The responsibility and unpredictability that often makes parenting so rewarding can also sometimes cause anxiety for some. As a parent myself, I can certainly attest to this.
Here are some simple ways to bring yourself to a place of parental calm and peace. Or, as George Costanza might say, “Serenity Now!”
1. Make a To-Do List
Ruminating on everything you have to do causes a lot of stress. One of the most effective ways to instantly clear your mind is by making a to-do list.
Sitting in your car at the pick-up line at your child’s school mindlessly scrolling through Instagram to pass the time? Close out the app and put down everything that needs to be done into your phone or a piece of paper.
As you write them down, visualize yourself removing each task from your mind and putting on the list. Once you’ve completed the list, it’s often helpful to prioritize the list in order of most important to least important.
Guess what? Even if you lose the list or forget about it, just the act of completing this small step can help quickly reduce anxiety.
2. Be Mindful of Self-Talk
Often times, as parents, we get stuck in the trap of thinking things will get better when our children move onto the next phase. “Once Jason can drive himself to football practice life will be so much easier,” or “Once Anna is out of diapers, this won’t be as hard.” However, the reality is the worry and stress will continue until you change your thinking patterns and self-talk.
To do this, watch the language you use. Avoid phrases such as, “This is going to be a nightmare if I don’t finish on time” or “I’m going to freak out if I’m late to this meeting.” This type of self-talk also teaches our children how to handle worry and stress. After all, we are their role models and they’re looking to us for guidance on how to handle stressful situations.
Also, change thoughts of “I have to” to “I want to.” For example, instead of saying, “I have to stop at the grocery store on the way home,” say “I want to pick up food today so we can have a nice family dinner.” This subtle difference in how you choose your language can have a significant impact on the needless pressure you put on yourself.
3. Get Outside
There’s nothing like some fresh air and sunlight to ease anxiety. Put your baby in a stroller and go for a walk around the block or to the local park. Take the kids to an outdoor mall or sit on the patio of the frozen yogurt shop and create a memory.
Don’t discount the substantial benefits of just a couple minutes of fresh air and sunshine. If you live in a location where it tends to rain a lot like I do, make use of a covered porch or open up the garage doors and stand near the opening while breathing in the fresh air. Even 2 minutes of fresh air in the rain can help clear the mind and reduce anxiety symptoms.
4. Practice Mindfulness
If your anxiety is difficult to control, try taking deep breaths from your stomach. While you do this, concentrate and five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste. Or simply count to 10 as you inhale deeply through your nose and count to 10 as you exhaled through your mouth. This will help calm your mind when you’re feeling an anxiety attack start to rise.
5. Touch Base With Your Supports
Call a friend or loved one to chat or ask for advice. Can’t talk? Sometimes even a brief text exchange can increase a sense of connectedness and support. It may also help to connect with a Facebook parenting group or other online message board. However, be mindful that the venting doesn’t turn negative and become counterproductive. You can also call your therapist to make an appointment and work through your challenges.
Try these tips to control and cope with your anxiety to enjoy the time with your children free from worry. However, if you find that your anxiety is interfering with your ability to be a happy, successful parent, it might be time to speak with a professional who can help.
James Killian, LPC is an anxiety counselor and parent of two amazing little boys who sometimes contribute to anxious moments. He is also the Principal Therapist & Owner at Arcadian Counseling in Woodbridge, CT. If you’re a parent that needs help managing anxiety, call today for free consultation.