Let’s face it, a lot of moms are feeling anxious these days. Regardless of how you voted, the country is experiencing an anxiety-producing political moment with arguments on Facebook, demonstrations, families divided, and general unease about national politics. In fact, post-election anxiety has swelled the numbers of Americans who are sleepless, depressed, self-medicating, and rushing in droves to their local counselors and therapists. One therapist mused about President Trump, “He says he’s the jobs president—well, he certainly is for me and my fellow therapists.” Many of us are drained, exhausted, and stressed out from the daily barrage of political information. Furthermore, this anxiety is foisted on our children who need us to be calm and reassuring regardless of how upset we are.
So what’s a mom to do? Get proactive! Nothing reduces anxiety faster than action. Here are 10 ways to reduce anxiety and boost your ability to parent during this divisive political moment.
1. Compartmentalize time spent on social media. It’s too easy to get caught up in the Facebook or Instagram loop, where there are new posts every few minutes that increase your stress level. For example, the hashtag #FreeMelania and the GIF of her looking miserable at the inauguration triggered women who were victims of domestic violence. This is an extreme example, but it’s clear that both sides of the political spectrum are stirred up by political memes, GIFS, and posts on social media. Anxiety is contagious. Don’t let yourself get sucked into a lengthy Facebook debate or show your kids a humorous video that might leave them confused and fearful. It’s best to dedicate a certain time each day to check in and then leave it alone—especially when kids are around or before bedtime.
2. Moderate news intake. It’s challenging to think clearly and act accordingly when besieged by anxiety. Research shows that the more attention you pay to things that are out of your control, the more out of control you feel. You can’t control current events, but you can control your exposure to them. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t strive to be informed, but limiting your news intake will reduce that anxious, out-of-control feeling that can come when overly immersed in the media flow around distressing political realities. Decide when you will listen or watch the news—ideally without kids around—and then stay off the news cycle so that you aren’t bombarded with stress-inducing images and words.
3. Add an hour of sleep. Moms often wear their lack of sleep as a badge of honor, but when you’re tired, it’s more difficult to handle stress. An edgy, cranky mom is a mom who later feels guilty about her less-than-ideal parenting. Arm yourself during these hard times. Try napping when your child is napping, or sneak in extra sleep on the weekend. In the evenings, drop what you are doing, whether it’s chores or watching TV, an hour earlier than usual. And if you feel sleepy at night, seize the moment and go to bed!
4. Practice mindfulness. The simple act of meditation and deep breathing can promote relaxation and health. Set aside a time when your children are in school, napping, or even zoned out on video games. Even five to 10 minutes can make a huge difference in bolstering your coping skills. Check out this list of guided meditation resources from UCLA Health.
5. Bump up your exercise routine. If you have a regular exercise routine, try adding a half hour or increasing the intensity. Exercise is a great way to feel empowered and to blow off nervous energy. If you don’t exercise, now is a great time to start. Don’t blame your kids for not exercising. Take them with you for a walk or a run, or if you have a baby, try wearing your little one while walking stairs or taking a hike. The human body was designed to move, and exercise stimulates endorphins, so go for it. You’ll not only quell anxiety but also be a fabulous role model for your family.
6. Go outside and enjoy nature. When feeling anxious, take a walk, preferably in nature: it’s proven to reduce the physiological responses associated with stress. Stress can build up if you are always cooped up inside and removed from the natural world. Take your children to the nearest park, beach, or woods for a fun stroll or picnic. Beautiful scenery reduces stress, and the simple act of taking a walk can enhance one’s well-being. Many of us move from home to work and back again without taking time to appreciate the great outdoors. So go outside, walk, and breathe!
7. Connect with friends. Don’t go through this anxious period without connection. Despairing or worrying alone makes things worse. Feeling supported decreases stress and increases your ability to act. Social support, such as helping others or supporting one another through stress, has been proven to be mood enhancing and will allow you to work together more effectively. Find a common goal, whether it’s activism, volunteering, or learning a new craft. Better yet, convince your children to get involved. It’s difficult to feel awful about the world when you are working together toward a common goal.
8. Channel your anxiety. Stressed moms can’t put their head under a blanket and block out the world. Your children rely on you to be up and functioning no matter how hopeless you may feel. If you are feeling overwhelmed, angry, or disappointed with the political situation, try shifting your focus to accomplish something new as a family or for yourself. Take on that project you’ve been putting off, learn a new skill, or pursue an ignored passion to channel your anxiety in productive ways. And if you choose to channel your energy toward a particular political end, that’s OK, too! The main thing is that you take action.
9. Unleash your gratitude. Studies show that focusing on gratitude helps us deal with troubling emotions. Take a moment each day to focus on something you are grateful for. As a mom, it’s easy to feel guilty and overwhelmed, but it’s just as easy to find moments with your children to feel grateful for. Relish their milestones and be thankful for them. Our children make us proud, and it’s important to celebrate the joy that they bring.
10. Hug generously. When the world feels uncontrollable and even dangerous, a hug can work wonders. They soothe and inspire warm emotions. If you are overwhelmed with anxiety, you can even ask a loved one to lay on top of you. The weight of a human body, no matter how small, is remarkably healing. So give some hugs, and try the human-blanket approach—it’s fun and it works!