I know my kids feel my angst. They can see it in my face, my tired eyes, and in the tone of my voice. They see it by the way I move around. It’s in the air of our home.
“Stop it. Don’t do that.”
“Ugh, another spill? Come on.”
“Now what’s the matter?”
“Leave your brother alone.”
And I feel guilty about it. This isn’t how I envisioned motherhood. But sometimes, anxiety rears its unwanted head, and I go back to what my mind feels like it’s programmed to do.
I unconsciously focus on the mess around me, tensions between siblings, and the disheveled mess of my appearance in the mirror.
My mind knows exactly what to do.
My brain is on instant playback of everything I’m worried about. Everything in my sight that feels chaotic and out of control. I frequently remind myself of all the things I’m failing at. How I’m constantly falling short of my own expectations. And the expectations of others that I simply won’t meet.
Do you think that helps? No. It, of course, creates more anxiety.
Anxiety is a slippery slope.
When I come to my senses, I see how this type of thinking sends me into a spiral. I now know where my thinking is distorted.
That awareness, friends, means I’m on the road to healing and getting better. And that increased awareness is gold when it comes to anxiety.
Now I see I have a very important choice to make.
A choice that determines which path my anxiety will take.
As Max Lucado, author of Anxious for Nothing said: “The presence of anxiety is unavoidable, but the prison of anxiety is optional.”
In one split moment, I catch a glimpse of my kids in their soaked clothes from the kiddie pool, mud slathered on their feet as they ask me joyfully if I can play in the water with them.
They are truly wild and free. Not a care in the world. No expectations in sight. Uninhibited. Their souls are lighthearted, not weary like mine.
Instead of focusing on the piles of laundry waiting for me downstairs or the possibility of little, muddy footprints through my house, I choose to throw out all the ridiculous expectations.
And simply let go.
Before I can think of another excuse, I start running through the sprinkler, soaking my own clothes, and chasing my youngest around the yard. And you know what? It feels really good.
Those are the moments I want my kids to hold in their hearts.
Not the anxious mom moments that used to overpower our days. I want them to see me throw aside the crazy expectations I often put on myself or them and let it all go.
It takes a lot of practice for an anxious mind.
Anxiety wants to tell you what to pay attention to. What needs to be done. Everything you should be doing. And how you’re falling short.
But with consistent practice and intention, you can slowly break these chains and the hold anxiety has on your life. I’m learning this now and am right in the midst of it.
You can talk back to your anxiety.
You can take back your power over anxiety.
And put your expectations and thought patterns in check when they need to be—saying, “Thanks for the reminder, but I’ve got this.”
It’s going to take a lot of work to reprogram your mind. But it’s all worth it.
You can have more days of being wild and free. That doesn’t mean being reckless; it means choosing your battles and what to let go of.
Watching and observing our own kids can teach us how to be more present, play with no agenda, and throw pressures and expectations out of the window.
If we sit quietly, we can see what it looks like to truly just be.
To all the moms struggling with anxiety like me, let them soak their clothes in the water or mud and watch them be free.