5 Tips for Any Mom Living With Anxiety
Here are five things I’ve learned to do more of as a mom who lives with anxiety:
1. Be honest with the people who matter.
Although many times my anxiety coincides with stressful situations in life, there are equally as many (or more) times there’s a disconnect between how I’m feeling and what’s going on. I’ve found it helpful to be honest when friends or family ask me how I’m doing. I’ve explained that even when our lives are relatively low-stress, I can still have a hard time managing my anxiety. More often than not, it opens up a great dialogue and lets me highlight an often misunderstood aspect of my disorder.
2. Be kind to your anxiety.
I always remind my kids that although you don’t have to like everyone you meet, you do always have to try to be nice. Truth is, I would’ve benefited from using a bit of that wisdom sooner when it came to my anxiety. I’ve spent a long time separating myself from my disorder and being cruel to it. Harsh thoughts grounded in judgment and detachment were littered throughout my most challenging times. What I really needed to do was be more tolerant and patient with not only my anxiety, but with myself. I don’t like my anxiety disorder, but I’m trying to treat it a little better now that I’m a mother. With my children always at the forefront of my mind, I’ve changed my inner and outer dialogue to be softer and more loving in my darkest moments. I want to be a strong role model of self-acceptance for my kids, and what better way than with something I struggle with every single day.
3. Don’t get caught up if people don’t understand what you’re going through.
The truth is, not everyone is going to understand how you’re feeling. It can be overwhelmingly isolating to dwell on points of separation — it’s much more helpful to accept any empathetic feelings that are sent you way. I’ve found that although the depths of my emotions can be undoubtably different than my loves ones, I’m still grateful they’re trying to connect with me.
4. Stop apologizing.
They say a great way to measure your depth of understanding of a given concept is to explain it simply and effectively to another person. I’ve found that sharing the truths of my life with my husband, especially on the topic of my anxiety disorder, has given us both the opportunity to better support each other. Whether it’s a friend, a family member, a spouse or an acquittance with whom you feel a connection, instead of apologizing, explain how your anxiety works. It will deepen your relationship and empower you both to work together to better manage a disorder that can often times be far too much to face alone.
5. Be as open as possible with your children.
As a woman and now as a mother, I’ve been taught that no matter how I’m feeling on the inside, I’m expected to keep a cheery and stable disposition on the outside, especially around my kids. I’ve spent a long time considering this widely accepted notion, and have since adopted a new mindset about how truthful to be with my immediate family and children. If I’m going to advocate for the destigmatization of mental health, it has to start at home. With age-appropriate terminology, conceptual language that speaks to their developmental stage and an open mind, I’ve found my children’s ability to understand and accept the challenges of others have expanded exponentially when I’m open about my challenges.
I feel proud to be a mother who is living with, and actively using, my challenges to teach my children about anxiety disorders. I hope that with my help, they’ll have the tools to not only to be more empathetic and supportive of others who may face similar challenges, but they’ll also be better equipped to identify mental health issues within themselves and, without any fear or shame, seek help.
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