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12 Tips for Coping With Motherhood and Anxiety

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Is this what a heart attack feels like? Blood pounding, chest tight, heart racing. You are a million miles away from the conversation around you, barely able to listen or comprehend.

You rely on short responses and plastic smiles to keep up your disguise. It takes all of you effort to pass for what you think a “normal” human being or “good” mom would do.

You may turn to distraction for a coping mechanism — clearing clutter, washing dishes, constantly moving, all while anger rises and nerves grow brittle. Your body is sounding an alarm.

You try to ignore it, hoping, in vain, it will just go away. If you can push it down, push it away, it will pass, you hope.

This is what anxiety feels like for many. Once an individual is in this heightened state, it is near impossible to talk or reason your way out of it. You may walk around feeling like there is a vise grip on your heart.

It’s at times like these when many turn to coping mechanisms that are not so healthy, perhaps that no longer serve or actually do more harm than good. Maybe that glass of wine has become a bottle, and it may have worked… until it didn’t. In the aftermath, negative coping strategies leave you feeling worse, and the underlying issues remain unchanged and unacknowledged.

Anxiety can visit on a cyclical basis or irregular basis, or can even be a constant companion. For mothers, it may rear its ugly head somewhere between preparing lunch boxes, coaxing the kids to get moving, making breakfast, emptying the dishwasher, organizing paperwork, and “Get your shoes on!” for the twentieth time. When the red flags go unheeded or unrecognized, you may find yourself lost or numb. I’ve heard many describe the sensation of moving through the day like a robot.

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After a sustained period, your true emotions may eventually became hidden even to yourself. We can view emotions as unwelcome visitors. Robot Mom’s armor may grow stronger, but a deep well of sadness grows underneath, with a flood of unprocessed emotions always daring to overflow.

With the holiday season approaching, virtual school ongoing for many, a contentious election and ongoing pandemic concerns, anxiety has reached a new high for many. This is especially true for moms, who often bear a greater responsibility for the emotional care, safety, decision making and relationships for the family.

If you recognize yourself or someone you know in my descriptions, I recommend several steps to break the cycle and find your way out of the abyss of anxiety:

1. Find a good therapist. Many therapists are scheduling virtual appointments now that are easier to fit into a busy mom’s schedule.

2. Take deep breaths, exhaling fully.

3. Say “no” more often and learn about your boundaries.

4. Question the areas where you feel like you “have to” do something. It may be time to let some things go.

5. Ask for help and be OK if others do things differently than you would do them.

6. Get outside.

7. Meditate or just give yourself quiet breaks throughout the day where all you have to do is breathe. Hide in the bathroom if you need to.

8. Consider cutting back on habits that may be making your anxiety worse, such as alcohol.

9. Turn toward, rather than away from, your anxiety. Like all emotions, anxiety is here to tell you something. What is your anxiety trying to teach you?

10. Give yourself permission to slow down. There are somethings we have to do and can’t get out of. Others we can find a way to do “good enough” and let go of pre-COVID ideals.

11. Journal and let out your feelings. End with a few statements of gratitude or affirmations such as “I love myself. I accept myself exactly as I am.” It may sound corny, but it can help.

12. Consider the story that fear is trying to tell you. Is that story actually true? Know you can be afraid and still be OK.

Image via contributor

Originally published: November 18, 2020
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