Are you experiencing a high-conflict custody dispute with your ex that's keeping you up at night? Or do you worry about how your kids are adjusting to the changes your family has been through? If you're like many single parents, anxiety is just a part of your life -- from managing all the responsibility that comes with raising your kids to coping with uncertainty. The next time anxiety creeps up on you, use the following strategies to calm your fears and regain a sense of balance:
- Name it. When anxiety starts to claim your thoughts, tell yourself "this is anxiety." Acknowledging that you feel anxious will help you put your emotions in perspective for what they are -- feelings that are passing through your life as you cope with intense challenges. When you see anxiety this way, it's easier to recognize that it's not a permanent state of being.
- Meditate. Take five or ten minutes to focus on your breathing. In, out. Slow it down and pay attention to the sensation of each breath coming into and leaving your body. To learn more read Mindfulness Meditation Techniques for Stress Relief from Elizabeth Scott, M.S.
- Take action. Feeling anxious about all that you need to do tomorrow? Grab some paper and write it down so that you can stop worrying that you'll forget something. Anxious about money? Pay a bill -- or if the money's not there, write down what you owe and when you expect to be able to pay it. Whatever you're dealing with that's contributing to your anxious feelings, identify one small thing you can do about it and take action. Even the smallest step in the right direction can leave you feeling empowered and more in control.
- Take a break. Do something to get you mind off what's bothering you. Especially if it's something that has to do with your kids, reconnecting with them over a fun activity may be just what you need.
- Write. Whether you write down your thoughts down in a notebook or use your computer, journaling is a great way to get anxious thoughts out of your mind. And if you're worried about who might read what you're struggling with, use a digital format and password protect the file so that it can't easily be accessed by others.
- Exercise. Carve out some time to get physically active. If you have young kids, put them in the stroller and go for a walk or let them ride their bikes or scooters while you jog alongside. And if your kids are older, take them along with you or walk on your lunch hour while they're at school. Even moderate-to-light physical activity can have a positive impact on your anxiety level.
- Clean. Grab your favorite all-purpose cleaner and scrub down the bathroom sink or tackle the inside of your refrigerator. Doing something that's both physical and productive can help you let go of anxiety while boosting the sense that you're capable of handling whatever life throws at you. And while you're at it, take a look around. Are you surrounded by clutter that's contributing to your anxiety? Carve out an hour or two this week to toss or give away what you no longer need.
- Establish new routines. From morning routines to bedtime schedules, well-defined kids' routines won't just help you save time -- they'll also help you face each day with a plan in mind. And that's another way to reduce your overall anxiety level so that you can focus on what matters most.
- Make time for something that relaxes you. Read a novel. Try a new recipe. Watch a movie -- on a weeknight when there's laundry to do! Step outside of your normal routine and give yourself time to enjoy something you love.
- Cut back on caffeine. Consuming large amounts of caffeine has become part of our culture. But if you've started to become dependent on it and your anxiety level is consistently high, try cutting back. Then pay attention to how you feel and whether you notice a difference in your overall anxiety. If you feel noticeably calmer, you may want to cut back on caffeine long-term!
Finally, if you've been feeling anxious for more than two weeks, consider making an appointment with your doctor to discuss your concerns and seek out solutions together. As a single parent, anxiety and stress are realities you cope with every day, but they're realities that can be managed so that you can feel more confident about facing the ups and downs that come your way.