The hashtag #wearenotafraid is powerful. It draws us together, it says we are defiant. But for many of us it’s hard to achieve and that’s because we suffer from anxiety. It doesn’t make us weak, forceless or ‘un-London-like’. If anything it’s our empathy and our abundant ability to love those around us that make it difficult to fit into this particular hashtag club.
Anxiety has long been a part of my life but as a parent I find it manifests ten fold. After my oldest has had her story and the baby has fed herself to sleep, cramped places, fast busses, park strangers, mystery illnesses, sudden tsunamis, professional embarrassment, freak accidents, losing loved ones, terrorist atrocities all jostle and compete for space in my head. And it’s exhausting.
On the days when I’m ready to fight, I am able to comfort myself in a number of ways and in a slight departure from my usual fact based, London-centric posts I wanted to share them with you.
The #wemaybealittleafraidbutwearestillbadassmotherswhowillfighttheworldandhisbrotherforourchildren club…
Ten ways to deal with anxiety as a parent
-Avoid the news
If you suffer from anxiety, 24 hour news exposure is not good for your brain. Don’t worry about being uninformed just stay away from the press; whether that means deleting the news app on your phone or avoiding the metro on your commute as if it were the creepy stranger with the smelly armpits and the tuna sandwich.
I have also found some success in changing my algorithms on Facebook (if you’re not willing to go offline all together). You can do this by never clicking on sad news stories and unfollowing any person or group that adds fuel to your anxiety fire (you don’t need to unfriend to do this). There are some more great tips on how you can do this here.
-Avoid negative people
Whilst we’re on the topic of avoidance, you can practise this in the real world as well as online. If you’re having a down day don’t feel bad to say no to plans with the friend you know isn’t in the frame of mind themselves to lift you. Equally, don’t worry if sometimes you are the friend who cannot go for coffee without sharing your husband/debt/demon child related stress. We all have our down days and there’s no harm in recognising this and taking the steps we need to. Just put on your life jacket first and on a strong day make an effort to spread positivity.
Meditation is a wonderful way to unwind, lower your shoulders and tune back in with your positive mind set. I used to doubt the ‘wishi-washiness’ of meditation. That was until I found guided meditations on youtube that literally guided me slap bang into the middle of a tropical beach with a cocktail in my hand and a kindly person massaging my shoulders whilst saying ‘your mojito is looking a little low, can I top it up with a piña colada’? Now I indulge in them. If you’re not sure if it’s for you, start with a five minute one and see if it helps calm your nerves.
There are two courses I think every parent should take – a first aid course and a self-defence course. Taking these courses will empower you, should you ever find yourself in a scary situation and often with anxiety, empowerment is key. In London many children’s centres run first aid courses for parents, or should at least be able to direct you to one. If you fancy yourself the Liam Neeson of the parenting world, BAKM offer a one day krav maga workshop for £97 which covers everything from increased awareness to defence against armed assault.
-Create a life you love
Take a second right now to think about the things in life you adore. Whether that’s reading a fantastic book, dancing salsa on a rare ‘Mum night out’ or building the perfect mug collection (yeah not me…). Take some time to build on those things and bring more joy into your life. When you find yourself spiralling take a deep breath, shake your body down and force yourself to list five of these things.
The thing that broke through to my petrified and heart-broken mind after the Manchester terror attack, reminding me that the world was mostly good, was the Twitter trend #britishthreatlevels. It was so cathartic and so wonderfully British. Reading through people’s fears, from incorrect queue etiquette to Jaffa cake classification made me laugh to the point where I could fall asleep without the weight of the world trying to battle for space on my pillow. Presuming you and I have a similar sense of humour and you’re needing a laugh right now, take a look at top Graham Norton moments, classic Whose Line banter or pretty much anything by Randy Rainbow.
Providing you talk to the right person, discussing your anxieties can be really helpful. There’s a fantastic model of psychology called The Chimp Model, created by Professor Steve Peters. This model describes the limbic part of the brain (aka the fight or flight, stressed out, need a sandwich or I’m going to get hangry part) as the chimp, and by exercising him we can live much more productive, happier lives.
Try this technique that is used with top athletes: Find someone you trust and ask them to listen to you without interrupting for ten whole minutes. Use this time to offload all your fears, worries and concerns, without censorship. When you’re finished you will have ‘exercised’ that monkey right out of his tree and will feel a whole load better- trust me.
One of the best ways you can get bad out of your world is by being the physical and metaphorical remedy and doing good. The more good you and your family pour into the universe the better you will feel and the better this world will be for your children. Gain some inspiration from Random Acts of Kindness and if your act of the day includes baking, please make sure you head my way…
If you feel like your anxiety is getting out of hand and having an effect on your life and/or the lives of your children please, seek help. Mind have some fantastic advice on where you can find more ways to lift you through feelings that as a parent in particular, can really take their toll. I’m no professional so please, if you feel you’re becoming warn down, head to this great organisation.
Finally, if you need a quick reminder of how much beauty there is in the world, particularly when it comes to family and relationships, watch this…
Love and courage to all…