Finding Some Calm in the Storm
Kids, a partner, a job, a house, maybe a couple of pets―and you're responsible for all of them? It's no wonder that you feel a little anxious. If you're consumed by worry and fear so often that it affects your ability to function, you're in good company. But just because anxiety is common doesn't mean you should have to suffer. A combination of self-care strategies and professional assistance can help you get control over your anxiety, so it doesn't control you.
Why Am I So Anxious?
Exactly how and why anxiety happens is still something of a mystery. Mental health experts do recognize a genetic component to it, so if one of your parents deals with anxiety, you too might suffer from it. It can also be triggered by trauma or a major life event, such as having kids or hitting a rough patch in your relationship. Some women are prone to anxiety but only start experiencing it when they have kids. Worrying about your child's health and safety can be all-consuming for someone dealing with anxiety.
The symptoms of anxiety vary from person to person. It's common to have episodes of intense nervousness out of proportion to any threat. During those episodes, you may have trouble breathing, feel your heart racing, start sweating and have trouble concentrating. Basically, when you're experiencing anxiety, your body reacts as if something genuinely threatening and scary is happening, even if you're just standing in the grocery store.
What Can I Do?
Prioritizing your physical health is one of the biggest steps you can take to manage your anxiety. You may notice that your symptoms get worse when you're exhausted or hungry. Think of sleep, exercise and a balanced diet as pieces of armor that help protect you from anxiety. Just a 10-minute walk can ease your symptoms. Getting more sleep is, of course, easier said than done when you have kids, but it's worth trying to carve out a little more time for rest if it helps improve your mental health.
Some women who deal with anxiety find that meditation and yoga help them control it. Using a meditation app or trying some yoga poses are quick, easy ways to relax your body and mind. Breathing exercises also can be quite effective. Try closing your eyes and counting to 10 slowly, deeply inhaling and exhaling with each number. After you count, keep your eyes closed and try to pinpoint the parts of your body that still feel tense with anxiety. Focus on tensing and then relaxing the muscles in each of those areas one at a time to lessen the physical discomfort.
Sometimes, easing your anxiety is as simple as distracting your mind with something joyful. Watch a bloopers compilation on YouTube or scroll through your favorite photos of your children. If your child is around, suggest a walk to the park or a snuggle session on the couch. Calling or texting a friend who also deals with anxiety may help, too. Joining an online support group for moms with anxiety gives you a place to go when you feel as if you need someone to talk to.
Getting professional support is important too. It's also an essential step if you'd like to try medication to manage your anxiety.
Who Can I Talk To?
If you don't already have a therapist or psychiatrist, start by talking to your general doctor. She can refer you to a mental health professional who specializes in anxiety. Your doctor also may offer to prescribe medication to control your anxiety. This may prove helpful; many therapists can't prescribe medication.
Depending on your situation, your doctor may prescribe a daily medication or one that you can take just when your anxiety starts to rise. Just be sure to talk about whether you're breastfeeding or trying to get pregnant when you're discussing medication options with your doctor. The last thing any anxious mom needs is another what-if added to her plate.
Kathryn Walsh has more than 20 years of experience working with children and has been writing about children and parenting topics for more than 10 years. Her work has appeared on sites including TheBump, Working Mother and Mamapedia.