Parenting with Anxiety
Anyone with children knows that parenting is no walk in the park. Add on top of that, parenting with anxiety. Suddenly the walk through the unpaved, unmarked park becomes a walk through an unpaved, unmarked park and all of the trees around you are on fire. I’m being a little dramatic, but I’m also not. A lot goes into parenting with anxiety; the first step is recognizing the anxiety.
There are a couple of different ways that anxiety manifests itself: a diagnosed anxiety disorder and simple moments that make us feel anxious.
I was diagnosed with GAD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, in 2015. Johns Hopkins Medicine defines GAD as, “a condition of excessive worry about everyday issues and situations. It lasts longer than six months. In addition to feeling worried you may also feel restlessness, fatigue, trouble concentrating, irritability, increased muscle tension, and trouble sleeping.” While my diagnosis only noticeably affected me for a little over a year in that case, it has continued to rear its ugly head over the past seven years since the first time I was seen by a professional. Over those seven years, I have been on medication and I have met with a variety of therapists (due to moving around, not due to unqualified professionals). I recognize my anxiety disorder and I feel that it won’t ever fully go away, and that’s okay because I’ve learned ways to manage it.
Affecting a smaller population is Postpartum Anxiety (PPA). I’m sure as moms we’ve all heard about Postpartum Depression, but Postpartum Anxiety exists too and isn’t talked about nearly enough. Postpartum Anxiety has all of the “thrills” of GAD while being associated with the birth of a new baby. Along with the excessive worry that GAD causes, PPA also introduces scary intrusive thoughts. If you’ve experienced anything like this following the birth of a child, please reach out for help. You are not alone.
Both of these diagnoses are pretty scary and hard to live with. Still, it’s essential to recognize that both of these disorders can be regulated by medication, therapy, and other coping methods. Everyone, diagnosed with GAD or not, experiences moments of anxiety and high adrenaline. Most people are familiar with the fight, flight, or freeze responses that occur naturally in our bodies. GAD and PPA, mean that those responses happen much more frequently and usually in a way that is debilitating to the quality of everyday life.
If any of this sounds like you, you might be wondering how parenting is even possible when you’re feeling these feelings all the time. As I mentioned above, there are a lot of options related to seeing a professional to manage it. There are also ways to manage it at home.
The first is meditation. I’m not as good at keeping up with my mediation as I’d like to be, but when I do practice there is a noticeable difference in my day. I recommend the app Calm (available on both iOS and Android). There are guided meditations, body scans, and music tracks available on the app. It does have a cost attached, but it’s well worth the cost. There’s also the option to just turn the app on and listen to white noise to take a little breather.
Another way to manage at home is to practice general self-care. Don’t over schedule yourself. Don’t compare yourself to other moms/parents on social media. Light a candle. Take a shower. Go outside. Self-care looks different for everyone. Find something that works well for you. For me, it’s waking up before my daughter and having a chance to sit down and quietly read a book for a bit to start my day.
The last way is very quick, easy, and can be done anywhere at any time: grounding yourself. As a mom, and particularly a mom with anxiety, it’s easy to find myself getting overstimulated over the course of the day. When I start to feel an anxiety or panic attack come on or I just start to feel like there’s a little too much happening I close my eyes (after the first step) and practice grounding. I try to focus on five things that I can see, four things that I can hear, three things that I can feel, two things that I can smell, and one thing that I can taste. It only takes a minute or two and it really can make all the difference in becoming present in the moment.
So, yes, parenting with anxiety is a bit like taking a walk through an unpaved unmarked park and all of the trees around you are on fire, but with the right tools and coping methods (starting with recognizing the problem), it all becomes a lot more manageable.