Anxiety comes in so many forms. It can be big, overwhelming, and stop you from functioning. It can be small, little things that build up, making you exhausted, irritable, and never able to relax. It can manifest physically, or be completely hidden, But no matter the form it takes – it’s difficult and keeps us from living our best life. I have missed so much of my life to the grip of anxiety. So much so that thinking about it gives me anxiety – ha! What a vicious cycle it can be.
I definitely believe in getting any and all kind of help for any mental health issues. Doctor visits, homeopathic care, medication, therapy, exercise, diet, acupuncture… whatever you and your health provider decide is best for you. Just get the help you need, and don’t stop asking for it until you do. Goodness knows I need a lot of help sometimes.
But sometimes it’s the small, sneaky, anxiety in daily life that gets us without us even realizing it. We have so many decisions to make every day, and especially as moms, we feel like every decision and action impacts so many more people than just us. It’s overwhelming, and it builds over time, getting worse until we break.
A little trick I’ve found is the power of small, daily rituals. Things people around me don’t even see as a ritual, but I have made it so. By putting the focus on the ritual, it forces me to be in the present, banishing anxiety at least temporarily. The repetition becomes soothing. I’ve learned that with anxiety, if I can stop the building negative energy early, I can escape it and go in a different direction that is more positive. Depending on the day and the situation, not every mini ritual works all the time, so I have multiple that fit throughout the day and week.
- A specific song to sing when I am frustrated.
- Classical playlist I listen to during focused work time.
- Mid-day 5 minute meditation followed by hot tea.
- Sending love to my family as I fold their laundry.
- Soaking in some sunshine – outdoors or through a window when it’s cold.
- Saying goodbye to my dogs as I leave the house.
- Snuggling with my kids every morning and evening so our “hearts can talk.”
- Coming home and putting on cozy socks right away.
- Putting on lipstick or lip gloss before a meeting with a client.
- Silly goodbye to the kids at drop off.
These rituals provide several things that help lessen my anxiety. The song to sing when I am frustrated (or lately, it’s impatient!) and the putting on lipstick or lip gloss before a client meeting are actions that take focus and time, so it forces a pause in the anxious thoughts. The distraction and redirection of my energy and attention can help stop the build of anxiety, if I do it early enough. The classical playlist for my focused work time helps remind my brain to settle and focus, and helps because it’s a finite amount of time – the playlist will end, and I can take a break! Many of these are about comfort, and small ways to work in self-care to my daily life.
Some of these are about making sure my kids feel my love every single day, even if I’m struggling with my anxiety. My kids aren’t old enough to understand that if I’m impatient and stressed it’s not their fault, it’s often my anxiety is just high that day. By having a silly goodbye at drop off every morning and daily snuggle time, I make sure to put my anxiety on the back burner for at least a few minutes to give them love in a no pressure way for myself. It’s really hard to be a mom with anxiety – the guilt about anxiety makes for more anxiety. It’s a vicious circle, and is so pointless. These little things help break the cycle, giving me a moment of pause to step out of it and change direction.
Having multiple mini rituals means that if one gets missed, there’s always another opportunity in the day to get the same feeling, same break, or same connection with my boys. This way I don’t end up making these rituals into expectations that I feel set up to fail. They are simple too, so even if I get to 8pm and realize I’ve done NONE of them – there’s time for a 5 minute meditation and cup of tea, or a snuggle with the kids.
So, if you struggle with anxiety – in big or little ways! – maybe try out some mini rituals. Mix it up and do different ones until one works for you. Make them short and sweet and most importantly – with no expectations, so they can’t become anxiety inducers instead of anxiety reducers. Show your busy brain a little love, and bring it down a few notches.