5 Tips to Manage Anxiety as a Mom by Nicole Vega, LMSW | CHC
One of my passions as both a clinician and health coach is helping mothers overcome their feelings of anxiety. In society today it can be difficult to navigate life, even if you are not a parent, without some underlying feelings of anxiety. It has been my experience as a mother myself and as a clinician, that much of the anxiety we experience as parents comes from a place of exhaustion, guilt, poor nutrition, and hormonal imbalances.
As with anything in life, there is no quick fix when it comes to anxiety, especially severe anxiety, however, there are many daily activities you can begin today that will help to reduce and even eliminate symptoms.
Grand Rapids, MI
Tip #1: Take a Time Out.
Taking a “time out” will look slightly different for everyone as it could be something as simple as going to the store alone for an hour, going to a yoga class, taking a walk around the neighborhood etc. The common denominator, however, is that this is something you do without kids. You do not need to necessarily take this time to be alone but it is something that is done completely for you as a person, and does not require that you wear your mom hat in any way. What I will often suggest for those who are fueled by spending quality time with others, is that they go out and enjoy a date night, a girls night, or an activity with other people that creates a stress-free zone for them. The most important thing with this tip is that you actually do it, not say you will do it. A happy and healthy mama takes breaks to recharge, plain and simple.
Tip #2: Find Movement You Love.
My second tip is finding movement that you enjoy, not that you avoid. I have found that so often after children there is an expectation for mothers to get back to their pre-baby bodies and find movement that is effective, rather than enjoyable. What I want to say to you today is that these two are not mutually exclusive. You can find movement you love that will change your body and help to decrease anxiety. There is no one size fits all when it comes to exercise, nor is there when it comes to diet either. However, for your body to truly feel the positive effects of movement it is crucial that it is something you enjoy and remain consistent with. I will often encourage mothers to try yoga.
You may wonder why I suggest that particular form of movement, well primarily because it works. I do not suggest things that I have not researched, tried, or witnessed personal testimonials to their effectiveness, and with yoga I have experienced all three of these. Like with anything though, there will be a period of trial and error where you will need to find what works best for you. The most important thing is that you get your body moving!
Tip #3: Drink lots of Water.
Now before I go any further into my tips for decreasing anxiety as a busy mom, I want to mention I did not put these tips in a specific order, or an order of importance. I believe all these tips are vital and that individuals benefit most when they use all of them daily. My third tip however involves drinking water. Sounds really simple right? Well, the good news is, it is simple! The bad news is that many people do not realize how vital this is for their health and their mood, and do not drink nearly enough water on a daily basis. Did you know that symptoms of dehydration can be mistaken for anxiety? In severe cases of dehydration people may even feel as though they are having a panic attack. Remaining adequately hydrated allows your body to function at its best and assists with major processes such as digestion, regulation of blood pressure and heart rate, as well as impacting your cognitive processes to name a few! So if you want to avoid the anxiety that often comes with dehydration, make drinking water throughout the day a non-negotiable.
Tips #4: Eat a Blood Sugar Balancing Diet.
As I mentioned earlier I believe all the tips I am giving you are vital for decreased anxiety, however, if you can only manage to implement one starting today I would encourage you to focus on cleaning up your plate. Nutrition is a key component to improved mental functioning, whether you are looking to reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, etc. It is what you put on your fork that is going to affect every area of how you body functions on a daily basis, so it is important that we choose health sustaining foods. Since I know from experience how difficult it can be to make dietary changes, especially as a busy mom, I am going to make this as easy for you as possible today. So rule number one: start getting rid of processed junk. Processed foods affect your body like a drug and can lead to all sorts of imbalances that in turn can create feelings of anxiety and/or depression. Since I know getting rid of processed foods is not easy, I encourage clients to start small by getting rid of one unhealthy food item a week from their pantry and plate. I also encourage clients to stay at the perimeter of the store when shopping, and to fill their carts with as much FRESH REAL FOOD as possible. If this seems too overwhelming as a busy mom, then perhaps seeking out a health coach is the next step. I offer free 15 minute discovery sessions to discuss whether or not health coaching might be right for you.
Tips #5: Develop a Gratitude Practice.
You may have heard the expression “gratitude changes everything” and I am here to tell you that this phrase is completely true. I am a true believer in this practice because I have seen it work in my life and in the lives of my clients.
The real magic with gratitude is that it can be implemented immediately with no cost involved, no training, and no real time commitment other than what you choose to invest into this practice.
So why does it work? It works because it causes you to shift your mindset from a place of negativity to a place of focusing on the good, and most of us need to be intentional with finding “the good” in things, as our natural inclination tends to be a focus on the negative aspects of life. I often encourage people to start a gratitude practice by simply listing 5 things before they go to bed that they are grateful for from their day. For some, it helps to physically list and write down these things. The nice thing about documenting the things you are grateful for is that you can go back later and review them, creating a nice gratitude journal. This practice will change the way you see your life, as well as, how you see others.
In conclusion, many of these tips may seem simple or even “too easy” and honestly most of them are. The difficulty with these tips is actually choosing to implement them into your daily life. As busy moms, we are often called to wear many hats and pulled in different directions, all while running on little sleep. That alone easily explains why many of us have experienced bouts of anxiety at times, and for some of us even on a daily basis. The good news, however, is that while there is no perfect way of doing things, there is a way that works best for you.
If you are in a season in your life where you feel you may need some assistance with navigating your role as a mom, while still remaining true to who you are and your passions, utilizing a health coach could be a good first step in finding your best balance. For those of you who are experiencing more severe symptoms or difficulties, perhaps seeing a therapist is the next step in your journey.
I will support you, no matter your situation.
Nicole Vega LMSW is a Licensed Therapist and Certified Health Coach. She can help you through the therapy process or through health coaching. Reach out to Nicole today at [email protected] or call 616-200-4433.