I manage anxiety on a daily basis. I do fairly well most of the time, but I was unprepared for a global pandemic. As an anxious mom who wants to parent as non-anxiously as possible, here are some ideas to keep us sane:
Stay in our “front” brains
I’m not a brain expert, but our brains are divided into parts and each part serves a different function. The “front” part of our brain is the part responsible for logic, reason, critical thinking, problem solving, and empathy. The “back” part of our brain is the more primitive part of our brain; when it gets activated, it initiates a “fight or flight” response to help us survive.
COVID-19 feels frightening and unknown; we feel uncertain how worried we should be and our kids can pick up on our anxiety. If we want to parent non-anxiously, it will be helpful to stay in our “front” brains. Our front brain is the part that will help us make good decisions, listen to experts, and stay calm. It’s okay to take precautions; it’s not helpful to panic. When you start to feel yourself panic, take a deep breath and ask yourself, “Am I in my back brain?” Keep breathing and repeat this phrase: “I will prepare, not panic” until you feel yourself return to your front brain.
Find a safe place to offload your fears and feelings
We, parents, are parenting through our first pandemic. Give yourself permission to feel the frightening feelings coming up for you right now. Find a safe place–a trusted friend or online support group–where you can offload your fears and feelings without judgment. Finding a safe place to “word vomit” your fears will help relieve stress and anxiety you don’t want your kids to feel. Anxiety is uncomfortable, but we can feel uncomfortable and not die.
Self-care is always important, but has now become critical. Take care of yourself as best you can. Feed yourself, stay hydrated, exercise, meditate, take a hot shower, SLEEP AS MUCH AS YOU CAN. Stop yourself right now and ask yourself, “How can I take care of myself right this minute?”
Set limits on your phone usage
If you’re like me, you wake up at 2 a.m. feeling anxious and reach for your phone. Reading news articles or scrolling social media is the worst thing I could do in the middle of the night! Set a time limit on the apps you use. (This feature is available on most smart phones.) Put your phone away by 6 or 7 p.m. so you can give your brain time to settle before you try to sleep. Decide how much news and social media you will engage in and then put your phone away. Remind yourself there is nothing helpful you can do at 2 a.m.!
Practice the power of community
One thing COVID-19 has reminded us is how connected we are as a global community. Our connection makes us vulnerable because it means a virus can spread easily and quickly; but our connection also makes us powerful. Speak up by asking for what you need. I have a Facebook friend who posted when she couldn’t find alcohol pads for her daughter who has Type 1 diabetes. Her community rallied and found her some. As each of us is impacted by Coronavirus, we have an opportunity to practice the power of community. When your neighbor runs out of toilet paper? Share some of yours. When your community member needs emergency child care because schools are closed? Offer to watch her kids. When YOU need help? Reach out to your community and ask. This is our chance to practice the power of being in community and remember we are not alone.
What other tips do you have for staying non-anxious in anxious times?