Lately, my toddler has been insistent on doing things by herself. Little Miss Independent wants to feed herself, brush her own hair and walk unassisted to her swing in the backyard. The problem with her walking to the swing is that our house is on a tiny hill and the oak tree where it hangs is at the bottom of the incline.
Have you ever seen a toddler try to walk down a hill?
What starts off as a controlled stroll through the clovers turns to feet running, arms flaring, and panic eyes as she realizes a face plant is fast approaching if she doesn’t regain control of her momentum. In that moment, right before the fall- with the fear and adrenaline and fairing arms – is the moment this Working-Two-Jobs-Running-A-Side-Business-Tough-Mom relates to a toddler the most because that moment is what my anxiety feels like.
It’s how I feel when I get caught in the rat race of trying to keep up with the latest design, skincare, art, and lifestyle trends. It’s when I’m trying to be the perfect mom, wife, sister, friend and juggle it all with a manicure because #selfcare.
It’s how I feel when the lump rises in my throat that another month has come and gone where we didn’t achieve a pregnancy or after my husband was laid off his job and we are still helplessly waiting on the results of Mom’s biopsy.
In these moments, I’m the out of control toddler destined to fall if I don’t get my balance back but it doesn’t have to end with my face in the dirt. I’m going to share with you my three little tips for regaining control of anxiety.
1. Face It
Dragons can’t be slain when we are running from or ignoring them and the same is true with anxiety. I like to approach my anxiety the same way I handle my task load at work or a grocery run, with a list. Something about writing things out helps me see and think more clearly. When the weight on my chest makes it hard to breathe, I sit down and make two lists.
The list to the left is titled “Slay It” and to the right, “Surrender It”. I jot down all the current stressors in my life under one of the two titles and ask myself “is there anything more you can do about this right now?”
If the answer is “yes” then it goes on the “Slay” list and if the answer is “no” then it’s on the “Surrender” list. From the tiny, silly things like “hideously chipped fingernail polish” to the big, scary ones like “infertility”, I list it all. Simply bringing the worries to light helps me to gain a sense of power over them.
The Slay List
The tumbling toddler in me begins to regain a sense of control by establishing a plan of action for those things that something can be done. If your Slay list is manageable then, get it girl! Knock it out and feel the peace that comes from having it all accomplished! If, like me, that list is awfully long and intimidating then it’s time to prioritize. This is the part where I decide to move things from Slay to Surrender.
For example, “Today I am going to play with my daughter, cook supper for my family, and pay the bills after work (slay). The laundry and my chipped fingernail polish that are also stressing me out are going to have to wait for another day (surrender).”
Just in deciding these things calm me. When I see the pile of laundry, instead of beating myself up, I remember that I chose to put it on the back burner for a greater good today and its power to stress me out fades.
The Surrender List
This is the list of things you either cannot or are choosing not to do anything about right now. So maybe on this list I put the fingernail polish problem and mom’s biopsy results. Then, I surrender. Of course, it’s not just a switch you can turn off but through mediation and prayer I can begin to release the things I have no control over so that they no longer have control over me.
This “face it” step helps you to reflect and recognize specifically what is troubling you but it doesn’t always relieve it. On to tip #2!
2. Share It
It is because my daughter refuses help that she ends up falling down the hill. If she would let me carry her or even hold her hand, her trip to the swing would be less problematic. The same is true for us. The weight of some anxieties is too heavy to carry alone. I seriously have to remind myself to be less foolish and stubborn than a toddler and know when to ask for and accept help.
Sometimes that means crying and venting to my husband or mom and sometimes it means being vulnerable with a friend. Just the ear of a loving friend can refresh my spirit and give me perspective. Talking it out is therapeutic and speaking of therapy, some levels of anxiety benefit greatly from talking to a professional.
I can’t overstate the value of a good therapist. Some community or church organizations offer discounted or free counseling sessions. Strength is not in falling down a hill alone but knowing when to reach out and hold tightly to a helping hand.
3. Slay It
Anxiety is something we all struggle with to some degree. The good news is that even when we feel powerless against our own we can do something to help others.
When my Surrender list feels so heavy and I’m struggling to let go, I take my eyes off of my own list and think of ways to hold the hand of someone else. I try to be the listening ear to a friend, slip a note of affirmation in my husband’s lunch, or share a smile or a meal with a stranger.
Anxiety tries to make our problems seem so big that we can’t see around them and recognize the suffering of others. The good news is that negative energy can be transformed into a serious force of good when we let it increase our understanding and compassion for the struggles of others.
I don’t know if the tools that work for me will be helpful for you. What I do know for sure is that you are too strong, too capable, too talented and too loved to go through life without peace. If these steps don’t work out keep searching for new ways to manage your anxiety.
Don’t believe the lie that you don’t have time to deal with it right now, or that you sound whinny or needy if you talk about it and no one will understand, or that it’s a part of your personality that you are chained to forever.
You have a light meant to be shared with the world. It would be an injustice to us all if you let your light be buried beneath your anxiety. Don’t tumble head over heels to the swing of life but find your balance, girl and strut like the queen that you are.
Kallan Stout is a wife, mom and painter from Louisiana. She works as the Development Director for the McNeese State University Cowboy Catholics, an indoor cycling instructor and sells her paintings on her Instagram and Etsy shop. She is most influenced by her faith, femininity and southern roots.