It’s funny, although I have always been a worrier and many would say, quite an anxious person, I didn't realise (until it happened) that once my children left home that I could still worry about them just as much.
Lesson: If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you always got.
I have put a lot of effort over the years into learning how to manage 'my' anxiety. I've had counselling, been to a 12 Step program, written many affirmations, read lots of self help books, attended healing sessions, practiced conscious breathing, taken homeopathy, bach flowers, herbal medicine, and even been prescribed valium in my early 20s, (which incidentally I did not like so only took it once or twice). Through all this I've gained many tools that I can pull out of my tool kit of life experience when I'm faced with situations that would in the past have caused me to become anxious and worried.
I recently had a reminder that the worrier mum can still be activated in me quite easily.
A bit of back story…
5 years ago, when my son was 16, it was me who had to ‘teach’ him to drive. I found this time so incredibly stressful. I myself, was an incredibly nervous driver for many years, and didn’t actually get my licence until I was in my mid 20s, and was 36 weeks pregnant, and could barely fit behind the wheel. I’ve never liked driving in the narrow lanes over the harbour bridge as I worried that I may hit one of the barriers. (I had actually been in a car accident when I was a teenager, which probably contributed to feeling out of control as a passenger in a car.)
So for 6 months, whenever my son was in the car with me, he would drive. (We live rurally, so there is no bus service and unless teenagers learn to drive, they are reliant on parents to drive them to work, to after school activities, to visit friends, and so many of them get their licence at 17.) After the first few driving lessons, my stress levels started to rise and my neck would get tight, my shoulders tense, and I would be pushing my foot down into the floor, as if I could put the brake on when we came up to intersections, or were passing other cars. The supermarket carpark was my nightmare! My son learnt to drive in a manual car, which means you have to be very patient with hill starts, and getting across intersections. I would even get anxious driving up to stop behind a row of stationary cars. After some months, I decided that it would be a good idea if he had some lessons with a driving instructor in the area where he would be sitting his licence (this was really for me, to reduce my stress). I breathed a sign of relief when he started those lessons, and of course I chose not to sit in the back of the car, but wait in the local café.
Lesson: I don't want to pass my anxiety on to my child
Lo and behold, after a couple of lessons the instructor told me that my son was an excellent driver, and didn’t need any more lessons, he just needed to have more practice with me. Sigh!! So we struggled through the next few months, and I paid for one more lesson just before he was about to sit the test. (I wanted him to pass the first time). This time, I was encouraged to sit in the back of the car, which turned out to be the best thing! I listened to how the instructor encouraged and coached him for the test, and realised that if I had of sat in the car in the first place I would have had so much more confidence in him. He was already a really capable driver.
He got his licence at the first attempt, which was great!
My son was so considerate of my anxiety, he would let me know via text when he got to his destination over the next few months. Gradually I realised that he was a sensible driver. Looking back I could see that I was worrying over something that may happen, which didn’t.
Recently I posted this quote…
Lesson: 99% of things that you worry about never happen
This was for me. And it is true!
So fast forward to about four months ago. For the last 3 years I hadn't been worrying about my son driving, and he now lives around an hour away, in the city. He told me that he and his girlfriend were flying to a distant city and were driving a HUGE LONG campervan all the way back up to Auckland, which was at least 1000 kms.
Uh oh, my old panic mode set in, straight away. What if he drives off the road? What if there is a bank that has washed away around that coastline down there!!! How will I sleep knowing he is driving back all that way! What if it breaks down in the middle of nowhere!!!
Luckily, my partner reassured me, that yes, you know he is a capable driver. And if something happens it can be sorted out. And that he has his full licence.
So I opened my ANXIETY tool box and reminded myself:
99% of things you worry about never happen.
My son is a very responsible person.
What a great opportunity to do that trip at 21!
My son is an excellent driver!
Of course, they got all the way back safely.
Lesson: Trust your adult children to make their own choices.
5 of my favourite tools for these anxious moments
1. Adjust your mindset. Create some affirmations or quotes that really resonate with you, write them in your journal, or in your phone or diary so you can quickly refer to them when needed. ‘Everything is always working out for me’‘ Breathe in, breathe out, relax, let go”
“ I am a relaxed and calm person’
2. Focus on the present moment. Breathe in and out slowly.Drop your shoulders. Go out in nature. I find going for a walk and breathing the fresh air, smelling the scents, and focussing on the feel of the grass under my feet, or the sounds in the air, take me out of that anxious frame of mind.
3. Do something creative that will distract you. Choose something creative: bake a cake, create some art, journal, write, paint.
4. Take some flower essences. These are magic for taking the edge off anxiety. My favourites are white chestnut for thoughts going around in your head, and cherry plum for that feeling out of control.
5. Talk to a trusted friend. Find someone who knows you well and can't easily snap you out of panic mode.
Lesson: Anxiety is focussing on the future. Live in the now. Take each moment one at a time.
Work with me: if you need support with anxiety I'd love to help. As well as a thorough nutritional assessment, and supporting your body with foods, supplements and herbal medicine (if necessary) we work on mindset and lifestyle tools for long term benefit.
Book in a 15 minute Discovery Call if you would like to find out how we can work together.