I am a mother who is exhausted

I am a mother who is exhausted.

It is 3 am, yet I do not sleep.

My exhaustion has seeped into every pore, into every muscle, into every fiber of my being.

Yet I cannot sleep.

There are too many thoughts running through my mind.

No matter how much my body shuts down, my mind cannot shut down with it.

So I stay up. My thoughts wander as I stay awake.

I think about the look on my daughter’s face when I scolded her.

I think about the endless things I need to do.

It feels like no matter how much I try to accomplish, there is always something else.

I think about all of the ways I should have done better, could have done better.

Although I am exhausted, I cannot sleep.

Instead I run the to-do list through my head.

Did I pay all the bills?

The backyard is a disaster.

When is the dishwasher repair man coming again?

Did I read enough books to my daughter today?

I cleaned the house, so why does it still look like a mess?

Was she dressed warmly enough when I let let her play outside?

The biggest question that pokes at my brain and my heart- does my daughter know how much I love her?

With all the responsibilities, all the stress, all the juggling, does she know that being her mom is what is most important?

I tell her, but does she understand when she herself is too young to understand all of life’s pressures?

Does she understand that I try to give so much, but there is only one of me to give?

I am a mother who is exhausted.

Exhausted from caring. From trying. From putting one foot in front of the other when I can’t see clearly where I’m trying to go anymore.

I am a mother who is exhausted. Yet I cannot sleep.

Instead, I tiptoe into my daughter’s room, and I watch her sleep.

I watch her sleep, and I pray she knows how deeply and completely she is loved.

As I watch her, I remember that every struggle is worth it because of that little girl sleeping peacefully.

I will always worry, I will always have concerns, and I will always fear that I’m doing it all wrong.

I will always be exhausted.

That’s because I’m a mother.

motherhood is messy

Motherhood is messy

Let’s be honest. Motherhood is messy. 

You know those images of perfectly dressed families, not a hair out of place, smiling their pearly whites? I often stare at those images while in my oversized sweatshirt, stretchy pants, (Jeans? What are those?) and hair thrown into a ponytail.

Motherhood is often those moments where you look around in disbelief and wonder WTF?! Those times happen so much more than the magazine worthy moments. They are hectic and test your sanity. These moments are unfiltered, may involve some sort of bodily fluid, and are REAL. Those are the moments where I think back and snicker (sometimes). Those series of moments define what it is to be a parent. Indeed, motherhood is messy.

So here are some of the cringeworthy moments I’ve experienced during the messiness of motherhood. Some will make you laugh, some will make you shake your head, and some may make you turn green. I know you’ve had some of these moments too.

MOTHERHOOD IS MESSY, ESPECIALLY IF YOU HAVE A POOP SMEARING TODDLER

poop toddler

When Brielle was 20 months old, I put her inside of her crib to take a nap. She was on a regular naptime schedule, so I had a good idea of when she would wake up. About an hour and a half later, I expected her to be awake. To my surprise, she was silent. I normally check the monitor when I hear her, but I felt there was no need to in this case. I was being given a gift of alone time, and I was going to take it.

A half hour later, I started to worry. I decided to take a peek at the monitor. Brielle was quietly playing in her crib. Her back was to me, but she seemed content. She wasn’t a baby who kept herself occupied, so again I decided to seize the opportunity and let her be.

Another half hour later I started to get a feeling in the pit of my stomach. An hour of sitting in the crib without a peep? Who had taken my child and replaced her with this imposter baby?

I slowly tiptoed into the room, opened the door, and saw a sight that will forever be etched into the deep recesses of my mind.

My daughter had taken off her soiled diaper, and she was using her feces as finger paint. 

THERE WAS POOP. SO MUCH POOP.

It was all over her frontside (so with her back facing me I had no idea the horror show that was going on), all over her hands, all over the backside of the crib, and all over the wall where the crib lay. Additionally, it was on the sheets, on her legs, in-between her toes, it was on her nose. It was like an Edger Allen Poe scene, baby edition.

Let’s not even discuss the smell. Oh, the smell.

I wasn’t sure whether to gag, faint, cover my eyes, or run out of the room and pretend I hadn’t just seen what I’d saw. How could I possibly clean this up? Was there a haz-mat company that could take care of this for me?

I don’t know how I cleaned it all up, cleaned her up, and managed to stay sane. I honestly think I blacked out during the cleanup process, as I can’t actually recall cleaning. My husband was at work during the time, and I’m sure it was one of the many times he thanked his lucky stars that he didn’t work from home.

My husband came home to a clean room, a clean child, and a completely frazzled wife. I learned a very valuable lesson that day. Always check on my child. Always.

the messiness of motherhood: my daughter’s drug DEAL encounter

I mentioned this story during my discussion about Tricky People, but it was too cringeworthy not to share again.

I took my daughter to a nearby park with my husband and in-laws one Saturday afternoon. My 3-year-old daughter was running around the park and enjoying herself. In the distance, there were a few nicely dressed men having a conversation. It seemed a bit odd to me that they were so well dressed at a park, but I wasn’t going to judge them for being fashion friendly.

I turned my back for a moment (it’s always during those moments when something happens, unfortunately), and turned back to see my daughter standing in-between the men. Although I couldn’t hear what she was saying, they seemed to find her comical as they were laughing and smiling. I quickly came over, ushered her away, and apologized for the interruption.

My husband later told me that he witnessed those men doing a drug deal. It was bad enough that my daughter didn’t understand the importance of not going over to strangers.  Apparently, she was also now interacting with our friendly neighborhood drug dealers.

why road rage is bad

road rage  

I hate driving. Therefore, I avoid highways. For some reason drivers on the highway look down upon cars that stop in the middle to figure out where they need to go. I have anxiety towards driving in general, so I will follow the same route and not veer from it even if there is traffic.  

I encountered some major traffic one evening when I was taking Brielle home from dance. There was some sort of construction taking place, and a crane was occupying part of the lane. My car was slightly over the double yellow line due to the lineup of cars and the interfering crane. Cars were going by in the opposite direction without a problem, while my car wasn’t budging.

All of a sudden, a woman driving a very nice SUV stopped her car. I don’t know why my car upset her so much. Maybe she had a bad day. Perhaps her nice SUV had a smudge on it. Maybe she had to use the bathroom. Whatever the reason, she stopped her car, looked at me and yelled, “F*** YOU!”

She was LOUD. Do you realize how loud was for me to hear her with her windows and mine rolled up? We’re talking levels of loudness that I didn’t think were humanly possible. 

Normally I don’t curse. However, this woman made me see red. Who did she think she was to stop her car and scream at me like that? I wasn’t in her way, and even if I was, what kind of crazy person reacts like that?

Therefore, I did what any classy woman would do in response. I screamed right back at her, “No, F*** You!”  She glared at me and drove off.

That was when I remembered I had my daughter in the backseat of the car. Not only had she heard that woman curse me out, worse, she heard me talk like that too.

I wanted to crawl inside a hole and never come out. I was about to turn around and explain how I shouldn’t have reacted like that when my daughter burst into hysterical laughter. That’s right, folks. My daughter thought me screaming like a crazy person was the funniest thing she’d ever seen.

She never asked me what those words meant, and she never used them. We did later talk about anger and healthy vs. unhealthy ways of expressing anger, but that was the extent of it. My foul language escaped her, and I considered taking a course in road rage. 

Running Errands with my daughter threatened my sanity

shipping with a child You cannot take Brielle on any errands. Due to her ADHD and SPD, she likes to touch every item in the store, possibly throw items in the cart, sit on items that are not chairs (my favorite is when she tried to sit on a stack of boxes of La Croix, and she knocked one of the boxes over). She also likes to run up and down the aisles and play hide and seek (meaning she runs away and I panic and find her). Truthfully, I have considered using a tether, but it seems people frown upon using those with an 8-year-old. Motherhood is messy business sometimes, but you do what you need to survive.

One time I took Brielle with me to CVS. I only had to pick up a few items. I would never dream of taking her somewhere that involved a lengthy trip. The plan was simple- I was going to grab the three items, let Brielle hand the cashier the CVS club card, and get back into the car. Easy, right?

Not so much. I always go over the rules with Brielle in advance, but she seemed to forget them as soon as we got inside. She tried to pull away my hand as I held it. I reminded her we had to hold hands, and I asked her to help me find the vitamin pills.

Brielle did not want any part of this. She instead started screaming, “Mommy, you’re hurting me!”

Other customers started staring. I knelt down to her level and told her that could not say stuff like that in the store, as people would think I was actually trying to hurt her.

I asked her to please cooperate and we could play a game to see who can spot the vitamins first. As soon as we started walking, she again started screaming. This time, she yelled that I was breaking her hand.

It was at this point that I realized that no vitamins were worth me having to explain to security or possibly Child Protective Services that I was not injuring my daughter. I immediately walked out of the store with her. We had a long talk when we got home about why she couldn’t say things like that.

Remember how I said I look back at these stories and often chuckle? This is the exception to the rule. I will always turn a shade whiter whenever I think back to that experience. 

my daughter has no filter

Brielle likes to talk. She will talk to anyone who will listen. Truthfully, she’ll talk even if they aren’t listening. She is not a person that would ever be able to take a vow of silence.

It is a challenge to have a child that talks from the moment she wakes up. I try explaining that Mommy needs her cup of coffee first, but she doesn’t comply.

This especially becomes a problem when we have work done on the house. People come to give a quote or to fix something, and they also have the bonus of having my daughter go over to them to chat. By chat, I mean say completely inappropriate things that force me to hire them and/or recommend them out of sheer embarrassment.

Some of the most embarrassing moments have included:

  • My daughter telling the plumber that his pants were falling off.
  • Asking one of the construction workers why his skin was wrinkly.
  • Telling the realtor that she looked like a woman, yet sounded like a man.

What I now tend to do is play with Brielle in a separate area of the house when workers come over. They get their work done more efficiently, and I don’t have any more nightmares.

Zoom meetings are boring, unless I’m crashing them!

motherhood is messy crashing a zoom meeting

My husband has several zoom meetings a day, and my daughter also attends zoom meetings for religious learning. She was told that remote learning is the same as in-person learning, except you are at home. She understands she has a teacher, and teachers are to be respected. At least I thought she understood.

Brielle has issues focusing, so I knew that it would be a challenge to get her to pay attention via online learning. I had a talk with her about the importance of listening, and I told the teacher to let me know if there were any problems.

I put Brielle in her room where there were no distractions, and I could keep an ear out. No other parents were present during the class, and I wanted to afford her the same privacy. For the first few weeks everything went well. That is, until Brielle discovered the camera button on zoom.

I got an email from her teacher notifying me that Brielle was turning off her camera during class. She was also using the chat box to start conversations with kids during learning.

I put a stop to that, but my daughter found something more exciting. She started leaving the room during her online class. She would sneak into my husband’s office when he was having his own zoom meetings. On more than one occasion, a co-worker would start waving, and my husband would turn to see my daughter standing behind him smiling. 

Since then, I have moved my daughter downstairs where I can keep a close eye on her at all times. She knows I’ve got my eyes on her, and more importantly, my husband knows my daughter’s eyes are not on his co-workers. 

motherhood is messy: uh oh, my daughter found the condoms

Brielle doesn’t know the meaning of privacy. Just as every person who enters our home is a new friend. Every item in our house is an item that she must examine. 

One day I left Brielle in my bedroom when I went to use the bathroom. When I came out, I saw Brielle was rummaging through my husband’s nightstand. She then held up a box of condoms and asked me what it was, while trying to read the information on the back of the box.  I understand that motherhood is messy, but this was just downright embarrassing.

I grabbed the box from her, closed the nightstand, and told her that those were for grownups. We had one of our infamous talks (do you see a theme?) and I learned to never, ever leave her alone in my bedroom. I also reconsidered baby-proofing again.

motherhood is messy, but i wouldn’t have it any other way

Life with my daughter is never dull. It requires patience that I never knew I had, and it tests me daily. Motherhood is messy, chaotic, and unpredictable. There are many, many times when I am frazzled, overwhelmed, and possibly on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Motherhood is a great representation of life. It is challenging, frustrating, and full of hurdles and roadblocks. It also is filled with beauty, humor, and countless memories. As a result, I try to embrace the chaos, find the humor in the moment, and cherish the little things that bring me joy. I now brace myself for the bumps, enjoy the peaks, and remember that motherhood is messy, but it is the ride of my life. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

tips and strategies to reduce anxiety naturally

Everyone experiences feelings of anxiety and stress. Below are numerous tips and strategies to help reduce anxiety naturally in both children and adults. These strategies are useful whether you experience occasional or frequent anxiety.

It is important to keep in mind that there is no substitution for seeking professional help to manage anxiety disorders. However, these strategies can be used in conjunction with therapy. To gain further knowledge about anxiety, previous articles address various emotional and physical symptoms of anxiety and different types of anxiety disorders.

10 Grounding Techniques For Calming Down Quickly

Grounding techniques are practices to help you focus on the present moment. This is helpful for anxiety and any type of distress. It is particularly useful in those that suffer from PTSD and Panic Disorder. There are a variety of grounding exercises that can be implemented by both children and adults:

(1) Repetition of Phrases

Repeat something over and over when you are trying to anchor yourself.  An example is, “My name is _________. I live in _____________. The weather outside is ______________. The time is _____________. “ You or your child can make a list of such phrases in advance, and pick phrases to say aloud when feeling anxious. You can keep saying different phrases on the list or the same phrase until you feel less anxious.

(2) Label items in categories

Choose a few categories that you can easily list, such as types of animals and favorite desserts. You can either mentally or verbally list as many items as possible from those categories.

(3) Recite something

Pick a favorite poem, song, or lines from a book that you know. Either say it aloud or to yourself, while focusing on each word.

(4) Recall details 

Take a photograph, drawing, or piece of art and stare at it for a few seconds. Then look away and say as many details about it as you can recall. This can include remembering where you were when the picture was taken, what you were wearing when the picture was drawn, or any other related details.

(5) Numbers

Some examples include reciting the multiplication table, adding different numbers together, or counting by 3s. The types of math can vary based on age and ability. For example, a younger child can count until 5 several times.

(6) Use the 5-4-3-2-1 Method 

This is one of my favorites as it incorporates all your senses, really helping you to stay grounded in the moment. Look around your surroundings and use your senses to list things around you, working backwards from 5. For example, you can notice 5 things you see, then 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can smell, 2 things you can hear, and 1 thing you can taste. Focus on your surroundings intensely so you can pick up on sensations you may not normally realize.

(7) Put your hands in water

Put your hands in a bowl of cold water, allowing yourself to focus on the sensations of the water on different parts of your hand. Leave them in there while you concentrate on the various sensations. Then take them out and put them in a bowl of warm water. Focus on how the various temperatures feel differently on your hands. Continue to switch them back and forth.

(8) Pick up different items around you 

Notice the texture, shape, weight, smell, colors, or any unique features about each item. How does it feel in your hand? Try to be as specific as possible when labeling their features.

(9) Hold a piece of ice or put a cold pack on your head

Notice the sensations in your hand or face, again being as specific as possible.  Notice how the sensation changes as the it melts or becomes less cold. Putting anything cold on your head “triggers the vagus nerve that turns on all rest-connect nerves” (Kate-Cohen Posey, 2016).

(10) Focus on your body

  1. Concentrate on how your body feels from your head all the way down to your toes. First, do this sitting, and then try it again standing. You can raise and lower your feet on the ground, wiggle your hands or your arms, and/or cross and uncross your legs. Notice how each body part feels when you make those changes. Also pay attention to feelings such as your hair on your back, your glasses on your nose, or the feeling of your clothing on your body. 
  2. Notice how your body feels when you stretch or move each part of your body, from your toes to your face. You can rotate, wiggle and/or flex your body, focusing on each part as you do so.

Additional grounding exercises besides those in this post may be found here.

Diet and Supplements Are Helpful Ways to Reduce Anxiety Naturally

diet helps to reduce anxiety

Watching what you eat and consuming certain supplements are beneficial for reducing anxiety:

(1) Limit your sugar intake

Research has shown that too much sugar can worsen anxious feelings and impact temperament (webmd.com, 2017)

(2) A diet that contains vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean protein may benefit those with anxiety.

Chemicals in processed foods may cause mood changes in some people (healthline.com, 2020).

(3) Limit caffeine

Caffeine can cause jitteriness and nervousness in some people. Try reducing or eliminating your caffeine intake and see if it improves your anxiety symptoms. Remember that there is caffeine in chocolate, so be mindful of whether your child has caffeine in their diet as well.

(4) Eliminate alcohol and cigarettes

Alcohol can become abused if used as a coping mechanism for anxiety, so do not rely on alcohol to soothe your nerves. Similarly, smoking can worsen anxiety over time and “research also suggests that nicotine and other chemicals in cigarette smoke alter pathways in the brain linked to anxiety” (healthline.com, 2020).

(5) Supplements can help with anxiety reduction 

Please consult your child’s doctor before giving any supplements to children.

(6) Probiotics have also shown benefits in reducing anxiety

Check with your child’s doctor before giving any probiotics to children.

Exercise to Reduce Stress and Anxiety

(1) Moving your body is a great way to relieve mental stress

When you get your heart rate up, your body releases endorphins, which are chemicals that improve your mood. Find something you and/or your child enjoys doing such as running, walking, dancing, doing jumping jacks, swimming, playing sports, or riding a bike. Do this regularly as it is great for your physical health as well as your mental health.

(2) Meditation

A main goal of medication is to practice mindfulness, which is staying focused on the present. This is a grounding technique, and one which relieves stress and anxiety when practiced regularly. It is important to note that there is no “wrong” way to meditate. I like to repeat a phrase in my head to keep me anchored while I inhale and exhale. There are many YouTube videos that provide various options to help you or your child meditate.

(3) Yoga

Restorative poses are yoga poses that activate the parasympathetic nervous system. This helps elicit a relaxation response. You can google “restorative yoga poses” to see a variety of options, but a favorite of mine is Legs-Up-the-Wall-Pose.  To do this pose, you lay down on your back on a floor or bed and put your hips as close to the wall as possible. You then elevate your legs by putting them up against a solid object, such as a wall.  Your body forms an L-shape. Place a towel or blanket under your pelvis to elevate your hips for further benefits. You may also place a pillow under your head if you prefer. Focus on your breathing or listen to relaxing music. Stay in this position for 10-20 minutes depending on age, comfort, personal preference. This is something that children can easily do as well as adults.  

Journaling for Anxiety Relief and Stress

journaling for anxiety relief

Journaling is a great way to handle stress. It is an outlet which allows for insightfulness and introspection.

(1) Some people choose to keep a gratitude journal, where they write/draw what they are grateful for daily

This allows them to focus on the positive things/people/circumstances in their life that they can remember when feeling anxious.

(2) A journal may also be used to list positive affirmations daily (e.g., I feel anxious, but I am not anxious. Being anxious does not define me.)

You can also list/draw things you like about yourself as reminders for when you feel anxious.

(3) Another/additional option is to put down on paper what you feel stressed about

This provides a healthy outlet of coping with anxiety. It can also help identify a pattern of thinking or way of thinking that isn’t helpful, allowing an opportunity to adjust your perspective.

Children should be encouraged to journal as well. They can either draw or write in their journal depending on which method is preferred/age.

There are some great journal options here, here, and here.

4 Important Anxiety Reminders

(1) There are MANY different strategies and ways to alleviate anxiety

There are so many, in fact, that my next post is devoted to an entire new list of tips and techniques to manage anxiety in both children and adults! 

(2) Remember that anxiety is experienced differently for everyone

What works for one person may not work for another. Also, what might work for you or your child in one instance may not be as effective another time. Experiment with various strategies so you have options.

(3) Remember that it takes practice and patience to figure out what techniques or products are the best for you

(4) Lastly, if you find this article helpful, please share it with others

My hope is that these tips and strategies will be beneficial, and that this post can help spread awareness and support! 

 

causes of anxiety

Anxiety is a topic that needs more awareness and understanding. There are currently 40 million adults and 4.4 million children who have anxiety disorders (cdc.gov, 2020). I discuss the definition of anxiety and its various symptoms here.  This article will focus on the causes of anxiety and different anxiety disorders in children and adults.

WHAT CAUSES ANXIETY?

causes of anxiety

It is important to understand that people experience anxiety at various times throughout their lives. However, anxiety becomes problematic when it interferes with a person’s ability to function.

(1) Genetics

There is a genetic factor to anxiety. Just as a person may have a history of cancer in the family, it is possible to inherit anxiety as well.

(2) Learned Anxiety

Children can pick up on the behaviors and feelings of other people. As a result, they may inherit those feelings. For example, if a parent is afraid of dogs and reacts anxiously whenever a dog is present, the child may start feeling anxiety around dogs as well. “Children can pick up anxious behaviors from being around anxious people” (nhs.uk).

(3) Pressure

If a child feels constant pressure to perform a certain way in school or sports, they may develop anxiety. Similarly, if an adult feels constant pressure (e.g., at work or financial), this can trigger anxiety.

(4) School related issues

Bullying and a lack of friends in school may result in anxiety.

(5) Loss

This includes the death of a loved one (person or animal), as well as divorce

(6) Unstable environment

Examples include constant fighting in the home, lack of consistency due to frequent moving, and/or frequently changing schools

(7) Abuse/trauma

This includes neglect, abuse, and/or witnessing or involvement in a traumatic event.

(8) Health

Having a serious illness or injury in an accident can cause anxiety.

(9) Comorbid conditions

“If a child has ADHD and/or autism, they are more likely to have problems with anxiety” (nhs.uk). The misuse or withdrawal from drugs or alcohol may also cause or increase anxiety. Additionally, “people with other mental health disorders, such as depression, often also have an anxiety disorder” (Mayo Clinic, 2018).

(10) Unknown

There are simply some people whose personality makes it more likely that they will develop an anxiety disorder. For instance, some people have a higher tolerance to stress. On the contrary, others are more prone to anxiety.

TYPES OF ANXIETY DISORDERS IN CHILDREN AND ADULTS

anxiety disorders in children and adults

There are various anxiety disorders in children and adults.  Additionally, each disorder has different characteristics. This information should give you a fuller understanding of anxiety.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

When someone talks about having chronic anxiety, this is what they are typically referring to. For instance, children and adults with GAD experience anxiety about a variety of things (e.g., performance in tasks, relationships with others, and daily life situations). As a result, it is anxiety “that is nearly constant and disproportionate to its causes” (additutdemag, 2018).

Social Anxiety Disorder/Social Phobia

Intense fear about social situations is the hallmark of social anxiety. This includes avoiding social situations, worrying about an upcoming event, not participating in events, difficulty making friends, and avoiding or extreme discomfort when having conversations. It is important to note “some people might exhibit symptoms in only one type of situation, whereas others might experience multiple symptoms in various social situations” (additudemag.com, 2018).

Panic Disorder

Those with this disorder experience panic attacks and extreme terror that comes about unexpectedly. It is characterized by chest pain, a rapid heartbeat, feeling faint, and dizziness.  A child is diagnosed with panic disorder “if your child suffers at least two unexpected panic or anxiety attacks-which means they come on suddenly and for no reason- followed by at least one month of concern over having another attack, losing control, or ‘going crazy’” (adaa.org, 2015).

Separation Anxiety Disorder

It is part of typical development to feel anxiety when separating from a caregiver between the ages of 18 months-3 years. Additionally, children often feel anxious separating from a caregiver when getting dropped off at a new school or environment.  Separation anxiety disorder mostly presents in children between the ages of 7-9. It is characterized by intense and excessive anxiety about being away from home and/or being separated from a parent or caregiver. This can include anxiety that something is going to happen to their loved one while they are away.  

Selective Mutism

This anxiety disorder is associated with a consistent failure to speak in certain social situations. A person with this disorder will freeze around particular people or events, but will speak freely when not triggered.  “It usually starts in adulthood, and if left untreated, can persist into adulthood. A child or adult with selective mutism does not refuse or choose not to speak at certain times, they’re literally unable to speak” (nhs.uk, 2019).

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

An anxiety disorder that involves constant thoughts, actions, or impulses that are in intrusive.  As a result, there is a need to perform certain rituals or routines to ease their anxiety. 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

An extreme fear or anxiety after a traumatic or life-threatening event. Symptoms of PTSD include flashbacks, being hyperalert/hypervigilant, and avoiding situations that are similar/reminders of the event.

Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD)

Although this is not an anxiety disorder recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), it is closely related to PTSD.  C-PTSD is a result of prolonged or repeated trauma, and it includes the symptoms of PTSD.  As a person who has C-PTSD and chronic anxiety as a result, I feel it is important to include this. I will address C-PTSD and its complexities in a future article.

Specific Phobia

An intense fear of a specific object, thing, or place. Examples include a fear of spiders, heights, or the dark.  A person with a specific phobia tends to avoid the source of their anxiety. “Unlike adults, they [children] do not usually recognize that their fear is irrational” (adaa.org).

When to Get Professional Help

when to get professional help

It is important to see a doctor if you or your child have anxiety that is interfering with any aspect of your life. Additionally, seek professional help if there are any other mental health or physical concerns. It is important to understand that anxiety can worsen without proper treatment.  Please do not assume that things will get better on their own. Being proactive is the best thing you can do for yourself or your child.(

understanding anxiety in children and adults

We have all experienced the feeling of anxiousness. However, when does anxiety become a concern? The purpose of this article is to give a fuller understanding of anxiety in children and adults. It is important to clarify the symptoms of anxiety and recognize when anxiety is more than just a normal part of life.

Understanding anxiety versus worrying

Worrying and anxiety are often used interchangeably, but they are different. Worrying is usually more specific (e.g., worrying about getting a good grade on a test), and it often leads to problem solving (e.g., studying). Alternatively, anxiety is more of a general state of being (e.g., I feel anxious because my best isn’t good enough) that triggers a snowball effect.

A good way to decipher between anxiety and worrying is that, “when you worry, you’re typically thinking about an actual event that’s taking place or is going to take place. But when you’re dealing with anxiety, you tend to hyperfocus on events or ideas that your mind creates” (healthline.com, 2018).  Worrying varies in intensity and you feel a sense of control, whereas anxiety is much more difficult to control.

Another important distinction is where worrying and anxiety are felt. Worrying is something that happens only in your mind. Worrying are thoughts that may be negative or about something that can go wrong. Anxiety, on the other hand, “has a cognitive element (worry) and a physiological response (stress), which means that we experience anxiety in both our mind and our body” (NYTimes.com, 2020).

Understanding Anxiety in Children and Adults

anxiety in children

There is such a thing as anxiety that is healthy. It is a means of our brain and body responding to a perceived sense of danger. Therefore, it is a crucial part of our survival instinct. Anxiousness is something that is common and typical in development, especially as children deal with new experiences and situations. The unknown is frightening for many of us, adults as well as children.

However, there is cause for concern when anxiety is frequent and persistent. Anxiety is often hard to recognize in children because of its cognitive component. Often children have a hard time articulating their thoughts and feelings.  As a result, parents are only aware of the child’s physical and negative behaviors.  Additionally, anxiety may overlap with or present as symptoms of learning disabilities or  Attention Deficit Disorders  (anxiety.org).

There is stigma associated with anxiety. 

Adults may resist admitting that anxiety is impacting their quality of life. As a result, they don’t seek professional help. This resistance is largely because of the lack of societal understanding about anxiety. Those with anxiety are often told to “suck it up” or “it isn’t a big deal.” This may cause someone who suffers with anxiety to feel intense shame and self-loathing, only exacerbating the problem.

There are a variety of symptoms that may be experienced by both adults and children with anxiety. When there is a greater understanding about anxiety, it allows for support, empathy, and proper treatment.

Physical/Psychosomatic Symptoms of Anxiety in Children and adults

Below is a list of physical signs of anxiety:

  • Headaches
  • Sleeplessness- this includes difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, and/or frequent bad dreams
  • Stomach aches/cramps
  • Frequently using the bathroom (for bowel movements or urination)
  • Nausea
  • Lack/loss of appetite
  • A general sense of feeling unwell
  • Muscle tension or aches
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Racing heart/rapid heartbeat
  • Fatigue
  • Restlessness/ jittery
  • Chest pain
  • Unexplained sweating

This list of physical symptoms are things we have all experienced at some point. In other words, if your child complains of a tummy ache, that doesn’t mean your child has an anxiety disorder. That said, it is worth keeping in mind that there may be more going on than meets the eye if your child is complaining of stomach aches regularly or before/during particular situations.

As grownups, we tend to ignore physical symptoms and assume they will go away. However, if you are experiencing any of these symptoms frequently, it is probably something worth investigating. Our bodies are often sending us messages, if we are willing to listen to them.

Emotional/Behavioral Symptoms of Anxiety in children and adults

emotional symptoms of anxiety

Below are emotional/behavioral signs of anxiety:

Anger and irritability 

This may present in children as meltdown, tantrums, and disruptive behavior such as aggression. Adults who experience anxiety may exhibit outbursts, fits of anger, agitation, and hostility. Anger is often overlooked as a symptom of anxiety, but feeling overwhelmed with anxiety can trigger those symptoms.

Neediness 

Children may be clingy, not want to leave their parent or caregiver, or are unable to sleep without a loved one. In both adults and children, they may seek constant reassurance, approval, and validation.

Avoidance/Lack of Interaction

Examples of this may be a child who refuses to go to school or try out for a team. Specific things or events may cause a grownup or child extreme duress and therefore are avoided. In social situations, the person may appear shy, not speak with others, or avoid social situations entirely.

Lack of confidence

Examples include repeatedly asking for help or demanding that others do things for them, even when capable of doing it correctly. Feeling inferior and inadequate to others may be due to anxiety.

Hypervigilance

Frequently asks “what if?”, focuses on the negative sides of things, or always perceives a threat of danger. This person can come across as pessimistic or a complainer.

Perfectionism

They have high expectations for themselves in every aspect of their lives, whether it is school, a job, sports, responsibilities. It is great when a person strives to do their best, but there is a line between trying your best and demanding perfection from oneself. 

Procrastination

Avoidance of things that cause anxiety result in procrastination of those things

Distracted/difficulty concentrating

This can be misinterpreted as a focusing issue, but it is excessive worrying and fear that is causing the inability to focus.

Controlling

May tell others what to say or do as a type of ritual or have persistent impulses (e.g., repetition of a certain behavior)

When It Is Necessary to Seek Professional Help

If you or your child experience anxiety that is excessive and/or interferes with relationships, other aspects of life, or daily functioning, please speak with a doctor or mental health provider. If you or a loved one are experiencing frequent or several physical symptoms, it is also crucial to seek medical attention.  “Physical symptoms of an anxiety disorder can be easily confused with other medical conditions…” (National Alliance on Mental Illness, Dec. 2017).

Anxiety is manageable with proper help and support. Recognizing the symptoms is the first step. I hope this article brings you one step closer to understanding anxiety and the many ways it can rear its ugly head. Anxiety is something you shouldn’t have to suffer with silently.

secrets to a long and happy marriage

I shared with you the story of how I met my husband. When we exchanged vows, we expected to have a long and happy marriage. Like all true stories, happily ever after does not exist.  My husband and I have endured many bumps along the road, and there were times I honestly wasn’t sure if we were going to make it. 

It’s Okay to Admit That Marriage Is Really Hard

I think the best piece of advice I ever got was from my husband’s grandma (who passed away in March due to COVID).  When I asked her what the secret is to a long and happy marriage, she told me to remember that the first ten years of marriage are the hardest. I remember laughing in my head at the time.  I had heard that the first couple of years were rough, but ten? Really?! The joke was on me because she was right.

Learning to blend two very different people together is no easy task. In fact, the things I love most about Matt are also the things that drive me absolutely crazy (and vice versa). At the beginning, everything is new and exciting, and it is easy to overlook things. Once the honeymoon phase ends and life sifts in, it is a whole new ballgame. Juggling life’s responsibilities, raising a child, and encountering hardships can often tear people apart.

There are many things I wish I knew at the beginning of our marriage that could have saved us both a lot of anger, tears, and heartache. Here are some words of advice for a long and happy marriage:

8 Secrets To A Long and Happy Marriage

what does it mean to be happily married

(1) Pick your battles, pick your battles, pick your battles

Have I mentioned you should pick your battles? I am a stubborn, strong woman, and my husband is even more stubborn than me. We see many things differently. If we bicker every time we disagree about something, well, we’d bicker constantly (which we did). I have learned (as has he) that it’s simply not worth sweating the small stuff. If he leaves his clothes next to the hamper instead of inside the hamper, reminding him each time is just going to annoy him. This will make him act snippy, which will cause me to get snippy.  I’d rather put his clothes in the hamper and play the “please do this” card when it is more important.

(2) Know your spouse’s love language and know yours as well

What you feel are signs of love and affection may not even register on your spouse’s radar. This leaves you feeling unappreciated, and he feels that he’s not getting the type of affection he needs. Nobody wins. My love languages are acts of service (primary) and words of affirmation(secondary), and his love languages are physical touch (primary) and words of affirmation (secondary).

Most of our marriage I did the things for him that were my primary love language, but he couldn’t care less about those things. In turn, he would go over and hold my hand and hug me (which is his primary love language), and I didn’t feel appreciated at all. Now I know that giving him a massage or rubbing his arm makes him feel loved, and I try hard to voice my appreciation for all he does for our family. He in turn tries to show me now that he loves me by doing things such as mowing the backyard or doing the dishes.

(3) Establish boundaries

Matt struggles with bringing things up when they happen. As a result, he’d bury his feelings until he’d finally explode and start yelling about all the things that upset him.  Our solution was to discuss our requests and requirements that we want from one another. It is up to each of us to hold ourselves accountable for honoring our own boundaries as well as the other person’s.

(4) Don’t expect the other person to save/fix you or to change

This is a huge one for both of us. I grew up having a codependent relationship with my mother, which turned into a codependent relationship with Matt. I was unhappy and experienced a lot of trauma in my life, and I wanted my marriage to give me the feeling of wholeness and happiness that I was missing. That is A LOT of pressure to put on someone else.

Matt thought it was my job to take care of him. As a result, our dynamic became one more resembling of a mother and son than a husband and wife. I had to nag him to do things, and he resented me for it. He didn’t want to take responsibility for his choices, and I felt it was my job to convince him to do so.

I have come to learn that it is my job to save myself, and he has learned that he is responsible for his actions. I love and support him, but his choices are his alone. This gives him the space to be the man he is capable of being, and I spend my energy on working on myself instead of trying to convince him to work on himself.

(5) There is no weakness in forgiveness  

We are imperfect and will make mistakes and hurt each other along the way. It is inevitable that we will say and do things that we will regret. Showing compassion to ourselves and to one another is necessary to have a happy marriage. There are some things that are unforgiveable, and that is where boundaries come in, but try not to hold grudges.

(6) Try to have fun together

These are exceedingly difficult times. It is easy to get consumed with all the stress and hardships.  Take the time to enjoy one another’s company, and not just talk about kids or responsibilities.

(7) Take a break

This is an important tip in parenting and marriage. If you’re really upset, you are likely to react instead of responding or listening to what your partner is saying. Take time to cool off before you speak to your partner.  If things get incredibly tense during the conversation, put a pause in it. Give yourself and one another the space to calm down. It’s hard to walk away in the moment, but with effort and practice it is possible.

(8) Respect one another’s feelings

You don’t have to agree with your partner, but there is no right or wrong way to feel. If your partner is hurt or upset, it is never okay to dismiss or minimize his/her feelings because you don’t share the same sentiment.  It is important to acknowledge another person’s feelings while having your own.  Debating over who is right and how to feel usually leaves everyone a loser and unhappy.

Marriage is a Marathon, Not a Sprint

long and lasting marriage

The picture many of us had in our heads about what life and marriage would look like is usually not the case.  Instead of putting expectations on yourself and your partner, try to remember that marriage isn’t a sprint. Learning to navigate the murky water of marriage takes time, effort, and lots of trial and error.

Love isn’t always enough, but we have learned a lot about ourselves and each other along the way. I honor that journey because it is a great reminder of how far we’ve come and how far we are willing to travel together.

raising a self-sufficient child

Most parents say that they hope their children will be happy when they grow up. Although my daughter’s happiness is of utmost importance to me, I believe that there is a greater aspiration for our children; one that comes at a great cost to ourselves.  It is my belief that raising my child to be self-sufficient is the greatest act of unconditional love.

becoming a parent is the greatest identity change 

As parents, we are supporters, advocators, cheerleaders, and advisors. No matter how old our child may be, we worry about them, and we hope we are doing right by them. Every action, every tear, every heartache, every obstacle, and every ailment that our children experience we experience tenfold.

I struggled at the beginning to grasp the enormity of the non-stop, around-the-clock demands of taking care of my daughter. I was exhausted, I had severe physical complications from labor, and despite all the books and classes I took, I was mentally unprepared for motherhood. Despite all of this, I was somehow expected to adjust to the responsibility and commitment of raising a living creature. It was a hard pill to swallow that my life would never, ever be the same now that I was a mother.

My identity changed when I became a parent. I was no longer just Randi. Now, I was someone’s mom. I learned to love in a way that was greater than I ever imagined possible. I also learned the heartbreak and worry that comes along with that kind of love. Every night I will go to sleep praying and second-guessing the choices I make about my daughter. My decisions impact her life, and the weight of that pressure is sometimes overwhelming.  

The importance of raising a self-sufficient child 

self-sufficient child

This is where life’s greatest dichotomy comes into play. Our children are our priority. It is our job to love them unconditionally, to guide them through life’s struggles, and to instill in them values, morals and virtues. Parenting requires selflessness, patience, and devotion. We are needed and depended on in order for our kids to learn and grow. With that said, the true measure of successful parenting is to raise our children to be self-sufficient. It is only then that they can leave the nest and live life as self-sufficient, capable adults.

It is without a doubt the most selfless and agonizing act of all. Our children are the center of our lives, but the time will come when we will no longer be the center of their lives. My daughter, who still looks for me every time she hurts herself, who calls out my name if she has a bad dream, who confides in me about her hopes and her fears, will one day have a family of her own. I know that as much as my daughter needs me now, it is necessary to teach her to be her own supporter, cheerleader, tear wiper, and friend. We must love our children enough to teach them to be independent and self-reliant. It is the greatest act of unconditional love to teach them to depend on themselves rather than us.

teaching our children to handle the challenges of life is an act of unconditional love

act of unconditional love

Sure, even when our children are grown, we will always worry about them.  We will always love them unconditionally. No matter their age, we will still care and worry. They are adults, but they will always be our children. They will still love and need us, but our roles will no longer be the same.

Happiness is something we want for our children. However, I think happiness comes with believing and loving yourself. Therefore, I counter that sentiment with another goal, a far greater necessity for our children. I think the biggest accomplishment of any parent is that their child is self-sufficient and able to handle life’s challenges. Like many things in life, what is best is also what is the most difficult and painful. It is a goal that speaks to the true testament of any parent. Our act of unconditional love is letting go.

As my daughter navigates through life, I will be there alongside her. She will know that I am always there with open arms and an open heart. However, truly loving her means teaching her to love and depend on herself. Therefore, I will keep instilling in her the importance of picking herself up, dusting herself off, and putting one foot in front of the other.

“The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.” – Denis Waitley

Self-Love Workbook Printables

The self-love workbook printables are AMAZING! I know I’m tooting my own horn, but these are a game changer!

It contains journal prompts, positive affirmations, tools for setting boundaries, emotional check-ins, how to be your own friend, and ways to practice self-care. Indeed, it is everything you need to practice self love daily!

It works best if used in conjunction with Why is Self-Love Important for Your Mental and Emotional Wellness? and How Do You Learn to Love Yourself?

One of the lessons I learned this year was a reminder to never take self-love and self-care for granted. The truth is, I was juggling so much that I stopped prioritizing my own well-being. That’s why I decided to create this workbook.

You can learn to love yourself regardless of where you are along your healing journey. Honestly, there is no such thing as too much support when learning how to love yourself. That’s where my self-love printables come in!

I am using the self-love workbook printables along with my self-care printables, and it is incredibly helpful! I know it will be helpful for you too!

TO PIN, CLICK ON THE UPPER LEFT CORNER OF EACH IMAGE.

TO DOWNLOAD THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THE WORKBOOK, CLICK HERE.  

 

self-love workbook

 

 

being my own friend worksheet

 

 

positive affirmation checklist

 

 

setting boundaries

 

 

emotional daily check in

 

 

 

Remember that I am rooting for you every step of the way! Please don’t hesitate to reach out anytime so that I can cheer you on! We’re on this road of healing together.  <3

Don’t forget to share the self-love workbook printables with others!  

XOXO,

Randi