Last summer I went tubing for the first time. I was excited for this new experience… until the boat that was pulling our tube started moving. Suddenly, my chest seemed tight and all I could think about was getting out of the water.
My son was right by my side and I told him I was done. Since we had just barely started, he asked me what was wrong. I was afraid to fall off and had no idea how I would handle it if I did.
He told me to let go.
I told him he was crazy, and said, “No way.”
He said again, “Let go, Mom. On the count of the three we’ll both let go together.”
I have no idea why I listened, but when he got to “3” I let go of the tube and almost instantly found myself bobbing up and down in the water, feeling much better, and waving to my husband to turn the boat around so we could really go tubing 🙂 When I talked about it later I realized a few things: 1) I had forgotten that I know how to swim; 2) I had forgotten I had a life jacket on; and 3) Immersed in my anxiety, I told myself I was going to get hurt because I had no idea what I was doing.
In this experience, my anxiety was short-lived; however, when we worry about our children, the anxiety can seem to pervade our lives, taint everything, and leave us with worry, fear, and apprehension.
Sure, anxiety is a part of life, so it’s not as if when you learn to overcome anxiety you’ll never have to deal with it again. But knowing a few things about anxiety can help you deal with it better. Here’s some things to know:
– Anxiety is an uncomfortable feeling (and a feeling is just a vibration you feel in your body, which means the feeling won’t actually hurt you).
– Anxiety is normal and natural, which means there’s not something wrong with you when you get anxious; you’re just human.
– Anxiety in and of itself is harmless; it’s our reaction to it and resistance of it that causes problems, which means we can have some power over it.
So, what can you do to overcome the anxiety you feel when you think about the choices your son is making? As moms, we usually try to resist or fight the anxiety (i.e., get mad at ourselves for having it), but this only increases it. Or, we react to it (i.e., yell, rush around), but this only seems to add fuel to the fire. Or, we avoid it (i.e., pretend it’s not there or distract ourselves with food, work, Facebook, etc.), but this only works in the moment.
There is another option, though. It might seem counter-intuitive, but the next time you feel the anxiety welling up inside, I challenge you to… actively accept it. Here’s how:
– Recognize you’re feeling anxious.
– Remind yourself nothing has gone wrong, you’re just feeling anxiety (and we’re not supposed to feel comfortable all the time).
– Choose to accept it (which does not mean you’re giving up; it actually means you’re taking your power back).
– Remember, thoughts cause feelings, so it’s thoughts that cause anxiety (not the situation). Be curious about what you’re thinking. Often times we don’t even really know what we’re thinking, so take 5-10 minutes to write, write, write down what’s going on in your head. Don’t judge it, just write, and then notice which thoughts are causing your anxiety. (This is NOT a time to beat yourself up or get mad at yourself for what you’re thinking. Don’t even try to change what you’re thinking. Just notice what you’re thinking and let yourself be/understand.)
– Specifically describe how your anxiety feels in your body. Where do you feel it? (Scan your body from your toes to your head.) What does it feel like? (Say you feel it in your shoulders ~ Is it hard like a rock? Heavy?) Describing how the anxiety feels allows you to observe it; it also helps you understand that it’s just a vibration you feel somewhere in your body and it’s not necessary to avoid it.
– Breathe. Inhale until your belly is full, then exhale slowly and fully.
When you choose to actively accept the anxiety you feel, you own it. It doesn’t make it disappear, but it does put you back in control. Anxiety doesn’t mean something has gone terribly wrong; it means you’re alive. And since it’s an emotion you’ll get to experience on a regular basis, remember, it’s not a problem until you make it a problem by resisting it, avoiding it, or reacting to it.
If you would like some help learning how to accept the anxiety you feel, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org set up a free mini-session today. We can talk about your own specific situation and see if my Find Peace in Parenting program is a good fit for you. There’s nothing to lose… except some of your worry 😉