One of my biggest struggles is allowing my anxiety to talk me out of things. For example, I have a weekly standing playdate with a friend and her kids. I look forward to it all week. But without fail, every Tuesday morning, I start to think about all the potential stress and mess that could occur. What if my daughter has an accident while we are there? Or she falls and breaks a bone? What if I have to use the bathroom but can’t find a graceful way to excuse myself? Some of it is mom anxiety and some is more general. But too often, these thoughts cause me to worry over things that have never even happened—and they cause me to find an excuse to cancel last minute.
The worst part is that my anxiety doesn’t stop there! After deciding to stay home instead, I find myself worrying that my friend thinks I am flaky and feeling as if I’m a bad mom for canceling my daughter’s playdate. It’s exhausting. I haven’t been able to make the anxious feelings go away completely, but I have found ways to lessen them. Here are 5 simple changes that help lower my mom anxiety.
1. I limit my caffeine intake.
I love coffee. I need coffee—especially when I receive a 6 a.m. wake-up call from my kids. Motherhood is exhausting and I know I’m not the only mom who has tried to make up for a lack of sleep with a whole lot of coffee. What I didn’t realize was that all the caffeine was contributing to my mom anxiety by making me jittery and edgy. So, although I was “awake,” I was also overstimulated—and overstimulation is known to cause anxious feelings! Now I limit myself to just one or two small cups of coffee (or other caffeinated beverage) in the morning.
2. I drink a lot of water.
We know that drinking water is good for our bodies, however, it can be a real challenge to guzzle more than a glass when you’re chasing kids around all day. I prioritized my water consumption in hopes to see a difference in how I felt throughout my day—and wow, did it change things! At first, it just felt like I was always running for a potty break, but thankfully my body adjusted in a few weeks. According to a study published by the US National Library of Medicine, increasing water intake can help us to avoid the negative effects caused by dehydration like headaches, fatigue, and poor concentration. I keep a 24-ounce bottle of water at my side and set a goal to drink at least three full bottles per day!
3. I avoid food binges.
When motherhood gets especially busy or stressful, I’ll sometimes miss a meal without realizing it—that is until I’m suddenly starving a few hours later. I’ve found that the hungrier I am, the more likely I am to binge on unhealthy foods and overindulge; this type of bingeing is really common. When I eat a lot of junky, sugary foods, I tend to get headaches, bloating, and general fatigue, all of which can heighten anxiety. I now set specific times to eat small (and quick), well-balanced meals to avoid food binges. I also keep healthy on-the-go snacks in my purse, car, and pantry for convenience.
4. I stop scrolling.
Now I’m not saying I never scroll on social media, because I definitely do. Often, I use it as a mini-break from reality. And that’s completely OK to a certain point. But sometimes I can feel myself becoming anxious as I scroll through Instagram or repeatedly check to see if any new emails have come through in the past six minutes. Our culture tells us we need to be connected via devices all the time, but that kind of connection takes us away from being present in the moment. We think about what we don’t have or what others think of us and anxiety can grow. Whenever I start to feel overwhelmed by my device, I allow myself to disconnect and find a calming activity to do instead.
Our culture tells us we need to be connected via devices all the time, but that kind of connection takes us away from being present in the moment.
5. I turn off the TV.
When I feel my anxiety building, I want to run from it. For me, that means watching five episodes of a binge-worthy Netflix show. The problem is that those five episodes don’t actually help me escape. They just put off the anxious feelings until later. Instead of addressing the underlying causes of my mom anxiety, I am just pushing them to the side for a few hours until I finally turn off the TV and head to bed. On the days my mom anxiety is worse than usual, I try to end my night somewhere other than in front of the TV. For me, making (and conquering) to-do lists or journaling about my day helps me to feel less anxious.
Have you made any changes to help lessen your mom anxiety? If so, what were those changes?