Finding the path of least resistance
How I'm approaching parenting as an anxious person
I was testing how long I could go before writing about this, but given that I’ve built an entire newsletter on sharing my own experiences, it has become increasingly hard to avoid the topic for the last few months.
We’re having a baby!
It’s not a secret, per se, but I am wary of talking about it too much as I have the fear that many new parents likely share around not wanting to be defined by the fact that I have offspring.
Don’t get me wrong, I am extremely excited to meet him/her soon, but I am also spending quality time doing as much non-baby-related stuff as possible while I can.
I’ve talked before about how your career doesn’t define you - and I’m in the process of learning that being a parent doesn’t have to either. All of these factors are simply different elements of the patchwork quilt that makes you, you.
So, this newsletter will certainly not become baby-centric, but I might touch upon subjects that are relevant to self-employed parents as I learn to navigate the complicated world of running a business while raising a child.
This week, we started antenatal classes and I also embarked on an online course from The Positive Birth Company (which I highly recommend, by the way). One thing I am noticing throughout these resources is how important it is to place trust in yourself to do what you need to do - both in birth and parenting.
In the classes, we’ve covered the fight-or-flight response and how adrenaline can impact your birthing and early parenting experience. While this is my first time being a parent, I do know a thing or two about anxiety and panic.
Long term readers will know I overcame severe anxiety and panic attacks a few years ago. A combination of changing my circumstances, taking medication and investing in private therapy allowed me to retrain my brain to break the vicious cycle that was causing me near-daily distress.
While I recognise that birth is a totally different experience, and I won’t be able to comment on that until I’ve done it myself, I can say that there is always a benefit to letting things happen.
Anxious people reading this will recognise how easy it is to get into the habit of thinking your feelings are bigger than you. Sometimes the voice in your head will take on an identity of its own, and you find yourself reacting to it - even arguing with intrusive thoughts that are bouncing around in your mind.
But, like the process of birth, all of this is you. The intrusive thoughts, sweaty palms and racing heartbeat are all ways in which your body is trying to protect you from a perceived danger. While your initial reaction may be to fight against these things, or even say I can’t do it, the only way to hit the brakes is to acknowledge that this too shall pass.
It’s okay to switch off sometimes
If you spend any time online or watching the news then there are a lot of reasons to feel anxious. Rising fuel prices, the cost of living crisis, hypocrisy within the government and the ever-present threat of climate change all bring additional pressure to our daily lives.
Here’s a secret: you can still care about these things without reading about them every single day. Switching off is self-care. The 24-hour news cycle has brought with it an overwhelming sense of FOMO for many of us, as we worry that if we miss something important happening in the world then we clearly don’t care enough. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Whether you’re birthing a baby, raising a child, running a business or even just existing as a single human, you can’t give it your all without prioritising your energy and keeping focused on what really matters.
How to break the cycle
Trust me, it’s hard if you find yourself being pulled from pillar to post. Sometimes I notice I’ve spent half an hour chewing on a situation completely outside of my control, like a wider family matter or an awkward client project. If you’re prone to rumination like me, then here’s how to effectively break the cycle:
Notice the thoughts. Acknowledge them for what they are: just thoughts.
Identify your own role in the situation… are you even involved at all?
Write it down. If a thought is lingering or even spiralling, I find that putting it down on paper is a great way of feeling like I am physically removing it from my mind.
Change your environment. If you can, move into another room or go outside. You can even practice techniques such as naming five things you can see.
Tell someone. Often a worry can seem huge in your head, unmanageable even. By telling someone close to you what’s on your mind, you aren’t asking them to fix it - you are simply sharing the thought out loud and, hopefully, this will help to bring it into context in your mind.
If the thought stays or returns, just allow it. You may not be able to control this particular worry, but you can stop yourself from arguing back or even feeling guilty for having the thought in the first place.
A process like this takes practice. Again, like birthing a baby, there is no easy way out. But, there is a path of least resistance… and sometimes that’s the best we can hope for.
What do you think? Are you feeling more anxious these days? And how do you cope? Let me know over on Twitter @ContentByTheSea or reply to this email for a chat.
📺 Motherland (Netflix) - I’m in the process of rewatching some of my favourite easygoing sit-coms as most of my days are spent frantically cramming in as much work as possible before I am inevitably too big to reach the keyboard. Motherland is a fun and often show that takes very little energy to watch - my current mental capacity.
🎙️ Is It Normal Podcast - This was recommended by some of the fellow parents at our antenatal classes and I’ve really enjoyed the episodes I’ve listened to so far. Hosted by Jessie Ware, the podcast explores pregnancy week-by-week and also taps into some of the common topics and concerns like hypnobirthing, exercise and breastfeeding.
See you next Wednesday (I promise!) with more musings on topics that are important to me, including but not limited to: mental health, work/life balance, internet culture, and much more.
P.S. If someone forwarded you this or you arrived via Twitter, please consider subscribing!
Enjoyed this? You might like these past issues:
5th May: Should brands take a stance?
27th April: Social media has always been evil
21st April: Who are we really?
13th April: The ultimate gramma debate
6th April: Has social media killed nuanced debate?
30th March: Finding diamonds in the rough
16th March: The future of this newsletter
9th March: Don’t shoot the messenger
2nd March: How to stay informed without going mad
23rd February: This is how it’s always been
16 February: You can only do your best
26 January: The way to a person’s heart