Feeling Anxious?

mama-to-mama11Part of the deal that goes along with being a mom is constantly working to keep your anxiety in check, right? I mean, there’s the first time you leave her with a babysitter, the first time she tools off on a two-wheeler, the first time she gets on a school bus, the first time, the first time, the first time! Yikes!

Then, of course, there’s also the parade of rashes and coughs and fevers and scraped knees and broken bones and notes from school and parent conferences. Later comes driving, dating, weekends away with friends, and friends you don’t like. Suffice it to say, it never ends. There is no point at which you can say, “Whew, that was intense, but now I’m done.”

And as if the normal childhhood ups and downs weren’t enough to throw us off our game, we’ve got the constant barrage of “can-you-top-this” news stories to contend with too. The media loves to scare the living daylights out of us by finding the most horrifying things that have happened on the planet and then giving them as much airtime as possible.

So given all of that, what are your options here? How can you tone down those nervous feelings without resorting to never leaving the house or getting a Prozac IV? It’s important to figure out, not only for your own piece of mind, but because your children take their cues from you.

If you’re constantly talking about all the weirdos out there, or how climate change is going to make the earth melt, they’ll come to see the world as a scary place with few people around to trust –which is why it’s important to be aware of what you’re saying whenever they are within earshot — and believe me, they are in earshot most of the time. Even when it seems like they aren’t listening, they probably are.

Life is messy and unpredictable and it changes on a dime. That’s true. But it’s also an exciting, rich adventure and if you think about it, most of the time, things work out okay. You want to enjoy it! So here are a few things you can do to help keep your anxiety in check:

BODY

Exercise A little bit done on a regular basis goes a long way to release stress. Some studies have shown it to be as effective as antidepressants in treating major depression. It works. For anxiety too. Figure out how to fit it in now, and be way ahead of the game.

Aromatherapy Seriously! In a study at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center the patients who were getting MRIs while sniffing vanilla- scented air reported 63% less anxiety than the ones who just got the regular old air! Other herbs and plants that have been shown to help with anxiety include basil, chamomile, cedarwood, cypress, hyssop, juniper, jasmine, and marjoram. Look for scented candles or essential oils and use them to spice up your life and slow down your pulse.

Yoga is much more than simple exercise and has a very calming and beneficial effect on the body and mind. Plus, it will keep you toned, strong, and energized.

Massage therapy, shiatsu, and other forms of bodywork all help to reduce muscle tension, relieve stress, and improve sleep. Although these treatments aren’t necessarily cheap they give you a lot of bang for the buck. Skip the pricey coffees or manicures and pedicures and invest in a session or two of these once a month instead if your budget allows.

MIND

Mindfulness When you notice those crazy thoughts beginning to work their way into your consciousness, pay attention. Don’t let them go underground again. Stop for a minute and consider the source of where your anxiety is coming from. Then decide whether the threat is real or not.

Discernment A lot of the time we start feeling anxious due to something we heard that wasn’t related to us. The worrisome thought hangs around in the background and then pops up fully-formed and ready to go when we are faced with anything remotely similar. Next thing you know, you’re off to the races.

Visualization If the worry really doesn’t belong to you make a conscious effort to let it go. Close your eyes and mentally tie it up in a sack, attach it to a strong helium balloon, and watch it disappear. Or, picture your hand stamping the disturbing thought with the word “cancel” or the universal symbol for “not allowed.”

Then replace that negative image with a positive one. For example, if you are worried about your child getting sick, see him in your mind’s eye smiling, laughing and playing. HOLD THAT THOUGHT. And whenever the scary one starts seeping in, immediately replace it with the good one.

Action If it does belong to you, then try and figure out whether it is something that you can actually do something about. If it is, then get busy and do it! And if it isn’t, then ask for help in accepting it. We end up spending a lot of time worrying about things we cannot control and doing nothing about the things that we can.

So if your kid has a cough that sounds bad or is running a fever that makes you uncomfortable, stop fretting and CALL THE DOCTOR! This is something you CAN do something about. Let her decide whether there’s cause for alarm. I never met a good doctor who faulted a parent for calling with a real concern. If your doc gives you the brush off or makes you feel stupid for calling, get a new doctor. There are lots of great ones who will be happy to partner up with you.

Or, say you feel uncomfortable about a child care worker or the parents of one of your child’s friends. Rather than simply worrying or second guessing yourself about their character or reliability, trust your gut and make the decision to do something. Switch child care providers or keep your child away from the sketchy family. It’s YOUR call. Make it.

Selectivity Limit your time with friends and family members who put a lot of focus on the negative. Fear is contagious. Nobody is upbeat and positive all the time but try to hang out with people who leave you feeling stronger or happier. You will have more energy and more to give to your own family.

That goes for television and internet news, too. It’s almost always bad and almost always exaggerated. Consider the Madeleine McCann kidnapping story — every parent’s worst nightmare. It was a horrific thing that happened to a very unfortunate family — in another country. But the way the media covered it you would think that those kidnappers were parked on the corner of every street in the United States.

And yet, in reality, 99.8% of the children who go missing come home. And the number who go missing to begin with is extremely small. So quit watching all the sensationalized news coverage of frightening events. See it for what it is — an attempt to pull you in and get the ratings which lead to higher ad sales. Sorry, but it’s true. Bad news sells better than good news.

SPIRIT

Meditation has been proven over and over and over again to calm the mind, lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety and increase energy, optimism and overall health. To get some basic pointers on how to do it click here.

Friendships with people you can count on and trust are like money in the bank when it comes to helping you feel safe and secure. Take time to nurture those relationships which will nurture you in return. Invite people of all ages into your life and make sure to include some who are older and wiser. You will benefit from their age and experience and they from your youth and vitality.

Nature and exploring our relationship with it can do wonders to quiet the chaos. Try putting the baby in the stroller and taking a long walk through the woods or near the beach. Leave the cell phone and ipod at home and tune in to the sounds and sights around you. If that’s not realistic just get outside, watch the clouds, work in your garden, play with a dog, take a walk, or have a picnic on the grass.

Prayer is an age-old approach that has helped millions upon millions to find peace in their lives. You may want to give it a try yourself. If so, find a method that works for you and just start the conversation.

Parenting is tough work. We all feel the strain at times. But remember, you’re in good company and never really alone. Go ahead and give some of these techniques a shot. And remember to keep breathing!


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Ellen W. Schrier, LCSW, is a family therapist and the mother of three adolescent/young adult kids.


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One response to “Feeling Anxious?”

  1. I’m A Wreck! You Gotta Help!

    […] some good tips on how to calm down those anxious nerves take a look at this post. A little anxiety now and then kind of goes with the territory of being a […]

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