We moms tend to worry a lot about our kids. Here’s what to do when you worry too much, including 4 doable steps to stop worrying.
Even though I’ve made strides to curb my worries, being a parent doesn’t make it any easier. Like when any of my boys are sick. Or when I wonder about reaching milestones and potential developmental delays. Or when I had one week to find a new nanny. Rather than freaking out, I use four steps to ease my worries and be productive instead.
I started using these four steps back in college. I had lost the key to my dorm room. A simple incident, but with the way I reacted, you’d think the worst possible thing just happened.
What to do when you worry too much: 4 steps to take
I realized how foolish I was to freak out, and did what helps me until now: I wrote about it. I bought a “worry journal” into which I answered four prompts to help me stop worrying.
I’ve since taken that habit into motherhood.
Step 1: Define what you’re worried about.
What exactly are we worried about? The first step in most of anything is to identify the problem to begin with. In the case of my college lost-key-fiasco, I would write that: I’m worried because I lost my key. Today, I can write: I’m worried because one of my twins has a red rash on his face.
Step 2: Assess the likelihood of the worst possible thing actually happening.
Write the worst possible but realistic thing that could happen.
This step helps me identify just how petty or grave my worries are. The worst possible thing that can happen to my baby would likely be that he has a skin condition like eczema. Or that he had an allergic reaction (and not “He will have a permanent rash on his face!”).
Then, tone down that worst possibility and see it in a realistic light. Take away all the “what if’s” that haven’t even happened yet, and you might see how far your imagination has taken your fears.
And finally, go the opposite route: What is the best case scenario? What good can actually happen out of this (even if that just means your worst fears not happening)?
Step 3: Ask what—if any—can you do about it now.
Now you’ve realized that your worries may not be all that terrible. Next, ask yourself if you can do anything about it right this instant. When we worry, we usually get ourselves stuck in a rut. We’re too emotional to think straight, more frantic than productive. This step is critical for two reasons:
- You’ll know whether there’s anything you can even do about it. Have you ever worried yourself sick even though you can’t do anything about it until the morning? Yes, it’s uncomfortable to have things unresolved. But worrying about it when there’s nothing you can do will do you no good.
- If you can do something, you’re then able to define just what those next steps are. Knowing what to do sets our worries aside. You’ll have concrete steps to take, such as calling the pediatrician.
Step 4: Note what finally did happen.
This step serves as a reminder to our future selves not to worry so much. When you realize what finally happened (“The rash went away in the morning”), you’re less likely to worry. Time resolves most of our anxieties, but we don’t always see that when we’re in the thick of the moment. So remind yourself of the times you’ve worried, and how things turned out just fine.
How to stop worrying and feeling anxious
Part of feeling worried are the fears, whether valid or preemptive, that fill our imaginations. I’ve found that these tips help to curb my fears and anxieties the most:
Experience the emotion, don’t suppress it
I’ll be honest: Last night, I couldn’t fall asleep until 11pm and woke up at 4am feeling the same anxieties. I could’ve distracted myself, even berated myself for feeling the way I did. Instead, I allowed myself to experience the anxieties simply as it is. It’s neither good or bad, just something happening at the moment.
I do this by noting how my body is reacting: the empty feeling in the stomach, the dry mouth, the fast heartbeat. I also catch myself thinking the thoughts in my head. And by being aware, I’m able to pinpoint the anxiety, note it for what it is, and move on faster than if I had suppressed it.
Make a plan for things you can do soon
Part of feeling anxious is the helplessness we can sometimes find ourselves in. It can feel like there’s nothing we can do, and often that’s true. Things like the stock market, our health, or world issues can feel too far removed.
But within those larger worries are tasks you can do right now, the next morning or sometime soon. You might research food that helps resolve your child’s health issues. Call a friend you know can talk you out of your anxieties. Apply for jobs or open that savings account.
Taking steps gives us back some of the control we feel like we’ve lost when we worry. We can’t control the stock markets, but we can take actions so we feel we’re doing all we can to ease our worries.
Avoid doom and gloom
One of the worst things we can do when we’re worried is read about it excessively. Anyone who has ever googled a health issue knows what I’m talking about. The same is true about the news and media. Not all information is terrible or incorrect, but sometimes we need a mental break from all the doom and gloom we hear.
No matter how dire our circumstances, there’s always something to feel grateful about. I’m thankful for my children’s health and that no debilitating disease is taking them away from me. That I have a home to keep us safe. And that life generally resumes normalcy despite whatever is plaguing my mind.
Thank goodness my husband balances my worrisome ways with his positivity. Whether it’s world issues or a bad day at work, talking to someone helps lift a huge weight off me. Sometimes we just need to feel reassured that all is well. And that we have the strength and resilience to get through it, just as we always have.
Get more tips on how to handle your worrying:
- Mom Guilt: 5 Reasons Moms Shouldn’t Blame Themselves for Everything
- The Vulnerability of Parenthood
- How to Help a Child Stop Stuttering
- On Not Stressing about Developmental Milestones
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