Updated: Sep 10, 2020
In my previous several posts, I've discussed what I'm calling "mom-xiety", a form of anxiety and stress that is unique to mothers. I've described my own struggles with it (here) , explained what I believe the roots of it are and how to sort through anxious thinking (here), and shared several strategies I have personally used for getting ahead of it--anticipating things that might intensify it and preparing myself for it (here).
There are a couple of things I'd like to say by way of finishing off this series. First, if you find yourself in the throes of baby blues or depression that is hard to shake, or if you find that you've become inordinately obsessive about anything (you refuse to leave the house for fear of germs, you won't allow anyone to touch your child, you must personally prepare all of your child's food, you can't sleep for replaying all the possible dangers your child may encounter, etc.)--please, see your doctor. It might be a good idea to take your husband or a trusted friend along, to share their observations and help you be as frank about this as possible. It could be that you need some kind of medication, at least temporarily. There is no shame in this.
I know that some people feel very strongly that you shouldn't take anti-depressants. I'm not an expert on this. All I can say is that they were extremely helpful for me. At least be willing to see what the doctor says, and ask all of your questions; if he or she recommends them, talk about it, pray about it, sleep on it before you decide.
Next, sync your eyes and your brain. Your brain is able to function on several levels at one time. For example, have you ever found yourself "waking up" at a stoplight? You've been driving for some time without really seeing where you were going because you've been "looking at" the screen in your brain? Or maybe you've been reading something, either to yourself or even out loud, and you have no idea what you just read because your brain was thinking about what you have to do tomorrow? It's really kind of unbelievable that you can clearly formulate and read all of those words without any conscious awareness of it, but we do this all the time.
When you are consumed with anxiety, make your conscious brain "see" what you are actually, physically looking at. See what you are doing, and focus on that; get your brain and your eyes in sync.
When we feel anxious and stressed we often try to work out scenarios on the screen of our brain--we visualize situations and practice conversations in our mind while we are physically tending to our children, fixing dinner, or even trying to engage in another conversation.
When you are filled with an all-consuming anxiety, my advice is to make your conscious brain "see" what you are actually, physically looking at. See what you are doing, and focus on that. Sometimes it's hard work to do this, but it really does help. Sometimes I've had to actually talk to myself: "I'm driving down the expressway, the sun is shining, there is a red car in front of me.", etc., just to force myself to really look at things and not stay in my head.
Last of all, I'd like to share a quote from the late Elisabeth Eliot which has helped me more times than I can say: "Do the next thing." When you have too many things to complete, too many responsibilities to handle, too much grief or anxiety or fear to bear, just do what's right in front of you--just do the "next thing", whatever it may be. Close the dishwasher. Change the diaper. Start the laundry, make the bed, or pour out your cold coffee. You've just finished something, and now you can move on to the next thing.
There is no easy solution to anxiety, no magic wand that will cause it to disappear. But if we
appropriately take care of anything that is clinical,
avoid checking social media and comparing ourselves to unrealistic standards,
do our best to anticipate bumps in the road and plan accordingly,
sort through our anxious thoughts, and
focus on what's right in front of us, while
leaning on the people who love us and are there for us,
we will be much more likely to avoid the massive emotional ups and downs of mom-xiety, and just enjoy life as it comes. Oh, and smile! It really does change your outlook!
Do you have stories of how you've handled mom-xiety? Please share. You'll be a blessing to others.