Sometimes I get anxious. Ok, a lot. I get anxious a lot - more than I even realized until I realized that a big part of my postpartum depression was this anxiety thing. I mean, who have I turned in to? I lose my shit easily and care wayyyyyy too much about things I know I can’t control.
Motherhood, ammiright? It bring so much joy, pride, excitement and playfulness to our lives! But, man, can it do some damage to our psyches. Even if anxiety isn’t nagging at you like, well, a persistent nag, we are all faced with new fears, new failures and new challenges we never imagined.
I used to think I was pretty chill -- even after baby 1. I was calm, I never yelled (okay maybe not never but very rarely!) and I don’t remember ever feeling like my feelings were out of my control. Then baby 2 came and blew. my. mommy. mind.
My mind exploded and life hasn't been the same since.
At first it was the baby cries. My blood pressure would rise and nothing else mattered except stopping those baby tears. I couldn't focus on anything else, and whatever else needed my attention just made me angry - including my sweet toddler. Getting mad at him would hurt my soul and the panic would only rise and it felt so much bigger than what I could handle. It made me feel like I was failing.
As baby grew, my anxiety turned to things like impending mess-splosions (you know what i mean - sand, slime, glitter, scizzors, glue, food...all that shit that can spill in a hot second and takes ages to clean), the constant stream of preservatives and food dyes that are put in everything marketed to children, too many toys, not enough toys, the state of our planet, the seemingly waning morality of humanity, global warming, gun control, bullying, omg, there's so much to worry about!
And poop! I can’t believe I almost forgot poop. Like, not the poop that accidentally lands on the floor, or that may get caught in undies, or (let's face it) that somehow ends up on me, it's the poop that I can't control where it goes, the poop that somehow ends up on my kid's hands, the poop with endless disgusting possibilities for surprising me or winding up somewhere it may sit unnoticed for god knows how long.
This isn't a fun way to go through life. In fact, it's quite distracting from all that joy that’s out there! So I'm dealing with it. I don’t want to live like this and from what I see, inaction only makes it worse.
I actually have lots of tips and tools that are helping immensely so since I have a lot of mamas trying to manage their anxiety and the resulting sugary or boozey evenings that come after a day of momming, I thought I'd share them with you. Try them out and see what could work for you!
1. Assume positive intention -
This is a great one for dealing with rude people or stubborn people, or when on the road and my fears about the declining state of human interaction starts to creep up.
When you find yourself slipping into that fatalistic, overwhelming and panic inducing thought pattern, I find it really helpful to play make believe. I image in what case could I come across as being rude? What is going on in my life when I don't have time to stop and smile at someone? Usually it's pretty bad!
So I start to imagine the day this person may have had to cause them to behave this way. Or even the life they’ve had. What is it that he or she may be coming home to? In what ways could this person be struggling and just needs some grace? Grace I can give. Grace feels a lot better than fear and anxiety.
Immediately my heart balloons and empathy takes over and I can easily move on or even take action to help that person and hope to help them have a better day.
2. Remember what Kristen Bell's therapist says, "you can't change someone who's not in the room." Which, in this case, means: You do you, boo!
Live life in a way you are proud. Arguing with my husband (or the random girl I just saw drop her straw on the ground) about how best to dispose of the plastic Starbuck's cup (don't get me started on why he didn't bring his own mug!) is not only a bad approach within any relationship, but it's not good for you or even mother earth!
Instead focus on what YOU are doing to help the earth and possibly start educating those around you in a peaceful way. You can have a much bigger impact through kindness and teaching rather than stressing and pulling a few pieces of plastic out of the trash and putting them in the recycling (but I still do that).
Remembering that the only person I have control over is myself is actually empowering! I can switch from feeling the responsibility of all the people who aren’t treating the planet the way I feel we need to, to focusing on all the ways I can do an immense amount of good MYSELF.
Same goes for messes, too! I know I care a lot more than the people around me about having a clean living space. So I clean it. I can’t make them care but I can own the fact that I do. I tell my kids to clean up when they make an actual mess and my husband will pick up if I ask him, but I don’t need to change their needs to match mine.
Do what you can and be proud of that. Everyone else is their own person, too. Shaming them into doing your bidding not only will lead to tension (and more anxiety), but it won't lead the to changes your anxiety needs.
3. Take back the power -
This is a big one has been big for me! I used to get embarrassed by my anxieties and try to pretend like my anxiety is not a thing.
That is worse.
Own your fears and anxiety and face them. You are in control, they are not in control of you.
Sometimes I open my parents' trash can and see plastic containers in there and my blood pressure instantly starts to rise. It's not those pieces of trash, it's the fact that people all over the world are doing it. It gets me.
Sometimes I practice closing the trash can and moving on. I let the nagging need to put them in the recycling come at me and I hang with that.
I can't change everything and while I can move these two pieces of plastic to recycling, my anxiety is so much bigger and I need to be ok with the fact that things aren't perfect. And the world still goes on. And there is still joy to be found.
Sometimes I think about it all day, sometimes I go back and put them in recycling, and sometimes I forget about it and move on.
4. Meditate -
Come on, you knew I was going to say it! Meditation is huge for my mental health, my acceptance of my emotions - whatever they may be - and my journey to let go of the things I can’t control. Even a 5 minute meditation can turn your day around.
I once had a panic attack after yelling at my kids as I was leaving for work. I couldn’t stop beating myself up. I couldn’t stop feeling horrible, like I had failed myself and my kids. As I debated canceling my clients and going shopping or getting my nails done, I realized those things wouldn’t help me feel better, I’d just be trying to forget it and I’d still feel horrible.
As a last effort (that I wasn’t very optimistic about) before canceling work and taking the day to mope, I actually put in my earbuds in the parking lot and did a guided meditation about letting go of imperfection. And it worked. Like, it really worked. Panic subsided, my self love returned and I went in to work. From then on I was even more of a firm believer!
5. Turn it into a positive -
Ok this one is hard but bear with me. Let's take poop for example. It's ok to freak out about poop getting on things and places it shouldn't be. Because it's gross. And dirty. And a little freak out to make sure poop is cleaned up and to make sure my kids understand how gross it is is OKAY.
When I feel my Spidey-sense of impending panic coming at me, sometimes it helps to think, "It's ok to be upset right now! No one is judging you and everyone wants to help you get through it. And most people can sympathize!"
For me, permission to feel and react is huge. I struggle trying to be "perfect" and, of course, that is not possible. So acknowledging my imperfections, my too-big reactions, and sometimes even allowing myself to see the humor in my big feelings really helps me let go and stop the panic from rising.
It's okay. It's all okay. You (and I!) are amazing people. Perfect, no. But definitely amazing!
If you’re struggling with anxiety, don’t hesitate to get help! Or just talk about it with someone you love. Sometimes it’s really big and it all feels so BIG. It’s ok. And it doesn’t have to feel like this. I know it can feel like it will never stop, but it can. I do love CBD and my adaptogenic herbs and my mental health strategies and practices, but when it gets bad and when it feels hopeless, a therapist and even medication can be, literally, a life saver!