You’ve got a million things to do. Dishes need washed. Laundry needs folded. That project for work is already three days late. And, to top it all off, your kid is running around screaming like the Energizer Bunny. That familiar feeling takes hold; you can’t breathe, you’re sweaty, your hands are shaking and your head is pounding. Now is not the time for an anxiety attack. Unfortunately, you don’t get to pick and choose when your anxiety rears its ugly head. Here are some tips for parenting with anxiety:
Most everyone alive has experienced an anxiety attack at least once in their life. It’s the minds natural reaction to an overly stressful situation. But, if you’re one of the millions, like myself, that suffer from an anxiety disorder, it can feel like it’s over-taking your life. Add a rambunctious child to that mixture and it can seem unbearable.
My kiddo is high-strung, at best. She’s hyper, loud, independent and overly-opinionated at times. She’s not a bad child, by any means, just a spirited one. She’s functioning at 100% from the moment she opens her eyes at 8AM until she crashes out at 10. She will talk your head off, at 90 miles an hour; try to accomplish as many activities as she can in the hours she’s awake, and usually wreak havoc on my living room in the process. It’s a comical thing to witness sometimes, really. But, I also have anxiety disorder. So, what can be cute and funny one day can cause me to feel like ripping my hair out while I cry in my bed the next. I don’t get to choose when and what things make me anxious or trigger an attack, nature does that for me.
It took me a lot of time, and several mistakes, to figure out how to parent this wonderfully enthusiastic child without it costing me my sanity and mental health, or her lovely personality. Sometimes, simply facing the day was a daunting task. But, I’m here to tell you, there’s hope. You can love and care for that crazy kid, without breaking their spirit, and still keep yourself healthy. You just have to figure out what works best for you.
Above all else, never be afraid to ask for help. Whether that mean asking your spouse, family member or friend to babysit for an hour or going to the doctor to seek medical attention; there is no shame in addressing a problem. Mental health in general always seems to come with a stigma surrounding it. No one wants to be labeled as “crazy”. People often feel that a mental disorder is a sign of weakness; something better swept under the rug and dealt with only in the privacy of your own home. But, you would never expect anyone to sit at home with the flu, refusing to seek care because they’re ashamed. So, why would your mental health be any different? Your first step is breaking down those barriers and seeking help when you need it.
Always remember that your anxiety is not your child’s fault. They may be driving you nuts with their questions and you may feel like you’ll pop your top if they drag one more toy into the middle of your living room floor. This is when you have to remind yourself that they’re a child. Things like this happen. They’re only doing things that come naturally to all children; curiosity, playfulness and lots and lots of energy. They’re never trying to make you anxious. Fall back on your peaceful parenting techniques, and never allow your anxiety to turn you into the type of parent that you don’t want to be.
Figure out what works for you. What calms you down? What triggers your anxiety? What things can you do, or avoid, to better the situation? It’ll take time, and some experimenting; but, you’ll get there. I, personally, kept a small journal, jotting down things that I noticed triggering my anxiety and made a list of the things that seemed to help me feel better. Things like taking a bath, taking a walk or stopping long enough to read a few pages of a good book. Do these things always work? No. Sometimes I still end up huddled and hiding in my bed. But, for me, it’s a good place to start before I find myself in the throes of a panic attack.
If your regular techniques fail you, learn the best way to ride the attack out. Some tips include:
- Take a “time out”
- Take several long, deep breaths
- Recognize the symptoms and remind yourself that they’re only a direct effect of the panic attack. You’re not dying, even if you may feel that way.
- Re-focus on something calming
Things will always go wrong in life. Sometimes that attack will hit you like a ton of bricks regardless of what you do. Sometimes, it even happens in the middle of the grocery store. (Been there. Done That.) You’re only human. We’re all only humans with our own set of beautiful flaws. Ride that attack out and love that energetic baby the best way you know how. Tomorrow will always be a new day.