For a long time, I thought everyone felt the same way I did.
I thought for sure that other people analyzed conversations for hours, couldn’t sleep when their minds were racing at 3 a.m., and couldn’t function if they thought someone was mad at them. I thought perhaps that a lot of people occasionally had panic attacks so bad that they missed cross-country flights they’d scheduled to visit their sisters or cancelled plans at the last minute because they just could not deal.
Turns out, not everyone deals with these issues, but the people who do totally get what I’m talking about because we are a specific and oh-so-lucky class of people named The Anxious Ones. It’s taken me a long time to admit my own particular brand of anxiety because I thought that everyone had those feelings, and that motherhood, as a general rule, only makes anxiety worse. But I’m officially able to confess now that I am very much an Anxious Mom.
Unfortunately, not only have I seemed to pass my anxiety onto at least two of my offspring, I also have learned that my anxiety can really affect my ability to be a good mom. As my kids are getting older and learning more about the world from me and my actions, I am more determined than ever to set a healthy example for them and get my own anxiety under control so I can be a good mom for them. Here are just a few of the ways I combat my own anxiety as an anxious mom:
Yeah, yeah, I know, how cliché, right? But allow me to assure you that there is no #fitmombod happening here. I eat entirely way too much for that to happen (chips are one of my unhealthy anxiety coping mechanisms!) and the mom gut is strong with me. But I love exercise solely for the mental health benefits it provides me. Specifically, I have found that weightlifting is a great mental release to help literally lift the anxiety from my body. There’s just something about hoisting a weight above your head or slamming a barbell to the ground that is very freeing.
I’ve also tried to incorporate yoga into my weekly routine because it serves as an incredibly powerful and calming effect against anxiety. Exercise can be one of those things we have to force ourselves to do, but no matter what, I always feel better when I’m done working out, so I know it’s worth it.
I’m a freelance writer, so this one works out well in my favor, but the truth is that I’ve always done my best processing through writing. There’s just something about putting pen to paper or hands to keyboard that lets me dig a little deeper into what emotions are really hiding inside of me. I’m able to articulate my fears, analyze my feelings, and even strategize and make plans to work through them. For some reason, having an outlet to write out my biggest fears tends to take the power away from them.
I started writing in a journal when I was 8 years old and I’ve been doing it ever since. Despite the fact that writing is my day job, whenever I am feeling especially lost, pouring my heart out in my journal is still incredibly helpful.
Here’s the thing: I’ve tried “real” therapy in the past, and while it was helpful in a lot of ways, it also took a lot out of me. It sounds absurd, but knowing I had to go to therapy only made my anxiety so much worse. It was like I had to mentally prepare for it, I found it draining to try to plan for it, get childcare, rearrange my work schedule, etc., and then afterwards, I was completely exhausted. It felt like I took my soul out and wrung it dry.
So, I stopped going. And that’s an unfortunate truth, because obviously, therapy is a good thing, especially for anyone who suffers from anxiety. But still, those of us with anxiety also know it can be freaking hard to get out the door and do all of the prep and recovery work. So instead, I’ve turned to exploring phone options for therapy. Thanks to telehealth and the countless apps that allow you to see a doctor from your phone or computer, such as Amwell or Blue Cross Blue Shield, you can see a therapist from your phone and never have to leave your house. It’s just one small way to make getting therapy more accessible, especially if your anxiety is so bad that you can’t make yourself go in the first place.
Knowing my Enneagram number
I have fought against the Enneagram craze for as long as possible, until curiosity finally got the best of me a few weeks ago. I broke down and took one of the quizzes and wouldn’t you know it — turns out, my Enneagram number happens to coincide with being anxious. For some reason, seeing my personality traits right there, in plain writing, and realizing that my anxiety is actually a part of who I am and not necessarily a “bad” or “abnormal” thing has really helped me feel comfortable in owning my whole self, flaws and all. Contrary to what I’ve always thought, anxiety isn’t always a bad thing. In some ways, it makes me who I am: a thoughtful, deliberate, and caring person, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of.
What are the best ways you have learned to combat anxiety as a mom?