Category Archives: Stress

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My village, my valium.

I’ve been a tiny bit absent lately, if you haven’t noticed. I have had a lot to say, but finding the time to express it is a whole different matter. But seeing as it’s Mental Health Week and all, now’s the time to pop out of my anxiety closet and give y’all a few updates.

I have good news. For anyone who has felt plagued by anxiety their entire lives, my news will hopefully lift your spirits. Here it is. Things have gotten better.

Oddly, I feel as though I’ve dropped a few balls for the first time in my life and yet I’ve never felt lighter or more relieved. It’s as though I’ve dived beneath the froth and foam of the endless chatter in my mind, and found a stillness beneath the waves. I can still see the madness above, but I’m ever-so-slightly removed from it for the first time in a long old while.

I have found some perspective.

So, what’s changed since this time last year? Let me share.

 (1) I have found myself a cracking spiritual healer.
OK, OK, so she’s technically a clinical psychologist, but she is healing my soul while she’s treating my condition. I’ve seen a few psychologists over the years, but this one….well…this one gets it. She’s articulate, funny, insightful, and sage.  She is my lightbulb lady. You know the sort of person I mean; you have conversations that switch imaginary flicks in your brain. Conversations that remove the blanket of monotony that envelops your usual thought processes.

(2) I’ve started medication
This was a bigee for me. I used to think “I take medication” translated directly into “I’m a big fat failure”, and whilst I would never think that about someone else who decided to go on meds, I felt that it made me weak. I’m only about a month into my medication now, and I am finding the little things easier. Like what, you ask? Well….

  • Driving
  • Handling my daughter’s epic meltdowns
  • Having visitors
  • Making phone calls
  • Coping with a crying baby in public

Some of these things might seem like such tiny little issues for most people. For me, they’re monumental…cataclysmic…huge. I still have lots of hang-ups and bang-ups – don’t get me wrong – but I’m functioning better.

(3) I made a village 
I have felt largely alone since returning to Australia and having children. Never has this been felt as acutely as last week when I had the flu. I felt vile, as you do, but had to plod along and take care of my sick baby and my rambunctious four year old. I wanted to die; I truly believed death would be preferable to the illness that had consumed me. My husband needed to work, my mother was away, and to top it all off I was contagious so I couldn’t see any of my friends. I also wasn’t allowed to “give” my kids to anyone so that I could rest, given the likelihood that they too were brewing this nasty virus.

So how did I cope?

In a very authentically-Australian way. I had neighbours.

I live in a townhouse complex with a few other stay at home mums, and a bunch of little kids. In the year that I’ve been living here I’ve come to know and adore these children, and to rely on their mothers. In this instance, my next-door-neighbour (and co-founder of my latest project Booksy and Novella…PLUG) brought me painkillers and food.  In previous instances,  I’ve had champagne and dinner for the kids dropped off at my house after I ran the half-marathon and was too exhausted to move. I’ve had my children babysat so that I can get some peace/rest/sanity. I’ve had coffees brought to my doorstop after rough nights up with the baby. I’ve had my floors swept for me, and dishes put away, because my house was a mess and I’ve been upset by the state of it.

#booksyandnovella
#booksyandnovella

In short, I’ve found a support system. I hope I am helping these wonder woman as much as they’re helping me. This system is what I’ve been missing since I had kids; people I can turn to at the drop of a hat and say “HELP”. The help is practical – like minding the kids so I can pop to the doctors on my own for a quiet conversation – but it’s also spiritual. I feel connected. I feel supported. I feel like I can make it through.

My posts have been getting less frequent, but that’s a good thing. I’m starting to work my way out of the madness. I know that anxiety doesn’t just go away. Mine certainly hasn’t vanished despite all my hopes when I started taking pills and seeing a shrink! But it  can ease, and it can be managed, and it can weigh less heavy on your heart.

 

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Introducing affirmations for my anxious preschooler

It’s probably no surprise that I’m anxious about my daughter being anxious.

From the varied media that I’ve consumed on the subject matter, the common consensus seems to be that my children are more likely to suffer anxiety compared to the norm. If it  doesn’t slip through via genetics, then they will probably pick it up through learned behaviour anyway. Great. 

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I’ll admit, I’ve been watching her like a hawk over the years, keen to pick up on any telltale anxious-child signs. I have heard all my life that the sooner you pick up on it, the easier the management, so I’m watching vigilantly (ok, so maybe somewhat neurotically. Go figure).

I’ve noticed my daughter is quick to say “I can’t” and give up when she can’t do something perfectly. (These two words are probably the most common words that go around inside my anxious brain alongside “not possible”, and “never”). Uh oh – is this a warning of things to come with my daughter?

She also tells me she feels shy. While I’m super impressed by her emotional intelligence, I do worry about her shyness at times because I fear she experiences anxiety alongside this shyness. In new situations involving other children she will often tell me “no one likes me, mummy”. Maybe I’m being paranoid but these words seem more significant than “typical three year old stuff”.  Uh oh. I think she is already worried about what other people think of her.

Noticing these things about her, I’ve decided to add two anxiety-busting tools into our bedtime routine. Tools she has started to absolutely love, without knowing my hidden agenda. Sure, they might be a bit new-age, but they pack a powerful punch when it comes to fighting anxious thoughts and building firm foundations in terms of self-esteem.

(1) I’m happy for…

This “game” is basically a gratitude list. I demonstrated how to do it for a few nights, but after that she took to it with gusto! It’s not so much about what she is saying, but THAT she is saying it. It’s a subtle reminder before she goes to bed of the many positive things in her day. It puts her into a calm and happy frame of mind before sleep. And hey, if she is happy for “our big garage” and that “she touched a lizard!” then that’s just grand! (I love having a window into the inner workings of her mind when we do this game!)

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(2) The repeat game

I start with some basics, as she repeats her name, her age, where she lives. I then launch into some positive self-worth stuff – easy affirmations for preschoolers. It sounds like this:

You’re great at somersaults.

You are an excellent soup maker.  

You love cuddling your baby brother.

It’s funny, but she always calls me to task on any affirmations that are inauthentic. Her corrections are beautiful and evidence of self-awareness. “No mummy, I don’t love cuddling my brother. I love kissing him. On his tummy. Not on his eyes though”. (Ok, good to know then!)

I always include the famous lines from The Help somewhere within our ritual:

These are some of the most powerful words I’ve ever heard, and I think they’re so important for our daughters.

I must admit that I also tell her she is beautiful as part of these affirmations, but I stress that being a beautiful isn’t as important as being nice. I incorporated this lesson after feeling irrationally upset when my daughter casually mentioned she wanted to be Elsa because she was the prettiest one (of all the princesses). I wanted to get into that brain of hers nice’n’early and tell her about what really matters!

These affirmations and gratitude lists are now every bit as important in our bedtime routine as the book reading and song-singing, and I hope they are doing some good in terms of creating a calm, happy, and healthy three year old mind.

I might not be able to prevent anxiety in her life, but I will do my absolute darnedest to help her manage it!

Do you do any affirmations or meditation with your kids? Tell me about it! 

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Would you raise your kids differently if you had the chance?

I was recently interviewed alongside a number of fellow mums for an article that explored what we think we coulda, woulda and shoulda done differently if we had our time again. (You can check out the Kidspot article here.)

It was the sort of question you need to ponder in a yoga session, or contemplate while you sip on a chamomile tea and reflect back over the years. I, however, rushed straight in with the first few things that popped to mind from a list of a gazillion items. In fact, the only other person in the world with more things on his “shoulda done differently list” right now is probably Tony Abbott.

In my haste I failed to mention a heap of things; like how I would have made more of an effort to be clean if I could turn back the clock. Yes, I said clean. Not exactly synonymous with childrearing, but I flat out let my daughter be a grub. And all those ingrained food stains and grubby knee patches from her baby clothes stare back at me now as a constant reminder to me of how woefully unprepared I was for all that baby mess.

The list goes on, and on, and on. So many things I woulda, coulda, shoulda done differently…..

But when I read over the other interviews I pause. Hang on a sec.

There’s a universal theme here.

We were all sitting there wishing we hadn’t bothered so much about those things that seemed massively important at the time, but now seem completely inconsequential.

Across the board, we all wished we’d been easier on ourselves and…I hate to say it…. stressed less. 

Niki Gibbon’s comment in her interview was an ‘AHA’ moment for me. “I guess the things I would do differently are more about me than my child”. Actually….yep…. when I think about it, this is so very true for me.  And Bianca Tobia’s comment to “keep things simple” is another acknowledgement that maybe it is us – the parents – that complicate things unnecessarily with all our worrying. 

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Mum Niki with her (nearly!) 3-year-old girl, Isla.

In hindsight, it probably would have been a lot less stressful on me if I hadn’t repeatedly hit my head against the ‘routine’ brickwall so often; wasted time wondering why my daughter wouldn’t sleep when I was doing everything EXACTLY like Tizzy Hall told me to. I probably shouldn’t have even bothered with Tizzy Hall in the first place.  I definitely wouldn’t have read every baby book under the sun when I could’ve been reading Elizabeth Gilbert stuff instead – literature which has the bonus side-effect of nurturing my soul.

Perhaps we’ve been looking at all of this the wrong way? Maybe we shouldn’t be asking ourselves what we did wrong the first time around? Maybe we should put the coulda, shoulda, woulda’s aside and reflect on the did do’s instead.

I did give my daughter a billion cuddles a day.

I did feed my daughter when she was hungry.

I did sing to her, read to her, play with her, laugh with her, sleep with her, and cry with her. (And I still do).

I loved her to the absolute best of my ability. And if I had my time all over again, that’s the ONLY thing I’d be making sure I did again.

What about you? What are the things you definitely WOULD do again, if you had the chance?