"If you are already prone to being a worrier, parenting can intensify your symptoms in some interesting ways..."
Betsy Aimee Cardenas is a writer, branding consultant, community relations consultant, and mother. She’s obviously got her hands full in her professional career. However, she’s also as busy as any other mom when it comes to rearing her child.
Betsy clearly has all her ducks in a row, but it isn’t as easy as she would like to be. Cardenas struggles with anxiety and has been dealing with it since the age of 19.
When she was 27, Betsy was officially diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Of the myriad of symptoms, Betsy has to deal with excessive anxiety and worry that a person finds difficult to control. Furthermore, she is constantly at risk of suffering from severe panic attacks.
Though her condition would usually cripple an individual’s ability to be an effective parent, this bold mommy never let it get the best of her. She’s worked to apply a wide range of coping mechanisms in order to successfully manage her affliction. She’s tried therapy, yoga, medications, even reducing caffeine. She’s found a good balance through her coping mechanisms but she also recognises that everyone’s results may vary.
Cardenas has made one interesting discovery in dealing with her condition and experience as a parent: “Upon examining the symptoms of anxiety, it seems to me they are almost synonymous with parenting.”
She claims that those who haven’t already identified or been diagnosed with anxiety are putting themselves and their children at risk. “If you are already prone to being a worrier, parenting can intensify your symptoms in some interesting ways.”
Thankfully, this mother and victim of anxiety has shared ways in which parents can identify their condition before it’s too late. Check out her list of signs that can help you to identify whether or not you’re an anxious parent, and her helpful advice on how to cope with the issue:
1. Panic over how you will parent creeps up early
“The anxiety which I once had under control seemed to intensify during my pregnancy. While other women were enjoying their impending motherhood, I e-mailed myself parenting articles to read at night. I started saving money in a manic phase for fear that we just would never have enough money to support the baby.”
2. You imagine the absolute worst case scenario
“Every time we go away for the weekend, I mentally prepare to never see my son again, and I imagine headlines that read, ‘Couple Dies Tragically en Route to Weekend Retreat.’ I swear to you, I said final prayers two weeks ago when there was a turbulence on my way back from a work trip. People keep telling you to stop worrying and to calm down. Which, of course, we all know has NEVER worked for anyone EVER.”
3. You have memorised the likelihood of terrible things happening to your children
“You regularly use that data to calm yourself down. If you panic about your kid going to a sleepover at a friend’s house, you remind yourself that children are more likely to be molested by a relative than a stranger. Then you make a mental note to call the family and ask them if they have a gun in the house.”
4. You read every parenting article about raising “successful” kids
“And on the flip side you also read every depressing article with facts about how global warming will destroy humanity in your child’s lifespan. You make another mental note to teach your child survival skills. You start a lot of your sentences with the phrase, ‘I read a study that said ….'”
5. It impacts your parenting decisions, you fear your child will also live with irrational anxiety
“I knew early on I didn’t want to co-sleep with my son, because I slept with my parents for many years due to my intense fear of the dark. The longer they delayed forcing me to sleep alone, the more the fear intensified. I wanted him to feel safe sleeping alone from the beginning, and it has worked out so far.”
Here are Cardenas’ 3 steps to manage parenting with anxiety:
1. Recognise that many of your fears will never materialise
Understand that you will never be able to shield your children from everything that is sad, scary or painful. What you can do is enjoy your life by worrying less. This might require work as it probably doesn’t come naturally to you.
If you need support, seek it. See a doctor or a therapist, and explore all options available to you. Find community in others who deal with this. One of the best things I ever did during a particularly challenging time of my life was attend a support group for those who suffer from depression and anxiety.
If you are a new mother, know that intense anxiety can also be a symptom of post-partum depression.
2. Understand that your attitude impacts everything
“I have started the practice of affirmations that address my fears. My son has a speech delay, and I have a lot of fear and anxiety around the topic. So I write down things like, ‘My son will communicate effectively using words.’ This might sounds really dumb to you, but it works for me and helps me focus at work and get through hard days.”
“There isn’t a one-size-fits-all remedy for managing anxiety but find what works for you. This is something you need to constantly manage at various points in your life. Ironically, during times of stress and when we are most likely to ignore our needs, that is when we need to practice self-care the most…
So don’t ever ignore it.”
3. I avoid transferring irrational fears to my child
“I purposely let my child explore on his own. I don’t want my child growing up with fear of things real and imaginary. I know he is predisposed to being anxious due to genetic nature of the illness, and so I am extra-cautious about being gentle and responsive to his needs. It’s the reason why I was so interested in RIE parenting, which is all about being a calm parent.”
“Parenting with anxiety isn’t always easy but don’t let it deny you of the joys of watching your babies grow and thrive. As much as parenting has made me anxious, it has also forced me to live less in my head and more in the moment.”
“It’s a work in progress, and I give myself grace on the hard days. After all, each day is a new opportunity to start again.”
You can read Betsy Aimee Cardenas’ original article on Mom.Me.