We all know that being a parent is a very stressful job. We worry about these little humans from the very minute thy are born, sometimes even before they are born. There’s so may occasions to stress about: the feeding, the sleep or the lack of it, their development and safety. And so no wonder that motherhood and anxiety may go hand in hand.
But how much worry and stress in actually normal? Do all moms stress constantly? Are every-day fears really a part of mothering?
I think that a lot of moms do worry daily, but some of us live it more intensively. It’s still normal, as it’s a part of a human experience, but when it’s getting to the level of anxiety it’s not necessary healthy.
Because while worry is usually a temporary, mild form of stress, caused by realistic concerns, and quite easy to verbalize, and stress is a constant worry and a response to real danger. Anxiety is a more general state, often without a real danger involved, just a perception of something as dangerous, and it causes more suffering and is much more difficult to overcome.
So recently I was asking myself, if my fears and worries are normal. (I was telling myself sure they are, since I’m a human, a mom, so fearing for safety of my kids is normal!) I worry about my kids having too much screen time, and I worry about them not getting enough exercise. These are my parenting worries.
But I’m also obsessing over car accidents. And I know that when our fears prevent us from normal functioning, this is when these re not just every day parenting fears. This is anxiety, and that’s becoming problematic. So since I’m scared of flying, driving on a highway and heights, these are points for me to work on. I still get myself in to these situations, but it takes a lot of my energy to do so. And these fears are closer to anxiety then worry, since there’s no real danger, it’s just my perception of it.
But since kids imitate all that they see, won’t they imitate my fears? How can I make sure not to pass my fears on to them? While am not diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, and while what I live might not be enough to put a label on it, I may influence my kids perception of what’s risky and whats not. And I do wish them a life full of exploration, travel and marvel! And I want to feel better too!
So I was asking myself, how do I not let my kids get influenced by it? And how do I overcome it? How to navigate between motherhood and worry, stress and anxiety? Denial of the situation, or over-controlling every aspect of life, are common dealing mechanism with anxiety, but not very healthy ones.
So here’s what I try to do instead, and if you feel that you’re in the same boat, here’s what might help you too, whether you’re worried, stressed or anxious :
1. Admit your fears. Talk about them.
Sometimes the simple act of talking things over, verbalizing our fears and worries and being listened without judgment is the best cure to mild stress and worry! So find that someone who can listen, and just talk things through. Usually by talking about our worries, we can find our own solutions, realize what is it that we really want, and realize how to deal with them.
Name your worries, even if they may be absurd. Try talking about how you feel when you think about your worries, and what would have to change so you could feel better. Ask yourself how things can change, and if the changes are realistic.
Although if talking about it does not help at all, then it may be a signal that what you live is closer to anxiety.
2. Slow down.
It may sound like a cliché, but if your everyday life is starting to be too stressful, it means it’s time for a change. You may need either a change of routine, either a change of expectations, because feeling stressed and anxious is an important signal from your body that something isn’t right, and that it needs to be fixed.
We tend to have high expectations of how our life should be like, how our work life, or SAHM life should look like. But remember, even though it’s possible to do it all, it’s impossible to do it all at once! Having a thriving carer and young kids, and a spotless home and a fulfilled personal life, and a perfect body, all at once, is more of a holly grail then an achievable plan. There are seasons in life, and they all come with different challenges. It’s ok to fail and it’s ok to do good enough, and not perfect. Because perfection is an illusion, it’s impossible, and it doesn’t exist!
3. Get more sleep.
It may sound like an even bigger cliché but lack of sleep correlates with depression and anxiety. And while I realize that for many parents sleep is more of a wish then the reality, sometimes it’s simply jeopardized by Netflix and social media. So put that phone aside, and got to sleep earlier!
Because in the end, in order to function properly our bodies need good fuel ( whole food, yes.) and sleep. It’s simple as that.
4. Don’t believe that through controlling all the details of life you’ll gain control over your fears. It’s the other way a round.
The more we fear certain situations and horrid scenarios the more these fears control us. And we might very well control every detail of our kids life, but they still might have an accident. Letting things go, and letting to lose control might be more liberating from fears then tying to control it all.
5. Seek professional help
If talking about worries, changing routine and expectations, and getting more sleep doesn’t help, then most likely what you live isn’t just simple worry, but anxiety.
And if on top of it, you or your family start seeing that your normal activities are being changed, because of your fears, it’s time for a consultation with a specialist. I know it’s difficult to admit, but sometimes we do need help. And while we all live though stressful situations, and while being a parent is full of worries and stress, once it becomes overwhelming and to big to control, it means that it’s time to consult and get real treatment!
So now I’m working on adjusting my routine (and expectations) , sleeping more, and verbalizing my worries more often. And for now it helped me a lot. And I hope that you too, after figuring out if you’re worried, stressed or anxious, can feel better with these simple changes!