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Being a mom brings with it a certain level of anxiety. From the moment our babies are born we start to worry. Are they drinking enough? Are they warm enough? Are they too warm? Mom’s instinctively worry to keep their children safe. But what happens when the worry spirals out of control? You become a chronically anxious mom.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
As a mom living with Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD), I know all too well how difficult it can be to manage life with little ones, whilst trying to keep a mental illness in check. GAD causes you to worry about everything. Your brain lives in a constant state of restlessness and you’re unable to unwind. People with GAD suffer from physical pain as well as psychological exhaustion. All day your brain is whirring, filling with negative possibilities as you think about every situation.
Add kids to the mix and life becomes hard work!
What is it like to be an anxious mom?
It doesn’t matter how old your children are, the anxiety ages with them. When my first son was weaning, I had terrible anxiety around him getting dirty. I’d wipe his hands constantly, even while he was eating. Poor little guy didn’t get to experience many squishy bananas between his fingers.
As he’s grown, the anxiety has changed from getting dirty, to getting bullied. Is he happy at school? What if he’s being picked on? What if he’s feeling low? What if he has anxiety like me?
The problem with anxiety is how it manifests itself. Everyone’s symptoms and projections of anxiety are different, I personally don’t tremble or hide in fear. When I’m anxious about something or feel overwhelmed, I shout. It’s a horrible manifestation that I’m only recently attributing to GAD.
How Being an Anxious Mom Can Manifest Into Anger
For years I’ve thought I’m a bad mom for shouting at my kids. But I now know that anger is one of the major symptoms of anxiety. Anger is a reaction to fear. The fight part in our “Fight or Flight” response. Somehow, my brain has wired itself to fight when I’m most anxious.
Now I’m aware that I’m angry-anxious, I want to fix it. I don’t want to be the mom that’s shouting every day. I’ve been trying techniques to remain calm and I’m already finding that less anger is improving my mood. My kids seem happier and I’m enjoying being a mom more.
Here are some ways for remaining calm as an anxious mom
1. Know your TRIGGERS
It’s impossible to calm your anxious reactions until you know what triggers them. Running late, groups of people and excessive noise, are all triggers which can set off anxiety. But each of those comes hand in hand with having children. This means that unless you deal with the triggers, every day is exhausting.
2. Write down your reactions
Note down how you react to your triggers. When your children are screaming and running around the house, does your heart start racing? Does your breath quicken? Do you shout or want to hide? Keep a pen and paper with you and when a trigger presents itself, write down how you feel and how you behave. Observe your behaviour.
3. Call yourself out
After you’ve noted your triggers and reactions for a day or so, call yourself out on them. This isn’t the same as “beat yourself up”. You’re not a bad mom because you had an anxious reaction. But you will only learn to react differently by becoming aware of your patterns.
4. Breathe Mommy
When I start feeling overwhelmed, the noise is too much and feel like I could scream, I say out loud “Breathe Mommy, Breathe”. This has become such a regular occurrence that my eldest has started saying it back to me. This in fact helps. It’s another reminder to remain calm and breathe through the anxiety.
5. Talk to your children
Depending on the age of your children, the conversation could vary from “Mommy is feeling a bit tired” to “Mommy is struggling today”. As my eldest is growing up, I’m being more open with him about my mental health struggles. I’ve explained what helps and what doesn’t and how he can help me be less anxious too. Though he is a child and my mental health isn’t his responsibility, he now realises that certain things make for a much calmer mommy.
6. Establish a routine
This has its pros and cons. Having a routine is great for anxiety as it helps you have a structure and take back some control, where anxiety can leave you lacking. However, everyone needs to be on the same page with the routine. Partners and children need to be aware of your routine and agree to follow it. You also need to make allowances for life and the inevitable fact that things change without notice. Sometimes the baby will need a diaper change whilst your doing the school run, which throws out the timing for day care drop off.
7. Take a minute break
There are times when no matter how hard you try, how deep you breathe or how much you love your kids, the anxiety is too much to handle. In order to remain calm in these circumstances, it’s sometimes necessary to step out the room for a minute. Obviously make sure the kids are safe, but then step away. Close your eyes, block your ears and count for a minute. Then try again.
8. Ask for help
This can be a tough one for moms. Often, we feel the obligation to be super heroes. To take on ever task in order to compensate for the fact that we’re struggling inside. If we appear to have it all together on the outside, no-one will know. But that doesn’t work with anxiety. Sometimes you need help, so whether it’s from your partner, in-laws, family or friends, make a list of the things that would be helpful and dish them out. Avoiding becoming overwhelmed is essential for remaining calm.
For more information about how to reduce mom stress check out my article 7 Signs You’re a Stressed Out Mom and What You Can Do About It
This article was written by Nikki, a mental health writer. Check out her Digital Butterfly blog here.