Are you an anxious mother or feel you worry too much? Do you feel you worry too much, but aren’t sure if it’s “normal”? Here is how to start digging in and figuring out what’s going on in your mind.
Every hour, all night long.
That is how often I got out of bed to check my babies were still breathing. 10 pm, 11 pm, midnight, and on until morning. If I came into semi-consciousness at all, bam. Try as I might, I couldn’t go back to sleep without checking. I’d never have forgiven myself if something happened to them and I simply rolled over in the night.
I would get out of a warm, soft bed, walk down the hall, and as carefully as can be put my hand on their tiny chests. The concentrated act of trying not to wake them up woke me up. If it was winter, well, forget it. The two minutes of frigid night air was enough to keep me awake 20 minutes before falling back asleep and doing it again an hour later.
But this is normal right? Because mothers worry?
Well, yes. But no. Yes and no?
Anxiety is going around. In the past week I’ve had enough comments and emails from readers wondering if they just worry too much or if they have anxiety. It’s a fine line. One is a bit of a nuisance and the other can be an affliction.
But how do you know?
You probably just worry a bit much if the following things can consistently and successfully make you forget your worries or fears for a long while.
- ice cream
- Netflix binges
- chatting with a friend
- hot tea
- a fun day with family
If you can push away your worries by binge watching Gilmore Girls with some chocolate chunk ice cream, then it’s probably not anxiety. Why? Because anxiety comes from deep within and is not calmed by surface band-aids such as food or fun.
In fact, anxiety says, “I don’t care about food or fun, leave me alone.”
You see, nothing could have stopped me from checking on my babies. Not food nor fun nor any recitation of a Bible verse to calm myself. Oh no. Calm only came knowing they were okay. It was compulsive. If I physically stopped myself from checking on them it was mental torment.
Symptoms of “Mild” Anxiety or Worry
- You have recurring worries, but you can generally ignore them.
- You tend towards butterflies, feeling nervous, and even sweaty, but it doesn’t stop you from doing what you need to do.
- You aren’t debilitated by panic attacks and you haven’t become fearful of your actual anxiety symptoms. (source)
Basically, if you tend towards worry that isn’t necessarily anxiety.
Worry can be managed and controlled.
Anxiety controls you.
Does it come at a certain time?
Every day at 5 p.m. I felt a dark cloud. It was around the time my husband left for work. I thought I was a super freak alien, but couple that with the frequent night waking and pregnancy hormones, I knew I should see someone. Turns out, there is a term for that feeling… dread and doom.
My counselor helped me see it was situational. I felt dread and doom when he was leaving for the evening and I had to do all the nightly routines alone. I changed when I cooked and tweaked our routine until it was less stressful, and that helped. Ask yourself these questions.
Does it come at a certain time? If so, what is happening then?
Is there something I can do to permanently change that situation? (stressed about cleaning, can you get a cleaner?)
Can I enlist others for help? (asking friends to organize meal delivery if you’re postpartum, for example)
Difference between Anxiety and Fear
Fear relates to a tangible circumstance. You are fearful if you think your child is in imminent danger. You fear for your life if a mugger is threatening you. You fear death if you are diagnosed with a disease. Fear is our bodies reaction to something we can pinpoint.
Anxiety is a more nebulous feeling or chronic sense of worry or apprehension (source), and often the person cannot pinpoint the source. Sweats, butterflies, even panic attacks can come and you have no idea what brought them on! Or, you are worried about the possibility of an event happening, even though you have no cause to think such a thing could occur.
Can you Pinpoint the Root?
Often anxiety sets in due to a stressful circumstance. My anxiety counselor said of 10 major stessors for women, I’d recently experienced or was experiencing 6. I’d recently gotten married, was having relationship struggles, moved homes, moved overseas, had two babies, and was pregnant.
Can you determine when you started having these anxious feelings? Is it money trouble? Is it relationship struggles? Is it the weight of day to day caring for a child with special needs? If you can pinpoint the root of your feelings, the way forward is much clearer.
Easy ways to treat mild anxiety
I truly pray, friend, that your anxiety is mild. That it’s treatable with some situation or habit tweaking and some new additions to your routine. The good news is there are things you can do at home to get rid of some of those negative worry and anxious feelings.
- Exercise. This is probably the most important way you can reduce anxiety at home. Exercise releases endorphins which calm your body, as well as using up the adrenaline that would be released when you’re feeling stressed (source). This personality, more than any other, must exercise.
- Routine. Establish consistent sleep times and stick with them. A body used to stress is on overdrive, and needs relaxation at regular intervals. The more stressed you are, the more your body starts to spiral so at a basic level (diet, sleep, and exercise) establishing healthy habits is key.
- Positive self-talk. I’m not talking about irrational or weird self-hypnotism. There is power in our words, and replacing some negative talk with positive can help. Replace mental phrases like “I can’t do this” to “This is hard, but I can do it.“
When Should I See a Counselor?
After a few months of hourly night waking, dread and doom, and other horrible fears, I asked to see a counselor. My counselor suggested, and I agreed, it was likely a result of big life changes coupled with intense pregnancy hormones since I’d had babies close together.
In fact, as soon as I delivered my baby I was back to normal me.
But in that time I’d also hired someone to deep clean the house. And I’d filled the freezer with cooked meals. Not to mention a few other things that took some of the homemaking stress off my shoulders. In the end, I was able to manage it until the biggest root (pregnancy hormones) was no longer a factor.
But only because my anxiety counselor saw a clear picture. She heard my story unbiased. She told me my expectations were too high, unrealistic, and damaging to my own mental health. She said I needed to stop worrying what “should” be done and start doing what was best for us. In short, I owed her my sanity. She was worth it ten times over.
And these days? I’ve added two more children to our family. But instead of waking up hourly, we all sleep like babies.
Here’s a book I came across that may help you. It’s a workbook so you could go through it at your own pace. This is a much cheaper alternative than counseling. If your worry or anxiety is mild this is probably a great start.
I’ve created a free email series just for you! If you have a little one aged 1 to 8, this series will help transform your home environment. No, that is not a joke or false claim. You can let your kids express their emotions without raising back talkers who meltdown at the drop of a hat or throw a tantrum every time they are unhappy with something. After this free email series:
- your child will stop throwing tantrums for attention
- you’ll know how to validate and affirm your child’s emotions
- you’ll feel more in control of the atmosphere of your home and will be able to operate out of a place of love, not frustration
Click here to sign up for my free email series or simply click on the image below.
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