My heart was racing and my pulse pounding. I could feel my lungs constricting in the face of fear. I didn’t know what to do or where to turn. All because of a bear.
The bear was big. It was ugly. It smelled pretty good and felt soft in my hand. It was towels. A basket of freshly laundered towels. My body, however, was reacting as if I was facing a bear. My heart rate was 111. I felt out of breath. I wanted to run and hide or yell at my kids.
Unfortunately for those of us that live with anxiety this reaction to a normal situation is altogether too frequent. In some situations, like a real bear attack, this sympathetic response of our nervous system is appropriate. However, most of the time this fight-or-flight response is debilitating in the life of a mother.
I wish the medication I am on worked 100% of the time. I wish that I could shut it off when it occurs. I wish my brain chemicals were not so messed up. Mostly I wish that when my body thinks there is a bear it didn’t freak out all over my kids who often “bear” the brunt of my emotional response of anger and irritation.
I am not able to anticipate or stop when my body says to flee or fight but here are some things that have helped me be a better mom when it does happen.
- Stop and acknowledge it to my kids. “Hey kids, mom’s body is freaking out. I don’t mean what I say and it might be best to avoid me for a little bit until it’s over and my emotions are back under control.” This acknowledgement helps them to know that it’s not their fault that I’m screamy. If hormones are involved (my anxiety is worse during PMS) then we’ve discussed them and how they are affecting me. If I need to, which usually I do, I apologize for what I’ve already said or done.
- Exercise. I mentioned in this post endorphins are released when we exercise. Endorphins are “uppers” meaning they lift our mood. Recently when my brain chemicals are telling me they are out of order, I’ve started moving. Because I am a SAHM this means that my kids get involved in the moving and that is good for us on some many different levels.
- Admit it and stop shaming myself. Recently my husband, because love, offered to spend the money on counseling for me. However, I had to remind him and myself that at least for me anxiety doesn’t have external roots. It is a chemical thing, which is not my fault. If there was an external cause, it still wouldn’t be my fault. Having anxiety, like having rheumatoid arthritis or migraines, is not something I wished for myself or something I wanted. It, like my other conditions, is a cross I am bearing and is not something that I just am not doing enough for. Shame only makes the problem worse. If you have anxiety, it’s not your fault.
- Call it quits. I finished my laundry that day but instead of powering through another task I called it quits on my mom jobs. I texted a photo of my pulse to my husband, asked him to get pizza for super and plopped myself onto the couch and spent an hour reading out loud to my kids (and myself). It was the best cure. My heart rate started to go down and my breathing slowed. By the time Shawn came home with food, I was much calmer and able to help with dinner tasks and smile.
- Self-care. Taking care of my needs are vital to my anxiety. I make sure I am taking my medication regularly. I am eating better. I am taking my vitamins. I am exercising. I get a massage regularly. I am reading for pleasure. I have been getting almost 8 hours a sleep every night. I’m finding that these things matter. If you suffer from anxiety, start taking care of you better.
- Turn off the electronics. I had a week where I felt my anxiety was taking over my life. Then I remembered a persuasive speech I heard in regards to technology use benign related to increase anxiety and depression (among other things). I had been staying up late Netflixing and quit this habit. Almost immediately I could tell the difference. If you have anxiety, limit your time playing games on your phone or watching shows on your tablets. The research is there and I can give you first hand testimony of the difference it makes.
- Curl up in a ball. Sometimes, honestly, this is the best answer. To get away for a bit and give in to the pity party. To nap and take deep breaths in the quiet. In that time, I can pray and spend time unloading my thoughts to the One who knows this was the path I would travel.