In today’s increasingly fight or flight word we live in, it is no wonder that anxiety has become such a common occurrence with more than 1 in 10 people in the UK likely to have a ‘disabling anxiety disorder’ at some stage in their life. As someone who has suffered from mild anxiety in the past, this was a subject I really wanted to get out in the open here on the What is it really like…series and so I’m delighted to be in-conversation with Louise who blogs over at Pink Pear Bear about what it is like being a mum with anxiety.
When did you first realise that you were suffering from anxiety?
Honestly, only recently really. I always put it down as other things, depression, shyness, post natal depression. I don’t think it was really ‘a thing’ when I was younger and it’s only been the last few years with the rise of mindfulness etc that I made the connection between how I’ve always felt and anxiety.
Could you share a little about how your anxiety manifests itself and what the triggers are?
I’m so much better now, but there are still things that will set me off. If I’m driving and the roads are busy (especially motorways), and the children are squabbling in the back. If I have a lot of emails waiting to be replied to and a lot of reviews to write up. If I can’t work as planned, e.g. one of the kids is ill and off school/nursery. Meeting new people in new situations. The usual things that would normally make you nervous, but it’s one step further for me.
I get a tight feeling in my chest, like a fist is clenching at my heart and I can’t breathe in deeply enough, no matter how hard I try, the air can’t get past that ‘fist’. I can’t think straight, my thoughts are like spaghetti and when I’m trying to untangle them to work out what order I need to tackle things in, the slightest noise will set me on edge and I’ll be very snappy and irritable.
What steps did you take to manage your anxiety?
I’ve had counselling which has really helped. I also make lots and lots of lists. Seeing things written down in an order helps me to stay calm. Taking some time to breathe really helps, I really focus on it and use counting to try and calm myself. I also started running, whenever I feel overwhelmed and that things are too much for me, I go out and run until I feel better!
How do you think your anxiety has affected your parenting?
I think I am really snappy and irrational when the anxiety takes hold. On the flip side, parenting has really had an effect on my anxiety. I’ve pushed myself right out of my comfort zone for my children and it’s definitely helped me to conquer a lot of my fears.
Do you worry that the anxiety will appear in your children also?
My daughter at 5, has already displayed signs of anxiety which I hate. I know that together we can tackle it though. I wrote about it here.
Do you think anxiety is more widely accepted as a condition or do you think more work needs to be done in this area?
I definitely think that there is way more anxiety awareness these days. Wherever you look there seems to be a mindfulness course or colouring therapy book!
What advice would you give to a mother who suspects she is suffering from anxiety?
I think as a new mum, some level of anxiety is an inbuilt thing you get along with your baby. However, if you feel that it is holding you back from doing the things you want to, or it goes beyond the ‘should they be eating more/less now, is that poo normal?’, worries that are standard mum territory, talk to someone. Anxiety is really easy to tackle, if you confront it. It works best hidden in the shadows of your thoughts, but if you drag it out into the light, it becomes far less scary.
If there is only on thing you could say to a mother suffering from anxiety it would be?
You are really, honestly not alone, and you can beat this.
Anything else you would like to add?
I have almost totally quashed my anxiety. It still rears up sometimes, and I can have not just bad days, but bad weeks, but I have all the things in place to tackle it and I can do all the things that I once thought were impossible with only minimal fear. It is possible to beat it, or at least life whatever life you want despite it. Promise!
Thank you so much to Louise for sharing about her experience with anxiety so candidly. Do you suffer from anxiety? And if so, how do try to manage your anxiety? Please do share in a comment below.