Managing the anxiety of being a mother in 2020

Back in May, I talked about my experiences of mothering during a pandemic. Since then, New Zealand has managed to stay relatively unscathed by the global Covid-19 pandemic, but in the last week we have raised our alert level once again.

2020 has been a difficult year to be a human. It's been a difficult year to be a mother. Our new normal is scanning a barcode every time we go into a shop, and sanitising our hands at the door. Many people wear masks, and we subconsciously skirt around each other in the supermarket.

Personally I've found my levels of anxiety have reached unprecedented levels. The only other time in my life I've really struggled with anxiety was when I was on the oral contraceptive pill, but that's a story for another day. The constant threat of an illness for which we have no vaccine has been hanging over my head every day.

Add to that the conspiracy theories, the global upheaval of people finally realising how racist our world is and speaking up about it, an election year in New Zealand, and the economic implications of a global pandemic.

It's a lot, and if you're feeling the same as me, I want you to know that I see you. And I wanted to share a few things that have really helped me get through these unprecedented times. These are deeply personal experiences, and we all have different things we worry about, but I hope that at least one of these things is useful to you.

Don't read the comments

This has always been a bit of a joke statement that I've thrown around without much thought. But please, just don't read the comments. On anything. The comments on news articles posted on Facebook, threads on Twitter, comments on new sites. The comments section seems to bring out the worst in people, and personally I always end up feeling down after reading them.

Now I scroll on past, and only consume my news from reputable news sites. And I'm so much better for it. In this case, ignorance really is bliss. I don't need to know the latest conspiracy theory or vicious rumour circulating the cesspool that is Facebook. I just need to know the facts, which is a currency the comments section does not trade in.

Breathe, breathe, breathe

I have an Apple Watch, and I have the Breathe app installed so I don't really have an excuse on this one. It reminds me to breathe on a regular basis, and counts me through a breathing exercise. I used to "pshhh" about breathing exercises, I thought it was some airy-fairy thing that didn't really work.

But I'm telling you, it WORKS. There's a lot of research into our parasympathetic nervous system, and it's role in keeping us calm. I'm not a scientist, so this article from Dr Libby goes into more detail.

The gist of it is that deep, diaphragmatic breathing activates our PNS, and helps us to feel calm. It communicates to our body that we are not in danger (even though some days it feels like we are!) and helps us to respond to things from a calm, collected place. Now I don't know about you, but I find it a lot easier and more pleasant to parent from a calm place.

You can start by just finding time in your day to breathe. Even if that feels impossible, you DO have the time. Make the time. You are worthy of the time. Do it when you're sitting on the loo, or right before you go to sleep. You'll thank me later, I promise.

Give yourself a break

Cut yourself some slack. We're parenting in difficult, unprecedented times. Nobody knows what they're doing, and nobody expects you to know either! Try to not sweat the small stuff, take a breath and know you are doing the best you can. This too shall pass, and you will look back on this time and be amazed that you made it through.

We're learning incredible lessons, and our children are watching us learn them. We're modelling empathy, resilience, strength and positivity. Our children will learn about the time when we stayed at home to save the lives of others. When we put the needs of others above our own, because that's the right thing to do. When we started to question the fabric and structure of our societies and actively worked to break down the barriers for those who needed them broken.

So give yourself a break, mama. You're doing great. And your kids think you are the most incredible person on earth. That's what's important.

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