Having anxiety when you’re a mom can be really frustrating. Anxiety gets in the way of having fun with your kids, a good night’s sleep, your relationships, and your overall well-being. On a good day, anxiety is a nuisance, an uninvited friend. On a bad day, anxiety is a monster intent on destroying you.
In our counseling practice, we treat women and moms suffering from anxiety disorders. Pregnant, postpartum, and seasoned moms all voice the same sentiment– ANXIETY SUCKS!
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety disorders affect 40 million adults in the United States, and women are 60% more likely to experience an anxiety disorder during their lifetime.
Anxiety might seem like it’s all in your head, but your body feels it as well.
Here is some of what’s going on in your head when you have anxiety:
- Excessive worrying and ruminating
- Catastrophic thoughts, which are basically thoughts in which you imagine the worst thing happening
- Having trouble concentrating and staying focused
- Feeling irritable, stressed, and overwhelmed
While your head is spinning, your body may be experiencing anxiety symptoms like:
- Shortness of breath and/or heart palpitations
- Muscle tension, aches and pains, headaches, migraines
- Trouble sleeping- falling asleep, staying asleep, restless sleep
- Stomach aches, indigestion, constipation, diarrhea
- Feeling restless or uncomfortably keyed up
- Feeling exhausted (sometimes this coincides with that keyed up feeling)
Self-care Helps Regulate Our Emotions
Oftentimes when women come to my counseling center for anxiety treatment, I spend some time assessing their self-care. Why is this? Self-care is part of emotion regulation. Emotion regulation is essentially our ability to control, or regulate, our emotions. (If you want to start thinking about your own self-care, read my post Self-Care: Lessons From Our Moms And Messages To Our Kids.)
Think of it this way: Are you in the driver’s seat of your life or is your anxiety? For example, if anxiety is in the driver’s seat, you might avoid social events because your worries about the event would be so bothersome that you might decide to stay home. Anxiety is controlling you, your decisions, and your behavior. Practicing certain types of self-care help keep your overall system in balance, making you less susceptible to the anxiety monster.
There’s a million and one ways to practice self-care and emotion regulation, but let’s focus on simplest nuts and bolts so you can start preventing your anxiety from taking control.
Side note: I find that my clients that try to tackle these basic elements of self-care are more likely to kick anxiety’s ass when we work together on other anxiety reducing strategies because they are doing things to help regulate their emotions and keep their bodies healthy.
Having Good Sleep “Hygiene”
Sleep hygiene is the habits we need to get a good night’s sleep on a regular basis. If you’ve ever suffered through the sleepless nights after having a baby, you know how messed up, cranky, and inefficient you can feel when you are not getting enough sleep. Start thinking of ways you could improve your sleep habits, like going to bed at a decent and consistent time, avoiding naps, and not watching TV or being on electronics or your phone in bed.
If you put crappy gas in your car and don’t get the oil changed, it isn’t going to run very well. Now, balancing your eating doesn’t mean you have to become an uber health nut (although it’s cool if you are), but simple changes like drinking more water, cutting back on alcohol, sugar, and caffeine, and remembering to eat balanced meals throughout the day can really help regulate your body, emotions, and mind.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, some studies have shown that regular exercise can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression for some people. You don’t have to be all-or-nothing about this, even a little bit of movement can go a long way! Try adding some walks, a weekly yoga class, or a little Just Dance on your Wii in the living room to get that body moving!
I know that I am not the only mom guilty of not going in for my regular check-ups at the doctor’s. If you are due for that annual check-up or if you have been ignoring some physical symptoms or aches and pains, it is time to see your doctor, nurse practitioner, chiropractor, nutritionist, holistic health practitioner, or whoever else is on your health care rotation. Take your vitamins, remember to refill any prescriptions, or do those exercises for your sore back that you’ve been conveniently forgetting about.
Being a mom with anxiety is no picnic, but starting with some simple self-care is a good way to regain control over it. There are many ways to tackle the anxiety monster! If you’d like to schedule with a mental health professional from Mindful Soul Center for Wellbeing, please contact us today for an initial phone consultation!
Michelle Richardson, MSW, LCSW is the owner of Mindful Soul Center for Wellbeing, a counseling center for women in South Jersey. Michelle helps women gain control over their anxiety by teaching tools and strategies to kick the anxiety monster out of the driver’s seat. Check out the awesome groups for women with anxiety offered at Mindful Soul Center for Wellbeing like The Building Balance Skills Group and Mindful Moms!