Stay at Home Mothers and Anxiety

11/09/2014

Anxiety tends to pretty common in our culture of late. One group that seems particularly affected by it is stay at home mothers (SAHMs). There are many reasons why they get anxious. It could be a result of having recently given birth, staying at home caring for young children (which is a tough job!), or it could be that they expose themselves to things that make them anxious. For example, in an effort to stay informed or just have background noise, many SAHMs watch talk shows and news channels. I always recommend that these shows get turned off or are watched sparingly because they often foster unnecessary anxiety (like The Nancy Grace Show which often focuses on kidnapped or injured children).

Anxiety tends to feed upon itself which is why distraction techniques are so essential to controlling it. Many SAHMs with young children do not get out as much as they would like. This can mean that their days blend into a never-ending cycle of anxiety-producing tasks. Thus, scheduling their day so that they are getting out at least once and interacting with other adults is important. This can be anything from having a friend come over or attending a playdate to having a trusted individual watch the kids while they go out or even just taking the kids to a park, mall or other activity outside of the house. The more our minds are filled with other thoughts, the less room there is for anxiety.

Concentrating on positive self-talk and living more in the moment can be helpful strategies too. Positive self-talk can include statements about fear being irrational and that everything will be fine as well as assertions that some anxiety is normal but that it does not control you. Being more present-focused (aka mindfulness) allows for centering attention on something physiological, not psychological. For example, if we’re outside enjoying nature while being mindful, we can pay attention to the things we see (clouds), feel (wind), hear (birds), smell (neighbors grilling) or taste. Children are quite excellent at living in the moment, so discussing what’s going on for them can give adults some ideas about what we can do differently.

Other methods of managing anxiety include regular exercise, meditation and additional relaxation techniques. Children can participate in all of these activities. All that is needed is creativity. There are Baby and Me yoga classes to try, daily nature walks can be fun, and kids love it when you develop obstacle courses that you complete with them. I also recommend teaching them Progressive Muscle Relaxation which is a relaxation technique everyone should learn. Helping children relax and appropriately manage anxiety is a valuable skill and (bonus!) it can be quite useful in helping them sleep better!

Some SAHMs worry that something bad will happen to them and they will not be able to raise their children themselves. While I can certainly understand that worry, the reality is that it probably will not ever happen, so there’s no point in borrowing trouble. We can prepare for accidents as much as possible (e.g., buying insurance, making wills, arranging for caregivers) but then we should rest easy. If something bad happens, then it will be handled at that time and plans are in place to deal with it. That’s all that can be done. In other words, it is more productive and healthy to not let worry about tomorrow interfere with the joy you can feel today.

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