The hard work and unpredictability that makes parenting so rewarding can also cause a great deal of anxiety. Often us parents do not look anxious on the outside, but if you were to take a glimpse into our minds you would see the continual looping of worry thoughts and catastrophizing.
Some common signs that you might be a parent struggling with anxiety are:
Anticipatory Anxiety- This is finding it nearly impossible to keep thoughts in the present. If you struggle with anticipatory anxiety your mind is consumed with worries about future events. Your thoughts often resemble these:
"If my daughter had trouble with 1st grade I can not even imagine how she will survive 2nd grade. Better yet, how is she ever going to graduate from high school. I am so scared she will not be able to be successful in life."
"I feel like my son is a follower among his peers. I know he is still in elementary school, but I worry about how he will handle the peer pressure in middle and high school. I often worry about him getting in the wrong crowd and getting hooked on drugs."
Catastrophizing- Irrational thinking that involves imagining and believing that something is far worse than it actually is. It is only natural to want to protect our kids from what might happen or try to make sure nothing bad does happen. As funny as it sounds, we actually feel comforted sometimes when we think up the worst-case scenario and then focus our worry on that.
We think somehow if we just worry enough, we can control things and make them right.
But instead, this can cause extreme thinking, stir up our own fears, imaginations and project these thoughts and feelings onto our children.
"I always seem to image the worst. When I talk to my child about not crossing a busy road without an adult, my brain immediately goes to the worst case scenario of my child dying in a horrible hit and run accident."
Here are some simple ways to to manage your anxiety:
Make a To-Do List
Ruminating on worries can cause lots of stress. Clear your mind by making a to-do list. Put down everything that needs to be done into your phone or onto a sheet of paper, and as you write them down, visualize yourself removing this task from your mind onto the list.
Watch Your Language
Many times parents believe things will get better when their children move on to the next phase of their maturity. However, the truth is that the worry will continue until you change your pattern of thought. To do this, watch the language you use to describe things. Don’t use phrases such as, “this will be a disaster if I don’t get it done on time” or “I’ll die of embarrassment if I forget.”
Also change thoughts of “I have to” to “I want to”. For example, instead of saying “I have to sign the kids up for karate” say, “I want to sign the kids up for karate because I know they’ll love it.”
Get Some Fresh Air
There’s nothing like some fresh air and sunlight to ease anxiety. Put your baby in a stroller and go for a walk around the block, to a neighbor’s house, or a local park. Take your kids to an outdoor mall or sit on the patio of a frozen yogurt shop and share a frozen treat. You can also try your local library. Some libraries also have outdoor patio areas where you can read with your kids.
Practice Mindfulness Exercises
If your anxiety is difficult to control, try deep-breathing from your belly. While you do this, concentrate on five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste. This can help calm you when you’re feeling a panic or anxiety attack start to arise. I often recommend the app Headspace.
Challenge your Anxious Thoughts
When your child is on the balcony and your brain goes straight to a tragic outcome, that is catastrophizing. Anxiety takes advantage of our vivid imagination sometimes, and it's not beneficial to yourself or your kids. Similarly, if you are communicating to your child that you will not allow her to cross a busy road alone to get to a friend's house, you don't need to scare her with extreme scenarios. Instead of telling her; "I don't want to find her lying dead in the street." (focus on her safety in smaller and more realistic terms.) Imagining the best outcome rather than the worst one is one way to manage negative anticipations and control tendencies to catastrophize.
Use Your Support Network
Call your friends or family to chat or ask for advice. It may also help to vent with a Facebook parenting group or other online message board. You can also call your therapist and make an appointment and work through your challenges.
Try these tips to control and cope with your anxiety, and enjoy the time with your children free from worry.
Counseling for Anxious Parents in the Houston, TX Area
If you find your anxiety to be impacting your ability to be a happy, successful parent, it might be time to speak with a professional who can help. As a Houston, TX family therapy clinic, Brittani Persha Counseling specializes in helping parents cope with their own mental health is an important part of what we do. We provide individual counseling, parent-child therapy, parent counseling & even relationship counseling services. Please contact Brittani Persha Counseling today to set up a free 20 minute consultation. We will talk about your anxiety and concerns to figure out which therapy services might be the most helpful for you and your situation. You don't have to continue to be anxious. Call today and begin anxiety treatment.