Early this morning in the quiet of dawn, our neighbor blasted his car bass. With each boom, I could feel our house shake – and my anxiety ratchet.
My mind started to race: Oh great, our son will wake early… Ugh, he’ll be so crabby. How will he ever get rid of his cold if he doesn’t get enough sleep? So much for quiet time this morning…
Safe to say, I’m well-practiced at worrying and fretting…. Even more so now that I’m a mom.
A Shared Experience
In the last few years, I’ve overheard many moms share similar experiences of worry and anxiety about everything from sick children to new schools.
Then again, it comes with the territory of being a parent. Our lives are more demanding – and we’re more tired. We’re vulnerable to increased stressors: Change is constant, uncertainty is commonplace, and there’s a lot we can’t control. (According to research, these are 3 of the most common causes of stress!) Bottom line is that we care a lot about the safety and wellbeing of our children.
All of this said, I want to normalize the anxiety that moms feel. It’s too easy to get in our heads about it, and make it wrong or pretend we don’t feel it.
At the same time, I know firsthand that anxiety can be annoying at best, and debilitating at worst. It can hold us back from doing what we want, feeling how we want, and inadvertently squander trust and connection with the beings we care about most.
What to do about this? Here are 5 things that have helped me over the years.
Soothe Anxiety with Awareness & Compassion
1) Take a proactive, honest stance. In other words, don’t wait until you really need to do something to do something! It’s great to practice managing anxiety on the day to day issues, such as being late, before you bump into something too overwhelming. This means you need to be real with yourself. If you feel anxious at times, no need to shove it under a rug. Seeing it for what it is is a doorway to healing.
2) Hold anxiety with compassion. As I said earlier, anxiety is universal among humans, and especially mothers. Next time you feel anxious, remind yourself you’re not alone. Stop to think about all the moms who’ve likely felt anxious about a similar situation – whether potty training, getting on a plane, or starting school – and send a warm, caring wish to all mothers for ease, peace, and strength. Don’t forget to include yourself!
3) Implement a mental training routine, such as mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness practice builds a strong foundation of awareness, which allows you to catch the mind in a state of worry before it overtakes you, or unconsciously seeps into interactions with loved ones.
4) Slow down. Anxiety causes us to move constantly, and often with a sense of urgency. By physically slowing the body down, the mind – and nervous system – can re-focus and settle into the moment. Becoming present is a portal to greater ease.
5) Develop a connection to your body. Anxiety is often triggered by a worrisome thought – and compounded by, you guessed it, more worrisome thoughts. Training yourself to drop into the body can help stabilize a frantic mind. Find an area of your body that feels stable and strong, such as your feet or buttocks, and simply feel. Explore sensations of stability and strength with curiosity and care.
I have to be real in saying that none of these suggestions is a quick – or permanent – fix. I’ve spent nearly a decade exploring ways to manage anxiety and you know what, I still feel it! You know what else, I’m (mostly) okay with it. With commitment and practice (and support, when necessary), you’ll build skills that help you embrace this quality of confidence and acceptance, too.