Do you ever feel it?
Yeah, me too.
I know its not black and white and that anxiety shows up in different ways and to different extents for different people. I don’t think I have an anxiety disorder, more like a tendency, with flare ups! This is just my experience….
I never really, like REALLY realised I felt anxious, until just before Nathan was born. I mean, I knew it deep down but the penny hadn’t dropped that what I was feeling was anxiety, and I was 32. Like, a full grown adult apparently.
I know it’s always been a part of my story. I am a happy person a LOT of the time. Happy does not equal not anxious. Although I am happier when anxiety is on a holiday. I do have extremely high expectations of myself, particularly as a mother and I have lots of dreams, I just don’t always reach those dreams, queue anxiety. I can be shy & lack confidence and this has held me back in so many situations. I'm an introvert as well as an occasional extrovert. So many contradictions, eh?! And then there's the anxiety. I say ‘the’ because it’s not me, or who I am, it’s just something that happens to me sometimes.
Despite having amazing friends and family, I often felt I didn't belong growing up or that I wasn’t good enough or just a ‘bit different’. Sometimes, I still feel it. I always envy those people who make socialising, public speaking & meeting new people seem effortless, although I’m sure it isn’t for anyone. I still slightly freak out when I do an instastory! I was hyper critical of myself when I was younger! Physically and in my abilities. I just always didn’t feel good enough. It’s such a sad fact that so many of us are held back because we don’t feel ‘enough’. Do you relate?
Perceptions and idealism are heightened more than ever with the rise of social media. We all feel it. I actually started my blog as an attempt to reach out, connect with like minded people and hopefully help others who might be struggling too, because in reality I felt really alone and quite anxious after I had Nathan. And I’ve met beautiful people through Instagram but I’ve also fallen victim to the comparison game. It’s hard not to. To me the rise of social media and addiction to our phones not only leads us to compare ourselves to these seemingly ‘perfect’ lives. Perfect is not only a bully but it also takes us out of the present moment, fills the essential space we need to sit with just us, our feelings and work through them. How many of us reach for our phones when we have a spare minute? How many of us check our phones upon waking? How many of us scroll mindlessly regularly? This is not a criticism, I do it too and I am aware and working on it. I feel like it stops us feeling. It could be a difficult but worthy step to ask ourselves before we reach for our phones, “how am I feeling in myself, in my body?”
Before Nathan's birth, the anxiety was seriously heightened, an almost out of body experience for about two weeks. The adrenaline was on fire! It took it to be that glaringly obvious for me to go, huh, so that's what this feeling is? My midwife & husband both looked at me slightly puzzled that I’d only realised it now.
The tightness in my chest, the sensation that I'm running on adrenaline, the endless churning going on in my head, the tension in my body, the digestion issues, the brain fog, the nightmares.
I'm not quite sure where it came from, maybe it came from nowhere and everywhere.
Motherhood & Anxiety
Motherhood has transformed my life, it has been the most beautiful, loving and rewarding experience. It has also heightened feelings of anxiety for me, or at least brought it into my awareness more. Like all mothers, I want what's best for my children, I feel a deep responsibility to ensure they are as healthy & happy as they can be. I have experienced anxiety about so many of my motherhood choices, both at the hand of myself & others. I don’t know if I am right or wrong in all of my choices, but I do know that I am trying my very best.
I feel that a certain amount of these anxious feelings come from the actual challenge itself, as in having to make choices for this other human being you’re now responsible for! That’s a biggie, eh? But a huge amount also comes also from the fear of feeling judged by others. Us women are constantly being judged. And I dare say it, but mainly by other mothers or women. That’s pretty sad, isn’t it?
This we can do it all, gotta do it all attitude gives rise to so many of us feeling inadequate. Of not quite making the mark. The choices we make are constantly under scrutiny as I talked about in my other blog post ‘that motherhood dilemma’. We gotta bounce back after birth, miscarriage or any other major life event. We have to be strong always, whilst juggling the kids, work, house and oh, looking good, or at least presentable. And if you’re a stay at home mom well, let’s just say from experience, it’s intense! Amazing, but intense.
On the one side, I know I need to get over it and adopt a more 'fu@k it' attitude, but the reality is, that that is a struggle for me. On the other side, I really feel that none of us are aware of the sheer power of our words, and that encouragement, kindness and empathy to a new, young, older, third time mother is what we all need at this beautiful, vulnerable and challenging time of our lives. The last thing any of us need when we’re struggling is to hear what someone else believes we’re not doing right. Right?
I've said it before my/ yours/ their parenting choices should not be taken as a judgement on mine/ yours/ theirs. Mothers empowering mothers. Women empowering women, that's what we need more of. Cause I really reckon, we are all trying our best!
So here’s to………
More empathy & less judgement.
More love & less comparison.
Me, Aisling, not just a Mom
When you’re in the throws of parenting it’s hard not to loose some of your identity isn’t it? A lot of your socialising is with other moms and their kids, and that’s cool. Sometimes I ask myself, who am I? What do I have to offer? I’m sure lots of people can relate to this. When I meet new people, mainly moms, cause ya know that’s where my social life is at, I can sometimes come across as more of an extrovert. And somedays maybe I am. But the truth is on reflection, I've noticed that adrenaline regularly kicks in, and it's that classic fight or flight situation I find myself in. I choose to fight, because I want to meet new people, I want to experience community and meaningful connection. That's what we all crave, isn’t it?
The Gut Connection
I had to include a little on this because it’s been massive for me. If you experience anxiety or depression, do you have stomach problems too? Thankfully the gut aka ‘the second brain’ is finally having some time in the limelight about the sheer impact our emotions have on our gut and the gut on our emotions.
We’ve all heard comments like ‘gut wrenching’, ‘I feel sick to my stomach’ and gut feeling’, but it’s really only more recently that science is showing just how interlinked the brain & the gut actually are. I have had reflux, ibs, was treated for ulcers and more recently I felt chronically unwell after Nathan’s birth. I tried lots of avenues from mainstream to alternative and when I finally found my kiniseologist and discovered I had a leaky gut. I’m convinced this was my guts way of getting my attention! And, it did. My kiniseologist has found that a chemical imbalance is heightening my anxiety recently so I will let you know how I go with correcting this using some supplements.
I wasn’t absorbing my nutrients anymore. I was loosing weight, I felt ill no matter how cleanly I ate. I felt AWFUL!!! I’d go to bed once David came home because I was so exhausted and in pain that staying awake wasn’t an option.
I’m now on a mission to heal my gut. Probiotics were the first step for me and this has been linked to being highly effective when treating anxiety and depression too. The microbiome, we’ve all heard of it. It needs to be healthy and that can be tricky in a fast-paced world full of processed foods.
Food for thought: 90% of seretonin, the feel good hormone is found in our gut. So it makes complete sense to me that healing your gut will improve your mental health.
I know I am so blessed. I have so much to be grateful for and I'm lucky in that I've finally named these feelings of anxiety. It doesn’t define me, I’m not a victim, it’s just a small part of my story. I try to use these uncomfortable feelings as a ‘call to action’, like a message that something is not quite right, right now. Whether I can figure out what that is, depends on the day. It’s a total ongoing healing journey for me.
Creating a morning routine. Find what works for you, think of it as a maintenance program. I started getting up a bit earlier, had time to sip on lemon and water, do some yoga and a couple of minutes meditation followed by scribbling a few things I’m grateful for into my journal. At first the kids climbed all over me, then when I kept at it, they started to ignore me or else join in. It wasn’t perfect, it was messy but I did feel so much better when I was following this mini routine. It set me up for the day and I felt calmer and more positive from the get go.
Striving for contentment. This is a biggie, we can often feel we are falling short of the ‘perfect life’. There’s no such thing and whilst being happy is amazing, being content is that beautiful, calm middle ground. I’ll take that :)
Adjust your expectations of yourself if they are too high, chances they are! Praise and applaud yourself for what your doing a good job at!
Being present whatever the moment is. This world is so loud and distracting! Everything around us takes our attention! Why not try not taking your phone out when your in a cafe and just take in your surroundings? Crazy eh. Or bring a book. Everywhere you look people have their heads stuck in their phones and so much of the present is lost. Kids are amazing for being in the moment, it’s where they live! I try and stop and just play with my children a few times a day. I find by being in this very moment dispels a huge amount of anxiety. I’m always working on this one.
Being aware of and reducing my screen time. This is a biggie! Checking in with myself when I’m using social media, how is it making me feel? How frequently am I checking my phone? How much is it controlling me? Am I reaching for my phone first thing?
Do something fun. Something you enjoy or find a new hobby! Good music is also great for changing your mood.
Releasing shame. It’s toxic! Talk to someone you trust about how you are feeling, trust me there are lots of people in the same situation!
Identifying and naming the emotion or anxiety your experiencing. Observing the sensation in your body and mind. I told you it took me 32 years to identify anxiety ;)
Deep breaths! I try breathing and focusing on breathing into the space I feel the tension, tightness or adrenaline. This really is my go-to.
Gratitude; when I’m really on it I’ll have a gratitude journal. Listing off all the things you are grateful for is transformative. If your struggling, start with the basics…I’m grateful I have a bed to sleep in etc.
Journal. This is a goodie. It can be hard at first! Sometimes I’d just sit and write absolute crap, then suddenly loads would come up, out and onto the page. It’s a safe space to get your feelings out and I found it addictive!
Grounding and reminding yourself, “I am safe!” Most of the things we worry about, never happen. And when we worry and it does happen we put ourselves through the torture twice!
Working with a reputable alternative medicine practitioner. Of course if you feel your anxiety is of a serious nature and you’re really not coping, seek medical help or check out aware.ie for a list of resources.
Reflecting on my life and asking myself what do I need more/ less of? It’s all about balance.
Working on healing my gut. A good probiotic is a good way to start!
Aconite, a homeopathic remedy if I'm really struggling.
A hug, with my husband or my kids. Love really dispels a lot of these uncomfotable feelings.
Yoga. Moving my body, focusing on my breath all helps me get out of my head. I feel more grounded after some time on the mat. For you it could be a run or a workout in the gym. Exercise moves the energy in our bodies and gets our endorphins going. Win, win.
Nature: A dip in sea cleanses me, a walk in the woods nourishes me and fresh air, clears my head.
Intuitive eating: listening to my body and feeding it nourishing food. Some days I need comfort and I’ll want a hug in a bowl, other times I need a nutrient packed smoothie. Go with it. One thing I believe is good healthy food helps you feel better. Don’t punish yourself if you have a binge, maybe you really needed it! But try feed your body good food.
Sleep: An early night to reboot myself. As a mother I am pretty damn sleep deprived! Playing catch up now :)
Reducing alcohol and caffeine intake. Yup.
Epsom salt bath with some lavender to dispel the tension and relax. In fact a shower even washes some of it away!
Me time, some time out to just be me and not be on parent mode. A chance to move at a slower pace.
Friendships, with gentle, like-minded people.
Pushing myself outside of my comfort zone.
Affirmations to remind myself I am a strong woman & an awesome mother. And you are too!
Date night: when I feel really connected to David, I feel more empowered. Love is the answer to almost everything for me ;)
Meditation & prayer if it feels right for you. For me having this soulful, sacred time is invaluable. If not, try mindfulness. There’s a good app called headspace and it’s very easy to follow.
Be very protective of your environment and the company you put yourself in. For example, I no longer watch violent movies or listen to the news. It personally affects me too much!
Feel the fear, take a deep breath and do it anyway!