It's been a little over a year since a second-trimester miscarriage made me the most anxious I've ever been. Blame it on the unrelenting heartache, the drastic drop in hormones, or a family history of anxiety and depression, but I was a mess. My worries consumed me to the point that they hindered my productivity at work, put a strain on my marriage, and clouded the quality time I spent with my toddler son. While it wasn't the first time I'd struggled to keep my anxieties in check, it was certainly the most debilitating.
After two months of living in survival mode, it became clear that what I was feeling was not simply going to evaporate. I knew I had to be intentional about taking back my mental health, so I made an appointment with a life coach who came highly recommended by a friend. She helped me articulate my fears and, most importantly, develop healthier, anxiety-diffusing habits.
I was completely drained and knew tackling my mental health would be a ton of work. As a working mom of young children, I have very few hours to myself, so the tactics I've learned are brief yet effective, which make them great for me during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. Even though it's a wonderful time of year, it's super stressful, too: the gifts need to be purchased, the holiday concerts attended, and the fancy meals made. It all adds to our mental load as parents. That's why I know it's especially important to prioritize my mental health despite the busyness in order to prevent my anxieties from spiraling out of my control again. And while these tactics require intentionality, they don't take a lot of time.
One thing that helped me immensely is journaling, which is a highly recommended stress management tool. I set aside five minutes before I go to bed each night to write down whatever comes to mind. Usually, it's a compilation of how I'm feeling that day and what I'm worried about. The act of articulating my anxious feelings means they're not ruminating in my brain as much.
I'm also mindful about my caffeine intake. I'm a coffee-lover and the mother of a toddler and baby who wake up at the crack of dawn, so I'm not talking about giving up coffee altogether. However, caffeine can fuel anxiety, so I limit it by making my morning coffee half decaf and swapping my afternoon cup for an herbal tea.
By working with a life coach, I also realized that I feel the most anxious when I am busy yet lack direction. I now sit down for about an hour at the beginning of each week and plan my schedule in detail. I include the big things, like work meetings and my son's gymnastics class, but also the less-obvious things that are no less important, such as eating lunch from 12:30 to 1 p.m. and an hour set aside specifically for relaxing several times each week. Such rigid scheduling might seem onerous at first - it did to me - but it has made a world of difference in bringing organization to my life. I feel more relaxed because I'm in control of my time.
I still feel stress and anxiety creeping in periodically, but by taking these steps on a regular basis, it no longer consumes me. That's why I'm making these habits a real priority over the holidays. After all, my kids deserve an even-keeled mom who can deliver Christmas magic, not her high-strung alter ago who will most certainly add to the chaos. I want the holidays to be merry - and taking control of my mental health means they're just that.