5 Ways for Parents to Manage Anxiety
Posted on 10 April 2011
“I vow to let go of all worries and anxiety in order to be light and free.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh
I thought I had relinquished anxiety after a few years of mindfulness and meditation. Then I had a baby. It is incredibly easy for us mothers to slide into permanent guilt and anxiety.
After a few minutes of watching my thoughts, I noticed they ran something like this:
“My baby is sleeping too much. Should I wake her? Oh no, she hasn’t slept enough and I woke her. I shouldn’t have woken her, I’ve ruined the day. How am I going to fix this? I can’t fix it. I have no idea. I’m a bad mother. She has no routine. I need to put her into a routine. But it’s too late! How will I do this? I should have done it earlier!”
And so on. Endlessly. Hourly. Daily. It got to the point where I didn’t feel like a caring mother unless I was worrying about something. Then I realized that my anxiety was the only thing that would damage my daughter.
Babies pick up on all of our emotions. That’s why having a child is a great opportunity to grow as a person. We care so much about our children that we don’t want to lumber them with our old habits and negative emotions. We must move past our pointless worries, but how?
I have been trying out a few mindfulness techniques and found them to be extremely helpful.
Prior to this, I was compulsively flicking through endless books by “experts” on sleep, routines, feeding, and general parenting.
None seemed to be right for the individual needs of my child, so I figured it was time to go within and discover the answers for myself.
Here are 5 simple techniques to combat parental anxiety and access intuition:
1. Observe, rather than control the breath.
I began with the discovery that I have never really just observed my breath during meditation. I have been controlling it unconsciously. So I sat down with the true aim of just watching it—and it worked.
As I observed the breath I said to myself, “Let’s see what it does now,” and then, “Let’s see where it goes now.”
It was ridiculously simple, yet so relaxing. It turns out that the breath is naturally peaceful if you leave it alone to do its thing. I am now practicing this technique on a minute by minute basis to combat my anxiety.
When I feel a tightening in my chest or hear my mind yelling about all the things I’m doing wrong, I try to notice my breath (contrary to breathing deeply or controlling the breath).
Where I once took a deep breath when I was anxious, I now simply observe what the breath is doing. I do this numerous times during the day and it reminds me that peace is my natural way of being.
2. Repeat: “I am doing my best and my best is good enough.”
This simple statement reminds me that I care deeply for my child and I am doing my best. I cannot do more than my best. By repeating this affirmation over and over I am able to minimize worry by reminding myself that there is nothing more I can do.
3. Do something kind for someone else.
It’s easy to get caught up in the world of ‘shoulds’ that mothers inhabit with their babies. Dreaming up something kind to do for someone else allows me to expand my thinking to include the rest of the world.
Baking brownies for my friend or giving my partner a massage can often put me in a better head space, allowing answers to emerge unencumbered by worry. Doing kind things for others also makes me feel better about myself, which decreases my anxiety.
Kindness as a self-help tool is vastly underrated.
4. Be mindful of the moment.
As a stay-at-home mom, I find it easy to daydream during what seem like tedious moments. Things improve when I remind myself to observe the moment. When I’m pushing the pram, I try to watch the rhythm of my breath, and notice the breeze, beautiful gardens, and different noises.
This is very difficult as my mind wants to worry about the future, but I feel better if I notice a pretty flower or enjoy the cool breeze on my face. I have also observed that answers come more intuitively when I am mindfully present while I go about my daily routine of feeding, putting to bed, and cleaning the house.
5. Look after your body.
Many mothers concur that it’s easy to neglect yourself when constantly attending to the needs of children. I have found that when I eat well, exercise, and meditate daily I am a better parent.
If I make it my clear intention, I can easily find the time to do all these things in a day as well as look after my baby.
Nurturing yourself often comes down to focusing on small choices—eat a sandwich rather than crackers, push the pram instead of driving the car, or choose to meditate rather than clean the house when your baby sleeps.
I find that when my basic needs are taken care of, the rest of the day falls into place and my anxiety decreases.
I want my child to have all the spiritual tools she needs to create a joyful, fulfilled life. To do this, I have to use them myself.
Photo by Tabitha Blue / Fresh Mommy.
About Geordie Proudfoot
Geordie Proudfoot is an artist, journalist and mother to six-month-old Scarlett. She writes about mindfulness and spiritual techniques for mothers on her new blog mindfulmothers.blogspot.com. Geordie’s blog also includes posts on her passions - art, yoga, food and travel with children.