If you’ve been a mom for any length of time, you know how unpredictable and overwhelming it can be.
Remember those pre-kids days where you could plan your schedule and knew you could get you work done?
The ‘good ‘ol days’ when you never had to deal with your agenda being derailed by an epic bout of the stomach flu that has been going around daycare.
Maybe this sounds familiar…..
You’ve got a to do list longer than your arm but you haven’t had a solid night of sleep in weeks. This vague, unsettled feeling is showing up in your body and nagging worries keep popping up in your mind, causing you to feel edgy, anxious and irritable.
You can’t quite put your finger on what’s wrong, but you know your fuse is way shorter than usual.
This is such an normal response to the unrelenting demands and sometimes overwhelming challenges of motherhood.
But you know you don’t want to be an irritable, angry mom.
And you know how important it is for your kids’ emotional health to be emotionally steady so you can help them with their big feelings too.
So, what can you do?
5 tips to help you cope with anxiety
1. Schedule a Worry Time
Part of what makes motherhood feel so overwhelming is the sheer number of decisions you have to make. It can seem like there is always one more problem that needs to be solved.
It’s so easy to get lost in our minds, thinking through these situations, over and over.
But, if we’re not careful, these ongoing nagging thoughts can shift our mood from calm to anxious.
Interestingly, research shows that scheduling a time to worry, actually serves to decrease anxiety.
A worry time?!? Yep. It works because it allows you to cope more effetively with your worries. Start by setting aside a time each day, 10, 15 or 20 minutes to dig deep into all the challenges and decisions you are facing.
Then, throughout the day, notice when you are getting caught up in worrying. Make a note about it on your phone or in a journal.
After that, turn your focus back to the present moment, setting your worries aside until ‘worry time’ when you can tackle them.
At the end of the time you have set aside, put the list away, and get back to living in the moment. Repeat this daily. Notice if this strategy helps you cope differently with anxiety.
2. Say No
If you’re anything like me, it’s so easy to get caught up feeling like you have to do it all. Mom guilt sucks us in, and before we know it, we’re signing our kids up for every activity, planning extravagant play dates, cooking only whole foods, home cooked meals, and volunteering at school, even when we really want to say ‘no’.
Moms often come to see me asking for help fitting more into their schedule. But, most often, time management isn’t the issue. It’s being over scheduled.
I get it. It’s so hard to let go of the unrealistic pressure and expectations we put on ourselves.
Many years ago, I remember being so upset with myself because I had forgotten to sign my oldest son up for preschool gymnastics. It felt like I had let him down in a serious way. I shake my head now, just thinking about it.
Looking back, it was so much better for me to slow down on my maternity leave, rather than to race around because of the pressure I felt to make sure my kid got the best of everything.
Saying ‘no’ to busyness is not just good for our mental health, it’s good for our kids’ well being too.
3. Get Some Fresh Air
There’s nothing like some fresh air and sunlight to ease anxiety. Put your baby in a stroller and go for a walk around the block or jump in the car and head to a trail or the Halifax Waterfront.
Take your kids to De Wolfe Park or sit on the patio at Chicken Little and share a frozen treat. You can also try your local library.
On that note, have you seen this awesome blog post full of ideas? Some of them are specific to the summer, but I bet you’ll find some useful suggestions for all seasons.
4. Practice Mindfulness Exercises
Motherhood is full of anxiety provoking situations (will my kids turn out OK, are they growing and developing as they should, what if they develop a serious illness, are they fitting in at school, etc.).
Often, women tell me that they had not been particularly anxious before having children, but that since becoming a mom, anxiety has been a constant companion.
Developing a self compassion practice can be especially helpful for this. Try out this audio and see if it resonates with you.
Here’s another experiment to check out and see if it helps you cope with anxiety.
Try breathing in for a count of 4 and breathing out for a count of six. Do this for 8-10 breaths. Then, as you continue to do this, concentrate on five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste. This can help calm you when you’re feeling anxiety start to arise.
5. Use Your Support Network
It’s not always easy to ask for help. As moms, we often get the message from social media or even our families and friends that we should be able to balance all the demands of motherhood. And somehow make it look easy. Ya, right.
Because being a mom is a demanding job, having a support network is vital.
Try taking a risk with vulnerability in relationships that feel safe to you. Call a friend or family member who you think will be supportive and encouraging to ask for advice or help. Creating connections is so important in building resilience as a mom.
And if you don’t have a great support network, you are not alone!
Now is the perfect time to cultivate one. Some women find connection at drop in programs, in faith based and community groups or by joining a gym/sports program for themselves.
You might be surprised to learn that women often come to see me simply because they know that I am a safe, non-judgemental person they can be real with.
They know that as a mom I can relate to the struggles that they are facing and that I can support them as they work though their particular challenges.
Experiment with these suggestions and see what difference they make in helping you cope with anxiety.