When You Fear the Worst: Fighting Mom Fears and Anxiety
I’ve seen only one ferris wheel rescue video and that was enough to cancel all ferris wheel rides for my kids until they move out of my house. When we took our boys to the state fair, they were in awe of the beautiful spinning lights of the ferris wheel, the centerpiece of it all. As expected, they gleeful asked to ride. And when they did, I cut my eyes at them with a BOY BOO BYE and led them to the tiny banana cars that went in circles. I don’t like heights, and because of anxiety, I pictured a thousand things that could go wrong.
And it wasn’t just a ferris wheel rescue video that brought about these anxious feelings.
It’s also a Facebook post warning me about someone’s child drowning, dying in the heat of a car, suffocating in the crib, or suddenly dying of SIDs for no reason at all.
Now I’m in the car, and there it goes again.
As I’m sitting in the passenger seat while my husband is driving us on a bridge over water, I tell him to stay in the middle lane. My mind sees danger and starts to devise a rescue plan. Within seconds I have tested the plan, predicted and correct failures of how we would save our family if somehow the car toppled over the bridge and into the water.
And this is what I came up with:
As the car is falling underwater, Paul and I would begin taking our seatbelts off, because you can’t waste time doing that under water. Once we hit the water, we should be close to the back of the car to get the kids out. We’d unlock the boy’s seatbelts. I’d swim to the surface with David in the carseat because it can probably float. Paul would swim with PJ and Joey. We’d tell the boys to kick until we could reach refuge on a post under the bridge. Hopefully, someone would have witnessed it all and called for help by then. Worst, and best case scenario an angel would come and miraculously do all of that for me because I ain’ nobody’s Coast Guard.
Each time I’ve crossed this bridge, I’ve tweaked my plan.
And I’ve come up with all kinds of intricate rescue plans for what I’d do in a fire, a burglary, a tornado, and even a nuclear bombing. I have tested the plans and tweaked them for errors. Just in case, I’ll be prepared.
I believe that we mothers instinctively want to protect our children. We will give our lives and we will do anything to make sure they are safe. This is why my children are getting swimming lessons, and why I teach my oldest son how to unlock car seats, and when to call 911. This is also why my emergency fund consists of bail money just in case someone tries me with my kids. Because I will catch a charge over my kids! Okay, Mama?
It’s good to be prepared for emergency or disaster. But it’s not good to obsess over them.
When I get to the point when I believe that my plans are the things that will ultimately save me, I know that I am dealing with anxiety, and it’s mother… fear.
Fear doesn’t trust in God’s word, and being anxious about saving yourself doesn’t bring peace.
For me, anxiety feels like I can’t breathe, and it feels like everything is spiraling out of control. It feels like the world in my mind is slowly chaotic. It tempts me to believe that I can’t measure up to the moment. It can be filled with what-ifs, doom, and self-protection. Anxiety prompts me to escape to safety.
But God’s word says,
Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the LORD : He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him. For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease. He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection. Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day. Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday. Though a thousand fall at your side, though ten thousand are dying around you, these evils will not touch you. …no evil will conquer you; no plague will come near your home. For he will order his angels to protect you wherever you go. Psalm 91
And I have to cling on to that. This what I do to fight mom fears and anxiety.
When You Fear the Worst: Fighting Mom Fears and Anxiety
Plan and prepare
Of course this may seem like I’m feeding the problem, especially if your anxiety is filled with plan making. But actually, a solid and realistic plan for emergencies or the day-to-day worries is a good way to prevent anxiety. For example, I’ve tended to be prone to anxiety while we are getting ready to leave the house. Y’all already know what a circus leaving the house can be. Not being able to find matching socks while being behind schedule can trigger anxiety, so preparing the night before in a less demanding time period helps me to prevent anxious feelings.
Let’s take a queue from This is Us. If you find your mind spiraling into what-ifs, pause. Breathe. I literally have to breathe in God’s Word. Let His words and thoughts permeate your mind. Think on lovely things, blessings and not disasters. Overcoming and not failures. Philippians 4:8
Protect your environment and your mind
If you deal with mom anxiety, you should probably make sure your environment is one that you can thrive in. I personally like beautiful spaces, but with three small children, that’s hard to keep. I like to have one nice space that I can retreat to if needed .
Also, if I am on social media I try not to get sucked into “warning stories”. Yes, they are helpful, but for me, I can learn the lesson without the disastrous details. I absolutely stay away from movies that feed anxiety and fear. Scary movies, are a no for me, they can breed fear and anxiety even if it seems unrelate. I also steer clear of tv shows and dramas that are based on scenes that could trigger anxious thoughts for me, like Chicago Fire (which I get so tempted to watch).
Another way I protect my mind is by being careful of who I listen to, and I guard my heart from the advice anyone gives based on their own experiences. When I was a first-time mom, I was once told not to co-sleep by an elderly woman. She firmly warned me because her friend had a baby that tragically died in the bed.
While this story is terribly unfortunate, I had to continue to do what was best for me. I co-slept with all of my infants because I felt more secure with them with me rather than in the crib or bassinet. I breastfed while sleeping to maximize my rest, and I would lay my babies on my arm so it was impossible to roll over on them. They also never slept in the middle of me and my husband. Had I taken this woman’s advice, I would have caused myself more anxiety than peace by forfeiting something that was safely working for me.
Take the pressure off
There have been times when I had thoughts that told me that I was about to let my entire family down or lose a client/job if I didn’t perform well. You know what Mama? Sometimes we put a lot of pressure on ourselves, and we just can’t do it all. Super Woman needs to hang up her cape and focus on the things that actually count. Taking the pressure off doesn’t mean stop going, it just means to focus on what matters. And Mama, sometimes my sanity is the top priority.
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If you’re running late, sometimes you gotta give yourself the grace (if anyone is waiting on you honestly communicate). Do you have deadlines coming up? Get a quick meal for the family and crank out that work. I’m ashamed at how much we’ve ended up eating Little Caesars. But my boys think its a treat. If you can consistently cook healthy meals and met your deadlines then by all means Mama, BE GREAT. But for the most part, I have to chose the priority for the day, clean underwear, or a clean living room. I’m a work in progress, I have three small children to take care of, every season won’t be like this one. But for now, if there’s an S on my chest it stands for SAT DOWN!
So mama, are you like me and won’t let your kids ride the ferris wheel because being Spider-Woman would be the only way to make it safe? Do you deal with mom anxiety and mom fears? How does it affect you? I promise you that you are not alone. But once we plan, breathe, protect, and take the pressure off of ourselves, we let the peace of God overtake us.