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I’ve always been an anxious person, but when I became a mom my anxiety went from an occasional nuisance to a daily millstone around my neck. I never once expected that I would be the mom that would stare at my baby to make sure they’re still breathing, or beg for proof-of-life pictures from the babysitter when out on date night. But here I was…a new mom who had a load of crappy coping mechanisms for dealing with anxiety. Becoming a mom was the wake up call I needed to realize that my ability to cope with anxiety was nonexistent.
As I scroll on social media, I see a lot of (mostly) funny videos of moms reacting to stressful situations. Many of them I find myself saying “girl same!” But some of them are a stark reminder of a time when I lacked healthy coping mechanisms for my anxiety. Those videos are also a reminder to me that though we as moms had the decked out diaper bags and immaculately curated hospital bag, nobody really prepared us for the cluster our brains would become after having a baby. New moms all over are ill prepared for the onslaught of anxious thoughts, or ruminating on bad things that could happen to your brand new baby. When those thoughts do arrive, it can lead many new moms to feel out of control. Couple all those feelings of anxiety with physical symptoms, such as sleep deprivation, and any new parent would be left feeling out of control. You’ve been given so much information on all the other aspects of motherhood, but learning how to manage anxiety in a healthy way is necessary for your own mental health and the mental health of those around you.
You may read this and realize that your previous methods of coping with a stressful situation are no good now that you have your child’s life to care for. Or perhaps you’ve never experienced persistent anxiety before, and now that you’re a mom this sinking feeling in your gut is totally foreign to you. Whatever your reasoning for being here is, uncovering the crappy coping mechanisms we have when dealing with anxiety is the first step in building up new, more effective coping skills. The good news is that coping mechanisms can be changed! When we acknowledge that our coping skills are not effective, then we can begin the path to finding healthy ways to manage parental anxiety.
I am not a medical professional, nor do I claim to be one anywhere on The Overcoming Mom. I am simply a mom who has been through hell and back with my own stint of postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, and other mental illnesses. I’ve done a lot of research from actual medical professionals, and provided that in this article. I have credited where I have received that information within this article. If you suspect you have a mental health condition, please seek medical attention. At the end of this article I will also have resources on how you can get help.
Using Substances Or Alcohol As A Means To Cope
No, I’m not saying that moms shouldn’t enjoy a glass of wine or a night on the town with friends! What you do in your free time is your choice, but I am saying that if you are using substances or alcohol as a means to cope, you are veering down a potentially dangerous path that’s much worse than dealing with anxiety. Yes, you may feel more brave after a sip of “liquid courage,” or family gathering may be more enjoyable with the help of a little “friend,” but at what cost is it?
There is research that shows that excessive drug and alcohol abuse can actually make anxiety symptoms worse. In a sense, abusing alcohol or drugs basically changes your brain chemistry to believe that in order to handle hard times, you need more than what your mind can offer.
How To Get Help For Substance Use And Alcohol Use Disorder
If you are struggling with alcohol use or substance use, and are in need of help, please don’t be afraid to seek it. Below are links to various resources on how to get help for alcohol use disorder and substance use disorder.
- National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
- Celebrate Recovery
- Alcoholics Anonymous
Projecting Their Anxieties Onto Their Family
Often we project our own fears or frustrations on our family members without us being aware. Our past traumas or current struggles can often lead to blowing up at our family over things that probably don’t deserve a blowup. As moms, we often feel the societal pressure to make sure all is well in our family, and that pressure, if left unchecked, often results in a mom whose constantly on edge or hovering over her families every move.
Can you think of a time when you were having a bad day, then all of a sudden your child does that one thing that always ruffles your feathers, and you suddenly lose it? Or perhaps another time when your child did something risky, and it sent you back to a time in your past where you were hurt doing something similar? These anxieties, though are completely normal, can be detrimental to your family if not kept in check.
Take an inventory of times when you may have been unknowingly projecting your own anxieties on your family. Are there calmer, more regulated ways you could respond to those moments another time? If projecting your anxieties on your family is a struggle for you, I can’t recommend working with a therapist enough. Working with a therapist to uncover those common triggers and finding new ways to approach them with your family will be hugely beneficial to you and your family.
Ignoring, Self-Gaslighting, or toxic positivity
Pushing aside our signs of stress is another coping mechanism that we’re often are unaware of. For some of us, we were taught to simply “suck it up” when things became difficult, or we were told to “think positively” when we were experiencing symptoms of anxiety. Those experiences can often lead us to ignore our anxieties, or to veil them with toxic positivity.
Self-gaslighting is another way we inevitably avoid our anxieties. You may be experiencing anxieties that are very real, but in your head you’re convincing yourself that you’re crazy, or too dramatic. Though in the moment it can feel like an automatic response to tell yourself that you’re overreacting or being too much, continuing to do that will never fix the actual issue. It will only cause you to blame yourself for something that is more than likely totally not your fault.
Ignoring, self-gaslighting, and toxic positivity are three different versions of avoidance. Shoving away our anxiety and covering it up with either self-deprecating speech or unicorns and rainbows doesn’t make your anxiety disappear, it creates bigger problems for another day.
Excessive Complaining Without Searching For Solutions
Everybody loves a good vent session with your mom friends at the end of a long day, and sometimes a good vent can lead to productive solutions. But more often than not, excessive complaining doesn’t lead to solutions, but more anxiety. Venting, though it can lead to temporary relief in the moment, is shown to lead to even higher amounts of anxiety later on.
Like I said, venting can be a healthy way to get all your internal feelings out in the open. Finding a trusted friend to share your frustrations with can be beneficial if it eventually leads to validation, encouragement, and/or solutions. On the other hand, commiserating for the sake of commiserating usually leads to discontentment and more frustration than what you started with. Instead of excessive venting, consider looking for a support group of other moms. If one doesn’t exist, then make one! There’s plenty of moms out there who could use the community of other moms when it comes to dealing with their own anxiety.
Lacking Empathy For Yourself
Being a mom is an anxiety filled time in life for even the most laid back of parents. If anxiety is something you never really experienced prior to motherhood, experiencing it now can feel like a shot to your entire view of yourself. Beating yourself up for experiencing anxiety is no way to manage it.
Have empathy for yourself. Understand that in many ways, experiencing anxiety during motherhood is normal. Be patient with yourself when experiencing these brand new feelings. It doesn’t make you a nutcase, it makes you a mother who cares about their child. Even with anxiety, you are the perfect mom for your child.
Participating In Potentially Destructive Habits
Similar to the use of illegal drugs and alcohol, there are other potentially destructive habits moms can develop as a means to manage anxiety. A few examples are:
- Excessive gambling
- Excessive spending or “retail therapy”
- Risky sexual behaviors
- Excessive overeating or undereating
- Excessive exercise
- Other risky activities that have the potentially to seriously injure yourself, or put yourself in dangerous situations
Though some of these activities can be good, such as exercising for mental health purposes, if done to a dangerous extent they can lead to many new problems. Even I enjoy a sweet treat at the end of a rough day, but if the sweet treat leads to an excessive and dangerous binge then that can be a sign of a maladaptive coping mechanism you have developed. Working with a therapist can help uncover some of these destructive habits you may have developed as a means of coping with anxiety.
Refusing To Get Professional Help
Whether you have had previous bad experiences with mental health professionals, or perhaps you’ve been given a harmful stigma of receiving help for your mental health, refusing it when you need it can be a dangerous game to play.
In case you’re believing stereotypes or stigmas about receiving mental health counseling, let me clear a few things up. Seeing a therapist does NOT:
- Mean that you’re a bad mom
- Indicate that you have a diagnosable mental illness or any medical conditions
- Mean you need medicine
- Show that you need to be institutionalized
- Indicate that you are incapable of living a healthy, fulfilling life
- Mean that you will have to stare at ink blots and talk about weird Freudian things that are completely irrelevant to your current struggle.
Don’t allow any preconceived notions of therapy keep you from getting help. Any good therapist will tell you that you shouldn’t be left coping with anxiety alone. Getting someone on your side to discuss your anxieties with and work on healthier coping mechanisms is a valuable tool every mom needs. Getting extra support in becoming the best mom you can be is not a sign of failure, but a sign of love for your family, and for yourself.
Mental Health Resources
- National Institute of Mental Health – is the lead federal agency for research on mental health conditions. They offer lots of information and statistics on various mental illnesses, and they have a database of healthcare providers. They also have a suicide hotline and crisis hotline (Call 988 For the suicide and crisis hotline) , as well as free crisis text line (Simply text HELP to 741741.)
- Betterhelp – Is an online therapy service that makes therapy accessible and affordable for all people. They have a huge database of therapist with many specialties, and offer many ways to participate in therapy. From online counseling, to over the phone sessions, they odder a plethora of ways you can get help from a therapist.
- Faithful Counseling – Is very similar to Betterhelp, but is a database of online Christian therapists. If you would prefer to receive therapy from a faith-based perspective, then this could be just for you.
- Brightside – offers online medication and therapy treatments for depression and anxiety. You can get an appointment with an online provider in as little as 48 hours, and each treatment plan is catered to your personal needs.