8 Things I Need as an Anxious Mom
I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety and social anxiety as a teenager. Everything gave me anxiety: people, schoolwork, making decisions. You name it and it made me panic. Over time I learned strategies to handle my anxiety that worked well for me.
Then I had kids. When I thought about becoming a mother and all the blessings and challenges that come along with it I had glossed over my anxiety. Wishful thinking or a gross oversight — either way I was unprepared.
Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way:
1. Accepting your boundaries and limitations when it comes to provoking your anxiety.
Don’t think of these boundaries as a weakness, but as an established safe zone. Learn what you can handle and don’t force yourself into situations that push you further than your comfortable being pushed. (No, Linda from the PTO, I won’t be able to volunteer at the bake sale and the book fair. I can only handle one of those on top of my already hectic schedule.)
2. Find your peace.
My kids are loud. Most kids are loud. When you have anxiety, the constant noise and busyness around you can get overwhelming quickly. Seek out something that you can incorporate into your daily routine that brings you peace. Reading, crafts, a long shower — whatever it is, use it every day. Music is my peace. I always make sure to have headphones with me wherever I go so I can take that break any time I need too.
3. Include your partner.
They say shared pain is halved pain, right? It’s taken a long time, but I’ve learned that if my husband knows when I’m struggling it gives him the opportunity to support me. Instead of me lashing out at him in a moment of panic and him taking it personally, which often only complicates the situation. If I can have the courage to tell him I’m having a hard time before I start getting cranky and he has the chance to help me in any way, it’s a much smoother scenario.
4. Taking medication does not make you a failure.
I repeat, needing to take medication does not mean you have failed. We live in a society that pushes meds on us for everything, but if you take them you’re often judged as having taken the “easy way out.” There is no easy way out of anxiety. The bottom line is, some people at some time in their lives need to take medication to control their symptoms so they can function. This does not make you weak or lazy, it just simply means you need medication. Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for that.
5. Allow others to help you.
All of my kids have been in some form of preschool. I felt extremely guilty about spending the money. Why should we need childcare when I was a stay at home mother? That’s my job, right? Looking back, it was money well spent. I needed a break. They all enjoyed the change of scenery and making friends. It was a win-win that I beat myself up over for years.
6. Allotting yourself grace.
Anxiety is messy. Motherhood is messy. Trying to be perfect at two imperfect things is something I wasted too much energy on. Forgive yourself for not meeting your own high expectations and move on. Your kids will not remember that you didn’t make picture perfect dinners. They will remember you being present and happy at the table even if it is the same three easy meals over and over. They don’t care. They just want our presence.
Animals, dogs in particular, are awesome in general, but can be very awesome at bringing calm into your life. I have always had pets. Having an animal around me has a huge effect on my mood. We have one dog specifically that senses when I’m starting to have an anxiety attack and literally hugs me. I don’t know how she knows, but she does and it’s very helpful.
8. Some days will just look like this and there’s no way around it.
No amount of deep breathing, peace (note the headphones) or meds will touch me some days. Accept it, adjust and don’t judge yourself. Some days I bow out of just about everything. It’s necessary treatment for an illness. I wish I had given myself more patience and less critical negativity about having to take time out. On any given day we are all just doing the best we can and you don’t have to apologize for that.
Follow this journey here.
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Getty image via Ozpk