Motherhood makes you feel and think things you never thought possible.
There are the funny moments, like “Please don’t take Barbie for a swim in the dog’s water bowl.” Moms spend most of their days bemused, entertained, flabbergasted, exhausted and, hopefully, grateful.
But there are also more serious apprehensions and worries that come with being a mom. And we’ve got to own and face those anxieties to stay healthy. Perhaps one of the most realistic and descriptive quotes about motherhood comes from author Elizabeth Stone, who said, “Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”
When we watch our children struggle with milestones, when we watch them flame out while in a particularly cantankerous mood or when we are overwhelmed with the task of raising a little human, there are times when our worry or stress becomes anxiety or even depression.
Moms can empower themselves by owning anxiety and finding ways to deal with it. Let’s look at ten tips for moms struggling with anxiety.
1. Recognizing That You Have Anxiety
Like a lot of things in life, recognizing that there is an issue is a good first step. How to know if your worry is actually an anxiety disorder?
Worrying comes with the territory when you are a parent. But what about worry so strong that it ends up impacting your daily activities? Your thoughts might keep you in a cycle of worry that leads to believing disaster is always possible. You may be unable to calm your mind. You may know that something is isn’t right with how you are thinking, but you don’t know what to do. You could take an anxiety self-test that will give a general assessment of your emotional responses to various situations.
Recognizing that you’re suffering from anxiety is an important first step, as it sets the stage for finding the right coping mechanisms and treatment.
2. Talk to a Professional
You are not alone. In fact, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, the most commonly occurring mental illness in America is anxiety disorder. Almost 1 in 5 adults experience this highly treatable disorder.
So talk to a medical professional about your anxiety to determine if it can be treated with therapy, daily habits or medicine. If your doctor dismisses it as “baby blues,” go to another doctor.
3. Count Your Sheep
Getting more sleep isn’t really an option for some moms. But sleep is the key to giving your mind and body time to rest and recharge. So you may be able to fall asleep faster if you keep your room cool and dark, make a list of to-dos for the next day so your mind isn’t racing and lay off the caffeine after noon.
If it’s impossible for you to go to bed any earlier, then try shooting for more hours of uninterrupted sleep. Ask your partner to handle the middle of the night wake ups or plan your 8 hours more strategically. For example, if your little one always gets up around 3 a.m. for a bathroom break, going to bed at 10 p.m. and waking up at six a.m. will give you more hours of interrupted sleep than if you went to bed at midnight and woke up at 8 a.m.
4.Get Out…of the House
Even during cold months, a bit of fresh air is good for you. Taking those breaths of fresh air allow your body to send more oxygen to the cells in your body, which results in more energy. Also, sunshine provides Vitamin D, which can be absorbed through your skin.
5. You Are What You Eat, So Eat Healthy
There is a link between what you eat and how you feel. Are you ingesting foods that will boost your mood, help your body function efficiently and keep your blood sugar level?
For example, foods with omega-3 fatty acid like salmon have been shown to reduce anxiety. Limiting alcohol and caffeine and eating foods rich in antioxidants are also recommended.
6. Lower Stress and Anxiety Through Exercise
Moms rarely have time for a trip to the gym, so involve the kids in your routine. Talk them for a walk around the neighborhood, go for a hike or put on a kid-friendly yoga video. Involving your children in exercise when they are young will help them develop this healthy habit as well.
7. Slow Your Mind with Meditation or Prayer
It’s common for people with anxiety to feel like their brain won’t shut off. They can’t seem to slow their thoughts down long enough to bring about calm.
Learning techniques for meditation, prayer or quiet time is critical to dealing with anxiety. It can help you live in the present moment and avoid getting on the hamster wheel of worry.
8. Laughter is a Great Medicine
The old cliché “laughter is the best medicine” does have some truth behind it. Some researches even say laughter has the benefits of a mini-workout, sending more oxygen to your cells and raising your heart rate.
Watch a funny movie with your kids, write down the funny things they say so that you can relive them later and call up your funniest friend for a good laugh.
9. Write a Journal to Recognize Triggers
It can be difficult to determine the triggers of anxiety.
Keeping a journal of daily activities, foods eaten and interpersonal interactions can help pinpoint anxiety triggers as well as coping mechanisms. For example, on days where you don’t fit in a workout, are you anxiety levels higher? Or do visits with the in-laws bring increase your anxiety? Determining both the tools that help and the events that increase anxiety will help you manage it.
10. Build and Rely on Your Village
Moms try to have it all and do it all. And we are slowly killing ourselves in the process. To manage your anxiety, you’ll need to ask for help when you need it. Whether it is help around the house, advice about raising kids or time off to see a therapist, getting help with make you a better mom, not a weaker one. Don’t buy into that false narrative.
Being a mom is hard, important work. Being a mom with anxiety disorder doesn’t mean you have to suffer alone or forever. By following this advice, you can manage your anxiety and lead a happy, healthy life with your family.
Jennifer Landis is a 27-year-old healthy living blogger who loves yoga, running, and dancing it out with her toddler! You can find more from Jennifer at her blog, Mindfulness Mama, or by following her on Twitter: @jenniferelandis.