Running up to the birth of my gorgeous daughter, it was always playing on my mind how my past anxieties were going to effect me. Anxiety is an overwhelming emotion. It can create that choking feeling where you feel like your world is collapsing with no way out. Unfortunately for many, it takes over. I have been very lucky to meet many people along my personal recovery journey, people who have shown me how to embrace my anxiety. Be accepting of it but also teach myself to believe I can take back the control.
Being a Life Coach and a Therapist, it is often assumed that I live a life with no worries, no stresses and no mental health issues. I can tell you now, I strongly believe that most people who work with mental health, do so because they themselves have suffered and on occasions, still suffering. To that end, becoming a parent, wow, hello anxiety! Hello crippling thoughts, "am I doing ok?", "What if I do it wrong", "will I suffer PND?" ( Post Natal Depression ).
Those of you who live with anxiety will know how controlling these negative thoughts can be. They can totally take over your mind and stop you from being able to be in control of your emotions. I'm not going to lie, since welcoming my beautiful baby girl into the world, I have had a couple of days where I did let these emotions take over. I fully admit I did loose control over them and yes I had one hell of a cry! Not only having to deal with post pregnancy hormones, learning how to look after a newborn, lack of sleep, adding in anxiety was just a recipe for disaster. It got to the point I curled up in a ball on the sofa, cried into the cushion and fully believed the voice of self-doubt that I couldn't actually do it.
At the time, I was in a state of panic, all kinds of thoughts were going through my mind. I really did believe that from that moment onwards I would not be able to be a Mum, not a good one anyway. Luckily, I had Michael.
Even though I was silently suffering downstairs, his sixth sense must have kicked in. They say when you become parents you become more attuned to feelings and emotions. Yup, it must be true! From a deep sleep he managed to drag himself out of bed to come and support me. I must stress to all of you, whether you have anxiety or not, it is vital to have a support network. No matter how strong you think you are, having a support mechanism will never be wasted.
Especially through the pandemic we are currently living in, now more than ever we need to equip ourselves with strategies. Included in those strategies needs to be having a listening ear. I fully understand for some people it is already a challenge to be open about feelings, more so with those considered negative, however even if you are self isolating or living alone, make sure you have that person at the end of a phone. You'll be amazed at how hearing someone else's voice can help calm emotions and restore peace. Without that person, you thoughts build up. They begin as small drops of water not making to much of a difference but unfortunately, we don't notice the bath tub filling. Until that one thought, that one drop, that tips the water over the edge. The flood gates open. Teach yourself to not get to this point. Talk about what worries you, what eats away at you. Verbalise these thoughts and let them go.
Talking about our issues and problems can be very refreshing and give us back that sense of peace. With this being said it is important to not keep talking about them. Once your issue has been discussed, you have accepted it and allowed yourself to think about it, let it go. Set the negative free and allow it to float away like a balloon floating up into the sky. When negative thoughts are repetitively verbalised and focused on, they become our reality, we allow ourselves to believe them. If you take anything from this post, remember that.
For our visual learner's, imagine those negative thoughts as bubbles in your belly. As you talk about them, you blow the bubbles out your mouth. Watch them float, some might pop, others might float high up within the clouds. They are gone. You are free of them.
For our auditory learner's, imagine as you let out the negative spoken words, the sound waves get smaller and smaller. The volume of these words reduces until they become mute. Change the tone to that of a cartoon voice so they become almost comedic. Again, you are letting them go. Changing how they affect you when you hear them.
For our kinesthetic learner's, grasp those negative thoughts in your hand and brush them away with your other hand. You could squash them. Imagine squashing them until they become dust and then physically blow the dust away. Those negative thoughts are gone. You have accepted them but also taught your mind that they are not necessary.
My princess is now officially a month old! I have got this. I know I have! And now, even though some days are still quite challenging, I fully believe that I am doing ok. Even when I feel myself getting anxious, irritable or back arrive those negative voices of self-doubt, I can tell myself the feelings won't last forever. I can talk to Michael and others in my network about what is getting to me. Their encouragement and voices of reason allow me to let go.
I am more of a visual learner. I enjoy pictures and images. I choose to imagine my thoughts as butterflies in my tummy they need to be set free. I do this a lot when I am on my own. I visualise the butterflies being trapped while thinking of the things that are upsetting me. Then I take the time to blow them out of my mouth and watch them as they flourish. My negative thoughts have visually been turned into something beautiful. At the same time, allowing me to let them go.
No day is ever the same. Especially living with mental health issues. We cannot predict how each day is going to pan out. Nor anticipate what emotional challenges we are going to face. What we can do is be prepared. Be armed with techniques that work for us to allow ourselves to move past the struggles.
Honestly, life is not a straight forward journey. Even with all the therapeutic strategies under the sun, there will still be bumps in the road. There will be crossroads where decisions need to be made. Roundabouts, where we feel like we spend a lifetime dealing with the same problem. Hills that feel like mountains and choosing the right gear just isn't happening. Romans maybe built straight roads but that was a long time ago. Now our roads are more complex but as long as we accept this we will thrive as the best drivers out there. Get behind the wheel of your car with confidence. Find which strategies work best for you and don't be afraid to try something new!
Live your best life, we only get one shot 💖