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Anxiety sucks.

I think we can all agree on that.

So, let’s cut to the chase and figure out what to do about it.

(On the off chance you’re a parent who doesn’t struggle with anxiety, well, that’s awesome. Keep reading anyway. You never know when you’re going to need this stuff.)

You may have a sense of what anxiety is, but you may not realize all the ways in which it can manifest. Anxiety isn’t just about worries. It’s an emotion that can show up in your thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations. You may notice symptoms such as:

  • Persistent worried thoughts
  • Feelings of fear or dread
  • Tension in your body, headaches, or stomach aches

The experience of anxiety can be fairly chronic, lasting over time, or it can come on suddenly, sometimes in response to something that’s happening, and sometimes for no clear reason at all. Either way, anxiety can make us unnecessarily overprotective, hyper-naggy, and far more likely to lose our shit with our kids.

Yep. It’s true. Anxiety is a common and often overlooked cause of parental shit loss. Fortunately, it’s also very treatable.

Before we get into the details, let’s pause for a quick public service announcement to remind you that this information is for informational purposes only, and not intended for diagnostic or treatment purposes. If you’re dealing with anxiety (or think you might be), please talk to a doctor or licensed mental health professional.

The first step is to notice when you’re feeling anxious, and what it looks and feels like for you. Where does the tension live in your body? What are the worried thoughts that keep popping up? How do you feel? This may be hard to figure out at first but stick with it. You’ll get there.

The next and crucial step is to cut yourself some slack. Try not to freak out or beat yourself up. We are living and parenting in an age of anxiety, and many of us are genetically loaded to freak out whenever possible. So please, go easy on yourself. This stuff isn’t easy.

From there, do what you can to disrupt the symptoms you’re having.

If your body is feeling tense, move it or stretch it. Touch your toes, strike a pose, jump up and down, or take a few trips up and down the stairs.

If your thoughts are feeling out of control, do what you can to simplify them. Count to 10 over and over again. Repeat a prayer or mantra that is meaningful for you. Sing your favorite song. It doesn’t really matter what you think about it as long as it’s something that’s not making you more anxious. The anxious thoughts will sneak their way back in – don’t worry about it. Just go back to your counting or singing.

If you’re not sure what to do, focus on your breathing. You don’t have to do anything fancy (although you’re certainly welcome to if you’d like). Just breathe and notice that you’re breathing and as soon as your mind wanders or the irritating thoughts come back, come back to your breath. Eventually, it will calm you down.

Managing anxiety isn’t just about what you do in tough moments. It’s also about how you do (or don’t) take care of yourself the rest of the time. You know what I’m talking about, so please take a moment to seriously consider whether you’re doing what you need to do. Are you:

  • Getting enough sleep on a regular basis?
  • Moving your body every day?
  • Taking it easy with the alcohol, sugar, and caffeine?

I know it’s not always possible to be perfect all the time, but it’s worth doing the best you can as often as you can. And when you can’t, when you really, really can’t, cut yourself some slack and get back on that horse. This kind of self-care will reduce your anxiety, which will make your life and parenting easier and way more fun.

Finally, consider talking to a licensed mental health professional. A good therapist can help you identify the triggers of your anxiety and come up with an individualized treatment plan for you.

 

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