Anxiety is a bitch
A sneaky little bitch
(excuse my language there)
Today after well… years we had a wobble.
I always refused to believe that ‘anxiety is forever’ and ‘all’ we could do was ‘learn to live with or manage it’… I still believe this, BUT, it takes a decision, and effort, and today it sneaked back in.
Well, Daniel has had a week off school with a chest infection. A normal childhood illness equalled a change in routine, a week away from friends, and a week away from school. Add the worry he had about being ill, and viola!
Honestly, we’ve probably dropped the ball a bit. Everyone has been unwell in the last 2 weeks, I’ve been stressed and overworked, and it’s January… And we haven’t been doing our ‘Everyday Happy’ homework.
What did we do?
We started by calling it out. Anxiety is sneaky. It can look like other things, like a tummy ache, or a headache, but if you don’t call it out, it wins. Naming it, and accepting it allowed him to move on and take effective steps to overcome it.
We marched up and down the hallway. The fight or flight response is the body’s ancient response to real or perceived danger. It instantly releases a mass of cortisol and adrenaline around the body, stress hormones that cause increased heart rate and hyperventilation. All good if you’re running from a tiger, not so good when you’re in the house… Queue marching. Physical activity of any kind burns off the hormones and helps to calm down.
Talking nonsense. We got talking about the end of the day, and I suggested catching up with friends. This allowed his brain to think passed what he was anxious about. Then we added some jokes and some decent preteen sarcasm.
Framing the day in a positive way. Today we just had a chat about gratitude (rather than writing anything) His first one…”I haven’t vomited yet” I was also grateful for! I can’t remember the other things we said, friends I think, probably food… it doesn’t matter though, the effect was positive.
Keep moving forward
One step at a time toward the goal, with very clear instructions. His anxious brain struggles with logical thought, so ‘get ready for school’ is too big… ‘put your socks on’ works better.
Forgive, apologise and move on.
The heightened emotional state that came with an early morning anxiety attack, and a stressed out dad, can and did lead to cross words and bad feelings. This added fuel to the anxiety, and needed quelled quickly. All it took was an apology and a hug before any of us walked out the door grumpy.
This one is hard. As adults we’re not accustomed to apologising to our kids, but it’s so important. Daniel’s anxious brain will circle what went wrong and highlight it, but the apology helps it to let go. Apologising to our kids has bigger implications too, like showing them kindness and courtesy, allowing them to see that we’re human and make mistakes, and offers them the opportunity to learn this behaviour through modelling.
I think today was a blip. I hope so anyway, but it has made me realise how well equipped we are as a family with the tools to get through. If it happens again we’re ready. We also need to keep being grateful, being kind, and doing some happiness homework everyday.
It’s so important to have tools, and to have a team to help.
So on reflection, today I’m deeply grateful for my family who is my team.