So, you have anxiety and you’re a parent or about to become one. You might think to yourself, “how does parenting with anxiety even work?” “Will I be able to parent effectively if I’m anxious all the time?“
According to the National Institution of Mental Health, nearly 20% of all adults in the U.S. have some kind of anxiety disorder. It’s a sometimes crappy but relatively common boat to be in.
That being said, there’s a lot that you can do to manage your anxiety and be a great parent with anxiety. Let’s talk about some of the ways to cope.
Disclaimer: None of this is medical advice and if possible, you should always consult with a doctor and/or a therapist for professional advice regarding your mental and physical health. Anxiety affects all of us a bit differently, so some of these ideas may not work for you, but some of them might help you a lot! Try some out and see if any of them can make a difference in your life.
Cut yourself some slack
Being a mom (or a parent in general) is messy and sometimes chaotic. Parenting with anxiety is a lot of the same. I don’t know you, but you’re probably doing the best you can with what you have to work with.
Try to be realistic with yourself about your anxiety. It’s a part of you and it can only get better if you accept that it’s there. The road to healing or treatment starts with acceptance.
No one is perfect and if you’re comparing yourself to the perfect YouTube mom, just know that she probably has a lot of help with her kids, her house, and her career. She’s not superhuman. You are doing great.
Allow yourself to accept and ask for help
Lots of moms who suffer from anxiety disorders were high achievers when they were a bit younger and are not used to accepting help.
By help, I mean any of these things:
- Cleaning, cooking, or childcare
- Someone to vent to
- Accepting any free items or help offered to you
- Assistance with a project at work
- More help from your spouse
Not all of these things can be easy to ask for, especially if you’re an independent person who isn’t used to asking for help.
The truth is, though, that it can be empowering to get the help that you need. To be the best parent you can be, it’s important to recognize that your own feelings matter. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and overstimulated on a daily basis then consider asking for help with the things that are difficult for you right now.
Accept any help that is offered to you without being stressed about it. Chances are, it will make the person who offered the help feel good about being able to assist you. Parenting with anxiety is a learned skill and it’s more than okay to lean on people while you learn.
And if you’re in a position where you can afford childcare or help with cleaning, please never feel guilty about that. Most kids thrive in a good daycare or preschool and you’ll be winning back time and energy to spend more intentionally with your children. It’s a win-win situation!
Connect with other moms with anxiety
It can be refreshing to hear from other people who are working through how to be a good mom with anxiety. Whether it’s a fully-fledged friendship or someone you share frustrations and ideas with here and there, you might benefit from talking to someone who understands where you’re coming from.
Being a mom with anxiety and depression is a unique experience and it can be helpful to remind yourself regularly that you’re not alone and that support exists.
You don’t even have to put on shoes to do this, either! Seriously. Check out the Peanut app (free) and search the forums or groups for anxiety and you’ll find tons of discussions about how moms are facing their mental health. See if there’s someone you can connect with and form a mutually beneficial relationship with!
There are also Facebook groups and other online forums to check out that might help you as a parent with anxiety. Here’s a few I found for you. I’m in one of these!
- Moms with Anxiety
- Moms with Anxiety and Depression
- Anxiety/Depression Support Group for Moms
- Mothers/Women with Depression & Anxiety Support Group
As long as the group you’re in says that it’s a private group (all of the above groups are private at the time of posting) you don’t have to worry about your posts in the group showing up on your friends’ Facebook feeds unless they are also in the group.
Accept the bad or unproductive days
Anyone with anxiety will tell you that they have good days and bad days.
Some days, you’ll do 3 loads of laundry, play with your kids, get lots of work done for your job or business, paint a masterpiece or read 4 chapters of a book, make a delicious dinner for the fam, and take a hike or go white-water rafting or something.
Some days, you barely get out of bed and your kids get chicken nuggets and an apple for lunch. I promise you, it happens to nearly all of us and you’re not alone. Try to limit your self-criticism and negativity on your bad anxiety days. You’re probably doing the best you can and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Don’t be afraid of medication
A big part of the treatment journey when it comes to anxiety can be talking to a doctor who can get you the medication you need. I won’t blab on about this for long, but if you’ve been avoiding medication, consider trying it out because it might help you tremendously.
This was a huge part of how I finally started facing my anxiety. Deciding to take medication that helps you function better and be more present with your family is not a failure and doesn’t make you a weak person. You’re not somehow less-than if you decide to see if meds can help control your symptoms. Parenting with anxiety became significantly easier for me after starting medication.
Explore a new hobby, interest, or business idea
Learning how to paint or play guitar won’t cure your anxiety, but it might help you make more time for yourself and even look forward to the future.
Doing something just for yourself and your own fulfillment can be incredibly healing as a mom with anxiety. Making time for something you enjoy is almost always a mood-booster and apparently, hobbies can help you deal with stress. Parenting with anxiety is obviously stressful, so it’s great to zap a bit of that stress away by focusing on something that interests you and doesn’t involve taking care of other people.
Lots of moms get wrapped up in the day-to-day and forget to make time for themselves. If this is you, don’t feel bad! It’s way too easy to fall into the habit of never taking time for yourself as a mom. Even if it’s 15 minutes a day, try to carve out some time in your day to learn a new skill or practice something you used to love doing.
If you have a spouse, be open with them about your anxiety
Letting your partner know what might trigger your anxiety can help them help you. It will give them more opportunities to help support you, especially if you’ve had a bad day and could use the extra mindfulness from them.
Cluing them in on your anxiety will help them not take it so personally if you do slip up and snap at them because of something that triggered you, which can help your relationship.
If you have sensory issues, which are common with anxiety disorders, make sure you let them know what sets you off. You can avoid lots of needless panicking if your spouse knows what to avoid doing around you.
How does anxiety affect parenting?
At the end of the day, parenting with anxiety is less simple than being a parent without any kind of anxiety disorder. Still, there’s a lot that you can try to ease the burden of parenting with anxiety. Being a mom and having anxiety are not incompatible!
You’ll need to put in some initial effort to determine what helps you manage your anxiety by trying out as many things as you can. With some determination, you can absolutely work toward a more functional version of yourself.
You can be a great parent regardless of your anxiety. In fact, having and addressing your anxiety may even help prepare you to deal with any mental health challenges your children may experience in the future. You’ll be well-prepared to assist them while other parents may have no experience whatsoever.
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