Parenting with anxiety means you're never quite parenting alone. Nope, there's always that thread or undercurrent of fear or worry that accompanies us anxious folks that we try to battle or subdue in order to parent without fear. And when I say parent without fear, I mean "parent without the fear of everything and anything thanks to anxiety making you a bad parent," not parenting without fear, period, because what parent doesn't get a little afraid sometimes?
As a person who has anxiety — anxiety doesn't have me! (well, at least not today) — managing anxiety is crucial so that way my daughter doesn't feel anxious and I feel better, too. I've had to mentally train myself to not hover and it helps that I was once a teacher, so I know the importance of sitting back and letting children do things on their own. Despite my worrywart ways, I am adept at encouraging my daughter to be independent and not to ask me to do things for her. Still, the voice inside my head that panics from time to time when she's trying something risky at the park or the voice inside my head that scolds me over every little thing I have done is a beast I have to master and control.
Is Anxiety Causing You Self-Doubt?
On my good days, I go to bed knowing I have kicked proverbial ass in the motherhood world, but like all moms, I have my bad days on which I feel like the worst mom in the world, and that's when my anxiety kicks in on overdrive.
Why did you say that? Why did you do that? Well, hmm, let's review what I said . . . all day long. Repeats the conversations of the day. Analyzes every single breath and response made. Wonders what could have been said, done, or tried differently.
It's like an hour-long session of me beating myself up. Every mother can relate to the feeling that she isn't doing enough, being enough. We are hard on ourselves. But when you add anxiety to the regular self-doubt of motherhood, it can feel as if you're caught in a vice grip of self-doubt. It's not fun.
If you find yourself doing the following things, you may be trapped in the mental checklist hell of anxiety:
- Every time you do something wrong, you can't forgive yourself to the point of sleepless nights
- Second guessing all of your parenting choices to the point of asking everyone to affirm them
- Double checking everything you do to the point of exhaustion
- Certainty for a short or long period of time that you're failing as a parent
Many mothers do all of the above things; however, a mother who is dealing with anxiety is battling these things on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.
How to Cope
There's nothing fun about beating yourself up with fear and doubt. I often tell people when I am feeling anxious that it is as if anxiety has taken over the driver's seat and there I am as the passenger, wondering how to take back the wheel.
- Therapy, If Need Be: If anxiety is a recurring character in your life, seeing a therapist, particularly one who practices cognitive behavioral therapy, can help you start to replace anxious behaviors and thoughts with healthy ones. Cognitive behavioral therapy will give you concrete tools and techniques to get back that wheel!
- Let the Thoughts Roll Away: When ugly, anxious thoughts appear in your mind, tell them literally to roll away. Imagine your mind as a train and decide that you will not stop to entertain these thoughts.
- Feelings Aren't Facts: Just because you feel it, doesn't mean it is truth. Remind yourself of that. Feelings are not facts. Just saying.
- Let It Go: You'll have to tell yourself to let some things go. You will have bad days and will say bad stuff and mess up. If telling yourself to drop it doesn't work, try allowing yourself to obsess about this "issue" for just one hour, setting an alarm. When the alarm goes off, it's time to drop it. If you still can't, call a friend for reinforcement. Allow yourself to only discuss the matter for 30 minutes and no more. Talking about the worry and issue will only feed into your anxiety.
- Medication: I have avoided this route, but you may not be able to, and that's OK.
- Meditation: Deep breathing and meditating may help you fight those anxious moods.
Telling yourself you have anxiety and it's affecting how you feel as a mom and, sometimes, how you parent is the first step in making changes. Don't feel bad about anxiety, because you didn't ask for it. For me, it's in my family history so, lucky me, I inherited it. Telling yourself you need to take your life back and telling anxiety where to shove it is the first baby step in saying goodbye to worry!
And you may always have to fight the good fight with anxiety, but with time, patience, and some tools, you will find that that annoying voice and feeling of panic will dissipate.