As I always say, anxiety is a B@%#!
Anxiety when you’re a parent? If you know, you know?
As a lifelong anxiety struggler, I’ve worked hard to get my anxiety under control. But here’s the thing, even though I’ve learned how to manage it, it’s still there, always lurking in the background. It’s an extra thing I deal with every day, and it takes effort to keep it under control.
As a parent, there are already plenty of challenges. And having this extra thing to manage on top of everything else can be exhausting.
I’m also very aware of how my anxiety affects my family. When I’m feeling agitated or when I make decisions based on my anxiety’s “needs,” my family experiences my anxiety too.
I’m constantly having to ask myself: Is this a “me” problem or a “them” problem?
Take curfew for example.
I am completely in support of an 8 p.m. curfew for my 17-year-old teenager. My daughter, not so much.
So I have to ask myself: Whose problem is this? It’s about safety, so I want to say it’s about her. But if I’m honest, it’s a “me” issue. I want an 8 p.m. curfew for my teenager just to help calm my own anxiety about her being on the road at night. This arrangement would be a lot better for my own personal sanity.
Another issue I have about curfew? I need my sleep. I literally can’t go to bed until she’s home. Yep. Another “me” issue. Not being able to go to bed is on me. (Luckily, if I desperately need sleep, my husband will humor me and sleep on the couch near the front door. That way, when I wake up in the middle of the night, I’ll know if she’s home safely based on whether he’s back in bed or not.?)
Yes, technically there’s a risk to her being out past dark, but for many parents it’s an acceptable risk. For me, it could mean hours trying to manage my anxiety, calming my racing heart, going through all the possible horror situations. It’s torture. An 8 p.m. curfew would be so much better for my own sanity.
But again, this is a “me” problem. I owe to me kids:
To be fair and objective about the expectations I place on them.
To not project “me” issues onto them.
Not an easy feat. Although I’m far from perfect, I try hard to control anxiety, and doing my best is the best I can do.
But it’s so important we do manage ourselves. Because when we lose it, and yell, or start making random threats based off our own fears, we lose our kids’ trust.
So here are a few tips for managing anxiety as a parent:
Awareness. Having awareness that I’m feeling anxious is huge. We act in ways that may be harsh, thinking that we are justified. But if we pause when we’re feeling on edge and take inventory of how we’re feeling, we may recognize it’s not the kids (well, maybe it’s them, too ?) but often it’s our own fears and anxious thoughts influencing our decisions.
Permission to be anxious. I used to try to push through my anxiety. Now if I’m having a particularly anxious day, I accept it and adjust my schedule and expectations accordingly. Yes – I still need to feed my kids and get them to school. But how can I make this easier on myself? I can drive them to school in my PJs, I can ask a friend to pick them up, I can skip the grocery store — I mean, we can still meet our legal requirements to feed our children by ordering a pizza.
Self-care. Related to permission to be anxious, after I’ve minimized my schedule for the day, I then focus on TLC for myself. I’ve found that accepting I’m having a rough day and being kind to myself helps the anxiety pass quicker and minimizes the damage I do to my relationships by not pushing myself beyond my coping ability.
What might self-care look like?
Stay-at-home parents: It’s OK to read or veg out in front of the TV for the day if that’s what you need. Let go of some volunteer projects. Skip the PTA meeting. Work on a home project you’ve been putting off that would feel good to finish. Push off the errands for a few days. It’s teacher appreciation week and your kid will be devastated if they don’t have a gift? Ask a friend for help. Order it online. Change your plans for a fancy gift and pick up a gift card instead.
Working parents: Delegate a project. Take a mental health day. Walk at lunch rather than sit at your desk. Reorganize your to-do list for the day so it’s more manageable and enjoyable. Order lunch delivery. Skip the grocery store on the way home, order a pizza, and put on your pajamas as soon as you get home.
Is anxiety an issue for you? If so, I’d love if you’d comment below and let me know the No. 1 way it has affected you as a parent.