Please enjoy this guest post by fellow blogger Erica Svendsen from Bold Truth Mama.
For sufferers of anxiety, parenting has extra challenges. The stress of handling disobedience from your kids can feel like a meaningful threat. Your palms sweat, your heart races, the room can feel like it’s closing in on you. Everyday tasks like a trip to the grocery store or meeting with a teacher can cause anxiety to go through the roof.
A parent with anxiety must have a full toolbox of coping mechanisms to keep life manageable.
The first line of defense must be focusing on the breath. Deep breathing means not only taking a full breath in but holding that breath for the count of three. Be sure to exhale the entire breath out.
You can also use meditation. Meditation has given me a strong habit of staying calm during anxious moments. It gives me practice at staying still. Meditation lets me practice witnessing my thoughts go by without attaching to any of them. Because of this, I can do the same with overwhelming moments of anxiety. I can anchor down into my breathing, focusing only on myself. I breathe in the stillness as the world around me passes by for a moment, regaining my calm. Again, breathing is a key coping skill!
Losing your temper: a scary side effect of having anxiety. Moms don’t like to talk about this, but it happens. We then have extra mom guilt, leading to more anxiety…you see where I am going.
When you feel anxious, the fight or flight mechanism designed to keep you safe is on overdrive. For an anxiety sufferer a slight stress like a screaming kid can feel the same as a lion trying to eat you. Bearing this in mind, letting your kid be mad that he isn’t get his way for three minutes while Mom takes a moment is good. These timeouts become a crucial survival skill.
Preventative time outs are a coping skill of their own for any anxiety sufferer. If you know a given situation stresses you out, plan accordingly. For years, I had panic attacks every time I went grocery shopping. My anxiety was through the roof as I approached the checkout line. I have no idea what it was about the process of getting in line and paying, but it caused me to have a meltdown every time. My heart would race; my palms would get sweaty; I would sometimes even get vertigo and chest pains. It was terrible. I learned to park my shopping cart near the restroom before I checked out. I would go into the bathroom and splash cold water on my face. I would meditate in the stalls for two or three minutes. Once I had it together, I would get into line and things always seemed to go a lot smoother. Years of practice has left me doing fine in the grocery store.
Pay attention to your body for cues. Notice if every time your anxiety gets the better of you you’re pulling your shoulders up to your ears. Do you clench your jaw when you’re stressed out? If you can make a mental note of how your body feels when anxiety is high, you’ll know what to look for in the future. Soon, you’ll be able to catch yourself before anxiety wins. I’m clenching my jaw, I need to step outside, my shoulders are tense again, time to talk some deep breaths, and so on.
If my child needs something from me while I’m experiencing a feeling of anxiety or panic, it’s going to be a lot harder. There’s no pressing pause on your kid. It was a lot harder when my son Jack was a baby and young toddler. At times I had to put him in a safe space and step out onto the porch for two or three minutes to catch my breath. I learned not to feel guilty about it, because it’s better that he has a calm mom who’s not going to snap.
Sometimes, no matter how hard you try to use your coping skills, your kids are going to make things worse.
They may throw a fit in public or decide to be uncooperative all day long. When this happens, you’ve got to level with your kids. Tell them mom’s stress is up to the ceiling right now, and she needs a timeout to calm down. Ask them to please cooperate before you cry. Kids do have feelings. Sometimes, they need reminding that there are others on the other side of their behavior.
More than anything the key is practice, practice, practice. Habits take time to build. Don’t feel guilty when you over react to anxiety – that’s one of the symptoms of anxiety. Feeling bad for experiencing anxiety and the symptoms that come with it is like feeling guilty for catching a cold. You didn’t ask for it and you’re doing your best to be well.
Just remember: practice the coping skills you remember whenever you can. Practice them when you’re not feeling anxious, so they become second nature. Tell your family you’re stepping outside for a moment when you’re not upset. Meditate regularly. Practice deep breathing whenever the thought occurs to you. As you strengthen your coping skills you will feel less anxious and have more time to enjoy parenting.
Erica Svendsen is a car-free bicycle enthusiast, nonfiction writer and homeschooler of an adventurous four-year-old. She loves to cook read and is currently trying to learn the ukulele. You can find her on her blogs; Iddy Biddy Works of Love and Bold Truth Mama. You’ll also find her over on Facebook,Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.