Anxiety has gotten a bad rap. Mostly because when we think anxiety, we think “something is wrong with me”. So, if it’s not enough that feeling anxious can be super uncomfortable, the association of feeling out of control with a sense of deficiency makes it even harder to manage.
And manage we must, because if we let our fears take over and guide us, not only do we miss precious opportunities to enjoy the present moment, but our kids miss out too.
When I’m feeling overwhelmed and anxious, the fact is, I’m less present, available and attuned to my kids. So even if I’m there in body, I’m not present. I’m not there. And if this is my default state of mind, even though I’m physically there, my kids may still feel the sting of abandonment.
Now, before you spiral down the rabbit hole of fear, wondering if you’re guilty of letting your anxiety get the better of you, let me remind you that the key to overcoming fear and anxiety is recognizing its presence. In other words, if you notice that you are starting to wonder if you’re inadvertently messing up your kids, then you’re actually half way to taking hold of your automatic and becoming more mindful!
Being mindful means paying attention to the present moment without judgment. That means that you notice the thoughts, feelings, images, memories and physical sensations that come up for your without being hard on yourself for the mere fact that they’re there.
The challenge of being a more mindful mom isn’t just consciously pausing to pay attention to what’s coming up for you though, it’s also noticing the critical thoughts that interfere with your awareness. There you are taking deep breaths, trying to focus inward, but as soon as we hit a thought that might invoke an uncomfortable feeling like “I have no idea what I’m doing”, or “I should’ve known better”, or “If only [fill in the blank, then [fill in the blank]” , just to name a few, we interpret that yucky feeling of proof that the thought is true.
And if our conscious thoughts aren’t a big enough obstacle, how about those unconscious thought? The one’s that are so automatic you aren’t even aware that they’re there yet!
What do we do when all of our efforts to calm our discomfort and irritability come up short? If you’re like most people, you do. We get busy. We get distracted. Whether it be with Facebook, a sink of dishes, a get away behind a closed door, or your to do list. Instead of going into the anxiety, and bringing awareness to what’s really going on for us, we run, hide or lose it.
But if we aren’t trying to figure anything out, avoid or fix anything, if we are simply paying attention to our thoughts, feelings, physical sensations like a scientist will watch an experiment unfold, then we don’t get carried away by judgment or self criticism, we don’t become more anxious and irritable by our failed efforts, and rather we just see ourselves through the discomfort.
Whatever comes up for you, whether pleasant or not, is like a wave: If you give it a chance, it will just wash over you and pass. If you try to stop it, it will just gain your in strength and bowl you over.
So the next time you feel overwhelmed, or like you’re about to lose it, instead of judging yourself, or running to distraction, take pause, take a breath and pay attention as the waves of thought, emotion, and sensations wash over you, just noticing.
With time, practice and patience, you can become a more mindful, calm and present mom.