A certain level of anxiety is probably a good thing in life generally and when you’re a parent, you need to be on your guard to certain dangers. However, letting it take over and turn you into an overbearing worry-hound who is freaked out about every little thing, is not.
I don’t want to be an anxious parent. I’ve lived my whole life battling an unrelenting tide of worry. I’m not sure why or when it happened, but worrying has now become my default mode.
Anxiety is how I cope with most things. Endless worrying about everything in minute detail. We’re talking stupid things as well as the important things here. ‘What if this happens, what if that happens, what if, what if what if!’ There’s a story that sums up my anxiety. A guy bashes his head against a wall constantly, his friend says to him, ‘why do you keep doing that?’ Guy answers, ‘because I like the way it feels when I stop’. This is me. I worry about things in the extreme, as if the act of worrying will somehow help whatever it is I’m worrying about to work out. And if this thing does work out, the moment of relief feels incredible. It’s exhausting at the best of times, but throw motherhood and work into the mix and anxiety is something I knew I’d have to tackle head on if I was to survive.
When I became pregnant, I was determined that when I actually became a mum, that this toxic level of anxiety and worry would not permeate my relationship with my baby. Easier said though, right? Yes, but trust me anxiety can be overcome and if I can do it, anyone can and here’s a few things that are helping me:
Learn to Breathe
Sounds stupid, we all breathe, but what I’m talking about is total concentration on that breathing. When I get stressed, I focus on it like it’s the only thing going on at that very moment. I try and visualise the breaths going in, right down into the pit of my stomach. A good tip is to try and exhale for double the amount of time you inhale.
Take Yourself Out of the Situation
This is a must. Sometimes, if say the baby is roaring crying for what seems like hours on end and I feel that anxiety rising inside me like a tidal wave I cannot control, then it’s vital that I take myself out of the situation. If I am alone, I put the baby down in a safe place like the cot, or playpen and leave the room. I go out in the back garden, get away from the sound of the crying and focus on my breathing until I don’t feel so anxious anymore.
Reason It Out
In the early days of motherhood, it’s no secret how much I struggled. I was completely overwhelmed and have blogged before about almost sinking into a darkness with no end in sight. Thankfully, I did find light at the end of the tunnel and part of that process involved me not worrying so much. It’s incredibly hard, but each day I try to make a conscious effort to dial down my worrying with reasoning. I remind myself, that the baby will stop crying eventually. That my husband will be home in a few hours. That my mum is at the other end of the phone if I get overwhelmed. That I am doing a good job that I am good mum and this current maelstrom I’m in, whatever it is, is only temporary and it too will pass.
Make A Promise
Above all, what’s helped the most is making a promise to my son. I’m promising him that I won’t be that irrational, overbearing, super-anxious parent who loses her shit over every scraped knee or erroneous red spot. I’m promising to try and stay calm when I think about all the potential dangers he will face as he grows up. I’m promising I won’t freak out if he comes home with a tattoo… okay maybe strike that one off the list! I know I won’t always succeed. I know I won’t always be able to lock away my anxiety, but I’m promising him that I’ll try. I’m doing this hoping that the less of an anxious parent I am, the better my relationship with my son will be and that is now my overriding barometer in everything I do.