The 'Mama Toolkit' I Turn to When I'm Feeling Anxious
I have been aware of my battles with depression since the fourth grade. But anxiety never really reared its ugly head until around my second year of university, or six-ish years ago. That’s when I had my first panic attack.
I don’t know what sparked it, but I woke up to seeing white, my heart pounding through my chest, difficultly breathing, lips feeling tingly, hands and feet getting cold. Then the dreaded spiral thoughts entered my head.
Am I having a heart attack? There is something terribly wrong. Holy fuck. I think I’m dying. No, I actually think I’m dying. I’m dying.
That was the first panic-induced ambulance call of three that month. I later saw a naturopath, which helped me understand how my body worked in connection with stress and anxiety. It also helped me understand how some of the things I was taking, like birth control, could have a serious detriment on my mental health.
I have since created a regimen — and a “toolkit” of strategies — I turn to whenever I am feeling heightened anxiety and sometime before I even get to that point. I did these things pre-pregnancy, during pregnancy and post-partum because since becoming a mama, anxiety has taken on a whole new meaning. For me, the new world of motherhood meant new triggers for anxiety, new worries, new stresses and less time to manage them all.
This is my “go-to” Mama Toolkit. Feel free to give these a try.
- I take Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, Omega 3 and Magnesium every morning.
- I take CBD oil in the morning and before bed.
- I nap when my daughter, Neera, naps and I go to bed early (no more than two hours after baby does.)
- I eat a healthy meal or snack, and honestly, I feel so much better after having something as simple as an apple.
- I drink water to keep my temple hydrated.
- I spend time outside, even if it is cold. I go for a walk around the block and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine which only have positive effects on my mental health.
- I do yoga. Sometimes I take my butt to a class, sometimes I just do a forward fold on the floor for a minute while my daughter jumps on me. (Note: the best yoga poses for anxiety are any that you close into yourself, covering your chest. While the best yoga poses for depression are doing the opposite and opening your chest up, like a back bend or camel pose.)
- I meditate. Sometimes it’s setting up crystals, candles and music. Other times it just means being aware of my breathing while I do something routine like changing a diaper or doing the dishes. For me, taking the extra few seconds to let that life-giving breath fill me up can be a lifesaver.
- I phone a friend or call my mom. They are part of my trusted list of people I call who understand my anxiety and will help talk me down if I need it.
- I vent to my partner. If I just need someone to listen to how I am feeling, sometimes my partner is OK with being my verbal punching bag for a moment.
- I power clean. For me, a tidy space makes my head feel more tidy too.
- I also let go of the need to clean. Sometimes believing I have extra things to do, that don’t actually need to get done, causes unnecessary stress.
- I say “no.” Remember you don’t have to do things you are not obligated to do or things that do not serve you. So walk the fuck away whenever you need to.
- I write. Pick up your journal or a scrap piece of paper and just write it out. Let your brain hit the page.
- I make a list of whatever is stressing me out that I want to get done.
- I read. Sit down and pick up a book you can get lost in for a while, it could even be reading a book to your child.
- I take a bath. Have a cry and a glass of wine while you’re at it, or put on a mud mask, shut the lights off, listen to a podcast and just relax.
- I go for a drive. Crank the tunes or sit in silence and just observe what you see when you drive.
- I go for a walk or a run. Get outside and move your body, it’s sure to get the endorphins rolling and maybe even clear your foggy mind.
- I spend time by the river. Water is so cleansing, so watch the current, breath the air and hear nature whispering to you.
- I get out of the house. Go do something that isn’t in the space your anxiety is sitting. Go to the grocery store, or for coffee, maybe even a walk or to the gym.
- I stay home in my comfy clothes. Sometimes sitting with my anxiety is the best thing I can do. I’ve learned acknowledging my anxiety is empowering.
- I get dressed and put on make up. Sometimes putting on fresh clothes and bit of mascara is all I need to feel put together enough to take on the day and tell my anxiety to take a backseat.
- I shower! Sometimes moms don’t get to shower for days at a time because of the kids… so take a hot shower and wash your hair. I try to imagine my stress washing off my skin and going down the drain. It sounds hokey as shit, but just try it.
- Self-pleasure! Because sometimes a hit of endorphins easily comes through masturbation.
- I listen to music. Put on some sad, sappy shit and cry to it or put on some fun, sing-along and dance-it-out music and shake your tail feather with your kiddo. I find freely moving your body also allows your mind to freely move as well.
- I listen to a podcast. If you want a good, feminist and funny podcast, I highly recommend Guys We Fucked. (There are so many options out there for all interests.)
- I unplug. This one is sooo important and probably one of the most effective for me. Put your phone away, have a “bedtime” for your phone, maybe buy an alarm clock so you don’t take your phone into the bedroom with you at nighttime. Try to do something to help you let go of your phone.
- I ask for help. This is often super hard to do, especially for mamas, but for your sanity I urge you to do it. I can almost guarantee if you ask a friend to come and support you during a heightened time of anxiety, they will. If not, I will… look me up.
- I make some art. Art can help in regulating anxiety and it’s also a great way to spend some quality time with your kiddo. Get out the paint or the coloring books, or something to draw with and just let your feelings fall into whatever it is you are creating.
Sometimes these things work for me immediately, sometimes they take consistency to work and sometimes it just depends on the day.
If you’re a mama with anxiety, what’s in your toolkit? Tell us in the comments below.
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