Are you and anxious parent? I know what it’s like to lay awake at night worrying. Do you? Worrying about whether you’re doing the right thing for your kids or doing enough for your kids. You might be worrying about your child’s future and how they will be able to make it in this world, or how they will be judged by others. Maybe you worry about their safety, especially as they get older. If this sounds like you, you’re probably trying to do everything in your power to alleviate this anxiety and to make sure your children are happy, healthy, and safe.
Anxiety comes in all different forms, and can show itself in many different ways. Maybe you have struggled with anxiety for a long time, even before having children. Maybe you never considered yourself to be anxious until you had kids and you started to feel like you had less control of the world. Maybe you still don’t think of yourself as anxious, but when things don’t go the way you think they should, it’s very difficult to handle.
I see a lot of parents, and their anxiety often becomes apparent even when they are not aware of a family history of anxiety. It can be easy to try to control your fears by controlling your environment and your child’s. And sometimes, maybe even most of the time, this approach can seem to work for alleviating parental anxiety, but it may increase children’s. Anxious parents often have anxious children, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
My intention is not to blame parents. If I’ve described you here, your reactions are only natural. My goal is to give you hope and provide a path forward for alleviating your own anxiety as well as your children’s.
Anxiety is treatable. The challenge is that treating anxiety can seem counter-intuitive. Anxiety comes from overestimating the danger in a situation, and treating it involves not only recognizing the false-alarm, but also treating it as a false alarm. In the case of your children, this means allowing them to experience difficult situations and make choices you don’t always agree with, and recognizing the limits of your control. When it comes to our children, it can be harder to recognize the false alarm. The solution can feel unnatural and scary, especially at first.
When I work with anxious children, a major component of my work is often helping parents learn how to respond to their child’s anxiety. Sometimes I work just with parents and send them home with new skills to use for managing their own stress and responding to their children.
New research has shown that with family therapy it may even be possible to prevent or delay the onset of anxiety disorders in children with anxious parents (click here for more on this research: http://n.pr/1KzNgqE). If you’d like to see how addressing your own anxiety can impact your family, call to schedule an appointment.
Doing your best is not a reason to stop trying. It’s possible to be doing your best and try to do better. With continued effort, your best can improve over time.
Ok, I know a bowl of beets isn’t as appetizing as a box of chocolates, but bear with me here. The other day I had beets that someone had given me that I wanted to use before they went bad. So I found a recipe and spent a good 30 minutes preparing this beet dish. Now I should mention that I have a long-standing mental-block against beets.I know that I usually wind up liking dishes with beets when they’re prepared by someone else and put in front of me. And yet, as a rule, I don’t seek them out, and really hesitate before eating them. Other than one unfortunate incident involving juicing beets (which really didn’t help my mental-block), I have never prepared them myself. But I don’t like wasting food and I’m trying to eat more vegetables, so I found myself standing in front of a dish of beets that I had just spent half an hour preparing and I did. not. want. to. taste. them. “It’s late,” I reasoned, “Maybe I’ll wait until tomorrow.”
As I stood in my kitchen trying to decide what to do, I noticed that my heart was pounding hard and fast. “Huh, I’m feeling kind of anxious. I wonder why?” I thought. And then I realized…I was afraid of the beets. I know this is not a rational fear. I know that I am usually surprised to find that I do like beet dishes almost every time I eat them. I know that the worst thing that is likely to happen is that I will not like the dish I just prepared, and it will be a waste of food and my time (which is more or less the same outcome as if I do not try it). But knowing these things was not enough to alleviate my anxiety.
The more I considered avoiding the source of my anxiety, the more my fear of eating beets grew. Determined not to be beaten by fear of a vegetable, I prepared myself a large bowl of bright red salad and took a bite. My heart immediately stopped pounding and I felt calm. I felt better and better with each bite. I felt a little silly that I had made eating beets into such a big thing, but also good that I was able to face my fear and confident that I could do it again. And I did…twice more that week. I know that the more often I eat beets, the better I will continue to feel about it. If I go a long time without eating them, I may feel apprehensive again in the future and have to follow these steps again: Recognize my feeling (anxiety), identify the source (the idea of eating beets), use logic and challenge the anxiety producing thoughts (I’ve eaten beets before and liked them. The worst thing that’s likely to happen is an unpleasant bite of food), and face the fear (taste the beets).
This is exactly the type of thing I help clients to do. We look at the things that are causing them anxiety or discomfort and examine whether their response to these situations is helping them feel better or inadvertently making them feel worse. I then help them learn strategies for coping with their emotions and approaching the situations in a new way and evaluate the results. Not all fears or anxieties seem as innocuous as tasting beets, but with the right skills, you can overcome even bigger fears and stop letting anxiety get in your way.
Progress is rarely a straight line. Today, try to focus on the progress you’ve made more than any setbacks you’ve experienced.
Mindfulness involves purposefully bringing attention to the present moment without judgment.
Today, find 5 minutes to intentionally be mindful of your breath.
Photo by hannah k
Happiness is overrated. Everywhere you turn there are books and articles about how to be happier. Why bother? What’s the point? Happiness doesn’t get you anywhere. It doesn’t buy you anything. And nobody can be happy ALL the time anyway. Why not strive for a more realistic goal…misery. The following tips will help you live a truly miserable life.
Spend all of your time working. Go in early. Stay late. Eat at your desk. DON’T socialize. And don’t even THINK about taking vacation time. If you’ve made the mistake of getting involved with a significant other, make sure they know that work will ALWAYS come first. When you are with them, make sure to check every e-mail that comes in (this should be set up on your phone), and drop whatever you are doing to respond immediately.
Set very high expectations for those around you and make sure to let them know whenever they have not met these expectations. Do this EVERY TIME, no matter how small the transgression. Don’t bother telling them when they meet your expectations-they’re just doing what they’re supposed to. This goes for everyone you come into contact with, regardless of what their relationship is to you. If you have children they will probably always be grounded.
While you’re at it, put everyone else’s needs above your own at all times. Try holding yourself to the standard of making everyone else happy. If there’s ANY way you can fill a request someone makes, find a way to do it. You may need to rearrange your schedule and give up on things like sleep and hobbies (if you’ve made the mistake of developing hobbies), but it’s worth it. Don’t forget to make sure you let others know how much you’re going out of your way to do things for them and to remind yourself how ungrateful they are.
Accept nothing less than perfection. In fact, set high expectations for every aspect of your life and really focus on anything that falls short. All of the things that are wrong in your life should always be in the back of your mind, no matter what else you’re doing. Never let down your guard or relax. If you’re not having stressful or upsetting dreams, you’re probably doing it wrong.
If you follow these tips, you’ll be on your way to a miserable life in no time! If I forgot any important steps, you should make sure to let me know in the comments section. It’s good practice.
*Recent research has shown that sarcasm is related to intelligence and creativity. This article was brought to you in the spirit of making you smarter and more creative 🙂
Progress is rarely a straight line. Today, try to focus on the progress you’ve made more than your setbacks.
Judgments are value label, such as good/bad, right/wrong, and should/shouldn’t. Judgments interfere with acceptance and progress. Today, try stepping away from judgment and focus on what is or is not working instead.
The first step to change is accepting what already is (remember yesterday’s tip on acceptance). Today, practice accepting reality as it already exists.
Acceptance is not the same as agreement. It is possible accept reality without believing that it should be that way.