In my job as a therapist, I work with individuals to help them develop healthy coping skills to deal with life stressors and strong emotions. The past month, I have had to put my words where my mouth is and really heed my own advice. As a natural worrier, I tend to over think, over analyze, and generally over worry. So, putting our house on the market, keeping it show-ready with two kids, a husband, and a dog, as well as the emotional ups and downs of selling a home you love and then it being pending already, was the perfect storm for my anxiety.
I thought I’d share some tips with you all that I not only use in sessions with clients, but that I also use for my own emotional well-being. Like any coping skill, you have to learn what works best for you. It’s helpful to remember that it’s not just one single thing that might help. You may need to try multiple techniques in different ways.
These are a few tools that I’ve found help me. I hope they might help you too when life as a mama gets a little rough!
1. Deep Breathing
All right, guys. I’m sure we’ve all heard about how taking deep breaths when we’re upset can help, right? But it really does! I promise! The intentional act of slowing your breaths and inhaling deeply and then exhaling is calming. Have fun practicing with your kiddos with THE cutest video!
2. Progressive Muscle Relaxation
When I’m lying in bed at night, thoughts racing in my head, unable to fall asleep, this is my go-to. Essentially, you tighten and release each muscle, starting all the way from your head to your toes. You can do a web search for progressive muscle relaxation to find scripts to follow.
This technique helps you stay in the here and now. Too often, the worries and thoughts that keep us up in the middle of the night are from the past or future. While we sometimes may wish we have superpowers to change the past or control the future, the reality is that the only thing we have control over is the right here, right now. This exercise helps you focus on the outside world when you’re too intently focused on what’s going on internally. It helps ground you in the present and separates you from intense emotions.
To do this, name
- 5 things you see,
- 4 things you feel,
- 3 things you hear,
- 2 things you smell (or smells you love), and
- 1 thing you taste.
4. Inspirational Quotes
I am all about inspirational quotes. My house would be one giant quote, if I could! I love the way quotes just seem to speak to us, saying everything we need to in just one phrase, exactly when we need to hear it. I especially love this one that I received from my manager at work. Search Pinterest or Google to find ones that really speak to you. Print it out, write it on a Post-it note, and refer to it as much as you need!
Here’s an excerpt I love from the book Attitude Is Everything by Vicki Hitzges.
Wait to Worry
I can’t overstate the importance of being able to maintain a positive attitude, but I’m the first one to admit that it’s not easy. I used to worry. A lot. The more I fretted, the more proficient I became at it. Anxiety begets anxiety. I even worried that I worried too much! To get some perspective, I visited a well known Dallas businessman, Fred Smith.
“When I’m tempted to get alarmed,” he confided, “I tell myself, ‘ Fred, you’ve got to wait to worry! Until you know differently, don’t worry.’ And I don’t. Waiting to worry helps me develop the habit of not worrying and that helps me not be tempted to worry.
“I frequently ask audiences what they were worried about this time last year. I get a lot of laughs,” he said, “because most people can’t remember. Then I ask if they have a current worry — you see nods from everybody. Then I remind them that the average worrier is 92% inefficient — only 8% of what we worry about ever comes true.”
5. Support/Talk It Out
Connection. We thrive on connecting with others. When we have a safe person to talk with about our worries and fears, sometimes, that’s really all it takes to feel relief. Talking about what we’re worried about or what is stressing us out is therapeutic and needed. Find your people. The people who can hold stuff for you. The people who you can go to, any time, any day, and let it out. As women, wives, moms, friends, we all need that one person. It’s OK to ask for help. It’s OK to say, “I need you.”