There are millions of parents who suffer with anxiety and yet still need to perform the job of parenting. Anxiety doesn’t stop us from needing to get the children ready for school, packing nutritious lunches, or driving them to after school sports. We must continue to do this all with the tint of anxiety colouring each activity of the day.
Anxiety is an ugly beast. It is large, vulgar, and menacing. It attacks you when you’re feeling your weakest and engulfs you like a sudden storm that tears down your safeguards. Add parenting to that mix, and it is a bona fide nightmare some days.
I’ve always been an anxious person. As a child, I became addicted to Gravol because of my constant “tummy aches.” As I entered middle school, it was more than just teenage angst. Now, as a parent, anxiety is the monster that terrorizes not only me, it terrorizes my family as well.
I’m anxious when my children get in a car, anxious while they are away at school, anxious when they go to bed at night. My mind finds ways to imagine the worst. Negative thoughts make up every part of the narrative, and everything is a disaster waiting to happen.
But like with anything else, there are still good days and bad days. The good days are easy and fun. Normal parenting concerns that bring about normal parenting worries but nothing out of the ordinary.
Bad days usually begin as high stress days from the get-go. I already know I’m going to be anxious, but although I can try to rationalize it and prepare for it, I’ll typically have an anxiety attack sooner rather than later. I’ll start to experience shortness of breath, heart palpitations, chest pain, ringing in my ears, feeling of light-headedness, and a sense of “going crazy.”
The worst part is that I can see it coming but can’t stop it.
It’s not the ideal situation when you have children, but I find that having some simple strategies to deal with anxiety attacks has really helped me make the best of the situation. Whenever I feel like I’m about to experience an attack, I follow these five steps to regain some control:
It took me a long time to put a name to what was happening to me. I never attributed my physiological response as being an anxiety attack but once I did, it made me realize I wasn’t crazy. Although my mind might be panicking and telling me, “I can’t breathe! I’m going crazy!”, I can know understand that these are simply symptoms of an attack. That understanding and recognition of what is going on with my body helps tremendously when dealing with this.
When I’m about to experience an anxiety attack, the first thing I remind myself is to simply breathe. In and out, deeply and slowly. This helps calm my mind, stop my heart from racing, and helps me focus on the now. It also gives me something to focus on, other than the anxiety hijacking my thoughts.
I find it helpful to bring myself into the present moment and grounding strategies help me do that. These can include feeling the ground underneath my feet, holding something tangible in my hands and feeling the texture of it against my skin, leaning against a wall and feeling it support my body, and other such centering techniques. I find this helps me calm down my mind and can often slow down the spiral of anxiety.
This might not be for everyone but I find it helpful to sometimes put on fun, upbeat music that I know the words for and can sing along to. It can help take my mind off the anxiety I am experiencing and calm me down. Impromptu dance parties are real thing at our house because of this very reason.
When I can feel myself about to have an anxiety attack, I’ll often quickly jump in the shower. It allows me time to breathe, ground myself, and center my thoughts. Certain activities are relaxing and taking a shower has always been that for me. Instead of trying to find something new to ease my anxiety, I find it most helpful to do what I know already works.
There is no simple cure for anxiety, and it takes work every single day to manage, but it is possible - even with parenting. These are my top five tips for coping with anxiety but everyone should figure out what works best for themselves and their families.
Parenting isn’t an easy job, and anxiety isn’t a fun experience, but it can be more bearable if you have strategies to deal with it.