxiety for a long time or those who are just feeling a bit anxious about their role as a parent. Through all of my different times of dealing with anxiety I have learned lots of coping methods and now, if I start even feeling a bit anxious I know what to do to prevent any major anxiety from returning.
10 Ways to Deal with Motherhood Anxiety
1-Talk to someone who understands and loves you – This one is huge for me. My parents have always been really supportive to talk to and always supported me when I was younger. And thankfully I met an amazing man who loves me unconditionally and understands that I worry a lot. I haven’t had an anxiety attack since I married my husband and any time I feel anxious, he knows just what to say to make things better. And it helps that he is a pretty calm and optimistic person. Sometimes it just takes someone outside the situation to help you see how highly unlikely it would be for your biggest fears to become reality, especially when it comes to worrying about our kids. So find someone you can confide in and that will be there at any moment if you need to talk to them.
2-Stay busy – Have a hobby or project you can turn to that will take your mind off of things. I often turn to music. I love to play the piano and guitar and sing and that always helps me feel calm. Find something you enjoy doing that can keep your hands busy to work off some of that nervous energy.
3-Get out of the house – There are few things worseif you are prone to anxiety than the feeling of being cooped up in the house too long. That is when different worries and thoughts can start creeping in. We all need a change of scenery so even just walking around the block, or going to the park or the store can help get your mind off of things.
4-Exercise– This one is huge for me. Exercise is known to increase endorphins in your body that make you feel better in general. Plus being healthy can keep other health issues away that can cause anxiety as well. After being on bed rest for 3 months with my last baby and worrying about his health, the best feeling in the world was finally being able to get out and jog and get back into shape. Exercise just makes you feel so much better. And if you feel an attack coming on, stop what you are doing and just run in place, do jumping jacks etc to get rid of the built up adrenaline you might be feeling.
5-Surround yourself with positive people – You become like the people you surround yourself with. If you are only around people who are negative, you will learn to only focus on the negative in life. Find people who love life and who find the good in all people and situations. Those are the types of people who you should focus your time being around. If you don’t have anyone like that in your life, find a motivational speaker that you enjoy and listen to their CD’s or read positive books. Changing my outlook on life by surrounding myself with positive people has made a HUGE difference to me. I love starting my day by reading inspirational quotes and books. It makes all the difference!
6-Turn on a light-hearted television show or movie –Studies have shown that watching television actually decreases brain activity. Not a good thing in most cases but if you are prone to anxiety, putting your mind into a bit of a stupor for a while is not a bad thing. Find a show that is fun and light-hearted, like “I Love Lucy” for example. You just can’t feel anxious watching her and all of her crazy antics. Stay away from things like the News (always makes me worry) or any shows that are designed to keep you on the edge of your seat. Heck, even Dr Oz can get me all worked up if I am already feeling anxious. It seems like every time I watch it I feel like something I’m doing is going to kill me! 🙂
7-Take your Vitamins – We know that multi-vitamins are beneficial for our physical health but they are just as beneficial to our mental health. Don’t skip the vitamins! And if you are feeling anxious look into taking extra supplements of Omega 3 or B vitamins which are shown to help with stress and anxiety. (Talk to a doctor first of course.)
8-Don’t over-schedule yourself and family – A couple of weeks ago I wrote about ways to deal with juggling all of our family activities but we also need to know when too many activities are affecting our health. Don’t take on more than you can physically and mentally handle and use some of the tips in that post to help you not become overwhelmed with family activities.
9-Get a good night’s sleep –If you are like me, you are probably laughing about that one. Good night’s sleep? What is that? I have found that nighttime is my biggest time for worrying. It’s just something about the house being quiet that can either be really relaxing or can make your mind go wild. Try and get a full 8 hours of sleep if you can. If you have a hard time going to sleep try turning off all electronics at least an hour before bed and take time to relax, pray or meditate before bedtime. Take a warm bath or listen to calming music if that helps you fall asleep. Getting enough sleep definitely helps me to take on each day in a more positive way.
10-Get medical help-If you have tried dealing with your anxiety on your own and nothing is helping, or you feel like your anxiety is taking over your life, don’t be afraid to see a doctor. Anxiety and depression are medical conditions, just like any other disease and there are medications that can help you live a productive life. Don’t give in to the people that will make you feel like you should just “snap out of it”. If they haven’t experienced what you are going through, then they have NO idea what they are talking about. And don’t feel ashamed to get help. It may be the best thing you can do for yourself and your family. I finally saw a doctor back in college at the peak of my anxiety and after being on medication for just a short time, I was able to take my life back and feel “normal” again. And with a doctor’s help I was able to go off the medication after only 9 months and I have been able to deal on my own ever since.
If you are dealing with anxiety, know that you are NOT alone. If you are in a room and you look around almost 1/2 of all the people there will experience some type of anxiety or depression in their life. You are not alone! I hope that by writing this post I can help even one person to know that they can get help and that life can feel normal again for them as it has for me. And don’t be afraid to share this if you think it could benefit anyone in any way. Life is to be enjoyed and sometimes just making little changes to our life can help the dark clouds of worry transform in to the bright rays of hope.