3 Tips to Living a Less Anxious Motherhood

I’m not great at being present. I used to think I was, but I am not really a moment liver in a sense I hadn’t discovered yet.

I’m speaking in relation to my kids mostly, but I guess in my marriage and all relationships too really; I think I could pinpoint my anxiety massively to the fact that I am worried about what will happen “when”.

When I said to my husband that thing in the moment, will he be mad? Focus and worry about it for hours, ask 100x if he’s mad at me. Apologize for random nothingness out of feeling bad for the wrong I did that I’m not even sure if he’s mad at, even though he’s said no 100x.

When I talked that way to my kiddo as he grabbed the jello packet, will he remember his mom as someone who never trusted him to do things? Let this thought sit in my head all day.

When I got mad at my youngest, newly nicknamed Bam Bam, will he grow up remembering his mom giving the oldest brother more attention than him and that mom gets angry when he needs something? Spend too much time with youngest so make up for it, totally alienating oldest, feeling guilty about both, cry later.

When I spend the day cleaning and still am left with a dirty kitchen at the end of the day, we’ve forgotten to do our school work and my kids are clearly deeply needing connection with me but it’s bedtime and I’ve got nothing left, are they going to grow up thinking I never prioritized them and that mom was always busy getting nothing done and ignoring them?

When I get angry and retreat to my cell phone, will they remember a mom who was never really there and that her phone was more important than them?

These are the thoughts that plague my daily existence. There are millions more, all future focused. None here, none now.

And I realized tonight that a future with teenage boys is not a guarantee. What if I lose one? What if they lose me?

Anxiety exists in the future, it doesn’t exist in the now.

It can’t, because there’s nothing to be anxious about if it’s already happened, right?

I told my husband the other day that everything I do as a parent revolves around my relationship with each of them, and what that will evolve to as we grow as a family.

Will they come to me if they want to have sex with a girl but don’t know if they should because they aren’t really sure about the whole God thing and waiting?

Will they come to me if they tried drugs? Will they call me in a bad situation to get them out of it because they trust me?

And if they don’t, it’s because I failed them as a mom right now, in this moment. High stress right?

You see, anxiety is ignorant of people’s ability to make their own choices and the fact that they will struggle with their own things regardless of me.

Anxiety believes everything is the fault of the one feeling it.

Anxiety constantly asks me to relive every conversation, every fight, every moment, every post on social media or blog post because someone out there might be mad at something I’ve said and maybe that’s why no one I love has talked to me in a bit.

I don’t see anxiety often, it can honestly be really difficult to pinpoint and identify. I was not aware of my constant worry of someone being mad at me until recently, yet I recall a situation where the boy I liked in grade 8 and how sick I felt because I thought he was mad at me.

I see depression less. It’s even trickier for me to see. I mean … so I’m sleepy a lot, right? So what if some days I just want to cry. Isn’t that just motherhood? That’s what people tell me. PS you’re not helping.

Maybe that’s why anxiety and depression are so hard for people without them to understand, because those of us who have it often don’t see it either. It takes a lot of work to become aware, stay aware and make the necessary changes on our own.

And really, how can you share something in a way that is understood, when it hides from your own awareness? How do you ask for help with something like that?

And so I find myself in these situations where I’m upset, crying on the kitchen floor at 11:48 PM on  Monday night *ahem current sitch* because it pounces on me every now and again and suddenly I see how it’s been there all along.

If depression were a dark cloud in your heart leaving you sad and heavy, anxiety would be the bug in your ear whispering “what if…” with the worst possible scenario tied to it.

So when I realized that I’m not as present as I thought I was as a parent, or even a partner, this rocked my senses a bit. Parenting is my single greatest joy and challenge; Marriage is hard and beautiful and ever changing. And here I am faced with this reality that the two things I hold dearest in my life, I’m not even really here for.

Part of my morning routine is that I write down my intentions of how I want to show up for my family that day. How can I serve each soul at their highest level by showing up in mine? I am re training my brain to be present focused. Because when we take care of the present, the future comes into focus on it’s own.

The whispers of anxiety are truths, shown as they really happened, but they’re tainted with regret. With guilt. With shame. With snapshots of my future with kids who hate me for the awful things I said / did / made them feel, so my intentions take those truths and align them properly again.

I know rationally speaking, I’m doing great. My kids are well loved. I’m attentive and when I think of it from the standpoint of all I do, I’m a damn good mother and I know I should be proud.  I mean the average parent spends 20 minutes a day playing with their kids and I thought 4 hours of my undivided attention was not enough. So yea, I’m doing ok.

But anxiety doesn’t give a damn about truth.

And anxiety tells me every day that I will never be enough.

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Any other mommas out there feel this way?

No wonder I’m so tired all the time! I’m exhausted thinking about what I just wrote!

And for my lovely friends and followers who will come in and encourage me or their friends feeling this way, know that no amount of kind words, encouragements or incredibly kind words of truth will make this go away. They will be received warmly, probably with tears and immense gratitude, but you cannot compliment away anxiety.

What we have to understand is that if these are not rational thoughts, normal rational advice will never be good enough.

So after all that has been said, here’s my 3 best tips that have nothing to do with encouraging you, for living with mom guilt from anxiety and how to rise above water sometimes just enough, because when you’re having a bad day sometimes that’s all we want. Is a breath. I hope I can offer you that, but in a proactive way. There’s enough out there telling you how to get through the moment, I’m here to help you create a lifestyle around it.

**Please note that I always recommend you speak to your Dr, naturopath, shaman, healer, BFF or the gal doing your hair, WHOEVER, about your struggles. It doesn’t serve you to stay silent. The more you speak up, the stronger you will feel in order to conquer it and the better help you will get**

3 STEPS TO CREATING A LIFESTYLE THAT MINIMIZES ANXIETY

  1. Thank you Jesus can I get an amen for some gratitude! Every morning I sit down and write out at least three thing I am grateful for. I keep going as long as I am moved to and I get my kids on it too. Sometimes they are simple, sometimes they are not, and with the kids we usually end up laughing. I never spend too much time thinking about it and it is the bestway to start the day. If you sit there for 20 minutes just trying to find something to be grateful for, you’re trying to hard. Start with being grateful for the pen to write with and go from there.  This will start to retrain your brain to start looking for the positive things in your day and it might sound small, but the reaction deep within the cells of your body that shift when you start to think positively I swear have the power to cure diseases. Gratitude is medicine. Stop reading and think of 3 things you’re grateful for. Go. Faster.
  2. Get outside and spend some quiet time in your own mind. This is kind of two birds one stone. Every morning I get up and go for a walk with my giant, dog aggressive on leash German Shepherd. I can only walk her in the morning before my husband goes to work, I cannot take her out with the kids, and she must be walked and worked daily. This is a giant time suck of my day, and yet something I have become deeply grateful for. This time alone time is the best dang part of my day. I pop in a podcast for some ofit but I make sure to spend at least 15 minutes listening to just nature. The snow crunching beneath my feet. The leaves crackling with each step. You may not have a dog, you may not have a husband or wife to give you that free time outside alone, but you can find time. I swear your kids will be OK if you step outside your front door by yourself (yes in winter too) in all your jammie glory and just take 3 slow, deep intentional breaths by yourself. Jump up and down a few times and smile. You’d never believe changing your life and mindset was so simple. And trust me, 10 minutes is all I used to get too. It’s been a year and a half of determination to get this sorted for myself, so be patient. It will come.
  3. To do lists. Maybe this won’t help you, but dang it helps me. It gives me clarity on what I need to do in a day and also helps me feel hella accomplished. I put do one load of dishes, start one load of laundry, fold one load of laundry, get groceries, things I have to do and know will get done because it feels so good to cross things off the list because with kids you just don’t know what the day will really turn out like. I also put on my to do list read with kids, uninterrupted for 45 minutes, yoga and go outside along side toilets, scrub bathtub and book dental appointments . I don’t know about you, but mental illness makes me damn forgetful. I used to write brush teeth on my list at the start of this journey. Ask me how my teeth are right now *hint, not awesome*
    I’m not a big fan of putting a lot on my list that I know will be difficult to accomplish in a day. I’m like a 4 task max kinda gal. But I use my lists as a way to take the jumbled mess in my mind and settle it down. It’s like the words are pricked from floating around in my mind and flow out of my pencil onto paper, and there they rest for the rest of the day. If you’re just starting out and you’re like me, go ahead and put everything down on the list that is just self care.My sample list from a year ago was something like shower, brush teeth, put on nice clothes, listen to music I like not just kids music, eat breakfast sitting down. True story. I had to remind myself to do all those things in one morning because it was all just too damn much. So it’s ok if your list starts off that way, it’s a great place to being.

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WOW. So, I could go on obviously because it’s me, but I think that’s enough for now.

I hope if you don’t understand anxiety or depression that you have a deeper grasp on it and that if you have anxiety, I pray my tips help you, because they’ve sure helped me.

Feel free to repeat each step throughout the day as you learn to cope and manage these feelings, and it’s taken me over a year and a half to sit down and write this blog post as I feel freer than ever before. Panic attack free, clean home, having sex again with my husband *we’ll talk more about that later* and doing things I love every day like singing, learning to play guitar and blogging. What is my life that I have so much time to do all these things as a mom who could barely clean a toilet before? My life is damn good. Damn good.

A while ago I started a hashtag on instagram called #unlearninganxiety, because anxiety is learned; we weren’t born this way. Yes, it can run in families, but that is through learned behaviours, not genetics. Genetics are not destiny.

Maybe you’ve had it since you were little, but I promise youit’s not how you have to live for the rest of your life. There is help for you. Medication helps, yes, but I truly believe we should be prescribed the things I’ve listed above as well when talking about anxiety. There are so many more things I could add here but I’ll end with this;

An anxious free life is not only possible, but available to you.

And even though I know words won’t cure it, momma, you’re doing great. And the kids will be OK.IMG-7696

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On “Those” Days; An Open Thank you to my Husband and Mother

Today has been one of those days one of those weeks months years.

Ok, but today it all boiled down to a nightmare of a day.

I truly want to be one of those moms who writes about nothing but the rainbows her child poops and all the glorious joys of motherhood. And I will. One day. I do know those joys, I have those joys, I live for those joys … but to be honest, if I talk to you and you speak of nothing but all the happy times and how amazing everything is 24/7, I don’t relate to you. And sometimes I hope you’re a liar, because if you’re not, what the heck am I doing wrong? Is my parenting bad? Are my sons endless tantrums and lack of sleep my fault, thus causing the misery we find ourselves drenched in from time to time and if I could just … teach him better, none of this would be happening?

Probably not true. But my thought process none the less.

In any case, if you’re like me and my husband, you’ve had … well let’s politely call them shitty days. Yes, I know. I’m a Christian, and I swore. No, it doesn’t make me cool. No, it doesn’t make me evil. I’m very sad, very vulnerable and very tired today. And sometimes, it’s the only word I can find. So shitty it shall be.

Today started out like any other day…6:00AM wake up on the nose, child in the fridge screaming for strawberries and the tantrum over food begins. No, you can’t eat 12 plums and 38 strawberries for breakfast. Here’s your eggs. Well you said you wanted eggs. No you can’t have oatmeal. Because you asked for eggs and I made eggs. I don’t live to make you food. Yes, you can have a plum when your eggs are finished. Because if I give you the plum all you’ll eat is the plum until your stomach thinks your full and you never eat sustainable food. Sustainable. Sus-tain-a-ble. It keeps you full. No, you can’t have more strawberries. When you’re done screaming and kicking on the floor, come find me. I’ll be eating your eggs.

Usually my patience is pretty far reaching. I am able to take deep breaths and relax, remind myself this is a stage and that one day he won’t throw himself on the floor every single morning the minute he wakes up, and he will have slept through the night.

Today was a different day.

I managed to get in a team call this morning while he screamed and ran around peeing on things because he’s kind of over being told he has to pee and is rebelling, and I managed to do quite a bit of tidying around his tantrums. We also sat together and drummed, and played hide and seek around his fort, and read books inside of it. He then napped for 1/5 hours and woke up foul, as usual. And today I couldn’t handle it.

I don’t know why my son doesn’t sleep well, and I don’t know why he wakes up angry. But it frustrates the hell out of me, because I want to fix it. I want to see him happy and thriving, and to see him so upset all the time honestly just breaks mommas heart. He cries intermittently and hard for a long time after waking up. We’re talking a couple of hours until he’s righted himself, and I’m at the point where I’m falling asleep while he’s screaming because I’m so bloody tired of it all. My body is exhausted and my mind is weary.

And then in walks my husband, and in walks my mother.

My mom came to help me clean today … and all I could do was sit there. And cry. And then leave to nap. And then wake up and stare into space. And watch her clean.

She cleaned my floors, my banisters, my kitchen and every inch she moved along, she scrubbed away a bit of the clutter frustrating my heart.

My husband was in there with her, helping, putting in an effort … while I sat here. Immobilized by exhaustion? Yes … depression? Maybe … in any case, I am not alone in these struggles and there he is. Doing things I cannot do. Cleaning dishes. Making dinner.

My family has surrounded me and it took me a good couple of hours to get up off the couch, and pitch in.

And to top it all off? I can’t show my gratitude…I can’t seem to be very warm and inviting and kind. I can however be critical, condescending and lack the ability to extend anyone else the grace to not be perfect.

So because I can’t seem to find my voice when anyone is present to say thank you, here I am. Saying thank you.

Lucas, you have strength I cannot comprehend. No, you don’t have to be pregnant. No, you don’t know how tired or emotional I am. But what you do know is that you were once married to a vibrant, joyful woman who didn’t condescend, criticize and fall apart. I promise you, even though I keep losing that woman, she is here, and I will keep doing everything I can to find her, to be her. You have put up with just as much sleep loss and frustration and joy and pain as I have, and yet you come home and you take care of this family. I promise I will show you all the kindness I have, even if it’s not much I will muster it up and give it all to you. You have provided for me, for Asher in ways you’ll never understand. Food, finances, it all pales in comparison to the peace you’ve given me to know I am married to a warrior. A fighter. A man who is so capable of loving even when love is not being shown. Sometimes I get angry around you simply as a reaction to your love, because it’s too much for me to handle your gentleness that I react negatively…like being in the presence of God’s overwhelming love that if we don’t feel worthy we run from. I’m 5. No big deal. Just know that I see you, for every little amazing thing you do, even though I don’t seem capable of voicing it. I’m learning. Pray for me and work with me; I know God will use you to be the hand that pulls me up. Thank you for every day, for every hug, for every kiss, for every time we forget to make eye contact throughout the day and then you touch my shoulder to remind me that you’re there. Thank you to the ends of the earth, which I will crawl to to find a way to show you my love.

Mom, I don’t know how you’ve put up with me all these years. To no end do I wish I could actually be as kind as you deserve, when I am this down and out. And just like Lucas, what kills me the most is your endless ability to pour out love on me when I’m like this. To not ask for anything in return. To just be willing to do whatever you can to help me and my family, even if you never get a thank you. I wish I could open my heart when it’s this hard, but I haven’t been able to, and you deserve every ounce of gratitude I can muster. For loving my son to the ends of the earth, to taking him when I’m working, to always be there to help me, to always bend your plans to help mould them around mine and A’s sporadic naps…you’ve never asked for anything, and I’ve never been able to give much, but my love and respect and deeply rooted desire to be like you, you have. Thank you for choosing to love me even on the hard days.

I 100% believe this will pass. I know that this is 95% sleep loss and 35 weeks pregnant. But it’s hard to see past that, especially when I had such a good handle on it just a few short weeks ago.

But I’m here, putting the few things in front of me that I know how to do.

One of those being my complete and utter commitment to sharing my journey with you. Because while it is scary to some to be “so open” it’s actually very therapeutic for me. I’m a verbal processor but I also believe that God will use my struggles, and reach out and touch someone with them.

Maybe to help you feel like you’re not alone.

Mom’s, it’s a tough gig.

And sometimes, we aren’t the nicest to those who are nicest to us, and I know you’re like me and find it devastating to know we’ve hurt someone whom we love so dearly.

If you’re in the same boat, I’m praying for you. The trenches are deep, but the hands reaching in are strong and sturdy.

Grab hold of one and don’t let go.

Commit with me to taking the time every single day to doing something that utterly feeds your soul.

Spend time with God, knit, rest your face in the sun, walk alone outside, exercise, eat well and as you walk alone let the wind caress your skin and fall in love with life every single day.

It won’t be like this forever.

Just promise me you will take the steps to walk forward every single day.

More than a fitness coach, I walk hand in hand with women struggling with things I too struggle with.

A tribe of strong women is forming around me, and together we climb ahead.

I have an incredible support at home, and there are those of you who are single parents or struggling the same but have no family to help …

I can’t say I’ll come be the things for you that my family is for me, but I can walk with you. I can climb with you.

We are strongest when we hold each other up.