It feels like the level of anxiety goes up a few notches when you have kids. All of a sudden, you worry about simple things in life like never before. For example, taking a train in NYC is suddenly terrifying. Images of terrorist attacks or train crashes might go through your head, preventing you from leaving your home! Or um, maybe that’s just me.
Actually, I don’t think it’s only me. Most moms I come across these days have crazy fears and about their kids being harmed. One mom I know hasn’t let her two-year-old girl try nuts yet because she’s too worried she might be allergic. Another mom refuses to let a sitter come near her child because she trusts no one. O.K. yep, that’s me again.
Anxiety is already such a big issue in our world, and many cope with these intense emotions with medication like anti-depressants, which can numb you out. But when you’re a mom, don’t you want to stay alert, cool and calm naturally? I know that’s not always so easy and what martinis at nap time are for. I thought I was going to lose it the other day when my child was in the backseat of our car and we were driving to one of those trampoline parks. One the way, we got lost in the middle of a shady neighborhood in the Bronx, and my heart nearly exploded at a stop sign.
I feel so fortunate that I have a spiritual teacher who is my pseudo-therapist and helps me get out of my head and recognize my crazy fears for what they are: just crazy fears and nothing more. I don’t believe the thoughts that run through my head as much anymore and can chill out more easily, except when I’m lost on the road in the Bronx, of course.
There’s also something called Mindful Parenting, getting a lot of attention. It’s an understanding that can help us stay sane when our anxiety strikes, and can also help us be better parents. Jeanette Sawyer Cohen, PhD is a mom at my son’s pre-school teaches Mindful Parenting. She says, “Mindfulness has been described by Jon Kabat-Zinn as ‘the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment-by-moment.'”
To practice mindful parenting she says you must start with your own mindful practice. This can take the form of a guided meditation with the help of a teacher or an app that helps you slow down and become aware of your present moment experience, including your breath. Or when you’re in the shower or at a red light, notice whether you are thinking about the past or the future and invite your attention back to the present. The more you practice, the easier this becomes.
Being present and watching our thoughts, realizing that most of what comes into our heads are big fat lies, is everything. Here are other tools and things to remember when having uncontrollable anxiety day to day with our kids:
- Breathe. Hillary Clinton swore by a type of breathe work called pranayama breathing. If it calmed her down after the last election, it can calm anyone down. It relaxes the nervous system and reduces stress. I used to do it before my meditation classes years ago and I felt amazing afterward. Here’s a video to learn the technique.
- Understand. Your mind will share a million and one crazy thoughts a day. If any thought comes from your mind and not your gut, it’s pure baloney. But if you are informed from your gut, which stores your true wisdom, that’s a different story. Listen to your gut or intuition every day and not your mind. Understand the difference. Your thoughts create your feelings so if you recognize this truth, you might not let those feelings bother you as much.
- You’re Not Alone. Like I mentioned, every mom I know experiences a heightened anxiety these days when parenting. It’s as normal as blueberry pancakes in the morning. Know you’re in the company of other amazing women and there is nothing wrong with you.
- Be With Your Feelings. Instead of trying to gloss over your anxiety or avoid it. Be with it, feel it and sit with it. Watch it from your deeper self or that gut. If you avoid your feelings, it will persist. Be present with your anxiety, don’t feed into its false narrative and watch it diminish.
Dealing with your increased anxiety as a parent is common and real. We love our babies so much that the thought of anything going wrong is nerve-wracking. Let those fears pass and instead focus on the good times with your little ones every day. In the end, our worst fears are never likely to come to fruition and we are in control of so little. Though, one thing you can do is make sure you have the best GPS app possible in your car! Breathe and drive carefully, mamas.