03 Feb How to Manage Your Anxiety
You’ve had anxiety your whole life and now that you are a parent, your anxiety has soared.
You worry about your kids, your spouse, your family, your job, your finances, and the list goes on and on. You feel more stressed and anxious than ever and you even worry about passing this anxiety on to your kids. So, how do you self-manage anxiety?
Let’s explore what anxiety is. Anxiety is an emotion that activates your fight or flight response. It is our body’s way of telling us there is danger. People may experience anxiety with physical symptoms, such as an increased heart rate, stomach discomfort, tense muscles, racing thoughts, increased perspiration, restlessness, irritability, and sometimes panic attacks. Anxiety is important as it tells us we are in danger, however, sometimes our mind has it wrong and there is no danger. Anxiety can feel like it comes out of the blue, or it can be manifested by our catastrophic thoughts. If we don’t learn strategies to manage the anxiety, it can affect our health and relationships.
Anxiety can cause us to act in ways that aren’t our true selves. We may feel irritable and lash out at our kids. We may worry so much that we become an over-protective parent and not allow our kids to take risks or enjoy adventures. Anxiety can affect our sleep patterns and eating patterns. Anxiety can also compromise our immune system and make us susceptible to getting sick. We need to learn ways to manage our anxiety, so our anxiety doesn’t manage us!
Implement Coping Skills That Work for You!
It is important to learn the coping strategies that work for you and practice them! Whether it is deep breathing, tensing and relaxing your muscles, counting to 10, or imagery, it is important to practice them when you are not feeling anxious, so your body will know what to do in the moment. When you practice the strategies, you can also use this as a teaching lesson for your kids. Kids have anxiety, too, and they can benefit from learning the strategies.
Boundaries Protect Against Anxiety
Boundaries are not a sign of weakness and they are important in good mental health. Healthy boundaries are knowing what your limits are and sticking to them. It is understanding what you can take on and what you need to pass up. It is okay to say no when someone asks you to do a favor. You don’t have to participate in every fundraiser or PTO event. You don’t have to overfill your plate to try to please everyone. It is okay to say no when your plate is full. When you are feeling overwhelmed, ask for help. Many people struggle to ask for help because they think they “should” be able to do everything on their own. Asking for help can be a sign of strength and courage. It allows other people to share their knowledge and skill with you, which helps them in return.
Self-Care Helps Reduce Anxiety
Taking time out for self-care is important and can foster self-compassion. Self-care can include anything from spending time doing your favorite hobby, getting a massage, reading a good book, or just taking a long bath listening to your favorite podcast. Make sure that you’re being mindful during the activity. For example, if I am taking a relaxing bath, but worrying about what the kids are up to or what they are getting into, then I am not getting the full effect of the relaxation and giving my mind a rest. I want to fully participate in the activity giving it my full attention. It won’t completely take your anxiety away forever, but it will give your body and mind a much-needed break to reset and recharge.
Develop these Healthy Habits
Sleep – Even though it is difficult to get adequate sleep, it is crucial to well-being. Developing a consistent sleep schedule, reducing electronics at night, and allowing enough hours for sleep can help manage anxiety. When we don’t get enough adequate sleep, our bodies and minds don’t function properly causing emotions to be elevated, making that much harder to regulate. Techniques to get better sleep can be found here.
Exercise – Exercise is an important piece of overall good mental health. Exercise releases neurotransmitters that help us feel good. It can help us manage our anxiety, depression, stress levels, and can improve sleep. Exercise can also help increase blood flow to our brain, which helps in overall brain health. Find something that you enjoy so you will stick with it and get the positive benefits from it.
Gratitude – Studies have shown that people who practice gratitude feel happier and less depressed. This practice will help you look at the positives in life instead of focusing on the negative. It will increase positivity and strengthen your mental health. Just like exercise, expressing and receiving gratitude releases neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, responsible for keeping us feeling good. Writing just 3-5 things that you are grateful for each day will help change your outlook on life. But, be patient and consistent, it is a process, not a quick fix.
Nutrition – Eating healthy is another component of keeping up with healthy habits. Keeping your diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, lean meats or other proteins will help you manage your anxiety. Too many processed food, sugary foods, alcohol, and caffeine may increase anxiety levels. Be mindful of what you are eating. When we are anxious or stressed, we tend to eat high sugar, high fat foods that will leave you feeling sluggish and fatigued.
Remember, anxiety is just an emotion like any other emotion. Face it and learn strategies to self-manage anxiety instead of letting it manage you!
Lisa is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who earned her master’s degree from The Ohio State University. She grew up in Libertyville and is thrilled to return to her hometown after 15 years of clinical experience in a variety of settings, including home-based case management, schools, outpatient mental health, and hospitals.
Lisa has provided treatment in clinical settings for children, teens, adults, and families who struggle with depression, anxiety, mood disorders, trauma, stress, gender identity issues, self-esteem issues, impulsivity, defiance, and attention deficits. Lisa has worked in the schools implementing programs and services to individual students and groups to enhance coping skills and academic performance and has worked in crisis teams assessing for suicidality as well as crisis management. She uses CBT, DBT, Solution-focused therapy, play therapy (for younger clients) and EMDR to help her clients and their families reach their goals. Lisa is also trained to work with and assess adolescents for substance use, if this is a concern. She provides a non-judgmental, client-centered environment assisting clients to reach their personal goals of therapy. She believes in utilizing a team effort to help families become empowered and work through stressful times.